Category Archives: Hand Lettering

Flow Magazine is the finest publication in the world…


And not just because they commissioned and published an illustration from this blogger, but I won’t lie, it does go a long way. Would I have so passionately recommended Portable Restroom Operator magazine (a real publication…I Googled it) if they’d bought an illustration? Not likely. Okay maybe. But seriously, Flow is the real deal.

If you’re not familiar, Flow is a Dutch publication directed mainly toward women seeking to “simplify their lives, feel connected and live mindfully.” Hey, aren’t we all? And the great thing is that Flow is available in honest-to-god 3D, meat world, glorious paper (as well as in pixels on iTunes). You can order all formats from their website. English versions are available.

So call me androgynous, call me a metrosexual..I am completely sans uterus and I loved this magazine anyway. Clever knows no gender.

Chalkboards in Spaaaaaaace

One really nice perk of doing this blog is meeting really nice people like Dawn-Marie Dugan of Maison Rouge Creative, if only virtually.

Her 1-year old Leo had his first birthday party back in March and she used one of Foolish Fire’s hi-res backgrounds as a base for the invitation design you see below. The typography is a combination of hand lettering and “chalkboard font” and the artwork is all hers.

She hired online print vendor Smartpress to have them printed and used a chalk marker on black envelopes along with some groovy vintage, space-themed stamps to complete the invite package.

So this is what’s possible with a little inspiration, some online resources, a copy of Photoshop and the superior organizational skills to manage an art project with a 1-year old trying to destroy your studio. As a fellow parent/artist, my hat’s way off.

And if you like these, and want to hire Dawn-Marie to design yours, I understand she may be taking taking custom orders. Contact her through her web site. She’ll get back to you while Leo naps.

Chalkboard Invitation using Foolish Fire Backgrounds and Maison Rouge Creative's Design

Chalkboard Invitation using Foolish Fire Backgrounds and Maison Rouge Creative's Design

Chalkboard Invitation using Foolish Fire Backgrounds and Maison Rouge Creative's Design


This Being Human is a Guest House:: Foolish Fire

This quote hit me where I live, pun intended. A “guest house” is a perfect and profound metaphor for the daily experience of being human and standing at that threshold where we either invite in the “unexpected visitor” or send him packing along with his freaking “crowd of sorrows”. Rumi crushes it again.

HiRes Chalkboard Background Files in PSD format


Bigger, more customizable chalkboard backgrounds for designers

Challenge: Lately I’ve had several requests for backgrounds that have particular features, like more “chalk” blur, or fewer scratches and specks, etc.

I’ve also been asked to provide backgrounds at larger sizes for posters and signs, especially for weddings, menus, etc. So…

Solution: Rather than reinventing the wheel and creating multiple versions of the chalkboard background files, you get to do all the work! Brilliant! Thank you.

So have at it, you uber-picky chalkboarders. Here are my original .PSD files for your edification.

  • 300 dpi so they’ll print with quality
  • RGB color space so you can add color tints if you’re so inclined. Change mode to CMYK of Grayscale for print projects.
  • Layers are clearly marked so you know what you’re altering.
  • Create more layers and/or add text according to the formula outlined here.

8.5x11 PSD files for 3.99

16x20 PSD files for 5.99


Playing in Traffic

Traffic-Related Typography Thing #1

Sometimes life dishes out serendipitous moments like it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. One moment you’re sitting at a stop light, idling both mechanically and mentally, and you notice out of the corner of your eye something slightly askew—a thing out of place, context, space and/or time. Or in this case just a weird-ass traffic sign.

So it was on my way back from Costco, when this caught my eye…

Playing in Traffic :: Foolish Fire

I love this and I don’t know why. It’s utilitarian yet transcendental. A perfect example of anomalous environmental design. A public “work” of art that asks as many questions as it pretends to answer. It warns, yet reassures. Honestly, I’m not even sure what the hell it means—is it warning me that traffic ahead is in fact calmer than the traffic behind? Or is it a veiled invitation to keep driving because traffic-related stress reduction awaits? I don’t really care. I just have to applaud not only the enlightened civil servant who wrote the copy for this sign, but his or her boss who had to approve it.

So I circled back and made this photograph and on the way home mused about what would happen if the City ran with this whole new “touchy feely” traffic sign idea. Here are some outcomes…


Playing in Traffic :: Foolish Fire

Playing in Traffic :: Foolish Fire

Playing in Traffic :: Foolish Fire

Late breaking news: Traffic calming is a real thing! If I’d done my research before writing this post I would have uncovered about a million Google search results, and a whole Wikipedia entry devoted to “traffic calming”. Who knew? Not me apparently. Moral of the story…I should get out more. But I still love it. Thanks to the psych major with the minor in traffic engineering who came up with the idea.

