Limitations are a Good Thing

This is something I struggle with in all my artistic endeavors. I am quite a “gadget collector.”

When I am forced to accept the tools I have and work within their limitations, I can come up with some nice work. This was evident in my photography class last semester. I wasn’t concerned about having the fancy camera with all the screens, knobs, and buttons or even a zoom lens or which editing software to use. I had a somewhat simple analog SLR camera and a dark room. The only choices I had to make were artistic ones. 

Type Design Project 2 – The Roughs

Today in class, I showed my initial roughs to the professor. He was somewhat supportive. Somewhat. I think he liked some of the thoughts, but not the outcome I have come to so far. Below are the ideas I presented:

Taj Mahal

I was disappointed he didn’t like the Stonehenge at the bottom. I thought it was a creative approach. He suggested something I thought was a little more cliche. He did like the Taj Mahal, but suggested a few changes. I am going to pursue those tonight probably. He also liked the font I used for Timbuktu, but thought that the decorative element needed to be re-thought.

Good progress so far though. At least I think.

Type Design Project 2

We were assigned our second project in Type Design. We have to pick from a list of mythological or otherwise historically aggrandized cities. The ones I have picked are: Avalon, Stonehenge, Delphi, Taj Mahal, Eden, and Timbuktu. Trying to narrow to just five. We were to take the names of the cities and knowledge of their historical significance and pick a font that somehow symbolizes each place. 


This mythical city is associated with the legend of King Arthur. Avalon is a place (an island), whose name somehow means “Apple Island”. Avalon is believed to hold healing powers. The Arthur legend contends that the king was taken here after being near mortally injured in battle and fully recovered. 


The first thought that popped into my head was to use a Gothic font with lots of embellishments. I even found one called Fancy Card that has an element reminiscent of a sword through the upper case letter forms. However, that seemed a little cliche. 

Thinking harder about the name and the legacy, I decided that the word Avalon seems airy and somewhat whimsical. Even the legacy is lends to a feeling of un-earthiness. Something more playful and flow-ie seemed to be more in order.

Alex Brush
Gondola SD


The name conjures up thoughts of pagan societies sacrificing virgins or performing some forgotten rituals. A little research reveals that Stonehenge was most likely a burial site of sorts for an ancient Druid society. The site itself is composed of many “human placed” and very large stones. The ancient nature, the seriousness of the site’s history, and stones themselves evoke feelings of heaviness and perhaps even dread. 


My first thoughts were to see if there were any fonts out there called “Stonehenge”. There are. The ones I found were very cliche. Most involved either some Gothic elements or one in particular, a graphic font, made up the letter forms from stacked stones. I even tried out a couple of Celtic-ish fonts like Rane Insular. It also seemed very cliche.

I did happen on a couple of fonts that look nice and seem interesting for this project. One is called “God of War” and the other is called “VonFont“. I think I maybe still looking though. Maybe even something space age to buy into the myth that Stonehenge is an alien landing port. 

God of War


Delphi is a city in ancient and modern Greece. The ancient city is a place where mythology holds that Apollo defeated a Python and cast it into a crack in the earth. The Oracle of Delphi would then sit on a platform over the crack, and the scent from the decaying python would connect her with Apollo to receive messages from the god. 

Hocus pocus and hooey balooey? Maybe, but that is why it is called mythology and not history!


At any rate, this story of Apollo and Delphi and Ancient Greece made me immediately think of a font reminiscent of Greek letters. The first idea is typically the worst idea, and this is the case here as well. Thinking a little harder, the thoughts of ancient gods, mystical oracles, and such conjured up some more romantic thoughts. Like the myths, romance is most times exaggerated accounts of actual happenings or probable happenings. Why not use something curvy and beautiful to represent this ancient city?


This ancient city is located in Africa, and was once on a very important trade route. During this period of time, the city rose to great prominence and was very wealthy. In more recent times, the city is in an area of high poverty and famine. 


Since Timbuktu is an African city, I thought the font should reflect that in some way. However, I also thought about the fact that this place was also located on a major trade route through Europe. I didn’t want to push the African theme too far. I found a font called ArmWrestler than has some hints of African elements, particularly in the capital “T”. I also found a nice (really nice) looking font called Museo. The letter forms are reminiscent of a trail. Maybe even a partially missing trail. The letters seem to link together in broken fashion. 



