This is a lettering project I did as a gift for the homebirth midwife who delivered our daughter Maeve Margaret Linton Lincourt. I wrote about the home birth experience here; my wife wrote about it here. Our midwife was Vicki Hedley of Seventh Moon Home Midwifery Services.
The quote is from the workbook that the midwife gave us. It’s not a published book – just a series of photocopied articles. As it says at the bottom (see detail below), it’s a saying that’s recited by Yoruba.
The lettering is watercolor on paper. As is often the case with me, there’s no pencil. It’s just straight up watercolor onto paper. I kind of sketched it out in my head in advance, but, really, I just started and sort of let the chips fall where they will. Initially I figured I had a big piece of paper with a lot more room than I needed, but it turned out that I used pretty much all the blank space I had. Not drawing guidelines makes things slightly uneven… but that also makes it interesting. I do a lot of no-pencil watercolor lettering on envelopes (see for example here and here) and I end up making it all fit each time.
One tactic that I think works is to try not to make everything too perfect, too even. If all the letters are just a bit irregular (consistently inconsistent perhaps?) then it all looks coherent at the end of the day. If you’re aiming for precision, then use guidelines… or a computer!
The lettering is based on a lettering style from Ben Shahn. He’s a great American artist who did quite a lot of graphics, posters, etc., (see for example here) with a very iconic lettering style that basically boldens things in the “wrong places” but then when one does that consistently, it ends up looking funky, but good, overall, I think. There are examples of other lettering I’ve done in Ben Shahn style here (where I explain it and show an actual Ben Shahn example) and here and here. My version is a lot like Shahn’s but not exactly the same… though a few letters (A, E, F, and I and probably others) are more-or-less exactly what Shahn created.