The Process Behind A Lettering Work

When I started my first series, Thanking Around, the creative process behind it was basically all the same because I wanted to capture the things that I most enjoyed in the cities that I had visited. But once I started Lettering to Anxiety, I changed this a bit, to adapt to the series' identity with good vibes using flowers and cute ornaments. 

Before I tell you about my process, I’d like to let you know that a lot of what I do when it comes to it came from Jessica Hische. I learnt A LOT from her, her book, her Skillshare classes and an half-an-hour long one-on-one I had with her a few years ago via Skype. So if you notice some similarities between my process and hers, it’s not just a coincidence. I have a lot to thank her for.

Here are the steps:

1. BRAINSTORM AND REFERENCES

When exploring a new theme, it’s important to understand what’s the essence of the piece. Is it about football? Is it from the 80’s? Whatever it is, I like to write all the words that come to mind when thinking about that sentence or theme. Spit it all out and don’t worry if it looks shitty. Afterwards, I like to study a bit more about the references related to it, thinking about what would be interesting to add.

2. THUMBNAIL

Think about blocks, not words. This is not the time for you to think about which font you’re going to use. There’s this class from Jon Contino on Skillshare that helped me A LOT when it came to thumbnails.

This step can usually be messy, because when you have the format you need to use it’s very easy to choose the first composition and stick to it. But DON’T DO IT. Think about which word is most important, explore the hierarchy of different words if possible, and if you’re going to mix letters with illustration, this is the time to think where you should place them, but don’t use any details yet - remember that now it’s all about the big picture, not the details.

One last thing: try to bring your focus to what matters the most - good composition usually happens when you don’t exactly need any ornaments, you don’t put them there to fill a gap you didn’t know how to solve that at the beginning. Ornaments are an extra, the main focus should be on the letters.

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3. SKETCH

One of my favourite parts! This is the time where you can create properly, think about details, ornaments, ligatures and everything your sketch has the right to have - don’t forget step number 1, stick to your theme and add things related to it. You can dream, but dream with your feet on the ground. And don’t use a classical copperplate lettering font somewhere where it doesn’t make sense.

This step takes a lot of time for me, because I redo a lot of things, explore new styles, explore new ornaments, etc. This is the time to explore as much as you can, even if it takes 10 pages out of your sketchbook. And when finalizing the sketch, don’t forget to finalize it as much as possible - meaning try not to make any big adjustments to your sketch on vector, I’ve done this a lot and I just doesn’t work at all, you may take twice as long than you would if you had corrected it on the sketch.

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4. VECTOR

That’s the stage where I usually go to a café, ask for one single cappuccino, play a calm playlist on Spotify and stay there for hours straight. Some people I know say that calligraphy is therapy, like painting water colors, or going to the beach. Mine's this: vector work. Yes, I do have a life, but vector has a special place in my heart. OK, now let's talk about the important stuff, instead of about how much I wanna marry my vector points (auto-correct just changed my words to say I wanna marry my ACTOR points - if my computer only knew).

At this stage I usually begin with three layers on Adobe Illustrator: Photo, Guides and Art. I have them all separated just to keep everything organised and with different opacity levels. 

I recommend starting your vector with everything in black, so you can pay more attention to technical stuff and the colours won’t influence your own critique. My vector work study started with this article that I received in 2014 from a friend, and evolved with Jessica Hische and Martina Flor’s classes on Skillshare. My advice here for you is: the less the amount of points, the better.

Depending on the art, I usually begin solely with horizontal anchor points, and start adding vertical ones only when needed. The work won’t be pretty at first, and that’s totally fine. Your sketches and thumbnails also didn’t look any prettier, so why would this stage be different? 😉

After a lot of music, eyes on the verge of bleeding from tiredness and many adjustments, Ta-da! You have this:

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Ok, but where’s the final one? Here:

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COLOR

Now it’s time to give your work some life! When I first got started, I used to take color palettes from Pinterest all the time. Now I rarely use it for colors, because I have an app (iOS and Android) that helps me with contrast, and the Pantone app. When you’re just getting started with lettering I recommend you to do as many tests as possible - different backgrounds, different contrasts, so you’ll learn how each color behaves with one another.

And after the chosen color palette, I always do a final touch on Photoshop, adding a texture or some discreet shadows here and there!

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To create is supposed to be fun, to experiment and try new things - this is how you learn. And it's how you can have even more fun. So go for it! Make the world and the internet a better place with your work, you can only grow from this. :)

Text Revision: Mari Pinheiro

That Travel+Work+Life Balance

I’ve been living as a digital nomad for about a year and a half now, going back and forth with a lot of stuff related to plane tickets, working from cafes or even living and traveling with a partner when both are working from home, so I believe it would be better to start this article by saying: there’s no way to find balance. 

Just kidding. Sometimes there is, but not always.

