Principle of Design: Contrast

As we focus on the principles of design using contrast, this is not the first time that I have begun a learning journey without all the requisite skills. I want to remember where I was when I began; therefore, I am going to share my learning and process through text and video and look forward to connecting with others who are working through learning something new this year, too.

This project is process-focused and not product-focused. I decided to make my process transparent because I am personally struggling with this and want to document my journey this year.

Project Assignment: C O N T R A S T

Create an 11 x 14 calligraphic work using a capital font for the Latin phrases and a small caps font for the English translations using two contrasting colors of watercolor.

The learning objective of this first month is to learn about C O N T R A S T as a principle of design. Cora reminded us not to let the lettering become the master of the principle of contrast.

In Class Activities

The structured lesson creating Roman Capitals with a broad edge was brutal for me. This brought my lack of technical background and skill to the forefront and I tried to stay present and breathe. It was difficult and I began feeling anxiety about the upcoming project. I chose to use ball and stick letters with a B nib.

We created a draft of our quote before we left for the day.


At Home Practice

Lettering Practice

I practiced a few hours with Higgins Eternal black ink on Gilbert Bond paper. Slowly, I built a bit of confidence in my letter forms and how the ink worked with the nibs and the paper. I learned that the larger the B nib, the more difficult it is to control and to keep the ball flat on the paper. To create the size contrast, we can use a combination of 1 and 4 or 2 and 5.

Watercolor Practice 

Next step was to select two contrasting colors to use with the work and to practice writing with watercolors and the B-nibs. This was so frustrating for me that I became exasperated. Trying to get the consistency of the watercolors and the colors and load it onto the brush to get it to flow was almost too much for me.

When my nib began tearing my paper, I was certain that I was done. I actually contemplated quitting this class. I have drafted four different versions of the “I am quitting” email.

But I kept breathing and going. I  reached out to a friend who gave me some technical suggestions about how to work
with watercolor.

“Remember, it is a process.”

My brain was screaming, “If I freaking don’t have the skills to do the process, how can I learn from the process.” Calm down and get back to work. Focus on the design principle of contrast. I tried again, but this time I was too tired and splatted a HUGE amount of watercolor in the middle of my work. I put the work up for the evening and came back to it the next day.

The Design Principle of Contrast: Layout Practice

I wrote this piece 6 times. The assignment was to create a justified quote with even margins on the left and the right. I used a light box for tracing to help with my spacing. Honestly, I was struggling so much with the lettering and watercolor that I switched back to the ink to finally finished my piece.

My Reflections

My Inner Critic was quite vocal about how terrible it looked. At times, I completely lost my intention of learning the design principle of contrast. Thank goodness, for my friend, Suzi, who is so encouraging and kind. She gave me supportive feedback and laughed when I showed her my sketchbook. To relieve the frustration from this process, I played with the watercolors and created soothing circles and spirals. I added the Latin quotes and English translations using my favorite monoline marker and then some angry scribbles to the page, too. I felt so much better.

I can see where my anger and frustration is coming from partly my wishing for things to be different than they are. The reality is that I do not have the same lettering and calligraphic skills that many in the class have. And that is okay. My focus is on my goals and intentions for attending this course and what I can learn.

There is space for me to practice acceptance and to focus on the process. It is going to be an amazing year of learning.