every single show in which I've had a booth, I've been amazed by
the number of people who have asked me if my letters were created
on a computer. I put up signs that said they were done with pencil
and brush . . . analog creations, not digital ones . . . but that didn't
stop the question. Even when I sat there demonstrating, eventually
someone would be watching awhile, then ask about the computer. And
now that the letters are being seen on the web via a computer screen,
I knew I had to have a step by step demonstration to show my technique.
Each time I add a new letter to the collection, I'll show you how
I got to the final version. If you keep stopping back, you'll soon
see that I take the same steps almost every time:
A sketch in my sketchbook, rough as can be, and about the size of
my thumb (duh). An idea has to be jotted down (no matter how crudely)
or it's forgotten. These aren't meant to be seen by the public.
SKETCH -- Every
letter has to be of the same size and style if it's to stand next
to any other letter in a name. Often, what seemed a good idea as
a thumbnail is discarded when I try to shoehorn
it into the outline of the 'real' letter. I have drawn an outline
of every letter so each A looks like all the other A's. I put the
outline drawing under a page of my sketchbook, trace the outline
and start drawing the illustration within this "canvas."
-- I don't always do this. Most of the time, I'll get everything
figured out during Step 2, but not always. So, if I feel I need
to, I'll do it again. I did just that for Really
Roasted. Things really got out of hand with Duck Doc.
DRAWING -- I'll
take a piece of tracing paper or vellum and trace the sketch done
in Step 2 or 3, tightening
fixing any problem areas (which I should have taken care of in Step
2 or 3)...I don't want to do any corrective erasing on the final
surface (bristol board with a vellum, or "velvet", finish).
I will do some smudge-removal on the bristol board with a very soft
eraser, but that's done with a very gentle pressure--it doesn't
damage the surface like erasing to remove a line might.
5. TRANSFER THE IMAGE
-- After finishing the final drawing, I transfer the image to the
bristol board with a homemade carbon paper made by scribbling graphite
pencil on one side of thin tracing paper. I have commercial transfer
paper that is more like what you think of as carbon paper (waxy),
but the lines it leaves are too black and hard to completely remove.
The image transfer is a pretty dirty process, which brings us around
to the smudge removal process I was describing earlier.
-- Except for the areas I want to stay white, I paint a base coat with watercolors. The main medium for the letters is colored pencil,
but without the watercolor layer, there would be
little white specks of the paper showing through in areas where they're not wanted. The originals are just over 4 inches high, and at that size, the flecks have more impact than they would if I was working in a larger scale . . . so I paint first.
PENCIL -- I use
colored pencils to do 99% of the work after the watercolor step,
but they, too, are dirty. They leave little bits of colored pencil
that, even though I take precautions, still manage to pollute the
whites, graying them all down.
--The final step
where light (mostly white) acrylic paint is applied to recover the
lights and the highlights lost in Step 7. Sometimes I have to paint
a little more than just the highlights, and, if I've let the waxy
colored pencil layers get too thick, further color won't stick (the
pencil just slides over what's already there}. I use a fixative
but there's a limit to that, too. When this happens, I may have
to finish with acrylics. Normally I only have to deal with whites
and highlights (but I must confess I have a hard time resisting
the urge to meddle with areas that should be left alone. Once I
have a brush in my hand, I can't seem to put it down).