A starting point for beginners in the quest to learning the tricks and tools of modern calligraphy. Includes exact supplies and suggestions on where to buy!

An Introduction to Modern Calligraphy Basics: The Tools

This lesson aims to teach the basics and “need-to-knows” about beginning modern calligraphy, which has seen a huge resurgence in popularity over the past couple years in everything from weddings to logos to home decor. One of my goals for the new year is to start posting more tutorials on the blog for creative individuals at the beginner level. This doesn’t mean you have to be an artist or designer to follow them (though of course you are welcome if you are!), just a creative-minded individual who’s doodled in their notebook a time or two.

 

So let’s get started.

 

What does modern calligraphy even mean?

Modern calligraphy put simply uses the techniques and materials of traditional calligraphy (pen holder, nibs, ink, etc.) but doesn’t follow the strict guidelines as to how to write in different script styles (such as Copperplate, Roman, or Spencerian). In modern calligraphy, you can make up any style you like!

 

For this tutorial, I will be focusing on pointed-pen modern calligraphy, which means that thick and thin lines are created by the pressure you put the nib to the paper as you write rather than the direction and angle you hold the pen. This type of calligraphy requires a certain type of nib. Which brings me to…

 

A starting point for beginners in the quest to learning the tricks and tools of modern calligraphy.

What on Earth do I need to get started doing modern calligraphy?

I know other calligraphers who swear by certain supplies might hate me for saying this, but from my own experience first starting out and trying new things, the exact materials you use don’t bear a huge amount of significance. I purchased the cheapo Speedball oblique pen calligraphy kit from Amazon and still use it today! There’s no point in buying expensive materials to start out if you come to decide that you don’t like modern calligraphy at all! One possible exception to this rule is ink. Your average craft store will likely only have a few kinds, mainly dominated by small containers of Speedball ink in different colors, which I’ve personally found to be awful probably because they’ve been sitting on the shelves for quite some time and have separated and hardened. Others swear by Speedball ink. I will tell you all the supplies that I use, but I encourage you to play around and try your own materials!

 

This list contains all the supplies I use for practicing modern calligraphy. You do not need all of it to get started! Even if you don’t have any of the supplies yet, you can get started with just a soft pencil (preferably not mechanical) and some printer paper and just start practicing the movements and the letterforms!


All the supplies listed below are linked to one of my preferred sites for buying art supplies. I would suggest checking a few for the lowest price before purchasing! If I don’t buy in-store, I typically purchase from one of the following: Amazon, Plaza Art, Paper & Ink Arts, or DickBlick. For simplicity, I’ve linked all the items to a listing on Amazon as every item can be found there, but it’s not necessarily the lowest price!

 

Ink/Paint

Higgins Eternal Black Ink: Higgins Eternal is a classic and well known calligraphy ink that is great for practice and those just starting out! Speedball Super Black India Ink is also a common starter ink that I’ve tried and have had decent success with.

Holbein Artists’ Gouache (in various colors): Gouache is one of my absolute favorite mediums to use. It is a paint that I liken most closely to watercolor with its ability to be watered down and used as a beautiful ink! It has a beautifully matte finish and comes in vivid colors. My favorites are pearl gold, jet black, and turquoise green but I also have the primary CMYK set which I use frequently as well.

There’s endless amounts of ink and paints out there to use and practice with, but I recommend you start with a black liquid ink. Mixing the right amount of water and gouache, water and watercolor, or water and an ink stick can be tricky business if you’re new to it, and it will help with troubleshooting problems if you don’t have to add ink to the potential problem list!

Paper

Rhodia Dot Pad 16.5” x 12.5”: I absolutely love my Rhodia dot pads and graph paper. The paper works great with the inks I’ve specified above and doesn’t buckle or get caught on the smooth paper. I purchased this large pad because I’m one of those people that hates to rip pages out of a sketchbook and I can fit in tons of practice on a single page with this size. That means I spend less time waiting around for the ink to dry before I can fold back the page and start on a new one.

