Gill Sans

This past March, while in London, I visited a wonderful place called St. Bride Library + Foundation. My colleague Elizabeth Resnick and myself brought students to London and Dublin for a course trip. We saw and visited so many studios and museums from the Victoria & Albert Museum to the offices of Pentagram UK. I am not going into detail about the 17 days we had there - that could be pages and pages - but I wanted to focus on St. Bride and one artifact that was amazing to see and touch.

I think most people who have done any design work, at some point, has used or have fallen in love with Gill Sans. While at St. Bride, I had the fortune to see some of the original work that went into creating the typeface.

I wanted to share this amazing find with you so I made sure I wrote them to get some comprehensive information about what we're looking at. Most of which they told me on the spot but I was too busy dragging my jaw around the place.

I know there are many instructors that would love to use these images for their courses - I've already been asked by a few. Please feel free to use these images for your lectures.

What you see above and just below is a wood type specimen printed to show the lower case characters in the Johnston Railway Alphabet. This particular copy was the personal property of Edward Johnston, designer of the typeface. Wood type was generally made in sizes greater than 72 point (one inch) and a reference chart such as this might well have been used as an aid to signwriters. Eric Gill was a pupil of Johnston and the railway alphabet is an obvious influence on the Gill Sans design.

The three photos below are early versions of Eric Gill’s upper case Gill Sans typeface. It is lettered in black indian ink on tracing paper and shows some signs of the geometric construction of the letters. The sketch is identified as a “Titling” face, an extra-large version which filled the full height of the metal body of the typeface, with no space for lower case descenders. The drawing was signed and dated by Gill himself on 6 June 1927. An additional note adds that the characters are for Series 262 (Monotype Gill Sans).

The three photos below are lower case drawings for Gill Sans, signed and dated 20 July 1928 – the year that the face was issued by Monotype. The final digit of the date (written in pencil) is very hard to read – it may be a “7” (in which case this might be the earliest drawing) or possibly an “8”, in which case it may not be. Some of the letterforms in this drawing were modified for the final version of the face (the tail of the “p” and “q” are angled in the drawing, but not in the completed face) which suggests that this may be a very early incarnation and the date may be 1927.

Skulls of Ultimate Death

Announcing the release of Skulls of Ultimate Death available for purchase. It is a limited edition signed and numbered zine with special metallic silver cover and a total of 28 pages.

The images in this zine are taken directly from sketchbooks. They are expressions of the moment usually in thought about what it means to be alive and the pending end. I've unfortunately have gone through some tough experiences over the last few years with some friends dying suddenly of natural causes and being topped off with my Uncle and my Mother passing away. It's been a hard and tough time. I'm glad I have an outlet for my thoughts.

I'm sure there will be more on the way.

Teacherly Things

I felt like blogging about some teacherly things that I do and some experiences I've had over the last 4-5 months. I don't often blog about this stuff but I felt it necessary to give a nod to so many of my friends and students who have not only had an impact on students but an impact on my life as well. When I started writing this post, it ended up getting out of hand and pages and pages later, I decided to cut it down to three categories and try to keep it simple. So here we go....


During my school year, I try to bring in a guest or two to inspire the students and get them thinking about what is possible as an illustrator. I have a tendency to ask younger working artists to come in. While not a rule, I do this for a couple of reasons. Often, when there are guest speakers brought into schools, they are the 'heavy hitters' (We've had Chris Buzelli, Barron Storey and James Gurney over the last couple of years) who have lots of experience which is amazing for any student but sometimes, I want to reach the students from a different angle. I'd like the students to see and listen to a person that is just a couple of years older than they are and have been having lots of success. I think it helps students relate to them a bit more and get some real-time information about what it means to be struggling right now and how to overcome early self-doubts and failures.

I've had guests JooHee Yoon, Daniel Fishel and in November, I had Becca Stadtlander come in to do lectures and demos for a couple of days. She was absolutely wonderful and very thorough with her presentations and demos. I did a post-lecture interview here on the MassArt blog.

I have my Junior illustration students research and do a slide lecture of their favorite illustrator. In the first six weeks of my class, the first hour of every class, I do a History of Illustration lecture from the 1800's to present day. Since I do this, I assigned to the students to show who their favorite illustrators are and do a presentation themselves. One of my students inspired Becca's visit by doing a presnetation on her. Since I knew Becca personally, I invited her in. Becca only being 26 years old a few years out of school, the students got to see the time and effort she puts into her work, her process and how she keeps her substantial business flowing. She was incredibly inspiring.

These sorts of experiences really stick with someone and remain part of their education and life for the rest of their lives. As a personal example, I remember in quite a lot of detail, Marshall Arisman giving a painting demonstration in the class I had with him back when he was teaching undergrad at SVA around 1991. There was nothing like watching one of my favorite artists, while smoking a cigarette in the SVA amphitheater dip his hands into a coffee can full of turpentine, squirt a load of Van Dyke Brown oil paint into his bare hands and wipe it all over a 30x40" sheet of Strathmore paper and 'sculpt' out one of his famous painted heads.

