Thanking Around Process: Belgrade

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Belgrade. Ah, Belgrade. Cute streets, flowers everywhere, really nice cafés and restaurants, and the food! Such cheap and delicious food! Remember back at the Zagreb post when we had our amazing host tell us to visit Belgrade because she loved the city and the food? We basically followed her advice, and loved the city so much we’ve decided to stay for 2 months instead of one (however Berlin is still my favorite of all – no offense, Belgrade).

Tell me: wouldn’t you stay longer if the city you were in looked like this?

Now, let’s talk about type. Serbia uses two kinds of alphabets: the Cyrillic, really common in the Balkans, and the Roman, which are the letters you’re seeing right now. So when we arrived, I was surprised by the loads of ads at the airport using Cyrillic. My whole typography study for years is in Roman. The first thought I had when I saw that was: what the heck am I supposed to do with this art?

Right at that moment, I started to learn a bit about the other alphabet, and since I’ve been learning to like it – which was a huge accomplishment. Seriously, take a look at these:

I have absolutely no idea of what is being said there. None. Zero. But I confess that a lot has been learnt about contrast and the similarities between Roman and Cyrillic. Pay attention to the last one above – that style is totally different from everything I’ve ever seen in the Roman alphabet. Searching more about it on Pinterest, using keywords like “orthodox calligraphy/typography”, it is possible to find other things that are related to it – it’s definitely not easy, but not impossible either.

With that in mind, I was able to better understand the anatomy of both letters. And why would I want to do that? Basically because the Thanking Around series is supposed to only make use of the Roman alphabet, meaning technical typography errors with different alphabets around the world can be avoided, while can maintain focus on style and reproduce the experience achieved in each place focusing solely on the illustration.

However for this case, given the strength of the culture, it was really difficult to avoid putting anything in Cyrillic. So I thought it would be interesting to create a latin-alphabet lettering, BUT, inspired on Cyrillic – seriously, why not? This is what I tried to create with the sketches bellow.

After that, a few changes were made – such as the ornament on the V used balance the one on the bottom, and the frame ornament which was a bit more exaggerated – no regrets though, ornaments are always welcome if used correctly!

About the colors, looking at the other Thanking Around artwork I felt that I missed more happiness in the backgrounds – there were no vibrant colors, such as yellow, orange or even a blue/green tone. Belgrade has a really happy energy (of course that summer helped things a bit), and I didn’t have a single negative experience talking to locals, so why not represent the sun that was out there and put a vibrant yellow on the background, with a dark lettering to create a vivid contrast?

Another son getting out to the world, another river of learnings, and another incredible city visited. Thank you so much for this amazing month, Belgrade. And now let’s get to the second one.

I hope I could inspire and help you in some way with these learnings, and see you for the next art!

If you have any other questions about something I didn’t say here, you can send me an email or reach me on social media!

You can see the entire project here!

Thanking Around Process: Bucharest

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I don’t know about you, but when I think of Romania the first thing that comes to mind is the Romanian Dragon Sanctuary (Harry Potter fans, this is for you). Oh yeah, and then Dracula. Basically Romania was a place that we weren’t thinking about visiting, but the best thing to do while you decide a destination is typing the country or some cities’ names into Google Images. The result is usually a ok-we-must-go-there reaction.

For this country we stayed mostly in Bucharest, but we had a visitor from the Netherlands for a few days (hi, Nikola), and a road trip through the countryside to see castles! We went to Brasov, and passed by Ploiesti, Sinaia and lot of other really tiny villages. Check it out:

Ploiesti, Romania

Brasov, Romania

Bucharest, Romania

With all those cities, the characteristics that I noticed the most were the roofs. They all have that pointy detail at the top, and A LOT of beautiful ornamentes at the bottom. It’s interesting because before coming to Europe I thought that the architecture was pretty much all the same, but each country has its own unique characteristics. But of course, you can see all the things I mentioned by looking at the castles below.

Spoiler: The Peles Castle is my favorite. It almost wins from the Budapest Parliament. Almost.

Bran Castle

Church in Brasov, take a look at the roof.

Roof detail on the top of Peles Castle.

Isn’t it the most beautiful castle you’ve ever seen? If it’s not, PLEASE send me a picture of the one you like best.

Basically this was my reaction when I saw the Peles Castle for the first time:

Yep, the boyfriend saw it first, picked up the camera, called me to take a look at it and took the photo. 

After those pictures, you can notice that it’s obvious I only started to create the lettering art after that trip. But it was totally worth it, because seriously, look at those type references!

As you can see, the doors and windows were some pretty great references for the color palette. Now what about the type?