Traffic-Related Typography Thing #2

So some years ago (easily dateable by the “dad” jeans) I bought a really big paper mache “J”. My intention was to do something clever with it and give it to my niece Jessica for Christmas. On the way home I abruptly asked my wife to stop the car so she could photograph me walking across the street, not in the crosswalk, carrying the “J”. I avoided getting a citation and the rest is typographic history.


Trying not to try too hard

It's a lovely ride-sketchbook

James Taylor’s Zen-like lyrics to “Secret O’ Life” wound up in my head one evening while my sketch pad was at arm’s length. The result is what’s above…which was easier said than drawn, which is sort of the point of the song.

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill.
But since we’re on our way down, we might as well enjoy the ride.

The secret of love is in opening up your heart.
It’s okay to feel afraid, but don’t let that stand in your way.
Cause anyone knows that love is the only road.
And since we’re only here for a while, might as well show some style. Give us a smile.

Isn’t it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down,
try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.

Now the thing about time is that time isn’t really real.
It’s just your point of view, how does it feel for you?
Einstein said he could never understand it all.
Planets spinning through space, the smile upon your face, welcome to the human race.

Some kind of lovely ride. I’ll be sliding down, I’ll be gliding down.
Try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.
Isn’t it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down,
try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.”

Love that. So inspiring. So simple. So utterly impossible to live out sometimes.

I’m such an admirer of artists who keep lavishly and spontaneously executed journals, or anyone for that matter, who can just sit down with a sketch book and let it all flow onto the page without regard for how perfect “it” is. For me that requires not only industrial grade duct tape over the pie-hole of my inner critic but an occasional “f*** the hell off”…cuz damn…

So while the page of scribble above doesn’t seem like much more than a bunch of doodles-while-talking-on-the-phone type stuff, for me, it’s a major accomplishment. It’s enjoing the ride, it’s trying not to try too hard, all that zen stuff and much more. That’s why I bother to show it off. Because there aren’t many pages in my sketchbooks like it and I’d like there to be more where it came from.

It’s why some songs, poems, and quotes about creativity and finding the “zone” and “trying not to try too hard”, etc., get right to the core/essence and often end up “transinterprelated” into some of the work on this web site. How to free up the that 9 year-old attitude of play required to fill up a page of doodles at the drop of a hat is a never ending, two-three-four-way (or more) discussion going on in my head 24/7.

I wish my process was a seamless, flowy kind of all-inclusive vacation cruise but it almost never is. Rather, words like “win”, “lose”, “courage”, “battle”, “warrior” come to mind. It’s gets bloody. There is collateral damage but the worst of all, nothing happens. Silence. The “peace at any price” doctrine prevails. Analysis gives way to paralysis. Resistance wins. Everyone stays comfortably numb. No doodles, just a pile of gum eraser debris at my feet and very little of consequence on the page. Not even mistakes. And I know…I know…the mistakes are critical.

My drafting table, sketchbooks and computer screen are therefore my battlefields. I try to show up every morning in full battle armor, ready to engage the enemy who is usually waiting for me..kicked back in my office chair…feet up on my keyboard. The enemy is a shape-shifting son-of-a-bitch. Sometimes a “Dragon”, a “Critic”, a “Coward”, it has many avatars.

Two books by Steven Pressfield “The War of Art” and “Do the Work” have helped when swift kicks to the hind-quarters are required. And sometimes more kid-glove nudges are enough, like JT’s song lyrics, but it’s always a matter of getting out of my own way to one degree or another…whether I’m just being a whiny diva, or a having a full-fledged meltdown and need to be knocked down a peg or two. Both are symptoms of self-interference.

To quote Pressfield in “Do the Work”

“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify, seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you.”

I’m pretty sure it really is all about not trying too hard…that the ride is indeed lovely…and the secret o’ life really is enjoying the passage of time. But sometimes it all comes down to the courage it takes to fill up a page with scribbles and then lift it up and say…”look what I did.” So not to gloat, but if you wouldn’t mind scrolling back up the page…”look what I did.”

Phoem #4


“Phoems” are a game I’ve been playing. Rule #1: Go through my archive of iPhone photos and pick one. Rule #2: With a minimum of fuss and bother, write a poem to go with. I was shooting to post one Phoem per day but like most everything I try to do daily, it ends up weekly, or as the mood strikes. So be it. For now it’s just good exercise and a chance to give new life to old images.