A couple of years ago, I brought up my buddy and DrawgerVicto Ngai to do her first ever lecture to students. She was fairly successful then but her success had continued to grow so I thought I would bring her up once again in February for a new batch of students. Since that first lecture, she's developed into a wonderful speaker.

Victo creates intense masterpieces and what is brilliant is her openness to discuss her technique and show quite explicitly how she works. This was an extremely special treat to the students but also, they saw other sides of what it is to be an illustrator. The students saw that she is a very smart business person as well. Victo presents herself as extremely self-aware and knows who she is and what she wants and she does it. With her techniques, her business savvy and especially the thoughtfulness of the ideas within her work, its not a surprise she is as successful as she is.

Victo left the students in awe.

Thank yous to all the guests who have come in and have spoken to our students. You really inspire an make a difference. It always brings a smile to my face when I walk around the studios and I see all of the guests postcards and posters lining the students wall space for inspiration.



Getting out of the house once and while and traveling to do lectures myself is necessary for me. I've been very fortunate to be asked to visit various schools around the country for years and usually do one every semester. It is one of my joys in life for a few reasons; I usually get to go somewhere new and have experiences in a place that I would have never had the opportunity to go to. I also get to meet faculty and artists at those schools and talk about illustration and the aches and pains of being an educator. It's is very important for me to see what other illustration departments are doing and what they're successful at and they're usually just as curious.

The best part and the most fun I have in doing lectures is being with the students.

A few days after Victo came to visit in February, I was on a plane to the Kansas City Art Institute. I've never been to the school nor Kansas City before but I understood the BBQ is amazing there. Officially, yes, it is amazing.

This particular visit had a little more weight than normal for me. Apparently, every semester the students collectively choose who they want to come in to visit the school and for this trip, they selected me. I don't think I could have asked for a higher honor.

I had to give the students an assignment about a month before I arrived in KC and judge the 25 Best Pieces and present them in front of the entire department. I even had to pick the Top 3! Yikes! I've been in judging situations many times but this was tough because not only did I have to judge the pieces, I had to show my selections to all of the students and talk about why they were successful or not so successful. Fortunately, there was many great images so it wasn't a horribly sad and painful critique. During the rest of the day I did a 'this is my work' lecture then a little later, we had a 'roundtable' discussion mostly with Seniors to talk about business related things. The students were wonderful, thoughtful and very well spoken.

When I got home, I was deluged with kind thankful emails from many students. They've got some classy students there - the teachers at KCAI must be doing something right.

After restarting an illustration program there for only the last four years, they are really developing a program to be reckoned with. I believe they had 12 students accepted into this years Society Student Scholarship Competition. Congrats to the students and the school and thank you for having me visit. It was a wonderful experience!

As sort of a 'prize', the Top 3 student winners were treated to a fancy dinner with myself and the faculty!

The 3 Winners! From left to right: Kelsey Wroten, Kate Dittman, Johanna Miller

The assignment I have to the students was 'Through Rose Colored Glasses'. They could interpret that in any way they chose. Here is Kelsey's, Kate's and Johanna's solutions and their websites if provided. Look out for these talented women in the future!

Kelsey Wroten - Kate Dittman - Johanna Miller

I think I am very fortunate in my life that I can meet and get to know so many people throughout my travels and experiences all because I'm an artist. All of these things affect my life helping me grow as an artist, teacher and as a person and I am humbled by it all.



And finally...these guys...I love these guys. I have been fortunate at MassArt to have some wonderful Portfolio students this year. They've been working so hard the last couple of semesters to get their work together and many of whom are already getting nods from student competitions and even getting published. I am very proud to know them and see their growth over the last 3 years. Seeing this work and enthusiasm is one of the very reasons why I remain a teacher. I wish all of them well into the future and look forward to seeing their successes.

Show them some love and click through to their sites.

Dave Mahan

Martha Spragge

Julia Stasio

Jason Butera

Zachary Cunningham

James Medeiros

Nghia Nguyen

Shannon Knight

Holly Sullo

Paige Mulhern

Kristina Carroll Short Film

Over the course of the last year, I've been experimenting with filmmaking and photography and may start putting it out there in a real way at some point. I'm enjoying it for what it is right now which is mostly experimentation. Originally, this was supposed to be a test of some new equipment but after going through the footage, I thought there was enough to put together a short profile of Kristina Carroll. Since I was just asking her questions about what she was doing prior to deciding to go to School of Visual Arts, the film led to her describing how she eventually made her way to New York City from Montana via acting school prior to her decision to become an illustrator.

Kristina will have a table at the upcoming Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! event in Kansas City from May 9th through the 11th and will also be on a panel called 'Fantastic Women' where they will be discussing what it means to be a woman in the male dominated Science Fiction and Fantasy Art illustration business. Here is also a recent interview she did about that same topic. 

If you visit SFAL, stop by the booth! We'll both be hanging out, drawing and chatting it up.

New York Times

A piece out today online and in Tuesday's paper for Peter Morance at the New York Times Science section.

It was for a story about the issues and causes surrounding the lack of oxygen to infants brains when they are born causing brain damage. You can view the story here.

Communication Arts 55

Thank you to the judges and Communication Arts for selecting this piece to be included in the current annual! I always enjoy going through this annual every year and it's an honor to be included in it.