It’s great to be starting the new year with a new ‘Lettering Legend’. Colin Tierney has been responsible for some very creative and original lettering over the past couple of years. He has also inspired many with his Crayola pen experimentations. Often specialising in brush style lettering Colin has produced a body of work to be proud of.
Although Colin makes and shares lettering work on a regular basis, he also finds time to work on another project called ‘In A Brush’, where he curates his own lettering and the lettering of others in raw forms. This project allows the viewer to see the curated lettering exactly how it is without being edited. So along with his work he provides a whole other resource full of great inspiration.
Discover advice on using new lettering tools, the advantages of seeing raw lettering, finding inspiration, overcoming a lack of inspiration and more in Colin’s ‘Lettering Legend’ interview.
For those discovering a ‘Lettering Legend’ interview for the first time, a legend is someone who has inspired the lettering community. Be it through the work that they put out or through other things that they have created. You can get caught up in full by reading the ‘Lettering Legends’ introduction article, and if you’d like to read more ‘Lettering Legend’ interviews check out ‘Resources’.
Update: Lettering Legends are now recognised through the Typefolk Awards platform. Visit Typefolk.com to participate in public community votes, apply to join the Typefolk judges panel and enter work to try and earn the title of Lettering Legend!
You discover a time traveling DeLorean car and can go back to any lettering era, which era would you visit and why?
This is a tough question because my love for lettering styles—based on an era—changes far too often. If I have to answer at this very moment, I’m particularly drawn to the Victorian era with the embellished letterforms, use of flourishes and intricate detail the characters invoke during this time period.
When looking at your Instagram feed and website portfolio it’s clear you have a wide range of skill within many areas of lettering, including illustrative lettering, brush lettering and calligraphy. Do you have an overall favourite style of lettering to work in?
It’s true, I like to experiment with various styles and instruments so that I have a broader range of knowledge when it comes to all things lettering and calligraphy. While I don’t like to limit myself within a specific niche, I am particularly drawn to calligraphy. Having a basic knowledge of how letterforms are constructed is far easier to understand when you are able to write individual letters with a calligraphic instrument. The foundation of calligraphy aids in the transition into illustrating letterforms.
For a little while now you’ve been creating lettering with Crayola pens, which aren’t the obvious tool choice. What have you gained from using Crayola’s, and what advice would you give those beginning practice with a new lettering tool that’s a little difficult to use or unfamiliar?
Yes! I’ve actually dubbed the name Crayoligraphy—or, the art of writing stylistically with a Crayola marker—and created a hashtag for anyone interested to use when posting their Crayola calligraphy. The learning curve from a brush pen to a Crayola marker is fairly steep. A brush is easier to write with because it allows for an easier thick-to-thin transition based on the applied pressure between up and down strokes. Conversely, a marker is more difficult to write with because the nib isn’t flexible which demands more hand and wrist movement. To emulate a brush stroke using a Crayola marker, one has to compensate for the stiffness by loosening the wrist.
By understanding this technique and applying these daily exercises, I am able to write significantly better regardless of the tool. It really shouldn’t matter what you use when it comes to lettering and calligraphy as long as the tool you use emits some kind of ink, paint, graphite, etc. I receive many questions from beginners about the kind of pen I use within my work, when the focus should be applied to practicing the fundementals of calligraphy by using whatever you have on hand.
‘In A Brush’ is a feature you’ve made where you show your lettering work in it’s rawest forms, what do you think beginners can learn from seeing raw letterforms compared to polished lettering pieces?
My love for hand lettering began when I first began seeing artist’s work in the most natural state through images of lettering sketches and written words. These photographs of raw, unedited characters sparked my interest and encouraged me to begin my own venture into lettering and calligraphy thus, I created In A Brush for this very reason. I think people are drawn to progression and beginners can appreciate the derivation of a digital piece because they are able to see that there is a process behind a finalized concept.
Finding or thinking of words and phrases to letter can sometimes be a struggle when inspiration is running dry. Where do your sources of inspiration come from, and if you ever struggle to find things to letter how do you overcome a lack of inspiration?
Lettering artists are infamous for their use of trite phrases within their body of work and I am completely guilty of this as well. Social network posts are better received by an audience when an inspirational phrase is lettered or calligraphed nicely, so the attention makes it easy to justify this practice. I try not to succumb to this hackneyed approach of garnering a following for every post, so I reference a list that I regularly update (using an app called Wunderlist) on my phone and computer so that whenever I think of something that would be engaging in a different way, I can immediately write it down within the list.
I owe a lot of my inspiration to simply being outside of my office and away from my computer usually reading a book or taking a walk. However, inspiration can also come from something as simple as lettering the day of the week, a trending topical event or even a phrase that your mom always used to tell you growing up. I don’t normally force a piece when I am struggling to find inspiration, so having a buffer from a list allows for a continual source to reference.
Is it best to be comfortable at lots of different styles of lettering or develop your own style?
To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve found a personal style myself, but I think that’s sort of the point. It’s easier for others to be able to notice an artist’s style than it is for said artist to point it out specifically on their own. I’m sure to others, I certainly have a distinctive style, but this does not limit me from trying new methods or expanding my portfolio by delving into a different aesthetic. I don’t think that we’re not supposed to go out and find style; style comes naturally and evolves over time.
What advice or tips would you give those first starting out at lettering?
Practice everyday and reference other lettering artist’s work. I actually encourage copying work so that a novice can better understand how lettering is constructed. Of course—and this should go without saying—don’t ever publish any work that isn’t yours. After some time, you will begin to naturally apply these attributed ideas within your own work and it will all start to make sense.