Ladies and Gentlemen of the Worldwide Internetland, I am proud to present the third book in my asemic novel series;


Those who read this blog regularly will know that this book features entirely an entirely new script, created specifically for this book and with stages of its development shared on this blog.

This book aims to build upon the notional narratives already begun in Four Fools (2011) and Pabulum (2012), directing to the reader beyond the confines of the written word and into the realms of their own philological dexterity.
The book features an array of calligraphic glyphs and print compositions amongst more conventional compositions, along with some unusual applications and striking juxtapositions.

Underovary is published through those fine folks over at Blurb, along with Four Fools and Pabulum.


Further Fools

LESTARET-four-fools LESTARET-pabulum LESTARET-book-3
After many months of feverish activity, the third installment of my asemic novel is nearing completion. It has been hard work. Difficult sometimes but not unenjoyable though. This book has emerged, blossomed and bloomed during a very difficult period in my life, which has brought many other creative endeavours to an abrupt halt. For this reason it feels that bit more special to me.

I have posted a few pieces on the early stages of development of the new script for this book and shown far more of the process that I had done previously. This has generated some very positive feedback along the way and has, at times, been a valuable source of motivation during periods of doubt, depression or general creative malaise. Thank you.

The contents are done. Final pagination is underway. The technical process of putting a book together has begun – I have a title and a cover too. This stage can feel very indulgent at times. As a graphic designer I am not afraid to let anyone know that I get a good kick out of the technical aspect of the production stage, but with this one I feel that there is a greater impulse to ‘get things right’ in regard to the juxtaposition of content. In this I am very aware that every decision I make can potentially jeopardise the balance previously established and threaten both the totality of the book and its place as the third piece of a planned four.

I am regularly frustrated with myself when I am indecisive or stubborn in my design decisions, and employ a variety of reflective though processes to analyse the consequences of each step. This approach is sometimes more problematic than helpful, particularly in times when personal confidence is compromised. That said, I am not always afraid to trust my judgments, even when previous analysis suggest that I may well be wrong. Experience? Intuition? Instinct? Yes to all three.

This when the objective/subjective argument kicks in; can I be an effective creator and editor at the same time? Well, yes – to a point – the years of experience in design decision making and teaching have allowed me to develop the ability to stand outside of my own preferences in order to make judgements in a variety of situations. And then there is the ‘no’ part – it is impossible to achieve total detachment from yourself. So how does this work?

When it comes to personally led work, it is easy to indulge oneself completely. Self publishing (which used to be called vanity publishing) is, in itself, an indulgence – I don’t fool myself that it is anything other than this. It is, however, a practical method of producing specialist books ‘on demand’ to very limited audiences though, and quite cheap too, which is not something that can be overlooked. These books, for me, are initiated by my own personal vision of what I wish them to be, but once the content has been completed, I can really begin to think about the work on a whole new level; what would I want to see if I were the purchaser?

This approach allows me to explore the content I have produced in a different way than the process I used to create it and juxtapose imagery out of the synch in which it was developed. This inevitably leads to new ideas, developments within the artwork, and occasionally a very harsh cull. There is a heck of a lot of material that never makes it to the book. These are sometime discarded, but often resurface in other projects at other times. But now I’m rambling!

I guess I just wanted to let you know that the new book is almost ready and I’m really proud of it. Not long now.


New Asemic Script #4

The script has been developed to a point where I can begin putting it into use, and I have been busy doing just that, with about half of the pages already completed for the new book.

I am now at a point where I need to expand on the script more, and explore some new avenues and structures. I had decided to see if the glyphs could be ‘unscripted’ and transformed into something more mechanical.

I began by losing all the curves and creating an angled geometric version:

This reminds me of decorated Ndebele houses, Navajo textiles and square Kufic script

I converted three lines to see how the various shapes translated and couldn’t help myself in applying them to a stone panel. Not really, just a little ‘photoshoppery’ to break up the line work I suppose:


I have not abandoned the hand drawn script script either. I recently purchased an automatic pen nib with a 15mm wide stroke and have been going freestyle with some loose gouache and ink…
I have also been working on some other, less restricted asemic artworks too, which will be published elsewhere a little later this year…
I also wanted to see if the script translated well to a geometric line that included circles and was very encouraged by the results:

So I spent a little time experimenting with slab serifs…

which put me in mind of an old favourite typeface from my college years; Lubalin Graph.