Let’s start by saying that if you don’t have the discipline to work by yourself at the city you’re currently in, there’s no place in the world that will fix that for you. Don’t travel to escape things you’re going through, because those things will be on your mind, and a beautiful trip with your laptop to London will be just a shitty (and super expensive) trip to London with your laptop because your mind needs adjustments at that time.

After I created a routine for myself with some non-negotiable tasks like meditation, reading time for with my Kindle and starting the day just watching some happy or at least a non-negative video while having a cup of tea, everything else got easier to manage. When working from home, it’s super important to understand which period of the day you’re most productive, so you focus your highest energy on things that require a lot of your brain - in my case, sketching or writing (like this article being written at 11 am) in the mornings, and vector work and project managing stuff in the afternoon. BUT as my routine also involves travel, when I really need to focus during the afternoon on something that’s being postponed a lot, I usually go to a cafeteria and my productivity raises like this:

Not exactly 18 cups of cappuccino like Barney, because with just one my whole body is shaking for the entire afternoon. 

It’s harder to set a routine when already traveling, but you need to understand how you like to work the most, and you need to be flexible on taking a day off in the middle of the week to visit what you want because the weather outside is sunny. Being a nomad is mostly about working when everyone else is having fun and having fun when everyone else is working. It’s not about going to the beach with your laptop, because well, it’s gonna be full of sand, but understanding that maybe a part of the city you wanted to see might be full of tourists on the weekend, so you might wanna take time off in the middle of the week to see that instead, or to visit that expensive museum that has free entrance on a Tuesday and a huge queue over the weekends.

 

Ok, but what about your relationship?

The main thing is: both of you will be on your own A LOT, so before moving in together AND travel together, go one step at a time. Move in together first, so you can see - without spending a huge amount of money to start traveling - if you’re going to grab each other by the neck or not. In my case, I moved in together first after 4 years in a relationship (both working from home), and we didn’t work in the same room, so we both had our alone time. It was hard because I never lived away from my parents’ house before, but we managed. 

When we started our travels (January 2017), we had this restriction that we wouldn’t work on the same table - difficult, because most Airbnbs only have one table, and we needed two. But when we were choosing our home in Prague (October), we noticed that the houses with two tables were too expensive for our budget, so we took the challenge of working on the same place, in front of each other, and it worked so well that in the following month (Vienna, December 2017) we chose a house with two tables but decided to share the bigger one. It’s all about talking with each other and making what its best for BOTH, with flexibility.

Now, being together 24/7 is not easy. I’ve seen couples that after spending so much time together felt they had lost their individuality, and didn’t know where one’s personality started and the other’s finished, ending after years in a relationship. I’ve also seen a couple that spends a month per year in separated cities to be with themselves for a while, and its been working out really well. In my case, we do a lot of stuff together, but we also have our private time. Doing therapy helps A LOT to understand what makes you you, and how your personality can add on the other, but with his/her way of being. And when it comes to work, I leave him on his bubble when he needs it, as he also respects me when I’m on mine.

Traveling while working isn’t easy AT ALL, we need a lot of planning, money management, and it isn’t exciting all of the time. It’s painful to be out of your country for 1 year and when you come back, you see that your dad gained some additional white hair, your grandmas are older, your cousin will have a baby and you probably won’t be there when he or she arrives. But it’s a choice you make, and at least for me, it won’t last forever, so I compensate inviting all my relatives and close friends to visit me in the city I’m currently at, and also taking technology as an advantage, with messages and video calls.

Text Revision: Mari Pinheiro

List of Books, Artists and Online Courses

Just a list of things that inspire, helped and still helps me when needed


This article was created with the help of Lygia Pires, also the third on the "Inspiration & Type Friends" list.

Overcoming Anxiety As A Creative

Anxiety came into my life long before I decided to become a designer and lettering artist, back when I use go to to parties with some friends as a teenager and, as the everyone's expectations around me were incredibly high and I had no idea how to block this from having a negative influence on myself, my expectations began to grow pretty high as well. That made me throw up every time, which made my friends say I was allergic to parties. What they didn't know is that I was allergic to them. KIDDING.

I started to identify as anxiety what I had after an episode. I felt my hand hurt after drawing for too many hours one day and suddenly began to imagine the thousands of terrible things that could be happening to me, making me feel I could be having a heart attack. In the end I was having a panic attack, or at least that’s what the nurse at the hospital told me during a heart exam. Later I began searching for anything that could make me feel better, reading books, watching videos and taking a seminar I had promised I would to my uncle before he passed away. That course taught me about meditation, and so many things beyond. I learned that I needed to control my own mind and thoughts or otherwise, they would control me.

