It is a phrase I’ve heard countless times. “Oh… do you do it free hand?” Free hand. Just what the hell is that? I guess in my mind, people who think “free hand” think that someone can take a pencil or a brush loaded with paint or a crayon or a stick of charcoal and just somehow whip out a supreme work of art. That is not exactly the case. At least, not in my experience.
You have to start somewhere. Initially, you have an idea. Based on what you know about things… shapes, colors, size, perspective and so on, you can refine your idea or come up with a variety of ideas on whatever the theme might be. From there maybe you start to sketch it out. Maybe you are good enough to sketch something that actually makes sense when you are describing an idea to another person – like on the back of a napkin or something just to illustrate a point you are trying to make. This is not a work of art.
Drawing or painting something that actually does not look like complete shit takes time and thought and practice. You have to make mistakes, recognize those mistakes and then fix them. It is not one fluid motion of idea to brush to finished product. Free hand is bullshit.
As it continued (and continues to) snow all freaking day AGAIN, I decided I would work on a sign project that is about as close to free hand as I ever get. My version of free hand is to come up with a design, sketch it out and then build it. Building it (a sign in this case) can be done a variety of ways. The sign I am currently working on is a sign I had made for a customer a few years ago. It was never completely paid for by the time the guy went out of business. The landlord acquired the signs and brought one of them in to be re-done with a new message. I’ll finally get paid for some of it.
I could have just coated it out and produced the sign in vinyl lettering but I decided that I’d break out the brushes and paint this one… if for no other reason than to see if I can still letter with paint. When I learned how to paint with a brush, I tried to read as many books as I could on hand lettering. Most were old out of date books which were very specific on how to handle a brush, how to pull an edge, load the brush, make a stroke. All of this was good information if you were right handed, which I am not. Some of the books went as far as suggesting that if you were left handed – good luck… figure it out yourself. Oh, thanks.
So, that’s what I did. It is not free hand. It is fucked up left handed shit with the help of a mahl stick or sometimes a hand over hand method. In the end, it may actually look like something.