Borden & Riley #37 Bright White Translucent Bond Paper: This paper is great if you prefer a dot or line-free paper to practice on. I simply use a sheet of pre-lined graph paper underneath that shows through the translucent paper to use as a guide for writing. Or, if I’m looking to create a looser style, I use no grid at all. It’s extra important on this paper to use a spare sheet of paper under your hand to protect the paper as you write. Any spare blank printer paper will do. Although I recommend doing this with any paper you are writing on, I’ve found this one to be especially sensitive to the oils in your hand which can cause weird things to happen when you write over it like the ink not appearing to “stick” to the paper.

8×8 to the inch Gridded Graph Paper: I recommend graph paper that has 8×8 squares to the inch because it forms a great and proportional guide for practicing calligraphy. You can practice straight on the paper (if it works with calligraphy ink) or use it under your translucent paper as a guide. Unfortunately the squares on the Rhodia pads are not to this scale, but the great thing about modern calligraphy is that you can make up the rules to the proportions and height of your letters to fit whatever style you like!

Nibs

Hunt 101

Tachikawa G

Nikko G

These are the three nibs I’ve used most frequently since beginning my exploration into pointed pen calligraphy. Now I’m far from an expert on nibs (there are literally thousands of different kinds), but I tend to like slightly more flexible nibs because they allow for wider strokes with less pressure. The Hunt 101 is probably the most flexible of the nibs, then the Tachikawa G, then the Nikko G. The Nikko and Tachikawa produce very crisp lines. The Hunt 101 can be very fun and create a lot of personality in the writing, but can sometimes be a little finicky releasing ink.

Penholder

Speedball Oblique Penholder

Speedball Straight Penholder

These is the cheapest, most basic black plastic pen holder you will probably come by and I’ve used them exclusively as I’ve been learning and teaching myself calligraphy. Bottom line: they work, they’re easy to clean, and they’re cheap. If you tend to get clammy hands like I do, you may want to look for a wood or higher quality penholder in the long run because this slick plastic could get slippery. Still, I would recommend it for beginners because of the price unless you know this is something you will be interested in for the long term.

The oblique holder I use for all my pointed pen (flex nib) calligraphy and the straight holder I use for all my italic (flat nib) calligraphy. The oblique holder looks scary, but it allows you to write at the proper angle to create thick and thin strokes. To my left handed friends: the oblique versus straight pen scenario is not so cut and dry for you. I have heard of people using the straight pen for what a right handed person would use an oblique pen for, but I’ve also seen others use the oblique pen fine. My recommendation is to get one of each and try out what you feel most comfortable with. I will be going over how to hold the pen in part II of this lesson.

Other

Staedtler Mars Technico Lead Holder (and lead!): I love my Staedtler and it’s a great pencil, but honestly any pencil will do fine. When it comes to calligraphy, I’m only using this to create my grid lines on my dot pad or graph paper.

Palomino Blackwing Pencil: Another instance where I have found a specific brand I like, but any will do. A non-mechanical pencil that is HB or softer works great for practicing calligraphy before you even get your supplies. You can practice the motions and the letterforms and even the thick and thin strokes by pressing down hard or light as you’re writing.

Small Inkwell: When I first started calligraphy, I was brushing the ink or paint onto my nib with a brush because the vial, dish, or container I was drawing my ink from was either too large to dip into (I always ended up getting ink all over my holder) or too shallow to dip in. This may seem like an exaggeration and I promise you it’s not, but the best move I ever made was getting a small vial to keep my ink in so that I could dip my pens rather than brushing the ink on. It saves loads of time and frustration with trying to brush with your non-dominant hand and you don’t have to have your whole ink bottle open and drying out as you work. Any tiny plastic or glass container will do, but I recommend buying one made for calligraphy as it will be the perfect height to dip in your nib but not too far and should come with a lid for easy transport!

Small plastic pipette: A necessary addition to using an inkwell. There would be nothing worse than trying to pour from a huge ink bottle into a tiny vial and losing about half your ink when you spill it everywhere. Trust me.

Scrap Paper: To use as a guard to protect your paper from your hand as you work. Plain printer paper works great.

Paper towel or small scrap towel: To wipe up any spills, clean your nib, wipe your fingers on. I promise you will use this in some way or another, particularly as you are learning to use your tools.

