Travel Scenery and the Usefulness of a Sketchbook

I’m back from my latest medical excursion to the city. Actually, I’ve been back for a while, but upon my immediate return I succumbed to the virus du jour. It’s taking me a while to get my strength back. Hence, the extended silence. I went to see yet another neurological specialist. He doesn’t know what I have either. But at least he wasn’t an arrogant scum about it like the previous one. He actually seems to want to help. He’s also communicative and will answer a phone call, which, I’ve come to realize, is highly unusual. It seems I might never know what I have. But they’ll monitor its progression.

However, there’s more to a trip to the city than just medical stuff. There’s the scenery along the way!

Obviously, nothing says manly bar with “NO Grill” better than badly kerned Papyrus. Or at least it does if you’re in Willits.

I actually enjoyed the view from my Daly City motel.

What can I say — when you live in the sticks, having a streetlight outside the window is a welcome change of scenery.

Then I paused in Marin on the way back up. The motel scenery is more bucolic here.

Unfortunately, however, a convention of search and rescue professionals coincided with my visit. They were all fitness freaks. My room, I discovered, was directly above the treadmill. Let’s just say it was not as peaceful as the view would suggest.

And, of course, all throughout I dragged my sketchbook (and too many art supplies) with me.


The sketchbook especially comes in handy during medical visits. This time around wasn’t so bad, but the visit before last I saw a different neurologist. That one, unlike this respectful new one who answers phone calls, was an arrogant quack. Among other irritations, he twice walked out of my appointment for around 45 minutes.

The first time he left, I was at least still dressed. The second time he left me lying on the table, mid exam, in the paper gown. And didn’t return, again, for the better part of an hour. It didn’t appear to be for an emergency. He offered no apology.

At some point while lying on the table I realized my appointment wouldn’t be resuming any time soon. Again. So I got up and, after making a phone call and chatting for a while, got out my version of crayons and a coloring book and began to doodle. It really does help pass the time.

I call this spread “Medical Waiting Room.”


Quick Brush Tip

Have you ever forgotten to wash out a glue-soaked brush? Here’s a tip you may or may not know: soak it in rubbing alcohol. I just saved another “ruined” brush and thought I’d pass along this most useful tip.

Do you have a helpful studio suggestion you’d like to share? Please do!

As for the alcohol bottle’s label design… hmmm… What’s next? Papyrus on tubes of hemorrhoid cream? (Forgive me.)

Do Typefaces Matter?


The BBC News Magazine has an article on the importance of typefaces.

To most people, typefaces are pretty insignificant. Yet to their devotees, they are the most important feature of text, giving subliminal messages that can either entice or revolt readers, says Tom de Castella.

When Avatar, the biggest grossing movie of all time was released, one section of the audience was immediately outraged . . .”

More Inspiration from the Land of Children’s Books

This time around the topic isn’t children’s books themselves, but a how-to on illustrating them. This was another find from Eureka Books that dates to the 1950s. There really is so much overlap when it comes to the design of kids’ books and that of artists’ books.

This especially got me thinking about possibilities for illustrated end papers and book covers, along with other aspects of book structure.

But what I most wanted to do was share the chapter on typography with bookmakers I know who tend to think of font and type matters as afterthoughts, if they think about them at all. Henry P. here says:

“Type is the most important element in most books. Even in the young child’s picture books it is still a factor of great moment. No book could be considered well designed unless its type faces were well chosen, its size appropriate, and the type panels well proportioned and well printed. And the relation between type and illustration must be a successful one….Illustrations are almost always near neighbors of type in some form, and they must be compatible…

Occasionally, an illustrator is tempted to use an exotic type face because it goes well with his pictures, but here another factor enters: legibility. There are many…display types which excite and delight the eye for a line or two but which bore and repulse if pursued page after page. The so-called book types have stood the test of countless hours of reading and have survived because they do not weary….

Picture and text are bound to influence each other, beneficially or adversely. Who would choose any but the way of cooperation between them?”


Piddle on Papyrus

I don’t have a professional graphics background. But through my work with books and printed matter, I’ve come to notice type.

And ever since I first started noticing it everywhere, the Papyrus font has set my teeth on edge. Trust me—in 10 or 20 years anything in Papyrus is going to look atrociously dated, in the same way that certain typefaces from the 70s scream of that era. It already looks dated.

And then there’s Comic Sans. In order to better understand what it is, exactly, that makes Comic Sans so upsetting to so many, I googled “comic sans sucks.” I got 30,900 hits. I discovered there is even a Ban Comic Sans web site.


Comic Sans is used a lot, and often inappropriately. It was based on the writing in comic books and developed for balloon captions for a Microsoft children’s program. Those who create comics won’t actually use it.

I hadn’t realized, but quickly discovered, that lots of people loathe Papyrus too. In fact, “papyrus sucks” gets 1,090,000 hits on Google. There are even a few anti-Papyrus groups on Flickr and blogs devoted to hating Papyrus. It’s rather gratifying to realize other people share one’s own pet peeves.

As I say, I’m not a graphic designer, but I can appreciate the sentiment…

Graphic Avenger.