It’s finally the end of February, and I’m so excited to share the project i’ve been working on: floral watercolour serif alphabets! It’s been a challenge for sure, but the final result is definitely worth it!
Coming up with The Project
I’ve done International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo for short) for the past two years now. In previous years, I used it as a opportunity to try finding new pen pals — meaning I wrote 10+ introduction letters in a month! The remaining 18 days were spent replying my existing pen pals or writing small thank you notes for people.
This year, I didn’t want to do that. I’ve a comfortable number of pen pals now. Besides, I’m moving twice in 2018 alone and international mail is expensive! So I decided to do something different.
Making Love Cards
Last December, I filled 12 cards with words that hopefully made someone out there happy with More Love Letters’ 12 Days of Love Letters initiative. I like responding to the letter requests, but writing a letter for a stranger to find is difficult! There are no guidelines!
I decided on making cards that could double as bookmarks instead, to be stashed into books. I already knew it’d be a series, with quotes on them; I just had to find a unifying design theme.
Enter: Illustrated Letters
I’ve been updating my Pinterest boards for a while now, organising the many lettering styles I’ve collected into categories. One category that I keep coming back to is illustrated letters! Serifs have so much potential for illustration, and I wanted to explore that and practice watercolour florals.
So the project was born: 26 serif paintings (and 1 ampersand!) with quotes on the back, to be painted one per day. To keep the quotes from detracting too much from the paintings, I decided to keep the lettering on the back simple.
The Finished Set
Tools & Thoughts
For this project, I used a pad of 100% cotton watercolour paper I bought in Osaka, along with my usual watercolour paints and my size 2 Silver Black Velvet round brush. I also used the FineLine masking fluid pen to seal off the floral blocks so I could paint more easily.
I had a lot of fun painting these cards and lettering the quotes. After the fifth card, I decided to switch all the lettering to the uneven semi-script style I’ve been trying to refine instead of using my usual modern script, and I think it contrasted well with the colourful serifs without being too delicate!
(Plus it was a great chance to practice!)
There are a few things I’d do different if I were to redo this project though!
Change Brush + Painting Size
Painting on this scale is something I’ve never done before, so I used what I had on hand. But if I were to redo it, I’d either scale up the paintings 2 to 4 times the current size, or get smaller brushes so I can get the fine detail!
My yellow flowers didn’t stay yellow because I didn’t have the fine control a smaller brush offers when painting them!
Use Reference Photos
I started with loose florals that I was familiar with, like roses and tulips, then moved on to experimenting with peonies, hydrangeas, cherry blossoms, etc. A lot of them were off the top of my head, based on images I vaguely remembered… And they aren’t good enough.
I didn’t start using reference pictures until the orchids for U — I ran out yellow flowers, so I Googled for different types and that orchid popped up! Once I started sketching before painting and actually referring an image, the pictures turned out better.
My favourite is still the butterfly peas (aka blue peas) I did for V, and I feel they turned out so well for a couple of reasons:
- The colours were simple, so working with a size 2 brush was alright
- I used reference photos
- The photos I used were ones I took. I saw the flowers in real life and could contextualise and orientate the flowers.
Will I redo this project?
Maybe in 6-12 months! I want to take time to do larger studies of florals before attempting something like this again. It’ll be interesting to see if I’ve improved any when I redo this — I better have, right?!
In the meantime though, all the cards have been photographed and scanned so they’re off to new homes in random books for strangers to find! 💕