Adjustable Table Lamp: Not a necessity, but can be helpful to have a consistent light source! I recommend an adjustable table lamp so that you can place it in the proper position as to not create any shadows where you are writing. For someone right-handed, you want to position the lamp in the left upper corner of your workspace pointing towards your hand. That way as you write, your hand or penholder won’t cast a shadow over where you are writing.

Ruler: For drawing grid lines. I love my metal, cork-bottomed ruler. I recommend a 12 or 18 inch ruler. I use 18” because it’s big enough for my Rhodia dot pad but small enough to not be unwieldy.

 

Overwhelmed yet? I hope not! As I said at the beginning, don’t panic that you don’t know or have the perfect supplies yet; all that will come in time. Luckily, it is easy to find cheap, beginner materials that work great and many that are of great quality. Starting out in modern calligraphy is not a huge investment, so don’t feel the pressure to get everything perfect like I did!



If you’re still feeling a bit lost or uncomfortable, the materials I use specifically for the upcoming tutorial are as follows: 2 ½ fl.oz. Higgins Eternal Black Ink, Tachikawa G nib, Speedball Oblique Penholder, Staedtler Mars Technico mechanical pencil, Dinky Dips inkwell with wood holder, and the last five items under “Other” section (no specific brand although I hear that Bounty is in fact the quilted, quicker picker-upper).

 

A starting point for beginners in the quest to learning the tricks and tools of modern calligraphy.

What’s next?

Next week, I will teach you the basics of holding the pen, practicing basic forms, and writing your first alphabet with modern calligraphy! So gather your supplies, and leave any questions in the comments so I can get back to you before we begin!

Keep learning.
-B

Learn 7 tricks to taking beautiful product photos for Etsy, your blog, or your online store without spending extra time or money. | by South Ranch Creative

7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy or your Blog

Without Spending Extra Time or Money.

 

If you sell on Etsy or your own business website, you know that product photography is hugely important to the success of your shop. Most of your customers are used to shopping through professionally photographed websites and product shoots, and expect to see the same level of quality when they come across your shop online. Unfortunately most Etsy and small online sellers are not professional photographers and in running a shop singlehandedly, they don’t have the time or money to ensure that their shots are pixel perfect. I’ve created this short guide for small time sellers with tips and tricks on how to make the most of your photoshoots, using supplies you likely already have lying around! You’ll save time, money, and the headache of trying to plan out exactly what need ahead of time.

 

1. Bring in some life.

There’s nothing more boring than a stale, lifeless photograph of your product on a plain background with no props. Particularly if you sell any sort of goods for the home, you’d better think about adding in some visual interest that enhances and doesn’t detract from the awesomeness that is the product you’re selling. One of my favorite ways to add some life to my product photography is to actually… bring in… life. For clothing and accessory sellers, this could mean someone wearing or holding your product. For home good sellers, this could holding or interacting with your product, but also could mean plants! I find greenery and plant life serves as a great prop for tons of my listings, and it’s so versatile! It comes in all shapes and textures and colors. It can serve as a background or as a prop to highlight your product. Also, with natural, reclaimed, and organic products becoming more and more desired every day, putting natural, reclaimed, or organic props in your product shots might not be such a bad idea.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Bring in some life.

Boss Lady mug by Jennie Brown Creative

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Bring in some life.

“Cheers” Mountain Coasters by South Ranch Creative

Now, there are exceptions to every rule, and tons of shops on Etsy and elsewhere are wildly successful using tactics like a minimalist approach where nothing but the product is in the photograph. I’ve found this to be much harder to pull off for the average or novice photographer because things like lighting and color must be just perfect in order for this type of approach to work, but if this is the style you want, go for it! The best thing to do when photographing your work is to take way more pictures than you would ever think necessary and try everything. Try out using the props and then remove everything but your product from view and compare shots side by side later. Trying it all out once will help you make better and more informed decisions about your product photography in the future!

 

2. Light, light, light.

Light is a powerful tool in photography. It can make a good photograph look great, or it can make a great setup look terrible. I always strive to use natural light in my product shots, whether I am indoor or out. The times I’ve had to supplement with artificial lights, you can definitely tell that my photographs suffered, and here’s why.

