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The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog

Stage One

The phrase I've chosen for my hand-lettered type is "The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog". This phrase will be familiar to graphic designers as it is a 'pangram', i.e. a sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet. In terms of an application, I think this would make a good illustrated poster that would appeal to graphic designers.

For my brainstorming I took the main words and thought about related themes for each word. I would like some of the main words (especially the fox and dog) to reflect their subject matter. At this stage I'm not sure if the words will be written on the animals, or the animals could be made of letters, or the words migh have tails or something. The word 'fox' got me thinking about the animated film Fantasic Mr Fox - I like the colours used in that film (natural autumnal colours) and the Englishness of it - think tweed jackets and rolling countryside. I think fox hunting is also relevant to my theme - the scene could be seen as being a clever fox outwitting a slow hunting dog.

The words 'quick' and 'jumped' could also be interesting if the lettering illustrates those motions somehow.

I then took to the internet to create a mood-board of these themes, finding photographic references, inspiration for colour schemes and examples of the style of hand lettering that I like.

I want my lettering to look quite organic and rough around the edges, and I like the idea of using several different font styles.

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Stage Two

I decided to do a bit more research for images of type I like. I found some nice old packaging, and some cool hand-painted sign work. I like the painted look, I may paint my final artwork once the final sketch has been done.

I then did the set exercises. First I picked the word 'quick' from my phrase and did six different versions; script, fancy serif, sans-serif, (slab) serif, on a curve and in a shape. I really like the 'in a shape' one, I think I'll develop that further for my final piece.

My script one was really hard to do, it always ends up looking like a lumpy sausage instead of the brush script look I want. I think I'll practice this style a bit further by copying out some samples to get used to the shapes and links of different letters.

I like the 'on a curve' process. I think I'll use this for "jumps over" as the shape suits the wording. All of these sketches were a bit quick and wonky, so I'll spend more time and take more care when I get onto planning the proper piece. Working at a larger size would be better for me too.

Next I did the exercise writing out each letter of the alphabet in loads of ways. I found this useful – I guess the best way to get practice and ideas for styles is to just experiment. I may develop some of these into word styles for my final design, again spending a bit more time as these are a bit rushed and wonky.

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Stage Three

Having watched the next videos, I moved onto doing some thumbnails of the rough layout. I had some things planned out in my head already, so these aren't wildly different from each other. However, I worked out here what words were going where and tried out some very rough plans for text styles. I also did some experiments with the Fox word, as to whether the tail would be on the F or the X. I decided to do a head for the O, then realised I could do the dog O as a head too. This then lead me to think about LAZY - I had planned to do the Z as sleepy Zzzs, so this worked well if the dog's head had the Zzzs coming from it.

I then moved onto my first draft of the sketch. I worked much larger for this, as I find it hard to be acurate at small scale. (So big it din't fit on the paper, so I will have to scale it down slightly in the next phase to fit on a sheet of A3!).

Here I am sketching, lightly mapping out where words go, then bulking them out and refining them as I go along. Lots of rubbing out went on here!

And here's my first sketch. I'm pretty pleased with it, but will redraw it to try and get things balancing a bit better on the page. Feedback and suggestions would be welcome at this point, so that I can make my next version better and more refined.

Plans at the moment are to make Quick slightly bigger, and brown slightly smaller (the cross hatching represents a tweed effect). The uprights on quick aren't quite parrellel. The letter shapes for Fox may need some work, the leafy decoration on the left is wrong (will match the thick/thin of the RHS) and I'm not really happy with the dog face at the moment.

Stage 3 Update:

I've done a second version of the sketch. I tidied up the bits I liked and tried out some different versions for the bits I wasn't 100% happy with. Still a few tweaks to make – I want to tighten the space between O and X of FOX, and I'm still not sure what I want for DOG (as it's the last word I do each time, I always feel like I've run out of energy and enthusiasm by that point). Any input at this stage would be appreciated.

Stage 3 Update:

After spending some looking at my sketch (and not having time to work on it), I made some decisions and worked on a new version today. The main thing I wasn't happy with or settled on was the word 'Dog'. I decided that rather than having a cartoon dog that I would just like the word dog, with the zzzs coming out of the O, to keep things a bit simpler and cleaner looking.

Responding to feedback, I also made the fox hair shorter and less shaggy (I didn't want to lose that completely, but agreed it should be a bit sleeker). I like the Z of 'lazy' being out of line, so I kept that, but moved it down a bit.

After sketching this out I decided I was pretty happy with this layout, so drew one more final pencil sketch, using my lightbox to trace the bits I was happy with, and making tweaks to the bits that needed tidying up or repositioning. (Such as straightening out the horn and adjusting the kerning of 'fox').

I think I'm happy with this layout now, so I'll get moving on the final ink drawing next before the deadline! I decided on a colour scheme early on too, so it would be nice to get this coloured in Illustrator if I have time, too.

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Stage Four

Busy day today getting his inked up, it takes a lot longer than you think it would. (At this stage I was starting to wish I'd picked a shorter phrase).

I used my lightbox to trace off each bit, using a Staedtler 0.2 Pigment Liner. I want most of my lettering to be solid shapes rather than outlines, but I drew most of them as outlines at this stage, only blocking in smaller areas. (I plan to fill the solids in in Photoshop, before vectorising the shapes).

Some parts of the drawing will need to be made from complex colour separations, so I have several pages of drawings which all need joining together. Here are my three sheets – most of it is registerd so that they can be overlaid, other smaller bits are squeezed onto the sheets where there are gaps (I don't like to waste too much paper).

And here is a composite of my final sketch. As some bits have a few parts which go on top of each other it looks a little messy in places, but it should all work once I vectorise all the parts and arrange them carefully in Illustrator. Making shapes solid will also eliminate some line thickness issues.

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Final Colouring

I decided I wanted to get mine coloured up properly, so that you can see how it works better as a composite, and how I envisaged it looking as a final piece.

I filled in most of the outlines with solids in Photoshop, then auto-traced and assembled all the parts in Illustrator. I chose a limited colour palette (based on some of the images I looked at for inspiration at the start of the project), imagining that it would be four colours printed onto off-white card.

I also added some grain textures to make it a bit less flat looking and more rough.

Here's my final piece. I quite pleased with it, but I think I need to practice more to get neater at drawing by hand.

Tom Holmes Quick Brown Fox Colour

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