Thursday, July 17, 2014

local font find #19

This quality bunch of letters can be found heading south on old rt 15 from the Mansfield, Pa signal light. Before you get to the elementary school, on your right, you will find the Holy Child Catholic Church. I love the blocky all caps of "HOLY CHILD" with the "O" and "D" as almost pure rectangles. Very cool and sophisticated. LOVE IT! The lettering fits that building and the classy sculpture. Well done folks.





Wednesday, June 25, 2014

may's sugar shanty barn board sign finished

I decided to see how the Pennsylvania winter months and the occasional sun we get treat it. I liked it in its natural state. Mr. May liked it in its natural state. So I kept it in its natural state except for some waterproofing sealant that was applied. The sealant did darken the wood slightly. But, when it was all said and done (which it is...thank goodness), all parties involved were pleased. 


Sunday, June 22, 2014

local font find #18

Not the best of photographs, but I gotta say, one of my favorites. I don't know the first thing about beautiful nails or okay nails for that matter. I do know that this sign lacks all kinds of things unless you really like red. Lets focus on the second word "Nails" (located at the bottom right). 


Not only do those fonts not go together well, but those two dots perfectly stacked above each other (capital N and i) are almost hypnotic. Why would someone who owns a sign shop ever think that these two fonts would ever work well enough together to set it, cut it, weed it, and then stick that vinyl lettering to some Plexiglas. Then we can consider the white rounded rectangle as a space to fill. The negative space of that shape drives the viewer nutty! Everything feels smashed to the bottom and ya just feel stressed out! When I worked at a sign shop while living in Florida we ran into a few situations that were very difficult to solve. Shop owners had existing signs and wanted new names made to fit those spaces. It took time and ingenuity. But!!!!!!......my boss talked about his logic when reaching a final solution. He used words like "space" and "comfort" and "stress" when considering placement of his final choices. He made sure that things were never too close to the frame or outer edge. He made sure that spacing of all parts "felt right". He made signs well. When you looked at them, you read them. You didn't scratch your head. You didn't consider taking pictures of them and blogging about their issues. 

Again, I am sure that there are fine folks in that shop that really make your nails "beautiful". The sign............wow.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

barn board sign #2 may's sugar shanty

I agreed to make a sign for a gentleman starting a new maple syrup business. It has taken way WAY too long to finish. I struggled quite a bit at the initial design phase and that carried over into many other aspects. Every part of this sign was over analyzed. Having done a previous barn wood sign, I wanted this one to be a big leap forward. After hours of sketching I often reverted back to my original gut instinct. Since I am new to this sign building/carving thing, trusting my gut hasn't yet gained my trust. 

I drew countless shapes for this one. I googled many evenings away in hopes of inspiration. Nothing stuck. So, like the mindset of Chuck Close, I just started working (it's an uneasy feeling....I don't like it at all!).


Mr. Burrous, my father-in-law, found some terrifically aged barn boards. I chopped off any of the sections that were too far gone. Not knowing the shape yet, I gave myself about 5.5' x 3' of usable wood. 


I removed all the old (very cool looking) square nails and lined up the nail holes on the boards. The decades of seeping rust stains are my favorite parts of the wood. 


I scrapped my initial idea of a standard oval sign. The wood wasn't telling me, "hey, ya big ape, make it oval!" I drew one corner on some rolled paper. After cutting it out, I traced it on the board with a charcoal pencil and jigsawed it out (big "THANKS" to Earl, my neighbor....his saw). The sign was underway. I flipped the paper and traced it on the other side. I traced the top of a round wooden table to make the gentle curve along the top edge as I had left my large scale compass at school.


Even my best boards had some flaws that had to be dealt with. Large cracks were drilled out and dowelled together. 


I wanted the sign to feel as old as this great wood. I drew all sorts of lettering that I liked but only this curved style seemed to fit this piece. Hand drawn lettering is not the quickest way to go but it sure does let me adjust weights and angles quickly. Nothing had to be precise on this so I experimented quite a bit.