I have no cure for your anxiety, because it can be a lot of different things for each one of us, but I can tell you one thing: look for a therapist. Anxiety is A LOT about self control, about imagining a lot of bad things happening in the future because you’re not worth anything good in life, or about super high expectations aiming at something you can’t control. 

I created Lettering to Anxiety with sentences that were coming up during my therapy sessions and noted them to make me feel better when I needed to. And I suggest you to follow these sentences, to understand their meaning and remember these phrases when you’re feeling lost, they certainly make me better whenever I need.

To overcome anxiety is to live one step at a time, noticing any subtle agitating behavior, keeping your expectations as low as possible, and reminding yourself every single day that you deserve the good things you receive. Bad things happen to all of us, but good things happen as well, and sometimes we keep waiting for the bad things to come, and forget how wonderful our life already is, despite all the bad that has happened. Sometimes we’re so anxious about something that we forget to be grateful. And I don't mean using #gratitude on Instagram. Please don’t do that.

Having anxiety is sometimes to have the need of being in control of everything all time. We can’t control time, know exactly when we’ll achieve our goals, or what other people think or say. We can’t control who’s going to live or die, but we can study about death in other cultures and religions or even become a doctor. We need to understand that bad things happen to all of us and the only thing we can do is to appreciate and enjoy time with those we love, so when they’re gone, we won’t regret that hug we didn’t give, or that sincere “I love you” we didn’t say.

Overcoming anxiety is learning 24/7 about your own behaviors, what they really mean and thinking about what you CAN change so that you won’t feel that way anymore. It is to face your worst fears, and think to yourself that you’re AMAZING for overcoming that after years struggling. It is to throw up all your organs out during a crisis, then clean up your mouth and just keep going - because anxiety crises will always come back, but it’s all in your head, and you can’t let it hold you back anymore.

Don’t avoid your anxiety, or it will grow, making you fight harder to overcome it later. If a crisis is coming, understand rationally why (or maybe with a therapist's help, if necessary), let it come and after resting a bit, just continue to follow your path. The crises will become smaller with time. Treat your crisis like any other disease: let it come, treat with medication if needed, rest and take care of your body and mind. With patience and respect.

And for anyone that knows someone who deals with anxiety, you can help an anxious person by listening to them, by respecting their time and being there to talk patiently about what can be done. Oh yes, and give love. Lots of love, so they’ll can know and feel that they’re not as horrible as they think. :)

Text Revision: Mari Pinheiro

Why Lettering?

After six years studying it, and four years working in this field, I believe now it's a good time to do this. This is not going to be a book, I promise, because for starters I usually don’t talk that much, I'm mostly an introvert. But I promise you that every single word below is coming from my heart.

Why did I choose lettering? Why not study anatomy, and then work in concept art, or even become one of those performers or contemporary artists that most of people don’t understand. I was studying Visual Arts when all started and I chose that major because I wanted to become a graphic designer. Not exactly the right beginning, but this is just one of those things we take a few years to finally realize are right for us.

For most of freshman year, all I could do was draw heads. They were realistic and drawn with a 6B pencil, the same one I would use to draw some music lyrics that were stuck in my head - nothing of my own, just some Queen, Tears for Fears (thanks, dad) and The Kooks here and there - I’m very far away from writing (or playing) music of my own, believe me. But between a very badly drawn skull in black ink and a piece of Bohemian Rhapsody on my sketchbook, I came up with something my drawing professor really liked. Not the skull, of course, but the really badly stylized lyric I had drawn.

“Forget the rest she said, “invest your time in this”, pointing to the lyric.
“Wait, what? You're saying I should invest my time writing?” - fair question, because that could have me change my major from Visual Arts to Literature which was, well, kinda confusing.
“Of course not, I'm talking about this thing where you draw letters. Have you heard of letterpress?”

I started researching about letterpress, then typography, calligraphy and in the end found this weird thing where people draw letters as an illustration, not just for computer use. And even crazier, people consider that a form of art! With that in mind, I give most of my thanks to Paula Almozara. A couple of years later she came to me with a Letterpress research project and told me to apply. She was looking for a student to embrace it and do the work with her. Of course, I accepted it with no second thoughts and even though the project wasn’t approved by the government later on, I learned so many incredible things during that time, embracing even more that world of letters she introduced me to.

After that time it became harder for some other professors to accept that drawing letters was a form of art, because they had never seen somebody do that type of work, at least not in my college. But I didn’t care, that was all I had and knew how to do, and it felt weird to draw a sentence for a class project while everyone else was drawing a head, or an animal, or even a body. But their way, wasn’t my way, and I knew that. 

During the last year of my graduation course, I began to create some book covers with sentences about happiness I had heard before (thanks Grey’s Anatomy), and I was just beginning to do vector work because it was very expensive to buy a lot of brush pens and markers every single week, and I already had a Wacom tablet and a nice computer (the very old 2011 MacBook Pro, bought with my IBM salary - one of the few good things that company allowed me to have by 2012). I couldn’t keep wasting money, and Adobe Illustrator was very cheap for students (it still is). I began doing vector work and that senior year, I met this other incredible woman and professor called Luisa Paraguai.

