First Illustration for the New York Times!

I was contacted by Jennifer Heuer, who is currently Art Directing for the New York Times, on Friday afternoon for my first illustration job for the Times. I had 5 hours to illustrate a word, a challenge that I was excited to take on. 

Below is the approved sketch that I sent. The lettering for the word irja is inspired by Islamic calligraphy, and the ornamentation a reference to the intricate arabesques and geometry seen in Islamic art.

After I was given approval to move forward, it was a mad dash to complete the final rendering in less than 3 hours.  Pulling off an illustration this intricate in such a short time frame is tricky, but by keeping it relatively straight forward, I was able to meet the deadline. You can read the full article here, and below is the artwork that was printed this morning.

Visit to the Hamilton Wood Type Museum, Pt. 1

This blog post was originally posted on the Lost Type blog as part of their trip to Chicago this year.

On Friday morning, most everyone had left Chicago (Riley and Kenneth needed to be in Denver for TypeCon), but Kelly and I had decided to make the trip up to Two Rivers, Wisconsin to see the Hamilton Wood Type Museum. My good friend and mentor David Wolske is having a solo show of his letterpress artwork at the museum in September, and picked us up on the way from Indiana so that he could drop off his body of work in person. 

Vessel No. 1 by David Wolske

Vessel No. 1 by David Wolske

We arrived in Two Rivers just after noon, and were immediately greeted by the word “Hamilton” emblazoned in large dimensional script letters on the side of the museum.

Kelly Thorn & David Wolske enthusiastically entering the museum.

Kelly Thorn & David Wolske enthusiastically entering the museum.

Once we entered, we met the staff of the museum and helped dolly in David’s work.

It just so happened that for the past two days, a documentary film crew had been filming various aspects of the museum. That day, they were working on a shot of Dave Artz, who is a Wood Type Finisher. Dave Artz is one of only a handful of individuals with the knowledge and mastery of this process. As David explained to me, wood type is cut with a special router that translates the movements of the operator (who is tracing an original “pattern” using a stylus) to another piece of wood that is being cut with a router bit. After the wood’s surface is cut, it is the job of the type finisher to chisel out the sharp corners and tight spaces that the router can’t reach.

An assortment of patterns on display.

An assortment of patterns on display.

Drawings of Brylski by Nick Sherman to be cut into patterns.

Drawings of Brylski by Nick Sherman to be cut into patterns.

After observing this finishing process, I was able to film a brief interview with co-director Erin Beckloff about their project Pressing On: The Letterpress Film.

Thanks to Lauren Huber for her help with filming.

Erin invited Kelly and I to be part of a shot where Jim Moran, the museum director, was giving a guided tour. Right before the shot began, one of the crew member’s very politely asked Kelly to exit the shot. WHY do you ask? I’ll tell you why. Because the clown suit onesie she was wearing was deemed too distracting.

Is the world ready for the clown suit onesie? We may never know.

Ping's Zoo

Something I really enjoy about sharing a workspace with other illustrators and designers is not only seeing their work, but being able to work together or for each other on certain projects. Ping Zhu, one of the illustrators in my studio, recently redesigned her site, and I offered to help design a logotype for her site in exchange for a portrait that she drew of me.

My idea for the logotype was to create something that felt very distinctly like her handwriting and brushwork. I asked her to draw her name a few times to see how she drew specific letters. I was particularly interested in her single stroke 'P' and 'Z', and also the character of the 'G'.


The final logotype incorporated the casualness of these letters.

Inspiration for Whittington

I was digging through some old photos for a talk I'm giving next week at the University of Utah, and stumbled across these photos I had taken of a plaque at the Boston College library. These letterforms were the basis of Whittington. The final font necessitated a few changes to the letterforms: note the uppercase O, Y and R. I also never adopted the goofy lowercase h and title caps. Wonder if I missed out...

New Site, New Work

I've jumped on the SquareSpace bandwagon! Expect to see more regular updates, as well as a regular feed of inspiration and ephemera.

These past couple weeks have been very productive for me. In addition to drawing a few comics (see the previous post) I've been working on a new font based off some lettering I created for a book cover. Here's an overview of the Glyphs I've drawn so far:

I'm at a crossroads, trying to determine where I should push this. I'm not sure a lowercase alphabet makes much sense, and I could always expand this into multiple weights if I was feeling particularly nuts. In any case, there's still plenty of work to be done with what I have; still need to draw numerals, punctuation, and improve some of the characters I'm still not satisfied with. Not happy with the J, R, S, or W yet. Always seem to be the problem ones. I would love to hear comments or feedback!