I’ve got a great excuse for practising hand lettering: I’ve been asked to prepare some wildlife sketchbook pages for publication. Although we’re going for a sketchbook format, the spreads need to tell a story, rather than being presented as artwork.
I want to try and evoke the spontaneity of a sketchbook page but without the false starts and my occasionally indecipherable field notes but it’s difficult to strike the right balance and not to end up with the page looking too concocted.
Before I start on the time-consuming task of hand-lettering my captions, I set up a page in Adobe InDesign with illustrations and text boxes in place, to check that I can fit all that I want to fit onto the page.
I like the hand-lettered typeface Maryland (above) which is a change from Comic Sans, the go-to typeface for this kind of thing. Maryland is available to subscribers to InDesign CC as what they call a Typekit font, which users are licensed to download for use in the program.
It’s a livelier typeface than my own hand-lettering and I guess that I could use it for the page but nothing is going to look more at home with my drawings than my own hand-lettering, drawn with the same pen and ink: a Lamy Vista fountain pen with an Extra Fine nib, filled with a mix of Noodler’s brown and black inks.
I’m careful to refer to the typeset version of the text for each line, e.g. line one: ‘Nibbling a pine cone’, and not to be tempted to squeeze in the odd extra word. I rule lines seven millimetres apart for my text and, unlike the titles, I don’t find I need to draw a line for the x-height. My letter spacing closely matches the set type in the Maryland font.
I feel that the process of lettering is similar to drawing and I find myself thinking about shapes and rhythm; it’s so similar to when I’m drawing a fence, the branches of a tree or the fronds of a fern: I’m looking not just for the individual shapes but also the spaces between them.
So far I’m doing better on my text than my main titles (top) but I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to improve with practise.