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Love Y'all

This piece is one that I've been wanting to do for awhile, so when I signed up for this class I thought this would be a good project for it.

My grandmother passed away two years ago at the age of 97. She was an amazing woman, raising five children and running the 200-acre family farm singlehandedly after my grandfather died. She picked cotton, butchered hogs and plowed fields with mules, doing everything in her power to survive and keep her children together.

I think my family would agree, Granny was the toughest person any of us ever met. She was not a very expressive person; she never complained about negative things, and she never gushed about positive ones. Her exterior demeanor was simple and straightforward. I think that beneath it was a complexity and spirituality that kept her going in hard times.

Moments after my mom called to tell me Granny had passed, I was standing in the woods with sunlight streaming through the oaks, and a white butterfly floated past. I took it as a sign that Granny was at peace after a lifetime of challenges.

When my cousin gave the eulogy, she ended it with a simple quote of Granny's that was her sign-off with all visits and phone conversations: "Love y'all." Contained in those two words was the entire reason for a lifetime struggle to keep her family together.

My goal is to letter Granny's words in a way that depicts both her strength and her love, and to have a piece that I can give to family members as prints. My brainstorming list includes words that I associate with the moment of the white butterfly, as well as the many happy, peaceful days spent with Granny on the farm.

MOOD BOARD

My mood board includes images I associate with the farm: rusty tractors, crazy quilts, ticking stripes, The Old Farmer's Almanac, and handlettering similar to Granny's handwriting. Granny counteracted her hard work in the fields with feminine qualities, such as flowery perfume, sewing, floral china and fancy items on her vanity.

STYLE EXPLORATION

In my type exploration sketches, I juxtaposed organic elements with straight lines and solid strokes. Granny had to be both mother and father, and do both men's and women's work to make a living as a farmer and later as a seamstress. She was outwardly straightforward and inwardly complex, hence the contrasting elements. I think the piece should evoke that contrast, but in a way so that someone who knew Granny would be reminded of her. I wanted to use organic elements to reference her softer side as well as the plant life on the farm and the life she gave to our large family. But I don't want to overdo it so that it becomes too frilly and fancy. The look and feel have to be rustic and homegrown. That's going to be the hardest part.

THUMBNAILS

In my thumbnails I played around with possible layouts. Some of the lettering styles lend themselves to certain layouts, so I think the style will determine the final composition.

I know that's a lot of background to digest but I was hoping you guys as a neutral third party could help me narrow it down! I'd love to hear your thoughts.

SKETCHES

Thanks for all your suggestions, you guys. I followed your advice and played around with some new ideas, too.

The first sketch is further development of the block lettering/floral ornamentation style using layout #8. I realized that if the block lettering was gray and the floral stuff was green plus other colors it would look reminiscent of Granny's tin-sided house set amidst her yard blooming with plants and flowers. In between the dashes at the bottom I would letter her name very simply in monoline. I don't really have an illustration style, so I just blocked the butterfly in for now.

The second sketch is closer to handwriting. I ran across this image of a rusted metal sign, which made me think of the rusty old farm equipment around the fields and barn. I experimented with recreating the hammered-metal texture. Not sure if I can find a way to make a texture like this read correctly; perhaps I could experiment in the next part of the class if this one goes to final.

A close-up:

The sketch:

The third sketch is similar to the first in that it juxtaposes organic shapes with blockier lettering, but it's much less detailed. I was thinking a colored and textured background might help the light areas of the lettering pop out. Still not sure what to do with this butterfly, I might reference old engraved illustrations if I choose this one.

FINAL SKETCH

I chose the first sketch to go to final because of the way it evokes the tin house with the garden all around, and I think other family members would also recognize it. I also think it's the most interesting visually. I changed the composition a little, keeping the diagonal, horizontal direction, but stacking the words a little more. It feels like it fits together better this way. I'm still a little uncertain of how to add details to the butterfly. I'm hoping to resolve that issue as I go through the second class and add color and texture. Right now the butterfly is a little bare next to the detailed vines.

It's a little hard to read in black and white, so I think adding color and texture will help. Looking forward to the next class!

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