Primary Tools & Materials:
paper, wacom tablet

Additional Tools & Materials: inkjet printer, tape, scanner, tracing paper, Adobe Photoshop

This letter is one of the more literal ones I've made. The combination was supposed to be paper and computer hardware. So I scanned and printed a letter, cut it out, taped it directly onto the surface of my Wacom Bamboo tablet, and traced it from there, barely looking up at the screen. 

I started with another amazing example of antique woodcut type from Rob Roy Kelly's book American Wood Type. The sample I scanned (seen in image 9) is an uncredited sample from George Nesbitt's 1838 type collection, thought to originate in France (Kelly p297). I chose it because it's angular and simple, but with enough detail that I could change its appearance easily depending on what Photoshop brushes I used to trace it. 

As I said, I scanned this page from the book, isolated the O, printed it out and taped it directly to my Wacom tablet. The tablet I have, the Bamboo, does not have a live drawing screen - it's essentially a large trackpad, so you have to watch what you're drawing on the screen rather than watching your hand, which feels a little unnatural. Since I had a pattern to copy, I decided to trace it by hand while looking only at my hand, ensuring that I was copying the letter faithfully. Sometimes when looking at the screen instead of my hand, I have a hard time following straight lines, because often the angle of the screen is different from the angle I'm holding the tablet. Keeping my eyes on the tablet is one way to counteract that result. 

I traced the letter several times, using a variety of chalk, pencil, and watercolor brushes in Photoshop. Sometimes I traced only the outline, sometimes I filled it with a color and texture, and sometimes I traced over the original so it can still be seen underneath (see numbers 1 and 5). I always waited to look at the screen until after I had completed my line work, and this is why some of my facet lines are missing. I thought it would be more authentic to keep these mistakes, since the only reason I missed them was because I was purposefully not looking at the screen, having to keep track of which lines I had and hadn't traced yet. 

This simple study did a lot to help me diagnose my own hangups with drawing on an external tablet. There is such a disconnect between your eyes and hands that sometimes it's hard to connect them on the screen. However, I think this direct tracing method is an effective (though not perfect) way to make that feel a little more natural, and most of the letters I created do closely resemble the original. 


Kelly, Rob Roy. American Wood Type. Saratoga, CA: Liber Apertus, 2010. Print.