About a month ago I decided to periodically highlight a particular lettering artist who has inspired me in my own work. This – the second article in that series - takes a completely different direction from my first post about John Stevens – a master calligrapher.
For years Dave Smith, an English sign-writer, has continuously amazed me with his traditional-style ornate English lettering, replete with all the pomp and circumstance befitting royalty.
His designs normally begin as a pencil drawing which he refines until he is ready either to render it further in Photoshop or complete it in another medium such as glass.
A recent project which he began last January was to design the artwork for John Mayer's latest album, Born and Raised. He rendered the art completely by hand in pencil and then rebuilt it in Photoshop. The main design, along with several other elements he created are used in the album cover, CD, merchandise, an embossed lithograph poster as well as John Mayer's website. On Dave's website he has section outlining the process he went through in creating this magnificent design.
His work is often reminiscent of an illuminated letter from a manuscript with the flourishes and surrounding décor organically supporting and, at times, overwhelming the letter. When he completes a piece on glass it can be taken to the highest degree of decoration with various karats of gold leaf, rich colors and glazes, mother of pearl, split blended shadows, acid embossing, brilliant cutting, pictorials and innumerable embellishing techniques – all of which he seems to have an unbounded ability to master.
His design work is tight and fluid, always bearing a stately ring of tradition and authenticity while also demonstrating a polished splendor of twenty first century technical skills. One of the reasons he has been in the forefront of my mind as a lettering artist is not only this design aspect of the work, but his unparalleled mark as an artisan/craftsman bringing each commission to an heirloom quality finish. He is, in a very rich sense, a lettering artist.If I seem to be overly effusive in my praise of his work, I suppose it’s because I’m always humbled and inspired by the consistently high caliber craftsmanship he demonstrates. Yeah, maybe it is a little over the top and I normally lean toward more simple designs but - hey, I like it. And he sets the bar always higher for me in my own lettering, design and glass work.
Besides, he’s a friend of mine! Don't let the dignified splendor of his work fool you. He happens to be a helluva of a fun guy at heart.
Carry on, mate.
It's been a few months since I wrote this blog but a couple of days ago this video was published showing the process of Dave making the Born & Raised album cover for John Mayer.
Teriffic footage including Dave & John discussing it, the pencil drawings, vectorizing the drawings and photoshop layers that went into making the final product. In addition we are treated to watching his incredible craftsmanship in making some reverse glass pieces as well.
Danny Cooke's videography sublimely matches John's & Dave's craftsmanship. So grab a cup of coffee and treat yourself to a satisfying 18 minutes as you watch this masterpiece unfold.