Sunday, 31 January 2010

Notes on Renaissance calligraphy

Since Greek antiquity the distinction between uncial (all caps) and cursive (joined minuscules) hands was that the former was used for literary works and the latter, for correspondence. The surviving Roman minuscule cursive hand came to be known as Carolingian minuscule. The Renaissance humanists revived this form to replace Gothic medieval calligraphy.

The ‘roman’ typeface, then, came from a combination of the Carolingian minuscule and Roman majuscules, and was first seen in 1465: German printers in Italy, Arnold Pannartz and Konrad Sweyheym, published an edition of Cicero’s De Oratore using a roman typeface.

From 1495 Francesco Griffo worked with the main printer of Venice, Aldus Manutius, and developed cursive typefaces for him including Bembo. He is also recorded as the inventor of the italic form.

In the 16th century Francis I brought Italian calligraphers to Fontainbleau to assimilate the common Italian form of correspondence, cancelleresca corsiva, into the Gothic French hand, cursive française, to create ‘ronde’. ‘Ronde’ had three forms: financière (upright), bǎtarde (inclined) and coulée (script). This was the French national hand for centuries later.


The two-part film follows Jacques Mesrine from his early 20s right up to his death after a long life of robbery, murder, and numerous sentences in prison from which he usually escaped. I heard that none of his alleged murders have actually been proven even to this day.

I found the film a little segmented: his friends and girlfriends seem to all appear in groups rather than by coming and going. For instance, he has a wife and his two French gangster buddies at first, then a French-Canadian pal and a bonnie-like (from Bonnie and Clyde) girlfriend, and then a gold-digging girlfriend and his mate the prison-escape artist. The daughter from his marriage appears towards the end when she’s grown up but I didn’t think she was used enough in the second film. The contrast between the characters of Mesrine and his father was really interesting and I think they could have balanced the second film out a little more by exploring the relationship between him and his daughter further. Blow is a film that looks into the main character’s gangster lifestyle and family relationships in equal proportions.

I thought Mesrine was a little like how Johnny Depp is said to have described Bush’s America: a big dumb dog. He seemed to have learned how to rob banks and then never looked back. For instance, the scene where he discusses his interest in going after ‘the system’ and attacking the max-security prisons; his ex-Algerian-freedom-fighter partner points out that he has more or less funded the MSAs by spending the money he steals in the shops.

Still, the variety in characters and actors is fantastic and I was really glad they didn’t try to make Mesrine some sort of hero; instead, they relied on his lovable humour and reckless unpredictability to entertain the audience right to the end. Well worth getting.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Moiré video

I found a really cool video recently that shows how moiré can be used as a device for animation too.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Study Playlist

This is a playlist I set up to listen to while studying/working. Lots of good stuff in here including moody soundtrack titles like Perfume and Hannibal, the ever-calming Chopin nocturnes and lots of hand-picked tracks too. I put some favourites in bold.

