Aline Kaori

Letterer based in São Paulo, Brazil

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28

Mindful Script Lettering

[sorry, I had forgotten to update the cover photo!]

[Head below for new updates]

Update 1 - 02/08/15

Hey everyone!

Really happy to be taking part in this wonderful class. Thank you Martina for sharing with us your knowledge on script lettering and for taking us behind-the-scenes by showing your lettering process. 

I'm one who always felt this constant exchange of features between my own handwriting and my calligraphy/lettering work, so this class resonated greatly with what I love doing the most. Definitely had fun letting my hand loose and exploring possibilities!

I've just gotten started with the first part (Lessons 1-4) of the 2-Week Script Lettering Challenge, and the word chosen for it was "Mindful". My name (Aline) is really short and has no ascenders, so I decided to go with a word that deeply resonated with me and my practice instead, so Mindful it is. 

Without further ado, here's how it went out:

1. I decided to start exploring as many variations as I could with the pencil before I moved on to other tools. I filled about 5 A4 pages with variations, experimenting different slants, speeds, rhythm, flow, letters, swashes, ligatures and proportions. (Sorry for the quality of the pictures; hopefully it's resonable enough so you can still follow the process)

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2. After exploring some monoline variations, I wanted to try other tools to see how the different contrasts would play out in the letterforms, so I tested various brush and flat pens. I found it hard to let go of the calligraphic ductus basis when dealing with these tools, but I kept the handwritten flow overall.

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(In case anyone wants to know, I wrote the name of the each pen used on top of the pages--though I was so into the letterforms that somewhere in the middle of it I forgot to keep doing so. The middle/bottom left ones were all made with a Tombow brush pen, the middle right ones with a Pentel brush pen, and the bottom right ones with a Zig Calligraphy flat pen).

3. After extensively experimenting, it was time to select the ones that looked best while resonating the most with what the "mindful" state means to me. As I had plenty of options, I started narrowing them down by placing a small red mark beside those I was pre-selecting, then put the rest aside and started comparing the ones at hand. I decided to first narrow down/compare those that started with an uppercase letter and later check the ones all in lowercase.

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At this point, I noticed that all of them had a characteristic here and there that could benefit the lettering in the following sketching stage, so I made notes of their positive aspects (which also helped me weigh the pros and cons of each), and saved them for later referencing. Still, one of them had the potential of becoming something more in the next step, so I decided on the middle right one (marked with an arrow). It had the flow, lightness, curviness and the prospect of a balanced and nice composition/harmony between negative/positive space that expressed the meaning I wished to convey with this mindful lettering (pun intended :P).

4. Moving on to the ones all in lowercase and with a much lighter approach, I compared them with the uppercase one selected in the previous stage: 

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They obviously shared the lightness I was aiming for, but upon comparison of the other features, it became clear to me how much stronger the uppercase-starting "Mindful" was--both visually and meaning-wise. Although I do very much fancy the calmness expressed by the top right one, it relates more to a feeling of peacefulness than actual mindfulness. And while the bottom one is a little stronger, it still lacks the uppercase for that nice balance in the composition (and while the quickness/u-l connection of it is killing me with its slopiness, I'm still keeping this one for reference in terms of flow and contrast for the sketching stage).

5.After a lot of sweating, here's the winner who'll be further improved in the next step:

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After the selection, I went fully into the critique stage, and made some more notes than those shown here regarding the pointers Martina gave us:

  • Slant: to me the current slant is ok, but I still wanna try a slightly less slanted version and an upright one, just to see how it looks. Also gonna adjust the l spacing and slant that are slightly off.
  • Connections: As seen from other variations, I'm gonna tuck the final curve of the M below the i; maybe try a loop in the bottom of the M to see how it looks; close the d before it kills me to see it like this; and later experiment with disconnected intervals to see how it affects the overall rhythm and composition. 
  • Rhythm/Speed: I like the way it is now, but when I get to add weight on these strokes I might try to open the spacing a little bit more to test how light it looks. The speed is on point, really expressing the slow pace that mindfulness is all about.
  • Ovals: I'm gonna fix the starting bottom curve of the M; the top curve of the f; and make sure all curves go about harmoniously.

Also, there's still plenty of experimenting to do with the proportions between x-height, ascenders/descenders, and cap height; and plenty of fixing regarding the letterforms' consistency of width, height and so on. 

As for now, I'm really satisfied with how this part went. I kept it simple, expressive, and, most importantly, loyal to its purpose and meaning.