I have A LOT more, but these styles were mostly the ones I used to create mine. I really enjoyed the medieval-inspired alphabets, so I mixed them up a bit. After a while reminding myself to enjoy the process while sketching, I basically created only 4 sketches for this one. There’s nothing better for your learning than enjoying the process and the present moment. Believe me, your anxiety will thank you for this.

With all that in mind, I just changed the E and C from those sketches and started to vectorize. After beginning the vector phase, I confess that everything went by really quickly, because as I started and finished the sketches on Monday, I then began to vectorize on Tuesday, and finally Wednesday and Thursday were only about refining everything, choosing a color palette and finishing up on Photoshop.

Yup, four days. About the color part, I already knew that I wanted a dark background with a lot of details, so I just looked for that on the pictures taken and created the frame inspired by the Romanian roofs!

Four days was a really short time for me, because I basically worked until 1am almost all week, and that is something that I REALLY avoid doing, once that I’m totally a morning person. But you know what? It was amazing and I only did that because I didn’t see time go by. All about enjoying the process thing. 😉

If you have any other questions about something I didn’t say here, you can send me an email or reach me on social media!

You can see the entire project here!

Thanking Around Process: France

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Bonjour, bonsoir, bonne nuit, or whatever is the time you’re reading this. Yes, this process is all about croissants, pain au chocolat, cheese, delicious breads, crêpes… Is it weird that most of the things I enjoy about every place I go to is food? Culinary is a proof of each culture, and France let this very clear when I went there!

In France I sadly didn’t stay for a whole month because of a mastermind event my boyfriend had, but we visited so many towns and villages that I couldn’t let this pass. Which cities did we go to? Paris, Canet-en-Roussillon (really tiny and with a beautiful beach), Collioure, and Villefranche, a fortified village. As a Brazilian that had never seen castles, I need to say that I was pretty excited to see more of french history. And I’m pretty sure that I have a thing for castles and their architecture.

So, to start from the beginning, let’s take a look at Paris and its references. One word about it: copperplate calligraphy. They use copperplate everywhere. And if it’s not copperplate, it’s a really similar script style that has a classical look.

It also had more modern styles, recalling Art Nouveau. But from what I saw in those few days, I noticed that everything is really classy, including the architecture and those balconies’ ornaments.

Now come with me, let’s fall in love with balconies:

With that in mind, let’s go for some references in the south of France. First: the colors. So many beautiful colors that when I was creating the color palette for the lettering I was impressed by some stuff!

Yep, I took this with an iPhone. This is the beach in Canet. Pretty ugly, huh?

As you can see, the doors and windows were some pretty great references for the color palette. Now what about the type?

After a lot of references and knowing a bit about Paris and the south of France, here we go to the sketches! First of all, I’d like to say that I created more than 20 sketches about this lettering. And after not knowing when to stop, I threw away EVERYTHING. Yup. All the tracing papers, without taking photos or anything. And you know what? That felt good.

As a digital nomad traveling with only a backpack and a small carry-on wheel bag, the best feeling is remembering that you don’t need much to live. Let things go, the most important part you already have and it’s inside your head – it’s called memory. 🙂

Basically these sketches are all that I have left, now.

Hello, final sketch.

As you can see for the final sketch, it is indeed really sloppy. This is what happens when I already have the whole idea in mind and I just want to visualize the main part of it. I had part of it vectorized already, but I was having some difficulties in visualizing the ornaments.

I decided to use this one because I noticed that everything I saw from France was very cute and full of ornaments everywhere, not to forget the whole “romantic” feeling that Paris gives. I added those endings on the strokes to break this “cute” feeling, because I also had some not so good experiences there. With that in mind, I let them be discrete because we can’t ignore the bad parts, but indeed we can focus on the good ones.

About the vector, one rule for creating on Illustrator: the less points you make, the better. Start building your shape only with horizontal points, and ONLY IF NECESSARY you can add the vertical ones. In the image below you can see that I put guides to maintain the same angle in every letter, and I started building the shape only with strokes to fix the kerning and the curves. After all this, I built shapes to create the contrast. In this way I can maintain control of any adjustments that I need to do.

With all that in mind, I created a discreet frame inspired in some of the parisian cafés, adding a thin line shadow on the lettering, and then jumped to the colors!

As you saw on the pictures above, I indeed used those to define my color palette, but the only things I was sure about were that:
1. I wanted a light background
2. I didn’t want it to be too romantic (ironic, looking at all those curves)
3. I wanted it to be cute, and strong.

After another 20 tries of color testing, I finally came up to this!