Also referred to as the Garden of Eden, is a mythological place referred to in the Christian Bible. This is the place where Adam and Eve dwelled until the partook of a forbidden fruit, and then they were cast out by God. These are truths I learned in Sunday School as a kid. Further investigation reveals that the word “Eden” is derived from an Aramaic word meaning fruitful.


First came the typical cliche ideas. Thoughts of apple or fruit shaped letter forms or perhaps some very curvy type that alluded to nudity or sensuality came to mind. These were all crap ideas. Way too obvious. The “low hanging fruit” if you will. 

I thought about what time in American history was particularly “fruitful”. There have been several periods that were thought to be fruitful, the 1950s and the 1990s come to mind. However, I thought back further to the 1920s.

The 1920s were a time of fruitfulness for much of the developed world. Industrialization was on the rise. This gave people, even average citizens, an opportunity to have more free time than ever before while still living comfortably. Even though prohibition was happening in the United States, people were living the high life. We saw the rise of baseball greats like Babe Ruth, the birth of jazz, and the beginning of art movements like Bauhaus and Surrealism (two of my favorites). 

I decided a font that celebrated the 1920s was where I wanted to take this portion of the project. I came up with the idea of using a nice serif font with Art Deco styling. Something that looked like it came straight out of The Great Gatsby.


Listening to the Blues

It is a rainy Friday. The office is pretty quiet, and frankly, I would rather still be in bed. I needed something to keep me going for the morning. Luckily, I get off at noon.

Whipped out my trusty iPhone. Loaded up iTunes and got Levon Helm going. Ramble at the Ryman. Really Americana music, but there are a lot of blues tunes mixed in there too. Great sound track for this morning.

I will miss Levon. Sorry to not have made it to a Ramble before he died.


Type Design

Started a new semester yesterday, Type Design. The first class went ok. The professor seems funny and smart.

Worst part about the new semester: cost of materials. $130.00 so far. That was for a book and a couple of pads of paper. OUCH! 

Now I know the real reason artists are starving.

Adobe CS2 for Free

The buzz around the internet today is that Adobe is offering, for free, Adobe CS2. This is huge and somewhat unprecedented. I think that other software manufacturers should take note.

Currently, Adobe is at CS6. I own this software, and I am sure it is owned/pirated by many many others. However, for the home desktop publishing and graphics enthusiast, the price of the software is out of reach. By offering an older version for free, Adobe recognizes that they are the leader in this industry and giving away an older version will curtail a lot of folks who would otherwise illegally download the software. Kuddos. 

As I write, Adobe’s site is having some issues with accessing the download links. However, Slick Deals has direct links to all the available packages. 

Photography Class

This past semester I took a photography class. The class dealt with old school analog techniques. We took pictures on film, developed the film, and printed our own prints. This is something that I have been interested in since high school. Too bad I waited so long. The process of printing and developing was very relaxing and therapeutic to me. 

When the class began, I was hoping to use a SLR camera that I have owned since about 1991. Unfortunately, we were required to use a 50 mm lens and a shutter release. To get a lens and shutter release cable for the camera I already owned was cost prohibitive. I stumbled on a very vintage Canon AE-1. 

Along the way I learned lots about taking good pictures, how to get good contrast on a black and white print (not something many photographers seem to know based on images found on, what the crap split filtering is, how to dodge and burn outside of Photoshop, and getting a good print takes lots of paper and patience. The other students in the class produced some great images. I was always in awe of what folks were coming up with. 

Now I am hooked. I am currently planning to setup a darkroom at my house. I have researched buying the equipment. Also in the works are two new cameras. One is another analog camera and the other is a nice new digital camera. I really want to get a medium format camera. Currently that camera is on hold until i have the darkroom setup. The other camera is likely to be a Nikon 5100. This seems to be a good starting point for the kind of images I am interested in creating. The Canon will remain in my arsenal though. The digital will be great for images that I want to get at quickly, but analog is still great for some images. Images requiring true blacks and more artsy prints are going to be ideal for the Canon. 

Below are a handful of my best images from the semester. These are scans of prints. So excuse the quality.

My favorite. 
A shot from a beach trip my wife and I took during fall break.
Bridge railing near my house.
Taken at a park in town.