… Or “Where would I be without my Friends and GIMP”
Back when I was deciding between “wild naiada” and “wild naeade” for my new shop name, my friend Sarah wrote out the first title in ink, pointing out how symmetrically pleasing the two “i”s looked. At that point, I had already developed a vision for the shop’s banner on Etsy that aimed for a clean uncluttered look with the focus on the text of the shop title. Seeing Sarah’s rendition confirmed my vision. I was happy when she agreed to calligraphy “Wild Naiada Designs” for the banner.
Before I get into all the fun details, here is what the shop banner will likely look for the next couple of months:
Sarah and I had collaborated once before, so I knew we could handle this collaboration interpersonally and logistically despite the long distance communication. Having played around with GIMP to come up with the shop logo, I was confident that Sarah could take an i-phone photo of the calligraphy, and that I would be able to clean it up from any shadows, smudges, etc in post processing. I then planned to layer a photo or watercolor background behind the text, and play around with the background’s opacity to make sure the calligraphy still stood out.
I’ve done some commission-like work in the past for friends (earrings, painting), and have ordered commissions myself for mediums and subjects which I was very comfortable with (illustration based on my character designs by Anna Christenson; my “relationship” ring from DanielM Jewelers). However, this was the first time I acted as a client for a medium I was completely unfamiliar with. Sarah basically had to spoon-feed me aspects of her craft so that I could figure out what I wanted – she did a great job guiding me through the process. 🙂
With a couple of pencil sketches and directions from Sarah, we had some general goals figured out for the calligraphy:
- all lower case for a more modern feel
- dancing letters – avoid placing them in a strict straight horizontal line
- angular letter slant, close to regular italics font
- noticeably varied thickness on lines
- small letter bodies for rounded letters
- fairly wide letter spacing
- less swirls, more curves/swoops
Sarah came back with this epic first draft – the number of eraser marks and the large shadow on the right half of the page made it a challenge to clean up in GIMP, but I conquered it and the underlying calligraphy body is great!
Here it is after post processing in GIMP:
Even though I really liked the first draft, I came up with a couple of suggestions in order to make the most of our creative energies and enthusiasm. To overcome the inability to explain my feedback in person, I traced Sarah’s calligraphy (first in pencil, then inked it with a thin sharpie), and referred to areas of potential improvement visually, via arrows.
Sarah came back with the second draft…
… and I digitized it thus:
The second draft felt less successful than the first for two reasons: the letter bodies were uniform enough to make this version less dynamic (too tame for my liking); the spacing in “naiada” was noticeably narrower than in “wild”. However, I’m glad Sarah created this version, as it helped me realize that a) I enjoyed the free style quality of the first version better; b) that the more creative freedom I take away by setting up formatting limitations, the less inspired the artist will be.
So, I decided that the first version would be more than sufficient. In turn, Sarah decided to be even more awesome – although a single calligraphy draft took her more than an hour and she had already inked two and penciled several more, she went for a third inked version, with the aim of even letter spacing and cleaner letter connections.
Here is the third version – the one I ended up using for the banner.
And the main digitization of the third draft – this time, even though I cleaned up the swoops in GIMP, I kept the original thickness for all lines.
So here was I, with great calligraphy for my banner, and endless possibilities for the background. I imagined something with a summer-y atmosphere, either as a watercolor wash or a photograph displaying my jewelry on some leaves. I had such a clear vision for the feel of the banner that it was really disappointing and stressful when it became apparent that neither my watercolor nor photography skills rocked hard enough to reach my ambition.
After about three days of photography and GIMP exploration, I had close to 30 banner versions and a more realistic set of expectations. None of the banners were what I’d hoped for – that artistic, uncluttered clean look? Pfffsht. I’ve yet to even glimpse it. But as I continue to figure out the general branding and target market for my business, I will continue revising my branding materials. Someday, I’ll get that background right (*shakes fist at a future self*). Meanwhile, here are some of the ones I liked best: