The art of hand lettering with Laurence Davies
Last Thursday my girlfriend Vicky and I went to Oxford for the evening to take part in a hand lettering workshop organised by The Oxford Creative Assembly. I’m a designer at JH and my girlfriend Vicky is incredibly creative so we thought it would give us a fresh perspective to get away from our screens for the evening and learn a new skill.
The workshop was taken by Laurence Davies and held at St Aldate’s Tavern in the centre of Oxford. It’s a great venue on the first floor of the pub with great views into the city. We’d been sent an email the day before asking us to come up with a phrase or quote we’d like to write. This was mainly to save some thinking time on the day as the workshop was only a couple of hours.
Laurence began the session by giving a brief account of his career as a professional sign writer and letterer. He’s got a really interesting background in design, branding and interior design, working on projects for hotels and bars in London and Oxford. He’s a really witty guy, making us all laugh and feel very much at ease as our creative nerves started to bubble up. He showed us some of his work and explained how he produced the logos, signs and wall art. He then went on to explain the process he uses when creating pieces for his clients and shared some tricks of the trade.
Tips & Tricks
- Layout – choose your words or phrase before you start and plan your layout.
- Font – choose a serif, san serif and script font (for starters) and perfect your font alphabets.
- Emphasis – decide which words you want to give most emphasis to and what style of font will suit these words the most.
- Starting point – count the letters in your word or sentence. Start with the middle letter in the centre of your board and work outwards. This will avoid smudging.
- Have fun – be extravagant with your words! Just because your letters are based on fonts you are free to be playful and add as much character to each word as you like.
- Space saving – don’t worry about running out of room – vary the size of your letters to fit more in. Try making that double ‘oo’ of ‘look’ smaller by adding it on top of the ‘arm’ of the capital ‘L’ to save space.
- Finally – remember no matter how good you get and how straight and perfect your letters look that doodle of an animal you did to fill in a redundant gap will surely get all the attention!
After this introduction, we were all invited up to the front to help ourselves to a blackboard pen and get started. I’d previously played with hand lettering on the chalkboard walls in the JH office, however I found using the pens more difficult. They use permanent ink, so making a mistake wasn’t an option! This was good though as you had to be bold and dive straight in. I followed Laurence’s instruction to the letter 😉 and my piece went fairly smoothly; the more I did the more I got into it. Vicky even added an illustration to her piece.
Vicky and I were joined by a girl called Jess and we all got on really well helping and encouraging one another. Jess is a Graphic Visualiser by trade and uses hand lettering in her job. She’d come along to see if she could pick up some more tips and meet new friends. It was great because there was loads of different people there with different background and mixed abilities. The group size was about fifteen, just right to give Laurence time to pop round, chat and help us all. In fact he managed to get round to us twice. By the time we’d reached the two hour mark, everyone was chatting, seeing what the other individuals had created and exchanging ideas. There was such a great fun and friendly atmosphere.
We both thought the event was thoroughly worthwhile and very enjoyable. It’s great fun learning a new skill, meeting new people and seeing different places. We’ve both said we’ll practice more — in fact Vicky has already drawn some hand lettering as part of a Birthday gift and I’m planning a piece for the house. The event was very well structured and well worth the £10 which included the pens and boards we could take home. The event organiser Jo Lankester came round and chatted with us asking for feedback and asked where we’d heard about the evening and thanking us for coming. This just went to show how much care a attention go into these evenings and it really shows.