Super excited to share Alice Gabb with you today! Alice has such a unique hand that you can identify anywhere. It’s that wabi sabi hand that I wish for–perfectly imperfect. Alice is an uber talented artist and we hope you love reading her interview as much as we did!
Where are you located?
I work from a little studio in Dalston in East London, that I share with two other creatives, and a tiny Italian Greyhound.
How did you get started in lettering?
I studied Graphic Design and Illustration at university, and my projects always seemed to feature hand rendered type. I wasn’t interested in typography in a digital sense at all, I just wanted to draw it! When I graduated I was accepted to have a stall at the beautiful Broadway Market every Saturday. I sold stationery that I had designed and screenprinted during the week. I started to get a lot of wedding invite commissions, and was hand drawing or painting all of my lettering, until I learned (years later) that the typefaces I was creating with a pencil or brush was called ‘Modern Calligraphy’and started to teach myself using the Besotted Blog for research. It took so long to learn because it was relatively new to the UK back then, and it was hard to get hold of the right supplies. That was three years ago now, it’s flown by!
What are some of your favorite supplies? (this people go nuts for!)
I love the Blue Pumpkin and Leonardt Prinicpal EF for nibs. It took me months to be able to use the Blue Pumpkin, so I advise beginners to start with the Zebra G or Nikko G nibs. I use Dr PH Martins Bleedproof White for white ink, Higgins eternal for black ink, and I have a small set of gouache tubes that I mix up with water and a few drops of gum arabic for every colour in between. I flit between straight pen holders and oblique, and I get through a lot of Daler Rowney A4 Layout Paper pads. I’m yet to get one of those Finetec Metallic Palettes but that is next on my list!
Can you name some of your inspirations? (books, music, artists, etc.)
I love going to Old Spitalfields on a Thursday morning so I can add to my collection of vintage stationery. I’m particularly interested in telegrams and fold out souvenir cards and I use old packaging a lot to dictate my layout and choice of typefaces. I like looking at traditional sign painting too. Although it can be hard to find these days, my parents live by the sea in Cornwall, and you can’t use vinyl because the sea spray makes it curl up and peel off very quickly, so there’s lots of lovely traditional painted examples about the place!
Can you go a little into your process of how you work on a project?
I am probably not someone to emulate in terms of work process!! I still haven’t got round to learning how to use a fancy tablet…I will though, one day! Everything is practiced on layout paper first, and then written or drawn numerous times until I am happy with it and scanned in to then be artworked in Photoshop, and then laid out in InDesign. I’m really particular about things, sometimes I will write a word fifty times before I’m happy with it. I think that surprises people because a lot of my work has a naive feel, and my calligraphy style is fairly whimsical with long lines and leaders, and never following a straight line – but often my process is fairly lengthy!
Any tips for newbies on how to develop their own style?
I suppose when you strip it back, it is all about patience, practice and attention to detail. I think it’s important to be really noticing the way other artists are creating their letters, making a mental note of little elements you particularly like, and leaving bits you don’t. I can’t lie though, you need to practice, practice, practice! Write down song lyrics, swear words, inspirational quotes, your shopping list, anything!
I think trusty old Pinterest is a great place to be finetuning your preferred styles. I have one board for nicely styled shoots that inspire me, but another board specifically for close up examples of letters that I especially like the look of.
It’s also helpful to remember that Modern Calligraphy has evolved from traditional Copperplate script, and studying that style can hugely improve your control. Dr J.M Vitolo’s amazing online resource, Iampeth, really helped me at the beginning, as did Fozzy Castro-Dayrit. She is so dedicated to the study of calligraphy, and her instagram always encourages me to do my drills!
Any recommendations of books or classes for lettering enthusiasts to further their studies?
Obviously if you are in London you should come to one of my classes, but if you are too far away, you can’t beat the online course, the Modern Calligraphy Summit, that covers it allllll! Even though I had been a professional calligrapher for two years, when the Summit came along I just had to sign up because I was about to start teaching my own workshops, and I had this fear that my technique might be incorrect in the eyes of the calligraphy overlords, but actually it was a comforting reminder that I knew what I was doing and that I should go forth and share my lettering knowledge!
