This is an overview of how I approach and express my personal pursuits, in both written and visual art.
My artwork centers around the things I value most—time, travel (maybe even time travel), languages, writing systems, and communication itself.
topics i focus on
I am incredibly drawn to series, how elements stand alone and can be appreciated for their inherent differences, but can also combine and interact to form something else entirely unique and interesting.
I’m interested in things with dichotomy, parallels, contradictions … For example, one aspect of travel that I so enjoy is seeing what is the same and what is different in each new place I venture. I like that time is both relative and absolute depending on how you look at it—different zones, different ways it is typically spent in any given culture. Names are something else that is relative and absolute—we may call it Venice, but Italians call it Venezia. We may call it the Marquesas Islands, but the French call it the Marquises. Even something as simple as a trip to the beach can vary so greatly—the color of the sand and water, the texture of the grains, the shells, the way the water moves, the sounds you hear, the temperature, the way the air feels. The experience has many constants and many variables, yet it’s something so universal. Dichotomies are everywhere and I find them fascinating.
I like the puzzle of figuring out how to visually express things that are intangible, such as emotion, personality, or music. (This notion is paralleled in my writing; I especially enjoy exploring anthropology and recreating visuals using only words.) Many concepts can be conveyed through shape, gestalt, form, color—some things don’t need words to be universally understood. But in my lettering work, I want to reach a point where the message can be understood by someone who doesn’t know the language, who doesn’t assign the same meaning to the words. In my opinion, that would be the mark of a successful visual voice.
aesthetics & media
I like rough edges. I like things that are cracked, worn, scratched, old—they have character and a tangible history, a story to tell or a story to imagine. I love to bring forth this concept of imperfection in my lettering, because imperfection shows that you are human.
In contemporary society our lives increasingly revolve around the digital world which is streamlined, symmetrical, and perfectly perpendicular by its nature. (It feels like a sin to use the term “nature” when describing the digital, but somehow it makes sense in this case.) Skeuomorphic design has become a thing—textures, visuals and interactions that exist in the physical world and are painstakingly turned into digital imitations. I feel they are nothing more than cheap substitutes for real life. It is my opinion that because these digital interactions have now become routine for us as a society, we are inherently drawn to things with an imperfect human touch, things that cannot be mass-produced. (Why else would Etsy be so successful?)
It is for this reason that I am against things that look handmade, but aren’t. This is especially the case regarding typefaces and fonts. The entire concept seems disingenuous. Movable type is meant for mass production; lettering is meant for individual production and for its unique handmade quality. Such typefaces are an attempt to replicate human touch; therefore, I disagree with them in concept, and refrain from using them in my design work.
We are bombarded by the digital throughout the day, things that don’t even exist except in binary code, things that you can’t touch. I also think that being able to communicate with anyone, anytime, makes those interactions a little less meaningful. All my career I’ve created ephemera—things that are consumed quickly and then discarded. And while I don’t discount the importance of those media, I’m trying to find ways to create things that resonate; things people keep because they identify with them or subscribe meaning to them. I like creating things with my hands, and making end products that are tangible rather than just files, or pixels set to illuminate in just the right combination of RGB values.
I have established a basic catalog of letterform styles, and they all generally follow the same rules: exaggerated proportions, asymmetry, and a baseline that is more a theory than a law. I want the human element to be apparent—that’s what hand lettering is about, after all. The more you can see my touch evident in my work, the greater success I consider it.
Sometimes I like my letterforms to be rough and expressive, with raw terminals on the strokes, very few straight lines, more about curves and being slightly off-kilter. The less perfect, the more interesting.
I enjoy fine detail and try to incorporate it into my work. What I like about working with detail is that it makes the piece different if you view it from afar or from up close—like an Impressionist painting, in a way. You can focus on the overall image or you can drill down and appreciate the little unique qualities of the individual components, and the piece is about the combination of both experiences. In my lettering collages, it’s just as much about how all the different words work together, as it is about how each letter works within a word. It’s about the free form and the way all the words interact and interlock.
sources of inspiration
Travel. I like seeing new things, meeting new and diverse people, being exposed to their backgrounds and hearing about their experiences and points of view. How can you expect to keep growing and coming up with new ideas if you fall into the safety of a routine, where you traverse the same route and surround yourself with the same people every day? Homogeny is boring. Give me a rich and intricate tapestry.
Architecture. As a designer I know one of the golden rules in life is that form follows function. I enjoy seeing how architects approach this, how they solve design problems, how they marry function and art through structure. Every building has a distinct vibe; it’s designed to. It’s neat to experience something unique depending on what doors you open. I especially enjoy observing architectural details, since that is where a designer’s heart and personality are exposed. Back to the dichotomy of detail, I like seeing the whole skyline, but I also appreciate the individual buildings that make up the big picture.
Mid-Century Design & Music. I have always been drawn to music, fashion, and objects from the 1960s, and hell if I know why. That is one question I would really love to find an answer to before I die. (Hey, those two sentences rhyme!) If I had to guess, I’d say that perhaps a part of me really identifies with that culture and its ideals—the push for freedom in all its forms, the expression of self, the idea that everything is beautiful, the focus on love and acceptance and equality.
As I’ve said before, I am an old soul. I like antiques. I listen to records. I collect vintage calendars. One of the top items on my Bucket List is to own a vintage Volkswagen Beetle. I already own a vintage camera and in the near future I plan to buy a typewriter as well. I like the notion that if you only have a camera with a lens and no screen, you can’t immediately check to make sure you look okay. You can pretty much only take one picture of each moment, and then you get to actually enjoy the rest of that moment. I like that if you only have a limited amount of film, you have to make each picture count. You have to learn the limitations of the product and figure out how to make the lens work well in different scenarios so the composition actually looks decent when you develop it. Same with the typewriter—if you only have a certain character count on your ribbon, and there’s no such thing as “Undo,” you have to really think about what you type before you type it.
I enjoy the experience involved in listening to records, and the fact that you have to care about the process and focus on it. You take out the albums cautiously, you wipe them off with care, place them gently on the turntable, adjust the arm to the perfect position, slowly lower it down. Then you hear the crackle, and the music bursts forth in a sound so warm and beautiful. (Yes, even if it’s “Revolution No. 9” playing, that sound is still beautiful to me.) And unless you have one of those fancy turntables with Automatic Return, you have to pay attention to when the last track ends, and get up and return the arm before the needle scratches the label. (Although occasionally you do get those amazing works of audible art with secret tracks in the runout. Hidden gems.) I think because the process takes more time and care, you pay more attention to it as an experience, and you enjoy the music more and appreciate everything that went into making it real. That is a core philosophy by which I abide.
As amazing it is to live in the Digital Age, where you can communicate and share things instantly with billions of people across the world, I think that perhaps we lose a lot of quality and respect in that. Yeah, we have the capability to share whatever we want, whenever we want, with whoever we want—but are they things that really matter? And yeah, we have the ability to consume whatever media we want whenever we want—but do we appreciate it the same way if it’s so readily available?
As far as the design and aesthetic, perhaps it has heavily influenced me since that’s what I have always surrounded myself with, even as a child. (A child in the nineties, might I add—even in 5th grade my peers called me a hippie.) I like the personality and drama evident in much of the typography from that era, especially on album art. It’s quite expressive. I especially love the interactions between letterforms on posters from the Psychedelic Era—they seem to flow together like the blobs of oil in a lava lamp. Maybe that was intentional, maybe it was due to the artists’ large doses of LSD. Either way, I really dig it.
Nature. I enjoy seeing how elements interact. I enjoy observing the unique qualities of wildlife—textures, colors, shapes, etc. I could ramble on and on about this topic, but since I just gave you a diatribe about how much I love records, I’ll keep this section concise. My career on cruise ships has really opened my eyes to how amazing and beautiful the sea is as a force of nature. How it affects everything it touches, and in different ways, and how much variety there can be in something as simple as just “the ocean,” depending on the weather and the region of the world.
Words are my medium. Language is what I use to create art, be it visual or written.
When drawing with ink, I use pens such as the Papermate Flair, Microns, Faber Castell Pitt, and Pilot G-2 0.7 mm. When drawing with pencil, I generally just use a basic mechanical pencil with 0.7 mm HB lead. It feels very natural for me because there is no pressure (ha, artist pun) of using a tool that was specifically designed for creating art. (I actually have a favorite pencil that is sentimental to me, and if something ever happens to it I will literally cry. I have searched my feelings and already know this to be true.)
To paint pictures in the mind’s eye, I use a combination of Google Docs and Text Edit on my phone and computer. I know enough to know that I don’t have the best system yet, and I am still looking for a more ideal approach. (It will probably be my future typewriter, from the past.)
I’ve found using ProCreate on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil to be my sweet spot of creation. I can iterate without having to use tracing paper, a lightbox, or an eraser, which keeps things compact in my suitcase. Sometimes, I like drawing on cardboard, or scrap paper that I then wrinkle and tear—things that are raw and rough.
I love the aesthetics of maps, and am fond of the muted color palette of vintage maps. I’m trying to use more of this in my work. I also like very simple, basic color palettes and am drawn especially to black and white, or the rich yellow-brown of cardboard; however, the visual interest doesn’t seem to translate well digitally. :) What I like about working in black and white is that 1) It leaves an element unanswered; the mind’s eye can imagine several color possibilities and fill in the blanks however it wants, 2) It challenges you as an artist to focus more on the form, texture, line, and other elements without relying on color to carry a concept; therefore you must say something with those other details, 3) There is no such thing as pure black or pure white in nature, so the combination/contrast is quite jarring and eye-catching.
Generally I prefer to work directly with ink rather than pencil, because I feel it causes me to put forth more thought and to take a bit more care. Plus, I like that once you make a mark in a certain way, you either have to roll with it or find a creative way to adjust it. Or you have to start over entirely, keeping your mistakes in mind while you figure out how to solve the same problem in a different way—kind of like life.