If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that it’s not uncommon to see a black marker drawing composed of song lyrics when I post a #sketchaday. I’ve been in the graphic design game for a while, but I have recently felt the urge to revisit my drawing roots – something to do to feed my creative curiosity without having to have my laptop nearby. Since the beginning of this year, I have done my best to complete a page in my sketchbook a few days a week.
A blank page can be pretty intimidating, especially when you’re trying to crank out something in those precious moments between the time that your kids go to sleep and the time that your caffeine buzz from your 2:30 coffee wears off and you head to bed yourself. I’m not sure why I decided to draw song lyrics – maybe it seemed like the easiest way to ease back in to drawing; putting pen to paper without having the benefit of a simple Ctrl+Z when I mess up.
When this song got stuck in my head last week, a simple sketch wasn’t doing the trick. I wanted more for this song. Probably because the chorus has swear words. The only solution was to make this:
Here’s where I let you know that this blog post is going to be pretty lengthy. There are going to be a lot of photos of sketches and screenshots and step-by-steps. For anyone who would rather just look at the final product and say, “Huh – that’s neat.” I won’t hold it against you for not reading the rest of the post. For those of you who would like to take a look at what my process is like when I get an idea for a project in my head, go ahead and grab a drink (hell, grab a snack while you’re at it – this could take a while) and read on.
For this project, I didn’t even use my sketchbook. I grabbed a few sheets of scrap printer paper from my kids’ stash and started scribbling quickly, just trying to get ideas on paper.
For this project, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to make a bottle opener. I also knew that I wanted the words to fit into a shape similar to an old jug. At this stage, I had my heart set on a western-type font.
Once I got to a point with the sketches where I wasn’t making any more progress or developing any different ideas, I moved on to the computer. I thought I may have had something in my vector image library that I could use for the jug shape.
This was great – I had an image I could work without having to trace around a photo of an image to make a silhouette. I do ok with the Pen Tool in Illustrator, but it’s a good day when I can skip over using it. However, it wasn’t long after I started placing text that I realized that this bottle just wasn’t going to work. It looked too much like a flask-type container and not at all like a jug. Know what that means? I had to go ahead and use the Pen Tool anyway.
Reflected that shape for the right side of the bottle:
Once all of the points were connected, I removed the reference image and was left with this:
I knew I wanted the background of the wood to show through the letters on the final product, so I went ahead and changed the fill color of the jug to black.
Now that that’s out of the way, I could get to the fun part. Since I took the time to do sketches, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to try for layouts once I got to this stage. After about a dozen attempts, I had it narrowed down to two layouts that I was ok with.
Even though I really wanted that font on the left to work, it was just a little too stiff for the shape of the bottle. I needed the lyrics to have more movement, so I went with the one on the right. Now, here’s where I could have said, “Good enough – let’s squeeze in the rest of the lyrics and burn that shit on some wood!” Alas, having dabbled in pyrography (that’s fancy talk for using a small tool to burn wood…and your fingers, if you’re me) I knew that reverse text that is so small wouldn’t look good on the finished product. I could have squeezed “of a” between “Son” and “Bitch”, but there is a very good chance that it would have been lost when it came time to burn the image onto the wood. You know what sucks if that happens? No Ctrl+Z. So, armed with this information, I thought the tail of the “S” would be a good place for these tiny words. In order for me to make the words fit on the tail and be legible at all, I had to make the tail a little wider.
Ok – I was able to get those two words to fit on the tail of the “S”. I’m not sold on the font choice at this point, but I can come back to that. Right now, I have to deal with the last portion of the lyrics at the bottom of the bottle. Since these letters are also on the small side, they should get the same treatment as “of a”.
That’s better. Plus, I was able to use the same font for the letters on the tail and the words on the bottom. This helps everything look a little more cohesive. I think we’re almost done. There’s only one things that’s still bugging me. The words on this design are pretty close together, which is ok because it works here. There is enough space between the letters to let them breathe a little, but that black space between the tail of the “S” and the “i-t” in “Bitch” makes it look a little unbalanced.
I made the “t” a little taller and changed the position of the dot of the “i”. This seemed to work nicely. Here’s a side-by-side comparison to get a better look at what was changed:
Now that I’m happy with the design, it’s time to step away from the computer and take a trip outside to the barn to find a piece of wood that will work for this. I could write an entire post on the things that I have discovered in the buildings on our property since we moved in here a few years ago. For now though, we’ll just stick to the lumber pile that is in the building that the previous owners called “The Big Chicken Coop”.
After picking through an old dusty lumber pile that almost certainly houses venomous spiders native to NNY that no one has discovered yet, I found the board for the job.
It needed a good scrubbing, but it had potential. Once it was scrubbed down and had a chance to dry, I cut it down to size. The board was about 5″ wide to start with and working with the dimensions of the design and the size of the bottle opener component, I settled on 12″ for the length.
This board was Splinter City, so I sanded it down before I took it inside to place the graphic on it.
I am without a printer at the moment, so I had to resort to using tracing paper taped to my laptop monitor to get the graphic ready to transfer onto the board.
Transfer paper and a ballpoint pen was the easiest way to get this onto the wood. In desperate moments during past projects, I have done the “scribble all over the back of the image with a pencil and then flip it over and trace it onto the wood” thing before, but if you can get your hands on transfer paper, it definitely the way to go.
Everything transferred over nicely – even the smallish type. Now it was time to get the wood burning tool out and prep my children in the event they would have to tend to my third degree burn wounds if this got out of hand.
I used a smaller tip on the wood burner to do the outlines and small text:
Almost done! I was on the fence about using a stain or other kind of finish on this. I decided on butcher block conditioner, mostly because stain is smelly and messy and I was ready to wrap this project up. Also, I’ve had great luck with this kind of treatment in the past. I used it on our kitchen table top a few years ago and it’s held up nicely.
If you’ve made it this far, I feel like I should give you a prize or something for sticking around to read this entire post. You guys like Starburst? I have a bunch of yellow ones that you can have.
I currently have a couple of other illustration projects in the works. One of which is our Christmas card for this year, which I’m absolutely DYING to show someone, but will have to keep it under wraps for the next few months. The other is a logo for my parents’ camp that they want to use for t-shirts. You’ve watched The Great Outdoors, right? That’s exactly the vibe I’m going for with these shirts. I threw the idea out there that we should only give shirts to people who can eat 96 ounces of steak. I was met with blank stares, so maybe the jury’s still out on that one.