If you didn’t have the time to go through at all, here’s a summary of the learnings:

1. Don’t be afraid of throwing everything away, the important learnings you had you definitely have memorized.
2. Don’t try to put only the good feelings on your art, the junction of the good and bad is what makes you, you.
And to conclude, know when to stop. Sometimes, to be creative you have to stop making art for a moment.

I hope I could inspire and help you in some way, and see you on the next art!

If you have any other questions about something I didn’t say here, you can send me an email or reach me on social media!

You can see the entire project here!

Thanking Around Process: Berlin

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Berlin, ah Berlin. So little time and so much learned. Berlin is a city that breathes art, freedom and history, and I’ve never seen anything like that. This was my first time in Germany, and I spent my birthday there with some amazing friends that went there to visit, so yes, Berlin has a special place in my heart.

First of all: history. The Berlin Wall, its fall and World War II. German people have a lot to learn from their past and I believe that respect for others no matter their beliefs was the most important lesson. I noticed that in Berlin you can literally be whoever you want with minimum chance of being judged for that. And yes, this is scary, but I confess that I learnt a lot about self confidence with that. Freedom is scary, but if you remember your principles it can be paradise.

Berlin Wall was here. Credits: Raul RdG

Brandenburg Gate and two awesome women taking a selfie. Credits: Raul RdG

For this lettering, I kept thinking a lot about adding history to it, for the obvious reasons I mentioned above. But I’ve decided to begin with graffiti, because this style is one of the most seen around Berlin. Graffiti is the voice of artists, and artists do what they do because they have something to protest against or something to say. Graffiti is not a synonym of a dirty and dangerous city, it’s someone trying to change the world in their own way. Graffiti can be beautiful if you think beyond it, and when you see these drawings on pieces of the Wall around Berlin, you can notice that these artists had A LOT to say when the wall was still up. So yes, in this case, graffiti can represent the history of a city.

Here are some examples:

Credits: Raul RdG

The beautiful Berliner graffiti and the friend posing for the photo. Credits: Raul RdG

If you’ve seen my work, you can notice that graffiti is something completely out of my style, I love curves and ornaments (and sometimes geometry). So yes, this was really difficult for me.

I started to search about gothic calligraphy, and then how it has changed to approach an urban style. Then, I searched about some artists that have already made letterings in that style, like Jackson Alves and Luca Barcellona, with the help of my mentor Lygia Pires – she has a similar style to mine and has already done this kind of stuff. I confess that after looking at their styles and looking at my own reference artists (like Jessica Hische and Martina Flor), it got easier to do something with quality. Not easy, but easier.

This was the sketch when I first started:

With that sketch in mind, I had no idea of what I should put around the borders so I left it for last because, always remember: one step at a time.

And now, it was vector time. I tried to vectorize another sketch [the one below], but I noticed some mistakes so I went back to the sketch. As I told you in the last article, going back to sketches when everything is vectorized shouldn’t be a problem.

You can notice that in the final lettering I mixed parts of both sketches that I liked the most.

Once the vector was finally ready (no borders yet), I jumped to the colors which were inspired by graffiti. I knew that the colors needed to be really strong and I was sure I wanted shades of red along with something really dark (like dark blue or brown). I really liked the blue-almost-black background with red and yellow for the lettering. I think it representes the strength of Berlin as much as the German flag.

After all of it, I still felt that something was missing, when I remembered the meaning and strength of Bauhaus. With all its geometric style and all its history, I couldn’t believe that I forgot one of the biggest art academies in the world. So, I made some tries of geometric frames, with much differ from the graffiti, to represent it. This is the result:

I just wanted to say that this lettering was something I never tried before, and Berlin really stole a huge piece of my heart. I hope I could inspire you in some way with this story as much as Berlin inspired me, leaving something inside of me for the rest of my life. Danke, Berlin. You were amazing.

If you have any other questions about something I didn’t say here, you can send me an email or reach me on social media!

You can see the entire project here!

Thanking Around Process: Zagreb

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Usually when europeans think about Croatia, their first thought is “beautiful beaches, cheap country”. My first thought when I arrived was: OH MY GOD SO MANY TULIPS AND SUN! If you didn’t notice I love tulips, and the beginning of spring was the perfect season to visit Zagreb.

As soon as I was introduced to my new Airbnb home, I noticed that my host really wanted us to feel like we were in Croatia, because ALL the decorations were red and white (even the mugs were red and white like their flag). Definitely not complaining, the decoration was really lovely!

I told you so. And this is just the living room.

For this lettering, I wasn’t really inspired by the architecture as the previous ones, but by the colors. There’s A LOT of red and white in basically everything that is typically Croatian, besides the little flowers that are on everything.