 

Indoor lighting usually is not bright enough. Whether you use a quality smartphone to take your photographs or a DSLR camera, you probably have struggled with grainy pictures at some point in the past. That’s because compared to the massive amount of light that the sun provides during the day, indoor lights just can’t compete. Even on a partly cloudy or cloudy day, you’re probably better off shooting outside. Flash is an option for indoor photography, but if you’re like me and don’t want to take the effort to get it just perfect and not blow out everything in the frame, you usually stay away from it.

 

Indoor lights cast weird color hues on your photographs. I know, I know, white balance is a thing, and a lot of smart phones and cameras can do it automatically! Typically indoors, you are going to have a bunch more yellow light in your photographs than you would outside, unless of course you only use florescent lighting which can have problems of its own. Personally I find that the camera either overcompensates or undercompensates, and you end up with yellow, orange, or blue-cast pictures. Now with a good camera, this is something you may be able to go back and fix in Photoshop, but remember, we’re trying to save time here so you can get back to making and selling!

 

Check out these examples below to see how natural light can drastically improve your product photography and save you time editing later:

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Unedited Indoor Light Product Photo

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Unedited indoor product photo with natural light.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Unedited outdoor product photo with natural light.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Edited Indoor Light Product Photo

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Edited indoor product photo with natural light.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Edited outdoor product photo with natural light.

Indoor lighting makes shadows your biggest enemy. Have you ever tried to photograph your work from above and gotten frustrated that your shadow or your camera’s shadow is blocking the picture? Have you then brought in other lights to try and offset this, and created these huge, awful shadows because the angle of the light was too low? Dealing with lighting in the home can make you want to pull your hair out. Sure, you can pay for an expensive studio shot setup, with all different types of light to offset this, or you can shoot outside! The great thing about shooting outdoors is that you have light coming from so many more directions, often eliminating the strange shadows you get from one-dimensional lighting in the home. You’ll still have to consider the time of day and how cloudy it is outside, but overall I find it to be much easier. Sunlight is free, anyway!

3. Color is key.

A big mistake a lot of Etsy and online sellers can tend to make is not considering color strongly enough when photographing their products. Not only can it help show your product in the best light possible, but it can create a mood and set the tone for your whole shop! A super easy and very effective method is to choose one or two highlight colors for your product shots, and use white as your main color. That might mean taking all your photographs on a white background and letting the color of your product bring life into the shop. It could mean using a few of the same props or props that are the same color across all your photos, so that the viewer senses a strong theme and brand.

 

Other ways sellers deal with color is by using the same filter on all of their photographs. Now, please be cautious if you want to do this. It has to make sense with your brand, and don’t put it at 100% and way overkill the effect. You can find some great and more subtle ones online that you can use in Photoshop, and it will help create this visual connection between your products. You could also use saturation as a tool. I don’t mean editing the saturation in a photo editing software, but I mean creating product shots that feature bright, high color products, backgrounds, or props. This is the method I currently use, however I intend to switch over to a more minimal look soon, as I believe it fits better with my brand.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Color is key.

Pidge Pidge uses only the color of its products to create a commanding and consistent visual language across its shop.

 

4. Remember what your subject is.

Props and backgrounds can be a great way to show your product in its best light. But always be cautious about overwhelming the viewer with too much information. You want him or her to immediately know what you’re selling, and not to be distracted by a really interesting prop you’re using. I’ve often fallen into the trap of taking a great photograph at an interesting angle, and gone back to realize that I was no longer photographing the work. The subject of the photograph had shifted to a mug I was using as a prop because the picture looked nice, but my work wasn’t the main subject of the picture anymore. Typically you want your product to be the biggest element in the photograph, and for it to be near or in the center. I would not recommend ever photographing your work in a way that crops it outside the picture plane. The picture may look great, but buyers want to see what you’re selling and that’s hard to do when they can’t see the whole product!

 

I know this dinosaur planter is super cute and fun, but I made the mistake of having it be the focus of my photo and not my actual product! You’ll see that my product is even blurred here while the dinosaur is in focus. Makes for a fun photograph but not a product photo. The image on the right is much cleaner and clearly displays my product as the main focus.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Remember what your subject is.

