Typism is a lettering conference held annually on the Gold Coast, Australia. This year, the main event was Saturday 4th August, with the opportunity to attend workshops hosted by selected speakers on Thursday and Friday.
I chose to go along to Ryan Hamrick’s ‘Cartooche’ workshop. The word ‘cartooche’ is apparently referenced in one of Doyald Young’s books, who is a big influence for Hamrick. (As a side note, I ordered ‘Dangerous Curves’ last week and am all a-flutter with anticipation every time I hear the postman). If you don’t know of Ryan, take a moment to look him up. He is a master of this elegant and graceful style. His work is thoughtful with cleverly placed connections and flourishes.
During the workshop, he walked us through his process from sketch to vector. It was fascinating to see his approach and he generously shared techniques he has developed that help his work reach such a high standard. Some of these tips were so simple it was hard not to gasp, but they literally transform the end result. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of Ryan’s workshops, I highly recommend you do!
Typism 2018 Speakers
The conference line up consisted of 8 guest speakers :
#1 Wanissa Somsuphangsri, Lettering Artist
#2 Barbara Enright, Brush Lettering Artist
#3 Crystian Cruz, Typeface Designer
#4 Kelly Spencer, Mural Painter
#5 Karin Newport, iPad Lettering Artist
#6 Lachlan Philp, Lettering Artist
#7 Cyla Costa, Mural Artist
#8 Ryan Hamrick, Lettering Artist
All the speakers were entertaining and hugely inspiring. I won’t go into every talk, but wanted to summarise a few of my highlights so you can get a feel for the event.
Hi Wanissa, I’m everyone
The morning session opened with a talk from Wanissa Somsuphangsri. You may be familiar from her work with ‘The Letterettes’, based here in Melbourne. Or maybe you even recognise her ‘New Brushes’ piece for Procreate last year, to announce Version 4 was available.
Wanissa started by joking that she was worried her nerves might get the better of her, and she would blurt out ‘Hi Wanissa, I’m everyone’! She didn’t do this though, and was cool, calm and collected. Her talk focused on how making mistakes got her where she is today, and taught her important lessons around valuing her skills.
She reminded us to ‘stay visible online’ and post regularly. This is a method she uses to attract some of her best clients. Potential clients see her work on instagram and reach out for specific projects.
She shared a great example of this. After discovering Harry Potter and Instagram around the same time (which was just one year ago!), she started posted lettering pieces about her new found wizard-y obsession. A company in the UK spotted these and contacted her asking if she’d be interested in designing some official Harry Potter merchandise. Of course she accepted.
It was a similar situation with the Procreate project with Savage. By sharing her personal work, she was able to attract clients that want to replicate that style for their own campaigns.
Along with the fun stuff, managing a freelance career takes a lot of admin and organisation. Wanissa shared some tips on running the business side of things :
- Save! Freelance is a very unpredictable cash flow
- There is no shame taking up a non-lettering job to pay the bills
- Hire an accountant
- Keep track of your expenses on a spreadsheet
- Pay your Superannuation (ie. retirement savings)
- Keep work related expense receipts
- Know your worth!
- Cost jobs according to the usage licence – find out how it will be distributed
- Factor in practical material costs
- Consider rounds of corrections
- Rush fee if client needs quickly
She reminded us that a work / life balance can be difficult to achieve, but is important if you want to continue and avoid burnout. Switch off and have time without your phone. If you work at home, mix up your routine and workspace by going to cafes and the library. Yoga is great way to restore posture problems as well as giving yourself a nourishing break.
What it takes to Flourish
It wasn’t long into her talk before it became obvious that Barbara is a very passionate and tenacious woman. She used to specialise in what was called ‘Show cards’ or ‘Ticket writing’. Before the days of computers and commercial signs, signage in retail stores was all done by hand.
After working under the guidance of a mentor, Barbara ventured out and opened her own sign shop located within a retail mall in Sydney. They were kept extremely busy and had to invent creative ways to keep up with the ongoing demand. One method they adopted was to screen print the background on the cards, and then hand letter over the top, resulting in a much faster process.