Do you have some favorite projects you would like me to mention?
My collaborations with bookbinder Catherine Willis (who works under the name Kitty Farrow) are probably my favourite. She is a traditional book binder and box maker, and so between us we have a really unusual and old fashioned skill set! We’re a couple of old fashioned gals at heart, there is usually always a glass of sherry or two in our meetings. I find it very hard to work with other people as I’m so used to working alone, but Cat makes me macaroni cheese so everything is always ok.
Any advice on what ‘not’ to do?
Cripes, there are so many dont’s!! I’ve learnt the hard way! Most importantly, do not rush, and give yourself plenty of time to learn if you have a specific project in mind. Secondly, try not to associate calligraphy with ‘hand writing’. Hand writing is something totally different, something we have subconsciously spent decades practicing. It also has a totally different pace to modern calligraphy, and you hold the pen and angle your hand differently, so instead, think of calligraphy as a series of lines and curves that you need to teach your brain by repeating and repeating until your muscle memory knows exactly what to do. It’s frustrating at the beginning but it gets easier!
Last of all, do not leave your nib in your penholder all the time like I do until it is fused with rust to your penholder and has to be pulled out with pliers….it’s a terrible habit…
If you want to mention any upcoming workshops…
Oh yes. I run Beginners lessons every other Saturday and Improvers classes on occasional Tuesday evenings. Both of which take place in my favourite East London cafes.
Name one random talent you have that people may not know?
I am pretty good at hula hooping and roller skating…Marawa the Amazing used to run lessons at her Hoopermarket by my studio one summer, and I used to go every week, practice most days and had grand dreams (some would say delusions!) of one day becoming a Majorette….I think I’ll just stick to my fancy writing though….
We have had a few interviews in the queue that we thought you might like to read sooner than later, perhaps you will take some of the tips they share and put them into practice? And we certainly didn’t want you to think with all this talk about ‘focus’ that we were going to drop your lettering fix like a hot potato. First up is Jessica Levitz of June Letters. I am pretty positive she thinks I am one of the most annoying bloggers ever, but even still, she was gracious and provided this interview. I love Jessica’s quirky hand, sense of humor and eye for design, I especially loved her inspiration, as we share a lot in common! We do hope you enjoy her! Here’s one more of Jessica’s hand that we loved (but might offend others), it made us laugh out loud.Read More
Michelle and I love this quote so very much, even though I keep attributing it to another genius (I did triple check I got it right this time). Last week we did a week of Brush Lettering with interviews and some seriously awesome giveaways. We are keeping the giveaways open until the end of the this week July 8, 2016 so if you haven’t already please join in and good luck to you! Also, please note, if you love these giveaways as much as we love doing them please do participate, comment, etc. we really can’t get you the caliber and quality of interviews and giveaways if there’s not interaction;) Click on the links below for details!
We hope we have inspired you to try your hand at this medium, remember we would LOVE to see your practice so tag your work #bblettering on Instagram and Pinterest so we can find you!
We thought we would end Brush Lettering week with a bang (and a few more goodies for you)! We know that you are going to need some supplies so Paper Ink Arts, the veritable emporium for lettering supplies will be donating one $50 Gift Certificate! This is plenty good to get you started with the basics-a brush, brush pen, ink or gouache and paper! Once you have gotten your brush on and have been lettering like crazy you are probably going to want to start sharing it on your site/blog, creating all sorts of crazy good graphics with it for Pinterest or other social media or maybe you might even want to try you hand at getting your lettering onto some custom products for yourself or for resale. In that case you are going to need to have the easiest and fastest way to get you lettering from paper to pixel and that is Lettering Rx | Photoshop actions and we will be happy to giveaway a set to one lovely winner! Above is a little real time GIF Michelle created cleaning up Kal Barteski’s iconic lettering, it really is this fast to clean up your lettering and illustrations with Lettering Rx! Just a few quick clicks and basic Photoshop knowledge (like how to open your file basic). It’s oh, so satisfying to watch the lettering be transformed from paper to digital, but still maintain it’s wonderful quirky hand, ready to use in your next project. This is how you up your lettering game friends. But wait there’s more…Read More