Designed by the legendary Herb Lubalin in 1974, I was fascinated by the inventiveness of the tight-spaced ligatures – something that I believe has never been digitized with the standard font!

If only my efforts were as well crafted! The slab serifs became turgid at smaller sizes (not shown), but the monoline version held up well. The next stage is to try some more…



New Asemic Script #3

Quite a while has passed since I recorded my progress. This has been ongoing for some time now – I am not posting as regularly as I should. Having established a number of forms in a favourable calligraphic line, I chose to explore other line qualities in order to see if the forms ‘held up’ to treatments they weren’t designed to handle, and to see if anything interesting happened. Although I apply a more thorough methodology to my work, I am not afraid of opening other doors to see what’s behind.


I decided to create my own lines rather than use the software presets – remember I’m using Adobe Illustrator here – my lines are in red above their applications. So I opened some doors and was largely appreciative of how most forms retained their basic dynamic, but was not overly excited by the results. Always worth a look though.


Now it’s time for a small digression. I would like to admit here that I have not always been an advocate of the ‘see what happens’ school of design as many of my old students will attest. Having been trained as a designer before the Apple revolution, I was schooled in the ‘thinking things through, sketching things out, mocking things up’ methodology, which was ultimately aimed at properly refining the idea – not the imagery, but was inevitably used as an economical measure – to avoid expensive mistakes and changes late in the process. Computers have pretty much done away with this. I can’t begin to tell you how disheartened I have been by seeing students trying out every font in alphabetical order, rather than making an informed or even intuitive decision. (Deep breath…)

As I have matured I have finally acknowledged the convenience that the ‘modern’ (good grief, I feel old at 45!) digital design process and can really appreciate what just happened just now. It was not that long ago that the production of this stage would have been so time consuming and costly that you would have been publicly humiliated for even suggesting it in a studio environment.

Now, before anyone gets the chance to butt in (the joys of blogging!) I wish to make it very clear that this type of process is no substitute for thinking, deciding and committing to a process, going on to refine and develop to the end. Having already formulated my approach, tried and tested my choices and decisions, I can now appreciate the convenience the software allows.

NOTE TO STUDENTS: Never let the dog take you out for a walk…

Phew! Glad I got that off my chest. I hope you managed to get some popcorn and a comfort break before the main feature resumed.

Back to the calligraphic line. Having created a handful of glyphs I began to compose lines, adding new forms and ligatures in response to the new structures emerging. At this point I noticed a number of Arabic inspired forms emerging which pleased me greatly. I was particularly interested in the possibilities of cross-line ligatures:


Well, there’s only one way to deal with an itch and that is to scratch; some careful maneuvering allowed several other lines drop or reach up:

This was a crucial stage. I had grown a little ‘glyph-blind’ and really couldn’t judge whether this had worked as I had hoped it would, so I decided to take it elsewhere and look at it a different way, by digitally applying it to an old manuscript page, adding borders and some inter-line noodling:


The verdict? Well, like the curate’s egg; good it parts. I think the main body of the script works – there is still some refinement to go – but the vertical ligatures are awkward, ugly even. But the inter-line noodling was also interesting…


I was regularly getting samples off-screen to check scale and composition, and couldn’t resist printing a sample off onto handmade paper:


On revisiting the glyphs to remove the undesirable ligatures, I began to look at the details – in particular where lines meet or converge. This was also an opportunity to tidy things up a little by converting the lines to paths and manually making adjustments to make more visually pleasing union points:


So it was back a few steps, lose the ligatures, and close up the lines. This, I think is much more elegant:


After this time consuming and ‘oh-so pernickety’ stage, it was time to see a block of text:


Remember that noodling in between the lines earlier? That was created just to add something that would suggest a small sub-script, or even something similar to Jewish micrography. It was created from a number of smaller strokes, some taken directly from the main script, and others drawn using a graphics tablet. I decided to have a look at that in isolation from the main script and was generally quite pleased. I thought it looked a little less formal, so grouped lines together to suggest verses.


