Working Under Pressure: Ink Wars & Typefight

Have you ever tried to create something but just didn't know where to start? A couple weeks ago, I participated in two exciting competitions at Creative South and I learned a great way to jumpstart a new project.

Here's what went down.

Ink Wars

One hour, 32 square feet of canvas, and a couple black markers.

7 other artists up against me, and oh yeah, hundreds of people watching.

And I wasn't up against just any other artists, but the likes of Jason Craig, Danielle Evans, and Dan Christofferson.

Needless to say, it was intense.

Photo by Cory McCabe

Photo by Cory McCabe

I'm not gonna lie. I was really nervous the whole day leading up to it. Right before it started, somehow I became very calm, and I tried to just enjoy the process. What's the worst that could happen?

They announced the theme "Moonshine" just before the countdown started.  

It only took 30 seconds for me to come up with my concept: "That's the Good Stuff".

Since I only had an hour, I didn't have time to sketch and ideate through my thoughts. So I roughed out a composition on the canvas and rolled with it.

Because I was forced to make decisions, I ended up making something that would normally take me a much longer amount of time. Although I wish I had some more time to work on the details, I was still blown away by what happened when I was put under tight constraints. 



For the other (slightly less intense) competition, I was paired up against the talented Type Designer, Mattox Shuler and given the following constraints:

Make a letter V in a square in one hour.

Even within those constraints, there are infinite choices, especially when working with the computer. So I decided to put another constraint I put on myself by working only in black & white. After all, good design should be able work in plain old black & white before adding any color.

Did I mention there was an actual wrestling ring?

Photo by Cory McCabe

Photo by Cory McCabe

When you're racing against the clock, you just have to trust your gut and make quick decisions. This is hard for some people, but I tried not to take it too seriously. It was just a fun game after all.

I ended up not winning in either competition, but regardless it was so much fun to participate. Huge thanks to Matt Helme, Bryan Butler and Drew Roper for the opportunity! I was really surprised by the results, and I attribute a lot of that to the guidelines and time limit I was faced with. 

The Typefight "Letter-Ring" and my opponent, Mattox Shuler and I

The Typefight "Letter-Ring" and my opponent, Mattox Shuler and I

Constraints yield creative thinking.

It’s so much more difficult to get started if all you have is the urge to create. Next time you want to make some artwork, try choosing a concept or theme first, working within a time limit and limiting yourself to just one or two tools. I bet you will be surprised what you come up with.

If you have other questions about my experience or about lettering in general, definitely reach out to me — I'd love you hear from you!

Eric Friedensohn