Below is the red and white overdose:

And if you have never seen me, hi. This is me and my red and white popcorn.

If you don’t know the Croatian flag, this is the symbol that stays in the middle of it, in front of the colors red, blue and white (not exactly in this order).

Now the overdose of flowers:

St. Mark’s Church. I couldn’t see from the inside, but these details reminded me of the Hungarian architecture. If this is something typical from the Eastern Europe, I don’t know. But it is definitely beautiful!

If you look closer, you’ll notice the little hole inside those white squares are flowers.

More flowers inside the church.

Many different styles, but still flowers.

These beautiful tulips are EVERYWHERE.

Actually I found this at the Zagreb airport when going to my next country, and it is REALLY Croatian!

With that in mind, I also noticed some really medieval stuff, like a guy that engraves your name in copper and some typography which reminds this kind of tradition. I found these examples:

I really liked those two bottom examples, so I started sketching! After 12 sketches, I came up with this one, and I was absolutely sure that this was final.

But sometimes life gives you a punch in the stomach and tells you to start over again when your art is almost 100% vectorized (REALLY vectorized, not live-traced). And then I just decided to change some small details in the sketch that were really bothering me.

Don’t be afraid to go back to the sketch after everything is done. One thing that the sign-painter and friend Raphael Gibara told me once: “Don’t say your work is finished if you still don’t like it.” I didn’t like it, so I changed it (with a lot of frustration and tears, because I’m a human). And you know what? It was the best decision I made!

This was the REAL final sketch:

With that in mind, I vectorized the design and began to choose colors. As the red and white squared pattern is something really typical from the country, I put in my mind that the background was going to be squared red and white, even remembering something that the incredible Jessica Hische told me in a mentorship once: avoid complex patterns with high color contrast, try to use similar tones if you want the focus to stay on the lettering.

Did I hear the master? NO. But at least I learned that she was right. “But Isabella, the Croatian flag doesn’t look weird with the red/white pattern and doesn’t hurt the eyes”, and that my dear friend, is because they use a really thin gold line to break the contrast in a very subtle way. I tried to use the golden line too, but it didn’t work either.

These are a couple of options I made when I was trying to deal with that pattern:

It wasn’t working at all, but one thing I knew was that the lettering REALLY needed to have at least something to symbolize the pattern and the flowers. And of course, it had to be red, white and blue.

You know that “I don’t know what I’m doing, I just know I should do it” feeling? THAT feeling brought me the answer. When I decided to delete the pattern, maintain the flowers and merge them with the red/white pattern, I knew it was supposed to be the way. Never ignore that feeling (even if it comes with a Golden Retriever meme), if your intuition says to keep going.

As the background was way too light, I started to miss something, because the beginning of Spring made people act in such a happy and polite way everywhere we visited there. I felt like I wasn’t representing those amazing people. So I decided to add some flourishes and additional details, like the line inside the letters and the flourishes around the lettering too.

With all these in mind, this ended up being my favorite lettering thus far! And of course I shouldn’t finish this without thanking the best mentor and English student I have, who gave me a lot of feedback and listened to my frustrations when I was trying to choose the best colors without losing the lettering identity, Lygia Pires.

Here’s the final lettering:

If you have any other questions about something I didn’t say here, you can send me an email or reach me on social media!

You can see the entire project here!

Thanking Around Process: Budapest

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Budapest, oh Budapest. Such a beautiful and cold (very, VERY cold) city. As a brazilian used to a winter with temperatures no lower than 10°C, Budapest really made me wear almost all my winter clothes at once just to go to the supermarket at the corner. Not complaining, because now I get out of home with 15°C wearing just one shirt, an opened coat and calling it summer. Do I miss the 35°C brazilian summer? Not at all.

So let’s talk about architecture. The Hungarian architecture is majestic. When you see the parliament for the first time (and second, third, tenth), you almost listen to a choir of angels on the background and it’s impossible not to say “wow”. It’s a gothic architecture, and it has the same details as almost every other Hungarian building (except for the patterns, we’ll talk about that later). Building in a light color, roof in a dark color (usually dark red, dark green or almost black).

Mr. Majestic during the day

The parliament from a sunny Buda side – yes, it’s huge.

Almost on fire, but with lights. And the Danube river.

This parliament was my first impression of the city (and the building I most loved by far) because we stayed really close to it, and this is why my main color inspiration was this building. But after that, I discovered another typical detail of architecture – geometric details on the roof. You can see them over the beautiful Matthias Church and on the Great Market Hall, below.