Luisa already knew some people I admired in the typography world from São Paulo, so when she introduced herself and I could see all her knowledge on typography and graphic design, my eyes began shining with happiness, because FINALLY someone in my college would teach me something I really wanted to spend hours with. Luiza explained the basic structure of typography, showed everyone some amazing references I had already researched by that time. It was everything I ever wanted and the only downside is that I only had this class for six months when I really should have had four years on this topic throughout my college career. As my final project arrived and I felt lost when it came to color palettes and concepts, Luisa spent half an hour teaching me about color theory, which helped me so much that I use until these days.

I finalized my project, graduated and three years later the Dean of my major department asked me to give a lettering workshop to the freshmen. Hard work is always worth it, and talent DOESN’T EXIST. :)

Text Revision: Mari Pinheiro

About Having More Discipline

Versão em Português: https://medium.com/@isabellaliao/disciplina-s%C3%B3-depende-do-seu-objetivo-e-de-voc%C3%AA-f4111e54db2f

A few years ago, still in college and in the midst of a long-distance relationship, I began to study about organization and time management. What I didn’t know at that time is that I was going to enjoy getting organized this much. And five years afterward I'm still studying a lot about it - so why not share all these years of study with you?

The most important thing is to have a goal. But not an “I want to be happy” type goal, have a very specific one instead. What do you want to achieve in a year? Or 5 years? Even in 10 years? What kind of life that you want? You really need to have this in mind, and it must be something that you really want, or you won’t be putting all your efforts towards it.

Break your goal into small tasks

If your goal is to be a successful illustrator, try to break that goal into small tasks. For example: What are you studying to become an illustrator? How many hours do you study each day? Try to add specific subjects that you need to study and do them in order to achieve that larger goal.

Main goal: 

  • To be a successful illustrator (be more specific: work at Pixar as a character designer in 3 years)

Small tasks:

  • Make anatomy studies
  • Study flowers
  • Study leaves
  • Study composition
  • Share your work every day

When you see only the big picture, sometimes it can look like a twelve-legged monster, but break it into small tasks and I promise the monster will be at least fluffier and it may even give you a smile. The monster can be nice, and it can also not look like a monster at all. It all depends on your point of view.

Be as specific as you can

If you only make the first and second steps, there’s a big chance nothing is going to happen for you. You need to choose a deadline for your small tasks - how many times a day will I study this? What kind of anatomy will I study on that day - heads, arms, expressions, bones, muscles or gestures? What’s the minimum number of heads I will draw within an hour?

In order to make this easier for you do complete that, you need to be super specific so your brain will only see the task and you can start doing it. Procrastinating is SUPER easy, but completing a very specific task can be easier. It can be hard at the beginning but put your brain to work harder the first time, so on the second and third ones, it will be easier for you.

Use action verbs

Try to write your goals using as many action verbs as you can - like to draw, to write, to do, to send. "To search" is not an action verb, because it can make you look anywhere, but "to save” something you’re looking for can be easier to complete.

Know the best time to work

I have more energy in the morning, organize yourself to wake up early and use that in your favor. Always put your work that requires more thinking when you have more energy, and your mechanical work when your energy is not that high, so you can be more productive.

Create a to-do list

There are a lot of to-do lists and calendar apps, but if you don’t break your goal into small tasks, there will be no app that can help you. 

Save at least one day a week to organize all the tasks you need, and if you prefer, put some time for those. It’s ok if you don’t complete them in that exact time, but try to complete some of them in a period of time, for example, tasks A through F until lunchtime, and from G through J until 6 pm. 

Always be realistic to yourself, and don’t try to do all tasks in the world and push yourself - it will only cause you stress and frustration for not being a superhero(ine). And guess what? You’re not.

Can’t focus? Write it down

It’s completely normal if sometimes while we're doing something with our heads on the other side of the world, but when you must your mind back to that task, one thing that can help you is to write your worries into a notepad. Be informal, write it only for you, so after finishing your stuff, you can direct your attention to those notes, whenever you solve them or not.

In the most extreme cases, disconnect yourself

Even if writing your worries separately doesn’t help, turn off every single app you’re not using at the moment, put your phone on airplane mode, turn on some music and go. Just do your work and only allow yourself to stop when it’s finished.

To be more organized and have discipline doesn’t happen overnight, it requires persistence, change of habits and patience. It took me years to learn that, but after all those years, making a lot of wrong decisions on how to organize myself helped me think about all of this in a much quicker way.

Be kind to yourself, but also be persistent, and everything will be alright. :)

Text Revision: Mari Pinheiro