The Goats Have No Midwives (Lettering) – September 2013

The goats have no midwives, watercolor on paper, September 2013, about 11"x17"

The goats have no midwives, watercolor on paper, September 2013, about 11″x17″

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.

Detail from the above piece

Detail from the bottom of the above piece

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!

Detail from the middle of the above piece

Detail from the middle of the above piece

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.

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