Love, Emma and the h-index

I love you more than your h-index || watercolor lettering || bymarion
After some failed attempts to come up with a satisfying greeting card design with watercolor calligraphy, I decided to give it up and go for a cut paper design instead.

Cards have been made and mailed and now I am back to my watercolor lettering experiments. I ditched the calligraphy nibs and switched to good old brushes and extra nice watercolor paper. I’m hoping to produce a couple of these “I love you more than your h-index” paintings to add to my shop in time for Valentine’s day.

I’m quite happy with the result so far, though it’s a very, very long, tedious process. I’m always wondering to what extent my using the wrong tools makes things take way more time than they should. But at least while I’m at it, I’m listening to an audiobook version of Jane Austen’s Emma, and laughing quite a lot. This makes for a good contrast with the actual h-index thing, the stupidity of which is more prone to making me want to cry!


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Winter Is Upon Us

Window frost feathers

The temperature dropped down to -23°C/-9°F last night and when we woke up, before sunrise, the inside thermometer read barely 10°C/50°F. But the wood stove was soon roaring, hot cups of tea were poured and porridge was bubbling.

By the look of things, there’s no point trying to open the front door: frozen!

I spent the morning finishing my book and trying out some knitting tricks. I went back to my watercolor lettering experiments in the afternoon. Cleaning and straightening up a couple of calligraphy nibs was definitely useful to avoid ruining the paper, but did not solve the annoying ink (well, paint) flow problem I had. The paint kept forming a drop at the back of the nib instead of flowing onto the paper, which back in the lab, I would have called a surface tension issue – typical! Dipping the tip of the nib in soapy water did the job. If anyone knows about unwanted long-term effects of adding soap to watercolors, I’ll be really happy to know.

Now I need to practice shaping letters and layout. That’s tonight’s program, and I’m off to my desk! The house is getting (a bit) warmer, freshly baked loaves of bread just came out of the oven where they were replaced by a pot of baked-beans-to-be. Really, I wouldn’t trade this life for any other one.

a cat on the desk


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Clean And Bright

A clean box of watercolors

After a somewhat unsatisfactory attempt to make a bunch of hand-lettered new year cards the past few days, I took a break from doodling today and just cleaned my box of watercolors. Meanwhile I happily caught up on two and a half episodes of the Craft Sanity Podcast, which if my calculations are correct adds up to a good two hours.

Logically, I made the following resolution for 2016: mix colors on the palette exclusively (not in the pots – ahem).

It’s not exactly the kind of painting productivity that I had envisioned for this week, but that’s still one thing out of the way. A clean and bright box of watercolors is as good a start as any to a new year, isn’t it?

Failed lettering

Happy new year watercolor lettering || by marion

watercolor doodles


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On My Desk

handlettering_draft

Academic Greetings - A Set of 5 Cards by Alpha Angle

publish_a_paper

I have sent my family and friends a ridiculous amount of handmade cards over the years: they patiently followed my experiments with various styles and materials. There were scrapbooking-like cards, cut paper cards, painted cards, minimalist cards, maximalist cards. Cardboard, magazine cuttings, egg cartons, whatever. You name it!

They often joked that if I didn’t pursue physics as a carrier, I could always make cards instead. Well, here we go! Of course, one cannot leave academia without after-effects: so, these are academic greetings!

I started with a quick hand-lettered sketch, and used it as a guide to draw all the letters digitally in Inkscape.

Now that these are done, I am hoping for a few weeks with less screen time. I came back from my recent trip with a pile of old jeans to recycle, so I guess there will be more of these pouches soon.

denim_pouch

Flowers And Letters

flower

Summer heat is there! — oh, not for long, if the weather forecast is right. Meanwhile the flower rainbow is continuing to bloom all around the house. More yellow, more pink, more orange.

On my desk, watercolor lettering tests and experiments with image vectorization. I don’t really want to be thinking about fall already, but I’ve been making a logo for the Alpha Angle newsletter I’m planning to start next September:

newsletter

It’s been incredibly inspiring for me to read about the process behind other people’s work lately. I find it so nice, especially, when people are open about trial and error. So I’ve decided to take the leap too, and to write a little more about how I’m making the images I’m showing you in my “on my desk” posts. If you prefer mystery, please skip the rest. Otherwise I’d be glad and grateful to hear your advice!

So, here is what I did here. First I wrote the text in pencil, and did a lot of local erasing/rewriting until everything was to my taste. I don’t really mind spending a lot of time on that step because I love drawing letters with a good old pencil on paper.

Once I was satisfied with the shape of every letter, I traced the final text with a black marker, and scanned it. I used Inkscape to create a vector image from the scan. I really don’t know how much this process can be optimized and I ended up spending a lot of time manually adjusting the obtained path to smooth out the contours of every word.

In the end I think it turned out pretty good for a first try, and I have to admit that working with vector images is awesome since it makes it possible to increase the image size without loosing quality.

But then I just really love painting text directly on paper with watercolors, like I did here. Here is a (first) paper & watercolor version.

outside the lab // watercolor

I like how the intensity varies from letter to letter, but it’s not easy to paint such thin letters with a standard brush (the text is 10,5 cm / 4 inches wide). In this case I messed up on the “d” of “world”, which is why I ended up filling all the vowels.

And now, while I’m practicing, I’ll let you with one more flower.

flower


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Reading Matters

reading matters // by marion // detail

reading matters // by marion

If you’ve been around these pages for a while, you’ve seen this little man before. A lot. I know! Cut from cereal boxes. Clumsily turned into greeting cards. Looking somewhat better on cheap watercolor paper.

What a process it’s been for me, slowly getting there. So many changes, so many things to learn, many more yet to learn.

I often think about how important reading has been in getting me where I am today. It was the words of Virginia Woolf, that took my breath away. It was the hundreds of pages I read a when I took a course in philosophy of science, that gave me attacks of palpitations. It was in books that I found the reassurance that I could safely leave the lab — that I would still experience the intellectual excitement that had brought me toward physics.

So, here is my bookworm again. And here I am, ready to let it go away. I made two different versions. I hope you like them.

reading matters // by marion // detail 02