Brush Lettering by Alice Draws the Line at the Oriel Davies Gallery – Alice Draws The Line

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Brush Lettering for the Oriel Davies Gallery preparation work

Yesterday I delivered eight poems to the Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown, that I had written out in Brush Lettering.

I thought it might be of interest to talk through my process from the start to this point of this project as there has been so much that I have learnt.

Kate Morgan-Clare at the gallery approached me to ask if this was a project that I would be interested in before Christmas. They wanted eight poems written out to honour and elevate them as a celebration of their creation. The poems had been written by participants that took part in creative writing workshops with Emma Beynon - a writer and creative facilitator and Oriel Davies. The workshops explored a sense of place and that is what the exhibition of these poems is called. It will be running from the 5th to the 26th February 2022.

In early January I visited Kate at the gallery to discuss the project fully and to look at the space. 

Visiting the Oriel Davies gallery space ahead of creating the brush lettering

It is a beautiful, big space. We realised the poems would need to be written out quite big. Originally we talked about A1 or A0, and then Kate produced a roll of paper that was 1.5 metres by 10 meters and suddenly we were discussing a much bigger scale. 

Brush lettering is something that I have enjoyed doing for many years. In 2018 I began running brush lettering workshops and continue to do so from my studio. Generally I work at quite a small scale, but I have worked bigger, especially creating examples for the workshops. Before I went up to the gallery I made some lettering examples to take with me - some of which are here.

Brush Lettering samples for the Oriel Davies Gallery by Alice Draws the Line

I also took these two A5 pieces that I adore - they are studies I created with black ink, experimenting how it interacts with water to create different effects, something I was keen to include in the Brush Lettering. Although the style of lettering itself is interesting and decorative, I really enjoy the alchemy of the ink and water in different concentrations, when using the ink, as it dries, and the end result of a varying intensity and subtle other hues that appear when the ink mixes with water.

From here I returned with the studio with a print out of all the poems. Each had a title and the name of the author and the format they had been written in. They vary in length and spacing. Some have very short lines and others have lots of words to a line. 

First of all, I cut out each poem and stuck them centrally on their own piece of A4. This gave me a nice big margin around them. I counted the longest couple of lines from each poem to see how they related to each other. 

I loved the idea of working big, but this meant needing something big to put the paper on to work on. I was able to borrow a drawing board that was 1270mm x 920 mm which gave me a basis - much bigger than that and I couldn't be able to support the paper I wanted to write on. 

I ordered some paper that was the same dimensions as the roll from the gallery - 1.5m x 10 metres but a heavier weight, 200gsm. This was challenging to manoeuvre and to cut and so I tried to keep the cutting to a minimum and cut pieces that were 1.5m x 1m which was a two person and a huge table job!

With the paper dimensions known I then borrowed a large whiteboard and wrote out each poem, experimenting with how many words I could get to a line and at what scale that would be able to work both on paper and the drawing board. 

Alice Draws the Line Brush Lettering piece planning

Knowing the line length and the number of lines then made it possible for me to work out the overall dimensions of each poem. With each poem, having written it out on the whiteboard - some, multiple times to get the font size correct for all words to fit on one line, I measured the length of the longest line and made notes all over my A4 pages, working out the margins I'd need for each. 

Brush Lettering prep work by Alice Draws the Line

I decided to do all eight pieces on the same sized piece of paper. Three worked better to be landscape orientation and five worked best portrait. I worked out that if I went for 5cm line spaces, seven of the poems would fit on the paper with the formatting they were written in - I didn't want to alter that. One poem I mapped out at 4cm line spaces so that it could fit on the same sized paper as the rest - and therefore fit on the drawing board to write. 

With all this preparatory maths done and the paper cut, it was time to set up the drawing board. 

Brush Lettering by Alice Draws the Line setting up the drawing board with the laser level

 Using a spirit level to make sure it was straight, I put a strip of masking tape down each side of the drawing board. On the left hand side it was set in about 10cm from the edge so that there was space for to to position a small laser level on the edge that would give me a straight line to write along. On the masking tape I marked 5cm intervals which would be the line heights. I did this in four colours which corresponded on both sides of the drawing board so that it was easy for me to line up the laser level with the right marking for each new line. 

Brush Lettering by Alice Draws the Line drawing board set up

I attached a short section of square downspout to the drawing board with two clips to hold it in place. The laser level sat on top of this and joined up the coloured marks on the masking tape on either side of the board. I found that the downspout enabled me to adjust the angle accurately enough and hold the laser level in place well.

Alice Draws the Line Brush Lettering live

There was a lot of preparation time, but I found that this worked really well, as when the board was set up and I had worked out the margins and dimensions of the poems I was good to go with the lettering!

Below is a video of the title of the exhibition in English and then in Welsh. The footage here is 2x the speed that I wrote it. In the next blog post I've included some real time footage.

Please see the next blog post for the next phase - delivering the poems and doing some lettering in the gallery.

A Sense of Place Exhibition information runs from 5th -26th February. You can it at the bottom of this page on the Oriel Davies Gallery website. 

 Should you be interested in learning how to do some lovely lettering at home you might be interested in my ‘Lovely Lettering’ online / digital workshop .