Bleeding paint, bleeding knuckles, (bleedin’ Comic Sans!)

Another intermission-type post, on account of last week’s overdue ramblings and in anticipation of next week’s serving being fairly meagre (I’m off gallivanting in the north country this weekend), and one that demonstrates the self-fulfilling prophecy propounded in, oh, my 3rd post (…?) about the curious and alarming collapsing inward – concertina-like – of the luxurious seven-week competition-entry extension…

Yes, instead of raphsodising about the burnished beauty of horse chestnut fruits and torturing your poetical sensibilities with laboured limericks (please forgive the incidental alliteration, if only on the grounds that it represents a lesser evil than further rhyming comment re. the idiosyncracies of the accursed mice), I should’ve been well on with making the barrage of errors that has now utterly stamped on progress. Although I did laboriously re-trace the remaining three seaside-caper scenes onto a more resilient paper (having been alerted to the spectacular inadequacy of the first medium as a vehicle for watercolour paint veneer), it seems that I either rubbed away the pencil outline after inking too vigorously, or (more problematically) the studio room is suffering a case of damp – on second application, the paint was already beginning to ‘bleed’ and behave in other peculiar and frustrating ways, defiant of the areas I had demarcated for colour. Also, I made the error of beginning work one morning before the hastily-ingested first caffeine dose of the day had been allowed sufficient time to percolate (sorry…) through to the blood stream and work its WAKE-UP! magic, so brain wasn’t fully engaged when I began the process of layering paint for intensity and I made some fairly stupid mistakes in the positioning and configuration of shaded regions. Also, in the illustration shown below, I hadn’t quite arrived at an idea for a suitable background, so plumped for a rather nebulous wash in each case to suggest ‘ground’ and ‘other’ (sky). The effect, therefore, bears more than a passing resemblance to the type of hyper-simplified world you’d expect a small child to conjure into being with the aid of a couple of crayons – the sky has even taken on that horribly streaky effect you get from grazing wax crayon over (textured) paper (or from frenetic colouring onto paper resting on paving slabs, as I recall from being shunted outside [on a fine day – it wasn’t a Yorkshire childhood… ;p ] when our incessant sibling chatter had driven mum to the danger-courting brink of tolerance). So, I have achieved exactly nothing here and will have to return, quite literally, to the drawing board for a re-imagining/re-execution of this particular ‘quint’ of the series.

Sunburn goggles

Before I can achieve anything more of the hand-crafted variety, though, I must address the problem of my hideously cracked (and, consequently, quite painful – the decision to preface my breakfast cereal with a few agonisingly peeled grapefruit segments is one I bitterly regret…) hands – the rather abrupt downward shift in temperature, albeit appropriately seasonal, has resulted in a swift transition from hands ‘that do dishes’ to something altogether more reptilian (no claws, just to clarify, but there’s definitely a certain gnarly-ness going on, and I’m pretty sure spontaneous bleeding from the knuckle isn’t especially healthy…). Perhaps more gruesome detail than was entirely necessary, but definitely a solid case for the overnight petroluem-jelly-and-cotton-glove treatment if I’m to regain paintbrush-wielding capabilities!

On an entirely different tip, but one I felt compelled to foreground – having stumbled across it while idling around the BBC news website – is this article re. the ubiquitous Comic Sans typeface:

An engaging, and entertaining, discussion about the font that pretty much everyone – with the possible exception of parish newsletter printers and primary-school-resource-masterminders – loves to hate. (I most enjoyed Simon Garfield’s theory behind the antipathy it so frequently inspires: “Partly because its ubiquity has led to such misuse (or at least to uses far beyond its original intentions). And partly because it is so irritably simple, so apparently written by a small child. Helvetica is everywhere and simple too, but it usually has the air of modern Swiss sophistication about it, or at least corporate authority. Comic Sans just smirks at you, and begs to be printed in multiple colours.” Although I would also dearly love to profess unswerving allegiance to the mandate of the Ban Comic Sans movement ( and heed their rallying cry to “rise up in revolt against this evil of typographical ignorance”, I find myself conflicted: having been rather heavily involved in the design of resources for a language teaching programme, created by child psychologists Claire Bolitho and Sabina Melidis (Soundroutes, I am guilty of unwillingly furthering Comic Sans’ reign of ubiquity – it is, as the BBC article mentions, one of very few (and, I think, possibly the only free) fonts which include the handwritten-stye ‘a’ and ‘g’, letters that children suffering from dyslexia or other learning difficulties have been observed as finding the most challenging to identify/differentiate in ‘ordinary’ print. As a typeface for teaching materials – and particularly those designed for children/individuals who may be hindered by dyslexia – therefore, it represents one of the best, most accessible solutions. I did make earnest attempts to root out a viable alternative to this typographical distillation of ‘bland’ (and unearthed ‘Apple Casual’ and variants thereof in my version of InDesign CS3), being particularly interested in tracking down a font that might have been designed specifically for a dyslexic reader who (typically) finds exaggerated ‘ascenders’ and ‘descenders’ (tall upward line on the letter ‘d’ and long downward line on the letter ‘p’, respectively) and serif fonts tricky to read. Some guidance as to the ‘best’, i.e. most ledgible, fonts is offered on the British Dyslexia Association website: they advocate using a  ‘plain, evenly spaced sans serif font such as Arial and Comic Sans. Alternatives include Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, Trebuchet’, but it seems that there is a definite market niche to be explored, and exploited, in terms of designed ‘dyslexia-friendly’ fonts. There are already some contenders out there, e.g. Read Regular ( created by Natascha Frensch), although this doesn’t yet seem to be commercially available, despite the highly favourable reception it has receivedwith dyslexia organisations. Anyone with a predilection for kerning and/or a general typographical bent, then – this is my red-hot(ish) tip!

So, ’til next week – around this approximate time – when I promise a little spooky something in acknowledgment of 31st October (greetings card industry-stoked) revels. Have an awesome weekend, all!

A x.

About illustratedbyamanda

Illustrator and time-fritterer extraordinaire
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