As part of my week-long class with Starshaped Press at the Wells College Summer Institute (more about that coming in a future post), we worked on an assignment to create an architectural print out of type ornaments. The architecture could be based on something real or imagined. As a long time admirer of Starshaped Press' metal and wood type cityscapes I decided I would try my hand at one. But to mix it up I would also include something else and I settled on a train. I worked on the train first. First, to make sure I could do it, but also to get a sense of the scale and the style of ornaments to be used for the rest of the piece.
While I looked a pictures of real steam engines to get a sense of the essential elements, the result is much more children's book illustration than realistic based on the style of ornaments chosen. It is full of whimsy and you can't help but smile looking at it. I especially like the Victorian flourish used for a cowcatcher at the front and the ornament for the arched roof.
Next I tackled a bridge for the train. Instructor Jen suggested I look at some large metal type, and I was able to find some gorgeous 96pt Empire type in the basement type annex of Wells.
I had first thought I would use all X's, but when I found only one, I quickly adapted to using other letters with similar lines. I like how the bridge doesn't really read as text; I think the fact that it's upside down has a lot to do with fooling the eye. Add a roof and some dotted scallops for water, and presto the train has a bridge!
Next I worked on the city. I used 2pt leading in between the buildings; this made it much easier to move things around and added stability to the form as it was being built.
The key seemed to be to keep things varied and to have contrast between adjoining buildings. Finding and deciding the elements for the roofs was a lot of fun.
Here is the full metal type form to be printed:
I had some small adjustments on press, but otherwise it printed without much fuss.
I printed some swirly clouds with lighter ink in a second printing pass. Here is a closeup of both the printed train and city.