As a starting point for this hand-drawn font I’ve taken a character from Watership Down: Cowslip, an effete but vaguely sinister rabbit, given to reciting poetry, including ‘Like Trees in November’, which provides the title for the Cowslip’s Warren chapter in the Richard Adams’ book.
I got to know this character when I spent two or three months drawing the backgrounds for the Cowslip’s Warren scene for Martin Rosen’s 1978 movie. I drew in dip pen in Indian ink, which I felt answered the brief of ‘creating the atmosphere of a claustrophobic Victorian vicarage’. Another background artist added the colour.
I think of Cowslip and his coterie of indolent lotus-eaters as the rabbit equivalent of the decadently aesthetic characters in an Aubrey Beardsley illustration, so there’s a hint of art nouveau in my typeface.
I was inspired to have a go at a hand-lettered font by Tony Seddon’s book Draw Your Own Fonts. He suggests copying a font by hand as a good way of getting familiar with letterforms but he then goes on to suggest actually tracing a suitable typeface and elaborating it to make it your own. I chose Bondini Italic as my starting point and worked it up into tree-like forms with wispy side-shoots.
Uni Pin Posca
My thanks to Uniball for the opportunity to experiment with a selection of their pens. I used a Uni Shalaku mechanical pencil for the initial drawing, a Uni Pin Fineline fibre tip for the outline and a Uni Pin Posca marker for filling in.
I was interested in the bark texture of the half-filled letters and decided to do a quick scan but – a word of warning – the Posca markers are paint-filled so they take a short time to dry. I blotched these three letters on the scanner but most of the wet paint transferred to the glass itself, leaving the artwork virtually unscathed.
From Illustrator to TypeTool
The final stage, which Tony Seddon explains in easy-to-follow steps in Draw Your Own Fonts, involves scanning your artwork, converting the letters into vector format and enlarging them in Adobe Illustrator, before transferring them to Typetool.
I say easy-to-follow steps but I don’t use Adobe Illustrator and I’m new to Typetool so it’s been good practice drawing and formatting the 52 characters needed for this font.
I’m looking forward to designing my next font from scratch, rather than using an existing typeface as a starting point. I thought that I’d continue with the theme of fonts based on the characters of Watership Down as I’m so familiar with them. It’s easy to imagine a Bigwig Bold typeface contrasted with a gentler, more rounded Pipkin (the timid character voiced by Roy Kinnear in the movie) and perhaps an angular Futurist typeface that would suit Kehaar, the streetwise black-headed gull (Zero Mostel).