Asemic poetry? Poetry translated into asemic script? Or a just a streamlined shorthand? I think this has further mileage – a linear script is almost entirely dependent upon the subtlety of its curves, dips and peaks…


New Asemic Script #2

Following my initial ideas and developments of a new asemic script, I made a symbol from parts of the lines I had established previously:


I had a notion that this looked a little ‘uncial’ but was quite encouraged by this – it would be interesting to see if this falls into line or whether I can corrupt and push it further.

Uncial scripts are are early Latin and Greek styles from the 3rd to 8th centuries and can be identified by their rounded structures and flowing strokes:


I put together a set of pieces culled from those initial figures:


With these I began to look for natural alignments and flow:


I composed a few more ‘characters’ and introduced a horizontal stroke. I say horizontal very loosely.


And went back to the first test character, making a number of variations on the theme:


After putting these characters together in different orders, I came across an awkward meeting that didn’t look calligraphic:


And created a more natural union that suggests a tight loop that might naturally occur in the flow of writing. This presented a new set of possibilities; characters with different terminals dependent upon, say their position in a word or line, as well as proximity to other specific characters. Hmm.

At this point I went into overdrive, trying lots of component parts and considering joins, combinations and ligatures. This is what my working file looked like:


and what I have produced so far is looking encouraging. The top shows the fine monoline, the middle a 10pt monoline and at the bottom the custom 20pt calligraphic stroke.


Ok. I have some basic structures. It’s really time to see what happens and where these may lead…


New Asemic Script #1

I have been sketching out ideas for the next installment of my book series for some time now and have come to a few good points on which to start. The first is the development of an entirely new asemic script that will hopefully guide the direction for the whole piece.

Let me share my thinking and some of my process  with you. I have created several asemic writing systems before, each from very different starting points; the first was an automatic, handwritten script, developed over years of filling up pages in dull meetings:


This led to the development a set of  formalised glyphs, based upon a jaunty 45° angle directly lifted from the hand written script:


These two variants were the initial inspiration for the first book  ‘Four Fools’ and were used throughout:


As I was putting the finishing touches to Four Fools I decided to continue to develop the theme and aim for a series of four books. Not long after the first book was published and began to sell, I began to think about how the next book might work and I decoded to introduce some different writing systems, glyphs and symbols. Rather than begin on paper I set out exploring early ideas on screen. This one was inspired by old punched tickets:


Encouraged by this, I began exploring some more geometric, grid based linear forms that seemed to suggest a numbering or accounting system:


Whilst exploring the geometric grid ideas, I introduced a line weight difference favouring the horizontal strokes which led to this:


The gridded forms had worked well, but were visually repetitive, so I elected to take a less rigid approach. I still retained the geometric shapes, but began to formulate a ‘kit of parts’ approach that yielded something a little more natural that what I had produced previously:


I was pleased with this but also felt that it had some more to give. It was some time after whilst working on another project that I hit on the idea of converting this ultra geometric style to something that appeared to have some history. After failing to apply any convincing roman serifs, I tried the ‘old typewriter’ treatment, using some hi-res samples from a 1920 document and a huge amount of cut’n’paste, as well as too many hours of PhotoShop editing:


All of these were used in the second book ‘Pabulum’ along with the first two and a fair bit of brushwork.  This was even used the cover!

The next one was inspired by more Arabic structures and was originally a lot more complex than this – which was illegible at the sizes needed for book print, so this is a a highly simplified version that I think I will continue to develop at some point:


The more observant amongst you may have spotted that this also occasionally appears in the blog header…

Whilst I am very pleased with Pabulum, I feel that the next one needs to be simpler, with fewer scripts, and explore some more formal compositions and approaches. I also want to focus on the flow and texture of a script rather than add more grid based glyphs.

This brings us up to date. I have decided to develop another script – to me meaning something derived from the hand written – so I started filling sketchbooks again but found myself struggling to move away from the style I used originally. In order to find new inspiration, I tried using different media. Whilst this gave me some interesting and ultimately useful results, I was still no further in establishing a starting point.