Matthias Church

The Great Market Hall

As you can see by the second picture, there’s a diamond-shaped pattern on the roof and on the first floor, and this shape repeats on other buildings around the city, but in a more smooth way. I thought it would be interesting to use it in the background of the lettering. I really love curves and ornaments, but these geometric styles conquered me.

Still talking about the ornaments, I found out that generally they have a lot of small ornaments on almost everything, specially on plates painted by hand (like those below that I found at a small hungarian fair). For the frames on the top and bottom of the postcard, I used those tiny details in black inside the plates.

The whole city is covered by those ornaments so I confess that it was very difficult to land on one option.

About the word itself, what caught my eyes the most was the second most ancient subway line of Europe (losing only for London), that is really small and it has those stylized titles on the drop cap of every station name.

The ornaments around the drop cap are so small, but so beautiful and to me that made all the difference.

With that in mind, I started to search about the main style, that would probably be a thinner serif. Here are some references:

With that in mind, below are a couple of sketches I tried:

In the end the font style chosen was one inspired on the streets’ signs and the one used on the ancient subway. I even added some details line the inner line and the drop shade, because even though Budapest is a city with a lot of gothic architecture, there’s A LOT of younger people taking over the city in a really positive way, and opening those amazing ruin bars (like these ones below). So I think the drop shade and the inner lines could break the classic-gothic appearance of the lettering.

To conclude, I think you could notice that I used the parliament and roofs’ colors that I mentioned before, with a dark background with the goal of being almost as majestic as that parliament. Not that I could get any closer, but we try. Anyways, here’s the final lettering:

If you have any other questions about something I didn’t say here, you can send me an email or reach me on social media!

You can see the entire project here!

Thanking Around Process: Lisbon

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When I first started planning to change my lifestyle and become a digital nomad, the first thing I thought about was to create this project. But as per usual, we tend to doubt that something on this level on amazingness can really happen to us – until it REALLY starts happening. The Lisbon lettering took a while to get ready and I ended up delivering the print to the host 3 weeks after leaving the city. These things happen, specially since we were only there for a week.

But it doesn’t matter how late you are with your personal projects – finish them. ALWAYS FINISH THEM. This is the most important thing, isn’t it? I believe so.

For the reference research, I initially thought of going to the city center and searching for Lisbon pictures on Pinterest. I know that doesn’t make much sense, because the city was all around me, waiting to be used as a reference – so why would I be looking at Pinterest?

As soon as I got to town, the things that called my attention the most were the abundance ornaments (obviously), decorative tiles on everything, and the titles below:

In a way, I knew that the “Cabelleireiro” title represented what I was seeing from the city, but I believe you should never accept the first option without knowing what else is out there, right? Right.

Afterwards, lettering inspirations only made me believe more on what I already had in mind.

n a way, I knew that the “Cabelleireiro” title represented what I was seeing from the city, but I believe you should never accept the first option without knowing what else is out there, right? Right.

Afterwards, lettering inspirations only made me believe more on what I already had in mind.

With the exception of the last two pictures, the others are from the “Cidade Gráfica” exposition, showcasing many amazing works from the XXth century. I don’t believe in coincidences so the feeling of making a bifurcated title was starting to come into shape.

The initial sketch:

(Initially the drawing itself was so poor on information that neither the picture I fixed on Photoshop worked.)

Now it was time to play with ornaments and Lisbon leaves nothing behind when it comes to balcony ornaments and decorative tiles.

Look at these:

I’m not kidding when I say that THAT was the sketch I used in the vector initially, and all the rest was improvised from my last minute research. After this experience I can say with certainty, don’t do that. It’s not healthy. It’s chaotic.

Basically, after defining the title, I tried to put as many ornaments as possible without overdoing it. This is what Lisbon represents to me – curves and ornaments. But as ornaments are secondary, I thought it would be interesting to add two ornament layers, in order to accomplish the Portuguese culture’s feeling and give focus on what really needs attention: words.

Something that I think is very important on the vector process is to avoid using colors when you’re still dealing with the design shape itself – colors can really affect your point of view, not allowing you to focus on what truly matters at that moment.

Below the work in black and white:

Only vector, without Photoshop adjustments.

It’s interesting how testing dark backgrounds can give so much more attention to a white lettering. I tested light backgrounds with the famous white and blue combination – most common in portuguese tiles – but nothing was as shocking as the blue background.

And here is the final art:

I hope this article gave you some inspiration or taught something new. If you’d like to get ask me any questions or talk about something that I may not have mentioned, you can get it touch with me via email or any of the social media links below!

You can see the entire project here!