One of the delightful benefits of working with a talented artist like Destiny is that whenever there’s an occasion that calls for gifts, I can ask her to paint something for me. This Christmas it was a laptop bag that I had gotten on sale at Office Depot for $5 quite a number of years ago. In fact, the clearance price was so ridiculous, I bought two. And have never used them….
However, I recently had to go on a business trip where I needed to look, uh, business-like (rather than creative!), so I rummaged around and dug out this combo briefcase-tote that my laptop would actually fit in. (It’s unfashionably LARGE. Or “humongous!” as the kid at Starbucks recently exclaimed.)
Well, I used it, didn’t embarrass myself with the bigwigs, and was mightily bored with all that black. I came home thinking, There must be some way to paint or embellish this bag so it’s interesting but still professional looking.
So I turned it over to Destiny! Together we decided to put a quote on it and I chose one of the variations on Margaret Mead’s famous lines, “Never underestimate the power of a few committed individuals to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
My biggest hurdle in painting and embellishing accessories comes when the lines I need to paint on, in or between don’t already exist. Even though I’ve been dubbed someone who can paint “things that look like things,” I get nervous before I set out. Unlike working a piece of paper, I can’t sketch first with pencil — lines easily removed by a little nib of rubber when necessary — especially when the bulk of the surface is to stay as-is.
In this case, I first did some weird math to decide about how many words went into each panel (number of words  ÷ number of panels , adjusting based on visual size of panels/words = 6, 11, 5). There’s probably an easier way, but that worked for me. Then, I just sketched the words in using white chalk. When I didn’t like something, I could use a paper towel (and a little spit, BLEH) to wipe the bag without ruining the surface.
There isn’t a lot of preplanned science to my typography blocks. I make sure to try and separate the different font types, so as to get a good mix of serif, san serif, handwritten, and script in all the panels. Sometimes I think about the structure and meaning of a word and add a twist, like turning all the I’s in “individuals” into people. I use alignment and rotation to keep things visually interesting within each block of words. I also try to remember where two words might share a letter and use that in the design, as I did in “few” and “world.”
The number of colors I used (there were five, which Margot picked) didn’t divide equally into the number of words. So, without the result looking too uniform, I was able to use the colors in the same order, repeated: Pewter, Citrine, Metallic Russet, Sunset Gold, and Pearlescent Blue. I painted everything using a medium round brush.
I am a quote junky: movies, books, articles, proverbs, you name it. Margot and I both love that particular quote from anthropologist, Margaret Mead, and when she saw it on my daily sketch blog as a scrap of typography, she knew exactly what to ask for this Christmas! I’m REALLY pleased with the results. Best bad-ass business bag in town!!