Like the lettering, I drew a maple leaf to scale on some scrap paper. My wife and I agree that drawing a good leaf is not as easy as you might think. It is a strange phenomenon, indeed. I like the finished carved look of the leaf. I left the vein lines elevated. 


I knew as I was working through the sign that spaces were being created that would need solved with some sort of ornamentation. After carving "MAY'S Sugar Shanty" and the established date, I used that same round wooden table to help create a base that had more visual weight. I made the cutouts tighter at the bottom to keep more wood to aid in that weight. Once the reader gets to the bottom, you want their eyes to travel back up. I free-handed the ornaments right onto the board. By this time, I was really starting to trust my gut.

Ashley (my wife) was called out of the house on numerous occasions to set my mind right about the design. She either smiles and nods or gets that wincing look on her face. The wince means back to the drawing board. She was a great help and all her multiple winces were spot on.

I am consulting with Mr. May about stains and colors. I don't want to do much more to this thing. It feels right. Like the syrup running out of the tree, the sign was pulled out of the boards. Anything that would cover up the roughness and the amazing character of these boards won't be considered.

Last thing, wear gloves when working with this stuff. I have cut out about twenty to thirty splinters. I will post the final photos of this soon. Thanks all and drive safely.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

a small walk with the kids....fresh air needed

Cowanesque Lake was the site of a short walk with the little ones. We did not have much time and the weather was not cooperating as well. Just enough time to take in some scenery, eat some peanuts and such, and move on down the line.



The geese had been using the path as a bathroom for the past few days. Woody Guthrie would have called it some "hard travelin".








Not sure why I placed these two pics of Clare in....just thought they caught her spirit.





The eagle was the hit of the day. Kids watched for quite a while. There is something about large birds of prey that have always caught my attention.
If I was a better photographer, I'd be one of those nuts who sits in the tree or hangs on the cliff all day to get the ultimate shots of these amazing creatures.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

mort's meat mafia

I am still not sure of the person I designed this for but it has to do with someone who knows my wife's best friend (his name might be Mort). He wanted a cow, pig and chicken designed into a logo for his new venture, Mort's Meat Mafia. I googled this idea and found that it had been done about a billion different ways. Three animals and the concept of meat, well done! It has been tweaked and twisted and designed over and over. The problem is that it is kinda necessary. You can't just show one of these animals or it gives the audience a much different perception about the product(s). I really didn't know how to bring my own spin on this universal concept. I decided to lead the design toward a more simple end by just giving a cleaver some type. 



I used some inked Styrofoam to get the cleaver and chopped out the hand drawn lettering via Photoshop. Love the natural texture that ya get from Styrofoam. Never gets old!!! 
This design was liked but still the client wanted those darn animals. "Less is more" was thrown out the window. I drew up some suited animals wearing shades and merged it all together and.....



As individual characters....I kind of like them. That chicken looks like a real killer!...an unflappable dude! I think I would still prefer the cleaver with about 40 variations of lettering to the one with the animals. It seems like a bit much. Then again, anything that takes away from type is something to rethink in my book. To be honest, I have not had time to ingest it all. Maybe weeks from now I might come around on the whole thing. Sure do like the chicken.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

not so local font find #17

Around age 12, that would be about 1982, I used to watch a channel out of New York City. I think it was WPIX. I could be wrong about this but I'm putting out there anyway. This station would run classic TV programs after school and late at night. Shows like the Honeymooners, Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, Leave it to Beaver, the Odd Couple and the Little Rascals. They were so good....so much better than anything current that might have been playing on other stations. I logged a lot of hours taking in the brilliance of those old shows. Time well spent.

Walking through Walmart (or some such place) the other day, I noticed a Little Rascals DVD in the cheap bin. I picked it up because I thought my children should be subjected to some real quality TV. 

I'm not sure that my kids are old enough yet to appreciate these talented kids. They showed little to no interest in their high jinx. But what I noticed in my matured state was the lettering. GREAT LETTERING ALL OVER THE PLACE! From the intro credits to the hand painted signs on many episodes. I laughed just like I used to but watched carefully for the slightest glimpse of some great type.


A young Spanky was the star of the show. Cute little guy and an amazing voice.



This was a 1934 episode in which this moving truck (below) was moving a family into the "rascals" neighborhood.


Obviously the "W" caught my eye. I quickly got my camera and scanned the DVD back to take these screen shots. I just love the whole side of this truck. The "Wilshire Storage Co." has a great extended 3-D look to the lettering. The dimensional edges look like they might have been a gold color but who knows with the black and white of the screen. Anywho, I sure do like the lettering. 

As a side note, I noticed some amazing lettering on the classic Jimmy Stewart film, The Spirit of St. Louis the other day. He gets out of a cab in California when he is visiting the company that might just build his plane. The door of that cab would be hanging on my living room wall! That might be my next post.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

mansfield university jazz ensemble and the mansfieldians cease and desist cd design

Before I type any further, I'd like to thank Dr. Sheryl Monkelien from the Mansfield University Music Department for giving me the green light to design another CD. It is an honor to work for her/them and to try to capture a mood and design a fitting layout. Their reputation as a talented department is the only inspiration I need when sitting down to work. The student performers they teach are amazing!

It all begins with Dr. Monkelien sending me the information that must fit into the layout and a CD of the tracks. The best part for me is that I am allowed to create what feels right. For the first few days I listen to the CD with my daughter while driving to school. Brainstorming is a constant. Sketching and bothering my wife with possible ideas can last quite a while. All I knew was that I wanted lots of hand drawn lettering...


Nothing has garnered more of my creative attention during the last decade than letters. Lettering is a never ending landscape that is impossible to truly conquer. The learning never stops....the struggles continue....the possibilities keep popping up.


I began with a red theme but accidentally stumbled onto some gray scale distressing while brainstorming in Photoshop. The type just seemed to fit that dark gray.


The most enjoyable part of the design was the track titles. Anywhere from 5 to 20 versions of each were drawn until one looked good next to the others.


insert with cover


The real struggle comes after the general design concept has been established. How do you fit all the information and make it feel like it was meant for that space?

insert (back)


tray card








Friday, April 18, 2014

vintage higgins american india ink glass bottle

While organizing my classroom yesterday, I use the term organize very loosely, I found this box.


As I was walking to the trash with yet another out of date art supply I opened it. Wow!!!!! What a bottle! What a label! What awesome lettering! I hit the mini jackpot on cool old art room stuff. It is a beautiful example of taking pride in the presentation of your product from an era when that meant it still looks super cool.


I will definitely be showcasing this bottle and label in my home for visitors to question my sanity for having it in a place of honor (those of you who understand the beauty within type/product design/graphic design will instantly smile). I find it hard to believe that a time or era will come when this is not considered a quality piece of design. 


I am always looking for stuff like this. The rarity is the lure. It is the joy as well.

"keep your eyes wide the chance won't come again" -b dylan

Sunday, March 23, 2014

maple syrup drawing

My father-in-law has a good friend who is starting a maple syrup business. He wanted to give him a small piece of artwork to commemorate the start. Ashley (my wife) sketched out a great idea/layout and I added some hatching and cross-hatching to tone it out a bit. Throw down some script type for the "252 Buckets and a Dream" and it is done. 

Ashley's sketch...


My final rendering...




Friday, March 14, 2014

great artwork you don't see in art history textbooks #3

Every once in a while we see things (in this case, Art) that stop us in our tracks. The image(s) stick with us. They leave an impression that never leaves. I love it when these things happen. They cause us to love our days above ground and also, when one wishes to be an artist, cause us to wonder if we are capable of having others feel this way about our works.


Rich Kelly is making posters that do this for me. A truly talented man. The elongated characters and the angled depth and uniquely created space make for an image that never seems to feel uninteresting. I smile with that sense of envy and love that always comes from great art. 




so good....so good you see.