- Satie: Gnossiennes - 1. Lent
- Handel: Harpsichord Suite In D Minor, HWV 437 - Sarabande With Variations
- Spiegel im Spiegel. Angela Yoffe & Vadim Gluzman
- "O giusto cielo!" from Lucia di Lammermoor, Act 2. Anna Netrebko, Claudio Abbado, Coro Sinfonico di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Mahler Chamber Orchestra & Romano Gandolfi. Sempre libera.
- Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 17 "Little Russian": III. Scherzo. Berliner Philharmoniker & Herbert Von Karajan. Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 1-3
- Chopin: Nocturne #1 In F Minor, Op. 55. Claudio Arrau
- Chopin: Nocturne #2 In E, Op. 62. Claudio Arrau
- Chopin: Nocturne In C Minor, Op. Posth. Claudio Arrau
- Chopin: Nocturne #2 In E Flat, Op. 9/2. Claudio Arrau
- Chopin: Nocturne #7 In C Sharp Minor, Op. 27/1. Claudio Arrau
- Chopin: Nocturne #10 In A Flat, Op. 32/2. Claudio Arrau
- Dante Symphony, S. 109: Magnificat. Daniel Barenboim. Liszt: Dante Symphony, Dante Sonata
- Into the Forest. Danny Elfman, Corpse Bride.
- Edward Scissorhands: Main Title - Ice Dance. Danny Elfman , Edward Scissorhands.
- Die unsichtbare Front. Gabriel Yared & Stéphane Moucha, The Lives of Others (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- Die Sonate vom guten Menschen. Gabriel Yared & Stéphane Moucha, The Lives of Others.
- IM "Martha". Gabriel Yared & Stéphane Moucha, The Lives of Others.
- Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs, Symphony No.3. Gorecki.
- Dear Clarice. Hans Zimmer, Hannibal (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack).
- Avarice. Hans Zimmer, Hannibal.
- Virtue. Hans Zimmer, Hannibal.
- The Burning Heart. Hans Zimmer, Hannibal.
- To Every Captive Soul. Hans Zimmer, Hannibal.
- Eastern Promises. Howard Shore, Eastern Promises (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack).
- Tatiana. Howard Shore, Eastern Promises.
- London Streets. Howard Shore, Eastern Promises.
- Sometimes Birth and Death Go Together. Howard Shore, Eastern Promises.
- Trafalgar Hospital. Howard Shore, Eastern Promises.
- Slavery and Suffering. Howard Shore, Eastern Promises.
- Anna Khitrova. Howard Shore, Eastern Promises.
- Eagle and Star. Howard Shore, Eastern Promises.
- Nine Elms. Howard Shore, Eastern Promises.
- What Are You Asking Me? James Newton Howard, The Village (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture).
- The Bad Color. James Newton Howard, The Village.
- Will You Help Me? James Newton Howard, The Village.
- The Shed Not to Be Used. James Newton Howard, The Village.
- Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: XXII. Aria. Jenö Jandó, Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV.
- Fauré: Requiem, Op. 48 - In Paradisum . Jeremy Summerly: Oxford Camerata
- Vide cor meum - Rhys Meirion Vocal (Rhys Meirion Vocal), Katherine Jenkins.
- Satie: 3 Gymnopédies - Lent Et Douloureux. Klara Kormendi.
- Splendeurs Nocturnes. Les Chœurs De L'armée Rouge. (Red Army Choir).
- Sailing to Byzantium. Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy, Immortal Memory.
- Abwoon (Our Father) . Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy, Immortal Memory.
- Masquerade: Waltz. London Symphony Orchestra & Yuri Ahronovitch.
- Iconography. Max Richter, The Blue Notebooks.
- Vladimir's Blues. Max Richter, The Blue Notebooks.
- What Have They Done? Max Richter, Waltz With Bashir (Soundtrack).
- Lullaby from the Westcoast Sleepers. Max Richter, 24 Postcards in Full Colour.
- Found Song for P. Max Richter, 24 Postcards in Full Colour.
- The Artifact and Living. Michael Andrews, Donnie Darko (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture).
- Puccini: Madama Butterfly - Act 2: Humming Chorus. Miriam Gauci, Etc.; Alexander Rahbari: Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Slovak Philharmonic Chorus.
- Debussy: Suite Bergamasque, L 75 - 3. Clair De Lune. Moura Lympany.
- Main Titles. Pete Anthony, Red Dragon.
- Threats. Pete Anthony, Red Dragon.
- There, Far Away, Beyond the River. Red Army Band; Red Army Choir.
Moscow Nights.
- The Girl With the Plums. Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker, Perfume - the Story of a Murderer (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack).
- Grenouille's Childhood. Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker, Perfume.
- The 13th Essence. Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker, Perfume.
- Moorish Scents. Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker, Perfume.
- The Method Works! Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker, Perfume.
- Laura's Murder. Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker, Perfume.
- Awaiting Execution. Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker, Perfume.
- The Crowd Embrace. Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker, Perfume.
- Epilogue (Leaving Grasse). Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker, Perfume.
- Wake. Thomas Newman, Road to Perdition (Music from the Motion Picture).
- Just the Feller. Thomas Newman, Road to Perdition.
- Road to Chicago. Thomas Newman, Road to Perdition.
- A Blind Eye. Thomas Newman, Road to Perdition.

Moiré Kaleidoscope

Well my computer managed to get through it without dying – the Moiré looks pretty good here. I like the really subtle change in detail in the first one: the orange and green triangles at the circle centres. These would have to be used in small doses being as detailed as they are.

Moiré aesthetics

These optical…things…are pretty cool to play around with. It’s known as a pattern but it’s not always so, which makes it a little misleading. In terms of creating this effect, you start with a set of reciprocating similar lines and then duplicate the whole thing on top of itself. Et voila. Of course, if you copy the object and paste it in the same way, over and over, you do get a pattern.

Anyway, some examples below show you what can happen and wikipedia has two animations (putting in the effort!) to show the effect at work. It’s one of those funny graphic devices that, by really simple means, makes an extremely complex mathematical process take place. So it’s similar to the kaleidotype. I think I’ve yet to see a good piece of graphic design that makes use of moiré; within reason, it could be used as a letterhead feature, or a device in brochures maybe. One example below, I thought, might suit a sushi restaurant identity. My own efforts are only early tests but maybe I should apply a moiré effect to my kaleidotype! That might give my computer’s memory a little challenge: shall let you know if it crashes.