Prop-focused photography.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Remember what your subject is.

Product-focused photography.

 

5. Think about angles.

Consideration of the angle your photograph is taken is an often underappreciated element to your work. When I go into an online shop, I love to see all of the products photographed from the same angle, and usually that means looking straight down on or across from the subject. This means either a 0 or 90 degree angle from the ground. I think these are good angles to shoot as because it captures your product from the most objective point of view. Adding in angles and different levels of focus and blur can create really great and dramatic pictures, but it’s not typically appropriate for this situation. These angles are also great for encompassing your entire subject in the shot, which we talked about in Step 4.

 

Now what are angled shots great for? Detail detail detail. I highly recommend taking angled and zoomed in shots of your products to show in some of the secondary pictures you show of your product. These can give the customer a sense of the level of detail in a product, it’s texture, or simply show it at the angle you might most commonly see it once actually in use. For example, if you are looking to buy a chandelier or hanging light fixture, you want to see it photographed from the side when you are shopping because that angle gives you the highest level of detail in one picture, letting you see what it really looks like. Once you click on the item, however, I would want to maybe see the chandelier from the bottom or from an angle taken from below because that is the angle you will most commonly view the product, and you want to make sure it looks good.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Think about angles.

Great primary product shot taken directly above the piece.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Think about angles.

Beautiful close up shot taken at an angle shows detail and texture.

 

 

6. Show it in use.

Depending on your product, you may or may not want to show it in use as your primary image. For clothing, I always recommend showing it in use in your primary photograph unless you are going with an extremely minimalist approach. Nobody wants to see you knit hat on a foam mannequin head. It doesn’t tell us anything about what it would look like on a real person, and you get a lifeless photograph as a result.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Show it in use.

Handwoven pendant necklace by Pidge Pidge

 

For home products, you might consider a more minimal approach to displaying your work before showing it in use in one of your secondary photographs. This goes back to not distracting your viewer, but it depends entirely on what your product is. Think carefully about what your target customer would want to see initially when browsing through a list of products? What would make him or her click on your shop and not the listing above or beside you? Having at least one photograph that shows your product in use or in an environment that it might appear once purchased is a great way to sell your work. As a buyer myself, it really helps me get a sense of how I would use the product and how it would fit in my home or wardrobe.

 

7. Be consistent.

Be consistent is Step 7 because it is the most important aspect of your product photography to create a strong and consistent visual language across your brand. You can take stellar photos and still look like a novice seller if you have a mish mash of styles in your photography. If you take your photos from a specific angle, take all of your primary product photos from that angle. If you use a white background, use it in all of your shots. This applies to every previous step I’ve mentioned, because customers love a consistent brand where they know what they can expect.

 

Taking these steps into consideration when photographing your products can easily and dramatically increase the quality of your photographs while not busting your budget or taking up too much of your precious time. Often simple and small changes can go a long way, so try out a few different things, see what you like and what’s working, and practice! It’s fine if you don’t think you have perfect photographs yet, I certainly don’t! But if you practice implementing the same strategies and techniques for every product, you will not only get a consistent look but you will get better and better at doing so every time! What is your favorite tool for getting high-quality product photography? I’d love to hear your suggestions, too!

 

Keep creating,

 

-B

 

For me it means a lot of doing everything I love: working for nonprofits, selling my arts and crafts and design, and working with a lot of good friends. Unfortunately it also means a lot of selling myself short of what I deserve.

What it’s really like graduating from college with a degree in “Art.”

 

As a recent graduate from Virginia Tech with a degree in Art, concentration Visual Communication Design, I feel compelled to let the world know what it’s actually like graduating from college with an art degree in the year 2015.

 

Starving Artist.

 

If you’re a creative like me, or are close with one, I’m sure you’ve heard it all. You may have even caught yourself saying it. Does the phrase, “starving artist” sound familiar? Have you been asked what you actually do or what you’re going to do when you graduate? Oh wait, they already know that. You just make things pretty. Have you cringed at overhearing a marketing student declare they plan to learn Illustrator and web design in ONE day? Have you been asked to design a logo for…. $20?