Barbara had a very successful career, however computers were becoming more and more common and hand lettering was starting to die out. She missed the hands-on creativity that her business provided, so she started her own lettering club to keep these traditional skills alive.
In 2013, Barbara met Carla Hackett (who, along with Wanissa, is also one of ‘The Letterettes’). They had a lot in common, among other things both being left handed, and shared an instant connection. Barbara started teaching Carla her ticket writing skills and they developed a mentor/mentee relationship. Carla suggested Barbara come to Melbourne and host a workshop. There was nowhere to learn this type of skill anymore and she knew it would be well received. They went for it, and Learn Brush Lettering was born!
The online course is now extremely popular and they have also run a series of live workshops in London, New York, and San Francisco. Carla encourages Barbara in the dark art of social media, so it seems the mentoring is symbiotic.
Barbara left us with some great advice – ‘Be resourceful and bite off more than you can chew. Chew like crazy’.
Thoughts, Deeds and Vibrations on Lettering
Brazilian lettering and mural artist, Cyla Costa took to the stage for the 2nd last talk of the day. She compiled her talk into categories : thoughts, deeds and vibrations.
1) Know what you’re made of (thought)
This could be interpreted a number of ways, but Cyla’s intended meaning was, figure out what elements combine to create your style and taste. You are made from your experiences and interests. The music you like, the type of art that appeals to you, the movies you watch all contribute to the work you make. Look at your references to get a better picture of what this is and you’ll start to recognise it in your output.
2) Stop trying to define yourself and your work (vibration)
We are often put in a box and our work is confined to that area. But you are bigger than that. Being comfortable is a sign you need to step out of your assigned box and challenge yourself again.
3) Check in with yourself (thought)
It can be hard to say no when the work is coming in, but you need to stop and ask ‘Is this really the work I want to be doing?’ It’s ok to step away and ponder this.
4) Allow yourself to have sabbatical periods (deed)
Cyla took a six month sabbatical at a time when she was struggling with what her focus should be. It was a productive time. She attended lots of talks, got involved with collaborations and had the freedom to express herself without client constraints.
5) Know your Audience (thought)
‘It’s important to know who will be witnessing your work’. Cyla recounted an interesting story about a mural herself and a friend painted on a wall in a suburban street in Philadelphia. The wording was ‘This Goddam Phenomenal World’ from a JD. Salinger book. There was a strong reaction from the community. The day after completion, Cyla woke to find someone had painted over the word ‘Goddam’ during the night. It turned out this was a very religious neighbourhood and the locals had taken offence to the phrase. Cyla’s friend however, got creative and turned this into a positive by painting over the same area with black paint, and leaving chalk so people could fill the space with any adjective they liked.
6) Let’s get personal (deed)
Cyla wanted to start a personal project, so she created Weekly Woody. Each week, she would publish a poster related to one of Woody Allen’s movies. He was a big influence for her, so she wanted to celebrate this as well as take the time to experiment with different styles of lettering and illustration. The project was well received, and she was awarded a distinguished Type Directors Club ‘Certificate of Typographic Excellence’.
7) Create Space (vibration)
Cyla recognised that if she didn’t give herself the space to experiment and try her things, she would not have grown into the work she is doing now. It would have been easy to carry on in the same bubble and be working non stop. Giving yourself the chance to gain some self awareness is important.
8) Don’t worry about defining your style. You can’t really run from it anyway (thought)
You might be trying to work out what your style is, but don’t worry about it. It is often more obvious to others than something you can see clearly yourself.
9) There’s a process in everything, that’s how the beauty gets in (inspiration)
The work often starts looking ugly and all over the place. Through following the process you reach the result. Don’t think about the client as an opponent, but a partner.
10) Start Small (thought)
So hopefully I was able to express a small part of how wonderful this conference is. Along with being inspired by these talented artists and professionals, it’s a great opportunity to meet like minded people with the same lettering obsession as you!
Dominique has already announced next year’s date – put the 3rd August 2019 in your calendar! See you there.