Browsing Behance the other day I came across the portfolio of Andrew van der Merwe, a calligrapher and letterer from Cape Town. These sand lettering pieces he’s done are really beautiful - the edges of the letters are so clean and the forms so precise, there’s definitely a technique going on here, which he confirms:
Scratching in the sand with a stick, however, has proved less than satisfactory because it makes more of a mess than a mark. This has led me, over the past seven years, to develop various instruments which mark the sand in less messy ways, and ultimately to a kind of scoop which leaves neat V-cut letters of the sort one gets in stone carving.Andrew van der Merwe
Lovely stuff. Go and have a look. There’s his Behance portfolio here, and a site which desperately needs some attention here.
It’s Nice That linked to this great piece on Amusement magazine, telling the ‘real’ story of how the iconic figures and objects in videogames were made. I love the idea of these things being made in a workshop - the pong one below is great. It took me a moment to recognise the Mario mushrooms being carved out of stone, but boy, if someone ever was to make them that way I know of quite a few people who’d want to buy one.
This is a great little instruction book on drawing animals - Les Animaux Tels Qu’ils Sont, full of beautiful little illustrations and diagrams - you can see it on this Flickr set, posted by Agence Eureka. The illustrations are all great, but I find that for most of them I prefer the intermediate stages in the instructions, they’re constructed from spare, sinuous lines and create a beautiful abstraction of the animal - capturing something of the spirit of it rather than an explicit diagram of what it looks like. The ‘final’ drawings seem a bit too obvious, perhaps. So once I’d drawn copies of my favourites, I noticed that they reminded me of hieroglyphs, hence my choice of title - judge for yourself below.
As an aside, I was interested by the authors listed on the book, R & L Lambry. The ‘R’ would be Robert Lambry and, well, there’s nothing definitive on who the ‘L’ is, but I suspect it might be Leon Lambry. That’s the only ‘L Lambry’ that I could find involved with illustration from around the right time. Anyone know for sure?
I’ve been following Penny Arcade for quite some time now - they run commentary and opinion on games with short articles and webcomics, expertly written and drawn by Gabe and Tycho. They’ve recently been running a series of webcomics exploring various short stories (not strictly on gaming, but perhaps in universes shared with many games), one of which is Automata. It’s all rather good and worth following (part 1 here, 2 onwards from here), but one thing that got my attention was the representation of speech between the automata characters, shown below.
I like the addition of the dots to the barcode pattern, hinting at multiple tones and levels of sound - something interesting to add to a script - and as the character in the comic refers to it as ‘clickwise’ I got to wondering how languages with clicks were transcribed in the real world. Unsurprisingly, there are various forms of dots, circles and exclamation points, forming a kind of visual onomatopœia for clicks, ‘tsks’ and ‘tuts’.
Comics of course have a rich vocabulary of such things, and I find myself sometimes wishing for a bit more symbolic depth to the Latin alphabet - new forms of punctuation perhaps, maybe even a whole new script, or scripts. To illustrate and explain further, I think everyone has come across the problem of misinterpreting or being misinterpreted when using email - you thought you were making an oh-so-clever dry witticism and it comes across as scouring contemptuous sarcasm (say), so usually the only recourse is to pick up the phone so that your tone of voice can be heard. However, since we’re increasingly using text to communicate, especially in the social, rather than business or technical, arena, and even more importantly in the plain text and short form media such as SMS, we may need to expand our symbolic vocabulary to indicate things such as tone of voice, humour, sarcasm and sincerity. We have emoticons of course, and in time some of them (beyond 263A, 263B and so on) may find their way into Unicode, but they’re pretty blunt things and as it’s subtlety we need, we’ll need something a bit more flexible and, well, more like language.
I’m loving these examples of signage and lettering in this Flickr set, linked from City of Sound. Most of them seem to be from Prague, but there are a fair few from various other places in Central and Eastern Europe, and as far as I can tell a lot of them are fading or at risk of being scrapped in gentrification projects. Well, I say scrapped, but since you can expect to pay as much as £50 per letter for old signs just here in Brighton, I expect there’ll be lots of architectural salvage types schlepping round the old Warsaw Pact countries buying up this stuff as we speak.
