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iskra johnson
Lettering Designer and Mixed Media Artist
Recent Activity
I have just created a new website for my work, and Alphabet Roadtrip is now an integrated part of that site. Please note that this typepad blog will be disappearing soon. Most of the content (and much more!) can be... Continue reading
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It is hard in the face of news reports on earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought and any other number of natural calamities not to wonder if Mother Earth perhaps needs a new nickname. For me it is always balm for worry just to stare it in the face. The practice of calligraphy is part of my personal journey to make sense of the world. Two versions here, looking at earth from the middle of the cyclone or above. I have combined pen lettering and mixed media painting here, melded with technological magic. Continue reading
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Expressive calligraphy puts motion and emotion first. The process is usually pretty wild, ink flying everywhere, papers on the floor, brushes and pens chosen sometimes at random for surprising effect. I have been a dancer for years, and have always loved the connection between calligraphy and its sister artform. A year of tango and many more of salsa, waltz and old fashioned swing were my very best lessons in the art of calligraphy. Continue reading
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I have been having a great time in the studio recently exploring new brushes, forgotten brushes, strange inks and archived papers —and exploring the connection between music and calligraphy. I think this was done while listening to tango, Gotan Project. Check out my my recent work on Instagram and see more of the process involved in lettering design. Continue reading
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A day in the calligraphy studio. Spontaneous gesture meets typographic finesse : becomes design. Multiple brushes, two papers, Pelikan Fount India, Jet Black gouache. Soundtrack: "Ancient Rain" Jumoku, by Koss Continue reading
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I'm at work on a big project I will be showing soon. Here is one part of it in progress. Brush, ink, pen, blade, curves, then vector. I heart tools. Continue reading
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I love Valentines Day. Sorry, I do not have a cynical bone in my body on February 14th. I love the colors, (Red? Pink? black? Butterscotch cream? Mmmmm....) the chocolate, the heart-shaped bottles of sherry, the crazy roller coaster of expectations and denouements, the trite terrible tropes and cliches, and most of all I love the opportunity to spend all day in the studio making a Valentine for a special person in my life. Continue reading
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I am loving the creative community on Instagram and enjoying posting there each week. So much inspiration, so many incredible ways to approach typography and lettering, from all over the world. Here is some classic calligraphy from a book cover, which I was inspired to reformat for the Instagram square. Thinking of brocade drawing rooms, where women in lavish skirts might lean against the wall with a glass of sherry and a plate of figs and watercress, demurely reading Balzac. Continue reading
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Freestyle brush writing is one of the hardest styles, because there is no manual that will tell you just exactly how it should look. It's art: it's abstract, dark and light and how things interlock. And most important, do you hear a voice coming through? Nothing tricky here, no ten different styles in one piece or illustrations or drop shadows, just the words offering a bit of quiet encouragement in the day. Continue reading
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Numeral Composition 1 © Iskra Design Sometimes a project comes along that allows me to blend my fine art background in printmaking with graphic design. The cover illustration for GIA Reader was a wonderful opportunity to mix it up between... Continue reading
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Unlike fonts, hand lettered scripts have an authentic quirkiness and variation. As a handwriting artist I channel voices. Each personality calls forth a different way of holding the pen and putting down thought. I love the theater of it -- I get to put on a new costume each time! I will post more of these personal ads soon--one is actually real, and the rest are conplete fiction. You can see some of my handwriting campaigns for clients, including Chase Ink, Permobil and others at Iskra Design. Continue reading
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Details on this project soon, but I couldn't resist posting these shots of work in progress. Watching ink dry as it sinks into paper is one of those rare occupational perks of being a calligrapher. The scent is heavenly on plush white rag Fabriano. Calligrapher's perfume.... Continue reading
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Here is a new book cover for The Hidden Man demonstrating the use of historical hand-lettered script. I did this with a pointed metal nib and ink on charcoal paper.In the last few months after one of my portfolio pages was posted on Pinterest I have been getting a lot of calls and emails asking for my "free fonts." Just a reminder: this is unique work, done by hand. When you commission a lettering designer or calligrapher for a project you can rest assured that you are not getting a font that everyone else in the world is using in their projects. Below are a couple of the other versions done for presentation with notes on the process. Continue reading
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A collection of lettering design and calligraphy inspired by the colors of spring. Some of these examples are done for clients and some are personal explorations of lettering styles and watercolor. All work is created by hand with brush and pen, with watercolor or ink. Continue reading
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showed a number of line samples with alternate ideas for unifying the typography and the script, as there was flexibility in how the elements could be combined. I also wanted the carrot to have a flirtatious sense of temptation that tied in with the letter forms and directed the eye in a logical way. This is a very rough brush version showing how it would look with calligraphic thicks and thins: Continue reading
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A standard script font can never provide this authenticity of expression. By using custom handwritten script the brand enhances its unique attitude and positioning. To see more handwriting for advertising visit me at my complete portfolio at Iskra Design. Continue reading
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From the Bard, for Easter, one of my favorite quotes about love. Brush Calligraphy by Iskra. Continue reading
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Mizuta Masahide's wonderful quotation about the moon, in wild west style, hand drawn typography and watercolor. © Iskra Design Continue reading
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Sometimes a word comes along that has all the right letters. It can do no wrong. Rasputin may not have been a sweet guy, but I sure love his name. Brush calligraphy, working with new brushes in the studio: Continue reading
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I had a lot of fun with this lettering project for a book by Vicky Tiel, "It's All About the Dress." Here are some of the explorations, with the final cover design for St. Martin's Press. I used a loose brush technique with watercolor on rough paper. Continue reading
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A few years ago I worked on a project for Starbucks with a creative art director who wanted to try something different for a poster design: something with a bohemian flair. He handed me a scribble of a face and a cup on a napkin and said, "go wild." Ahhhh the golden days of illustration before royalty free pre-fab dingbats had taken over every square inch of the graphic imagination! I drew about fifty faces for the poster, which went into deep focus group and never came back. Later I went back to revisit it as a personal project. Continue reading
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During the holidays an illustrator can lose a lot of sleep over how to do something original. A few years ago I had the "nothing new under the sun, so get over yourself" realization and dared to attempt a holiday card for my own business. This is a selection from dozens of drawings, demonstrating some of the intricacies of rendering as well as the design questions that can go into something that may look very simple. I start by working with pure ink and paper, and then test color and reversals and various printing ideas before I go back and revise. Continue reading
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a hand lettered title and author treatment for a recent book cover for St. Martins Press. Continue reading