hand lettering

Different Strokes—A Hand Lettering Workshop with BT Livermore

This summer, Portland said goodbye to one of its beloved sign painters, BT Livermore. But before he headed off to Big Sky Country, he hosted 30 lucky letter-enthusiasts at our WeMake Discovery Workshop on June 10. Students braved the Rose Parade traffic to pay respects to BT and spend three hours exploring letterforms under his expert instruction.

Before class began, each student received a custom mega Scout Book with one of BT's catchphrases: "Be the right tool for the job." This quote launched the class into a lesson in selecting calligraphy nibs. "First you have to know what tools make different marks," BT explained. First he shared the classic A nib is squared off at the tip for broad strokes and a B nib is rounded for curved lines. The C nib is a basic square shape for classic thick to thin strokes. The D nib is good for chunky serifs. 

After some exploration in calligraphy nibs, BT broke out the brushes. His collection featured tools made of synthetic materials as well as the fur of sable and squirrel. He showed us how to saturate and form the brush in order to create rich, fluid strokes. 

As the letters began to flow from everyone's chosen tools, BT shared his career story and insights into how he came to love letters. After gaining a degree in Web Design from Minneapolis Community and Technical College, BT moved to Portland in 2005. After taking some time off from school, he started writing letters and just couldn't stop. His studies picked back up at Pacific Northwest College of Art, where he started integrating letters into his design and illustration work. His love for creating letters continued to grow when he found sign painting. He enjoyed that this typographical artform separate his work from the digital space.

While BT has left our City of Roses, his handiwork can still be seen across Portland. Look for his work in coffee shops, art studios, and other crafty spots around town and get inspired to find your own love of letters.

Check out more photos here. All images by Susie Morris.

Mrs. Eaves aka Gemma O'Brien

I feel like my practice sits between design and art. Art provides me with deeper conceptual inspiration in a way that design sometimes cannot. —Almost Real Interview

Gemma O’Brien is an Australian artist and designer specializing in lettering, typography and illustration. Her work takes on a variety of forms, from calligraphic brushwork, illustrated letterforms and digital type, to large scale hand-painted murals. In addition to advertising commissions, gallery shows and speaking engagements, she hosts hand-lettering workshops around the world. A number of her projects have been recognized by the  New York Type Directors Club with Awards of Typographic Excellence. 

After dropping out of Law School Gemma moved to Sydney and studied a Bachelor of Design at the College of Fine Arts. The young designer made a name for herself when she released the video Write Here, Write Now (a university project) which became a YouTube sensation. She's blossomed into a type goddess since then. 

Recently Gemma was chosen as one of the winners of this years ADC Young Guns award. She has created work for clients including Woolworths, QANTAS, Heinz, The New York Times, Volcom, Angus & Julia Stone, Monster Children, Smirnoff and Kirin.  Gemma has also worked in art direction for motion graphics at Animal Logic, Fuel VFX and Toby & Pete. In her spare time Gemma travels and draws puke puns on barf bags .

Gemma is represented by The Jacky Winter Group and is a Volcom Womens Ambassador for creative and art based projects.

We are so excited to have her as a keynote speaker during WeMake Celebrates on Friday, October 2,2015. You can grab tickets here.

RECAP: Workshop with Nathan Yoder

Nathan Yoder

Nathan Yoder grew up in Oklahoma with creative parents who supported his love of design from an early age.  He started screen printing in middle school, and eventually taught himself how to use design programs. He then freelanced his way through high school, creating logos for $30.

After graduating college with a degree in graphic design, he began his career at a branding agency in Oklahoma. During his work meetings, he would doodle about everyday things, and started posting his doodles on Instagram. Eventually his work got noticed by an agency on the west coast, so he took a chance, and moved to California to work as a designer. It wasn't long afterwards that he came north and made Portland his home.

Nathan continues to create unreal pen and ink illustrations and gorgeous hand-lettering within his own roving design studio, Yondr. He predominantly uses fine-tip sharpies or pens that are permanent when sketching, which is totally terrifying to most designers. We’ll explore this method a bit more later. 

In his workshop, Nathan focused on the transition from human > artist > designer > robot. Obviously, no one wants to end up in the last section of that transition, so it’s important to understand that there should be always be a human element at the base of all design. 

"We need to recognize the human base formula we all already have in our brains, and build from there...Bring your human emotions, fears and doubts into your art and build on it, and use any particular order or method that you prefer." 

One question Nathan often hears is, "How do I find my voice or style in lettering?”  He implores us to never start with this question. Becoming a great designer isn't a goal, it's the action of doing. No one should tell a designer how to make art, we should just assist them in their own original creative way. With respect to lettering, there are many different ways to approach this art, and there is no right way to do it. 

And now we’re back to Nathan sketching with sharpies. By doing this, he is forced to focus on the act of creating instead of where the sketch should go. His entire creative process is about experimenting; let the mistakes happen and see where they take you. If his work is any consolation of this practice, then we should all take a cue from Nathan; chill out and let the human and artist drive before we turn into designers. 

Want to see more photos from the Workshop? Check out the WeMake Flickr page for the full photo recap. 

Special thanks to Scoutbooks and West Coast Paper for their generous contributions to the workshop, and for their continued creative support and collaboration.

Photography: Susie Lee Morris