Another dug-out drawing

Kerning Police: Only The BR AV E

Quick moan at Diesel here for their shocking typography on one of their recent products. It’s as if they thought fully justifying it all would make up for the weird kerning, especially in the last word. If you look closely, the spacing is poor in every single word. Granted, it’s not the biggest worry in the world…but if a job’s worth doing…. I might correct it and send it back with my CV. Tongue-in-cheek job application of the century.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Kaleidotype 02

Two more patterns – this time using my own type, originally drawn for the ‘play’ posts. The first pattern uses a few letters of the same size. The second, four letters of contrasting sizes. Colours are obviously mixed but I used the ‘multiply’ transparency setting to get more detail from the overlaps. Learned that gaps appear between panels if you use transparency settings so I might have to rectify that little annoyance.

I think both work well – really fond of the second version’s variety though, which is only down to the fact that it uses high-contrast in the size of the lettering. Not perfect but it would only take a little tweaking to get the shapes to fit together smoothly. I’m loving my invention! Might make more photographs with it next…. We’ll see.

Gaspare Mola Helmet

Just sharing this inspiring piece of Renaissance armour. I doubt the designers of this stuff ever got much credit that often so this one gets to go in the post title! Lucky guy. I can just imagine Cosimo II going into battle with this…‘Dude, stop smashing up my gold-plated, spiral-motif tribute to the good bits in Greek mythology!’

World map vs Golden Section

I thought I’d go back to my nifty world map drawing and just check if the golden section works on it at all. Found that the two were spookily similar, especially in how some land masses follow the grid lines quite closely. Might just be down to my being slightly biased though. Always worth checking things…just in case. I could delve into a long-winded discussion of whether the Golden Section proves there is no master creator of the world (God) but instead I’ll just mention that I measured the menu in a local restaurant recently and, to my delight, ‘twas in golden proportions.

Naughty word on One Show, almost

I was watching The One Show on tv last night (Thursday 21) with Nicholas Lyndhurst and there was an interview taking place with a woman who helps kids with their numeracy. Anyway, behind her was a surface covered with those alphabet magnets so, naturally, I was checking out the typography instead of watching her. A ‘D’ here, an ‘L’ there and then a little group at the top: ‘F, upside-down-M, C, K’. At first I thought I’d seen the most subtle expletive of all time on national television but no…close but no cigar. (Damn!)

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Three ladies and question about copyrights for bloggers

Nothing like an attractive subject for good motivation eh?? I got a bit addicted to drawing faces in Illustrator once I’d learnt how. It was actually useful for understanding how to draw differently by hand too though. The bottom image is from a photograph by Paolo Roversi, a favourite fashion photographer of mine who really needs more books available on Amazon. Sort it ooot Amazon/Paolo/whoever is in responsible. I did do a few portraits using loads of layers of colours but, to be honest, the simple 2/3 colour versions just look much better and combine with type much more easily too. I have loads more of these but will get cut down by the copyright partypoopers if I post them.

Does anyone know what the situation is with copyrighting for bloggers if they’re not being paid for the blog? Info online often seems inconsistent. If I own a book, for instance, can I scan pages and upload them? I wanted to do some editorial design one day and asked the Guardian if I could use their online articles. T’was a no, even though Casillero del Diablo let me post my label re-designs if I said it was my own work. Confused.

He’s a Mexi‘can’

You might recognise this guy from Once Upon a Time in Mexico (Depp, Banderas etc). He’s the one who, when asked if he’s a Mexican or a Mexican’t, says ‘I’m a Mexican’. Gripping scene, right enough. Anyway! Estevan Oriol is a photographer who shoots Mexican gangsters and this actor/ex-gangster(?) was one of his subjects. This is the first digital portrait I ever did in Illustrator, after a little tutorial in my first year at uni. Not sure why I did the background that way though…

Graphic Design Est. 1922

I read a post recently on another blog including a quote by Phil Baines. This sums it up. (To avoid confusion, 1922 is in there as it was the year the ‘graphic design’ was coined).

Ars sine scientia nihil est

A nice line from Jean Vignot, a Gothic artchitect, in 1392. Forgive the use of Zapfino – meant to be a allegory to art without knowledge (subtle jibe at Zapfino there…).

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


I’ve been looking through my portfolio recently and noticed a few things I could be exploring in more detail: the process used to make the images below is one of them. Almost a year or so ago, I wondered whether type could be used in place of those little colourful shapes you get in kaleidoscopes. I did a bit of experimenting and found it to be relatively simple – as far as how the patterns are made. Alternatively, the process can just be used to make cool little typographic images. The images below are just a few attempts at finding out how far it can go, hence their slightly shabby look. So many variables! Colour, typeface, type-size, type colours…. Plenty to try with it but I think, with these, the more subtle/simple the design, the better.

Stamps 01/02

Here are some of the best stamps from a box-full I found in our loft. The penultimate on is the back of a stamp…I thought there was something quite eye-catching about the whole purple/blue handwriting and orange background combo. It’s really interesting to scan them at a huge resolution and then zoom in on the detail…like in the last one. The way the stamps work with the image, accidentally, is also something to look out for – like in the purple US one, five down.[Still working on another post – I have some type-patterns you might find interesting!]

Stamps 02/02

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