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March 2013

Daffodils, Radishes & Trees: Nature Journaling Exercises

A week ago I taught a one-day workshop, Introduction to Nature Journaling for Calligraphers. Sponsored by the Olympia, WA "Nib N'Inks" calligraphy guild, the goal for the day was to focus on seeing, sketching, labeling, and designing nature journal pages. The eleven students were exceptionally focused, producing both warm-up studies in ink, and finished ink and watercolor images on art grade paper. The day went by quickly, allowing little time to photograph, but here are some of the colorful specimen pages, followed by the landscape pages done en plein air (outside).

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The assignment behind these ink and watercolor images was to draw both items, starting first with pen for the daffodil, then add paint from light to darker values. For the radish, I demonstrated how to loosely paint the color, then lightly add pen lines to generally define the forms.

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These four pages above and below ( each 6"x10") particularly illustrate the individual way of seeing that we each experience. Going from drawing a daffodil and a radish to a complex arrangement of deciduous trees and conifers, outside, is a huge leap.

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The students launched into this with no mention of intimidation. Beginning with rectangles in pencil, they began this exercise by laying down a watercolor wash in one of the rectangles. That dried prior to our outdoor sketching session. Back in the classroom, they drew wet-into-wet, from memory, in another of the rectangles. I love the variety of feeling each little tree portrait carries in this series. Nice work, participants!

(I'm sorry not to be able to label each piece with the artist's name. I know who did a few of these, but not all of them.)


Coffee in a Bottle: Starbucks' Various Versions

When a prominent company comes seeking one's work, any freelance artist's heart beats a little faster. Such was the case when I was contacted by the design firm working on a new Starbucks product.

When I recently saw a display of Iced Coffee by Seattle's reknowned coffee giant, I reflected back to 1996 when I received the call and subsequently did the lettering for a new product: a bottled, carbonated, spiced and sweetened coffee. Sound a little odd? Well, it evidently was too odd, because the California test market for Mazagran ended with the scrapping of this bottled beverage. It never made it to most grocery store shelves. Indeed, I got my bottle from someone who ended up having a case of it in his garage! Read about Mazagran in this blog. The story is well-told by this coffee-loving blogger. He didn't say who did the lettering (maybe I should write to him), but the story does jive with what I was told at the time.

Shortly after the failure of Mazagran, Starbucks invented the Frappuccino™, which is still with us today. Again, hand lettering was used for the identity of this product. Incorporating personality into a name is the specialty of lettering artists, so we were frequently sought out by design teams in the 1990's. It's always a fun exploration to try expressive letters and words with pen and brush and submit them in hopes of capturing the spirit of the product.

Contemporary typography has shifted to a cleaner, more neutral style. A case in point: Iced Coffee. There's no story here, as with Mazagran. It's the straight-up beverage, something to chill and open up on a hot summer day. I'll save my bottle of iced coffee, not for the graphic design, but for the day when cold coffee actually sounds good.

My mid-90's lettering of "Mazagran" contrasts the contemporary presentation of "Iced Coffee." Click on the photo to see the lettering up close.



"frappuccino™" was also issued in the mid-90's, but it succeeded.