 

One day, standing on the stage as an outstanding senior at your own graduation, the next, jobless and living back at home, wondering, "what did I do wrong?"

 

As College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ 2015 Outstanding Senior, I was asked to sit on the stage at my own graduation.

 

Through my own personal experiences, I still find that art and design is still a hugely undervalued profession. Because I have been asked to design a logo for $20. And if it’s not undervalued, then the time it takes to complete the desired project is severely underestimated. The thing about good design is that when it’s really, truly successful, it’s almost silent.

 

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 

The Macchiato Effect.

 

And when it’s silent, people don’t realize that their emotions, their immediate reaction to the content that is being served to them, is a result of the design of the content, not just the content itself. So they will pay an extra $2 for that magnificent looking spiced caramel macchiato, but gawk at the freelance designer that wants to charge them $1000 for a new logo for their small business. But consider this: if they pay more up front for that new logo, but end up getting double the business as a result of the good design, that $1000 now seems well worth the investment.

 

Update: Just for clarity I want to say that $1000 was just a blind example for the sake of my argument. Logo cost depends entirely on the size of the client, experience of the designer, complexity of the project, and much more. 

 

I never really considered working for a big design agency post-graduation. A lot of my colleagues did, and the good news is, they are by and large doing great. But for someone like me, looking for a small quirky design studio, a nonprofit, or full time freelance work, the opportunities to make a living wage no longer look quite as optimistic. And it’s not because I’m a worse designer, less motivated, or would have a more leisurely work-life. I would actually be far more motivated to work for an organization I am passionate about, and would work harder as a result. So what is it, then?

 

I think it depends on where you look. Unfortunately for a small design studio, the possibility of them just not having enough money to pay you more is actually realistic. Not one, but two of the small studios I interviewed at during and post-graduation ended up having to tell me that while they loved my work and would love to have me, they “just didn’t have the money right now” to hire me. In the eyes of someone new to this world, it seemed tragic that these wonderful, passionate designers couldn’t expand their businesses, even in their success, because it is just too expensive for them to do so.

 

But let’s get back to that caramel macchiato. Nonprofits and individuals looking to hire freelancers fall into this trap more often than not, at least in my small realm of experience. And I think others see this too. It is the traditional format of a nonprofit to spend very little on this dirty word, “overhead.” Overhead is any spending that is not going directly to the cause, such as administrative or fundraising costs. This concept doesn’t seem so bad, right? Less money spent on administration and fundraising means more money going towards the cause, right? But then think about that overhead as that $1000 spent on a logo. If spending a little bit more on overhead to fundraise, to promote, and to have good powerful design allows that nonprofit to double the money they raise that year, then they are still raising as much if not more money for the cause, even with a higher percentage of their spending going to overhead. I encourage you to watch this Ted Talk by activist, entrepreneur, and founder of Charity Defense Council, Dan Pallotta, on overhead and the way we think about charity spending.

 

The macchiato effect is perhaps most strong in individuals. That $20 I was asked to do a logo for? I was asked by an individual. A student. While I know firsthand the struggles of being a poor college student, I also think this goes deeper than that. Let’s go all the way back to the thought that oh, designers just make things pretty. It may be well and true that we make your shop logo look prettier, but it is so much more than that. It’s about sending a powerful message. And developing a powerful, meaningful message takes time, skill, and a lot of hard work. Think about how many people are going to see that logo, that business card. It is profoundly important to how you or your business is seen by others, and you don’t even know it. Not all design is good design. So just because you can get a logo for $50 elsewhere, doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the same positive effect from the design. By 2015, we’ve become accustomed to looking for the cheapest, the fastest, and the easiest. Heck, there are massively popular websites out there in which clients can host a “contest” for designers to make their logo. It’s quick, they get tons of logos to choose from, and it’s relatively cheap. But is it really fair to ask for all this great work from designers at the mere chance for them to win? Would you work for free? I’m going to propose that you might not really be getting the highest quality of product here. You might get lucky. You might not. But you are seriously undermining the talent and hard work of a lot of designers.