I hope some of them are kept though - I was reminded of this shop in Paris that has been left empty since the 1980s and has been opened as a new Paul Smith store, with all its original signage and internal fittings intact. I read about it on It’s Nice That, and the history of the place is interesting:
The walls are unpainted for many years, the floor tiles are the original, 80 year old shelves, everything dates back to the 1930’s when La Tourrette was opened by Monsieur Tourrette as a ‘Bougnat’; the left side of the shop selling coal, the right side selling wine.It’s Nice That
I love the Nábytek one above - it’s such a powerful block of lettering, so monumental and such a strong sense of horizontal motion, it’s like a freight train of type. It did remind me of a few things I’ve seen - this t-shirt for example, or Dispatch Extended Bold, but none really have that strength and density, nor some of the nice features the sign has. The A on the sign has those serifs and that incredible accent - why you wouldn’t want to include diacritics like that in your display face I don’t know - the offset diagonal on the N is just great too.
Only yesterday I posted about cities, maps and dense architecture, and I find this on NOTCOT - Instant Hutong. It’s an art project to both record and to bring to people’s attention the traditional patterns of neighbourhoods, courtyards and lanes in Beijing - under threat from development (of course). When I saw the small picture on NOTCOT, I thought it was actually close-set lettering as the main streets appear to form natural ‘baselines’ in the dense pattern of buildings. Interestingly, one of the pieces in the project is a collection of name stamps, set with small chunks of the street pattern - bringing to mind the idea of the built environment as being part of people’s identity, a kind of language they use in interacting with the city and the world. To lose that language, the structures of the city, the place where you grew up, is to lose a part of your identity - not a particularly controversial or new idea, but definitely worth reminding ourselves of from time to time.
This has been hanging around in my browser tabs for a little while - it’s right up my street too, The Top 10 Comic Book Cities on the Architect’s Journal. A few people have linked to it (I have no idea where I first found it), so you may have already seen it, or even have the books listed. I’ve got a couple, and I think I’ve tracked down a copy of The Long Tomorrow, with Moebius’ fantastic visualisations. I’m quite fond of the idea of megacities, maps (especially of the builtenvironments) and really crowded, dense architecture. It’s not type related, but I imagine such things tend to appeal to the typographically-inclined, if only for the recognition of the similarly detail-obsessed personalities that created them. Anyway, I got the picture below from a regular read of mine, Sci-Fi-O-Rama, which feeatures sci-fi related art and book covers:
Nothing type related, this, but it’s still lovely. Andrew Chase is a photographer and all-round multi-skilled artist. I came across some pictures of his mechanical cheetah on NOTCOT, which linked to bookofjoe. There are more images of his sculptures on his own portfolio site, including a fantastic giraffe. The cheetah reminded me instantly of Jacob Epstein’s Rock Drill, perhaps not the current form of it so much, but a replica of it in its original state I saw years ago at Tate Liverpool. There’s a picture here (from this page on Art New Zealand) of it before Epstein modified it. It’s the upper part of the face that does it, I think.
I saw the cover of this magazine, designed by Ill Studio, on ISO 50 and immediately saved the link; I love the type, the photo, the composition, everything. The rest of the magazine is beautiful, but it’s the cover I love - go and take a look at the rest of it. Now if only there was a link to the magazine’s site - with such a generic name it hardly pops right up on Google.
A while back Jo at Languste Fonts sent me a link to the collection of the Austrian Museum of Applied and Contemporary Arts. Their collections site is pretty huge, with sections for ornamental and woodblock prints, textiles, drawings, and posters. Lots and lots of posters. They’re arranged in categories, but the best thing is just to keep clicking through them and enjoy the variety - there’s some pretty gorgeous lettering, type and illustration in there. I’ve (of course) traced some of it, and I love the blackletter calligraphy below. I’d link to the page, but it’s one of those sites that doesn’t have unique URLs for things. Just search for Nieder Österreich and it’ll be in there somewhere.
The lettering on this one is beautiful; it’s so expressive and playful! Shame the illustration wasn’t finished to the same quality, even though the overall effect is still rather attractive.
While I liked the lettering on this, it was the illustration that caught my eye - it’d make a good poster in its own right.
This beautiful uncial lettering is from this poster, showing the tower and spire of St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, which I traced on another poster here.