Over the Christmas period I had downloaded a number of iPad drawing apps, some free form and some grid-based and a rather basic calligraphic one called Sketji by Aerfish. This is a simple tool – imagine a large Chinese calligraphy brush loaded with black ink:


Well this works just like that. A fast movement creates a thick stroke and slowly create a thin one. Refreshingly, this is all it does; no unnecessary bells and whistles, in-app upgrades or special effects. It does allow you to save your images though and gives you the option of high or low resolution too! I absolutely love it! It is an excellent tool for my purposes and I have wasted no time putting it to good use:






These were placed into Adobe Illustrator and converted to paths using the livetrace tool:


I started by using these as templates to see what the raw lines would look like, and ended up just focusing on a line and ellipse. The grid was created at a slight angle – just 5° from vertical to prevent me from exaggerating further as I wanted something much more subtle than my original 45° script. I kept the ellipse at the angle I drew it:


Though I was happy with the angle I was concerned that the ellipse was too condensed and would be problematic at small sizes. With that in mind I placed a smaller ellipse inside aligned to one side to really force the issue. The positioning was arbitrary here – I just wanted to look at the proportions and be able to visually gauge when I thought that a balance had been achieved:


After a fair bit of nudging and tweaking, I thought that the bottom middle was looking somewhere comfortable for development. The next stage was to make a proto-glyph; something to push around further and try a few diversions…


These simple structures will allow me to consider a range of structural and compositional factors. They may or may not be recognisable by the end, but right now they are like single celled organisms emerging from the primordial soup with only the faint whiff of evolution in the air.

My first port of call is the quality of line, as previous experience has taught me that this can have a profound influence on everything that follows (the first script was originally developed as a monoline and worked well until the moment I changed the line weight and style – pretty much every glyph was manually then adjusted by hand!) The standard calligraphy brushes in Illustrator are useful to start with to check out variations in width and angle of stroke:


But is is when the options palette is employed that the style can be adjusted exactly to where you want it. These settings give me a semibold stroke, decent visual definition in the stresses, as well as a friendly, brush-line roundness to the terminal of the stroke:


Then I did a scaling test along with a narrower 10pt stroke. This showed some areas that will need attention, especially at the points of convergence where the curves meet the upright strokes, but I am getting a good feeling about this:


I’ll keep you posted…



Ladies and Gentleman of the internet, I am proud to present my second asemic book; “Pabulum”

 This second book continues with the asemic script established in ‘Four Fools,’  but also introduces several new writing systems – some with definite links to the original and others that provide counterpoints to the narrative possibilities in the first book.

This book is not a traditional sequel to ‘Four Fools,’ and it is not necessary to have read the first book before this, but both books are linked by their intrinsic intuitive narrative.

‘Pabulum’ can be purchased here, along with ‘Four Fools.’ You can also click on the links at the foot of this blog, or go to the blurb website and type in ‘asemic’ or ‘lestaret.’

Please let me know what you think…


The Second Coming…

My second asemic book is in the final stages of completion and will be ready very soon. I have been working on this periodically throughout the year and it has taken quite a few different turns along the way. I decided not to blog about this whilst it was in progress as it would have been very fragmented, and I wasn’t sure at times whether it would come to a satisfactory conclusion.

Well, it has, and I am now in the last throes of finalising the pagination and making a few last ‘tweaks’ to ensure the best visual impact. As a little teaser I can let you know that as well as my original asemic typeface, several new writing systems appear in this book, one of which can be seen in the test sampler below:

The first book ‘Four Fools’ went on sale almost a year ago, and has sold remarkably well considering the lack of any real marketing beyond this blog and a feature on The New Post-Literate, so I assume it’s largely from word of mouth. Thankyou to you all. The new book ‘Pabulum’ continues and develops the asemic theme, introducing the new elements throughout, sometimes in very subtle ways and abruptly in others.

Once again, the book will be published through the marvellous Blurb organisation and of course, will be priced to fit the most austere budget…