Writing this thoroughly has surely been time consuming, but I really enjoyed stopping for once to break it into parts to showcase the process! Still, I can't wait to jump into the sketching part! 

Hope I wasn't so boring and thanks for reading through! Any feedback is much appreciated!

--

Update 2 - 10/08/15

Part 2 was all about sketching and refining the letterforms--layers and layers on top of layers of tracing paper to get to a satisficing enough result so I can move on to the digitizing part. 

Here's how it went, tracing paper by tracing paper:

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It took me 6 layers plus a LOT of erasing, filling in, then erasing again and so on...until I got to a point in which I felt ultimately ok enough with it so that I could move on to the vector step. I must say I've been working hard on this one; really wanted to push the boundaries of my comfort zone to hopefully take it to the next level.

Still, I had to put a halt to it myself, otherwise I'd be endlessly improving it, layer over layer, driven by my perfectionism (the red pen shows only a third of my inner critic, haha), and never get this challenge done at all. So let's keep this healthy and move on to improving the rest digitally, right?

Things that I clearly still need to fix/refine in the next step: 

  • M slant, innerspacing, curve openings and overall contrast/weight (refer back to original M flow)
  • Slightly increase M_i spacing
  • Weight/lenght of the top f curve (maybe pull it down a bit overall)
  • Slightly reduce u_l spacing + l loop opening
  • Adjust f, u, l to the x-height (they are slightly taller)
  • Make sure the f swash is not too heavy + pull it down slightly
  • Review the d_f connection (maybe space more to see if it helps)

I do appreciate, though, how clean and airy the lettering became, which is precisely the feel I wanted to go with from the beginning to express mindfulness. It has a balance, and it exudes calmness, it sets the slow, thoughtful reading rhythm. And it is still an expression of myself.

It's really great to stop for a moment and actually look at the progress and see how each little detail came to be. I absolutely love how putting all the sketches together like this helps me visualize that and compare things I might have missed/changed too much in the process (like the M, for instance). 

I really liked Jonathan Ball's idea of putting together a gif of the process for a layer over layer kind of visualization, so I thought I'd give it a try as well: 

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Once again, feedback is very much welcome! 

Thanks for reading through, and see y'all in the final digitizing step! 

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Update 3 - 14/08/15

Digitizing lettering is just not my strong suit (Sketching is by far my favourite part!). But I'm working on that. Like all things in life, it takes time and practice. I can surely say that after a while you just start to get the curves, understanding how they are constructed and how to edit them. Still, to this day, I struggle with beziers...To me, they can hardly convey the same fluidity as the handmade version has, while requiring an insane amount of labor in tweaking handles and anchorpoints in trying to reach the perfect curve. Gladly, this challenge has a deadline, otherwise I would never stop finessing. You get curves OCD when vectorizing, haha.

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I highly recommend switching back and forth between black and white fill/background as you can better visualize both positive and negative space, making your eyes more aware to that balance. It's great for zooming out and checking the consistency of the weights as well. 

I really like how it looks overall--the flow, the lightness, the balance, the eye-conduction through the word led by the thicker flourishes of the M and f, and how the lettering starts, has a peak, and closes itself inwardly,  mindfully bringing the eye back and forth to it--but I must admit I'm not entirely satisficed with some specific details, like equalizing the M/ l curves, trying an approach to the u closer to the chosen for the n, helping the flow, and adding more weight/improving the top curve of the f. Might pour in some more labor into them later on. 

I played a lot with different color combinations, but ultimately, upon seeing how the light lettering looked against a dark background, I decided this was the way to go. Too many light colors and it would look dull, and that is most certainly not what mindfulness is all about. This is my final piece: 

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While the contrast of the lettering with the dark tones brings a sense of mystery and classiness, the slight radial gradient of the background with the blue hue sets the tone for calmness, focus and thoughfulness while bringing the lettering forward and letting it shine. Now that's what mindfulness is all about! 

I gotta say I learned a ton in making this project happen for this class, and I can't thank Martina enough for making it and challenging us to complete the project in two weeks! I feel so happy that I got so much work done in such a short time span :) This project will stay as a reminder to myself of how deadlines can be our friend in getting things done. 

Again, any feedback is much appreciated! I'd love to have a fresh perspective on this!

Thanks everyone for the feedback so far and for reading through! It's been a blast interacting with you all! :)

[sorry, I had forgotten to update the cover photo!]

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