 

Virginia Tech's School of Visual Art's Visual Communication Design class of 2015. And yes, we made pantone caps.

 

You Sure You Want to Know What it’s Like?

 

So what is it like graduating from college with an art degree? It’s hard. For me it means a lot of doing everything I love: working for nonprofits, selling my arts and crafts and design, and working with a lot of good friends. Unfortunately it also means a lot of selling myself short of what I deserve. Am I not charging enough because I know they can’t afford it or because I know they they think they can’t afford it or that it’s not worth that price? I’d lean towards the latter. And I don’t blame them, and I know I will continue to do this because it’s what I love to do. But if the world as a whole can learn a greater respect for what we do as artists, perhaps change will be on the horizon.

 

Keep dreaming.
-B

 

 

Artist + designer + lover of plants. Come hang with me & my aloe plant, Al, as we bring back a love of handmade to your business, nonprofit, or upcoming party ✌

Welcome to the South Ranch.

I feel like it’s customary and required to share a little bit about myself, tell ya’ll what I do and why, and give a little schpiel about my shop that makes you want to go and buy all the things. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

 

Hi, my name is Becca and I am the creative behind South Ranch Creative. What is a creative? To me, a creative is someone who isn’t just good at painting, or drawing, or writing, or thinking outside the box. A creative dabbles, and as someone who naturally sees beauty, elegance, and communication better than your non-creative, he/she has a small leg up when entering new creative ventures. And I LOVE to learn new things. So I start new creative ventures a lot.

 

So that leaves the South Ranch. Well friends, that is my home! I live in a sleepy rural town on 4 1/2 acres, where the biggest news of the week is when a set of teens take their horses through the McDonald’s drive-thru (not kidding). My home has been such a big influence on my work from the beginning. Not everyone has the opportunity to take fallen tree branches, old fence posts, and barbed wire from out in their yard and create a whole set of wedding decorations with it!

 

Wedding arch and table marker photographs courtesy of Summer Kelley Photography.

 

I am a recent graduate of Virginia Tech (GO HOKIES!) in Visual Communication Design and decided to start doing freelance as well as sell my arts and crafts in an attempt to eventually make a life out of it. You might say that I didn’t exactly “fit in” to your classic design agency lifestyle; I wanted to do something that was more meaningful to myself. This means working for nonprofits and not giant corporate agencies, for individuals of passion and not companies just wanting to sell you something. This means making the happiest day of someone’s life just a little more special, or creating work out of found, recycled, or reclaimed materials instead of buying new. In case you haven’t gathered this yet from my little rant, yes, I am an activist. A dirty word to some, a badge of pride to others, I have transformed over the past four years of college into someone who is more compassionate, more considerate, and exponentially more humble. And I have the nonprofit, Invisible Children to thank for that.

 

1 Year Anniversary Video Shot | "Welcome to the South Ranch" | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.comI am actually in this photo carrying the banner for the MOVE|DC in Washington, how cool is that?!?!

 

Now you know I am a creative and an activist, but what else am I? I am a dreamer. You might say that I am an optimist to a fault, and I will affectionately take that description in stride. I am always thinking about the possibilities and hoping for a better future. It may make me naive in a way, but I find it hard to put all of my passion and motivation towards a project if I don’t believe that the outcome will mean anything. Lastly, I am an adventurer. I’ve never been out of the United States, I am terrified of flying, and yet I call myself an adventurer. Adventures aren’t restricted to a location, time, or distance from home and that’s what makes them so mysterious and alluring. They are best unplanned and unmapped. My wanderlust towards nature makes me a natural environmentalist so yes, I have some hippie genes in me too.

 

All of this–my creativity, my activism, my optimism, and my wanderlust–make up the core of South Ranch Creative. They saturate the work I sell and are the base of what I will be posting about in this blog. You might find DIY projects, a photo album of my latest road trip, a post about the nonprofit I just did work for, or the history behind one of my found or reclaimed crafts. If my art and my passions resonate with you, I encourage you to join me in this journey, and I look forward to hearing about your journeys too.

 

Keep dreaming,

B

 

Check out my Etsy Shop | "Welcome to the South Ranch" | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com