On an ordinary day, while working on a mundane ambigram for a personal project of questionable significance, I somehow unlocked an achievement… with a pretty unremarkable word.
Hello. Welcome back! It has been a while. Appreciate you dropping in.
Recently, I have had the pleasure of creating personal milestone ambigrams, most notably chain ambigrams – and the moment I got the hang of it, the once thought of as an arduous exercise became my second go-to experiment once the basic rotational won’t/don’t work. As exemplified with most of my newer ambigrams are chains.
One that I am very proud of is something I thought I could never come up for a long time is my Aquaman totem ambigram. A totem amb is basically a mirror amb with glyphs stacked on top of each. I never set out to do it as such and it’s obvious with the amount of sketches I produced leading up to the final AHA! moment. What makes my Aquaman totem unique is that it doesn’t really look like an ambigram. You’d think I just typed the characters on a single row and aligned it center… until you get to the “N” where it becomes clear that it’s definitely contrived.
Which leads us here. Another serendipitous creation. A spinonym at that.
A spinonym is an ambigram whose individual characters are flipped and/or rotated and/or skewed and/or inverted instances of a single glyph. In other words it’s the same “letter”.
Example: while the letters W and M could be just inverted versions of each other, the letters E and B (or the number 3) could just similarly be. However, for it to be categorized as a spinonym ambigram, they all could be represented by common glyph, perhaps like McD’s double arches, say for the word “WEB” or “MEW” (or “MEW3” if you are into evolving Pokemons).
As stated above, I was developing a thematically unrelated ambigram. The word was “games”. I was doing it directly on the PC referencing a minimalist sketch with the intent of arriving with a minimalist final art.
I have done a few G/S flips which while doable, sometimes could be tricky. The A/E flip on the other hand was relatively an easier task.
But wait, let me go on a tangent first, this is relevant to my process. Thanks. When I do types, I will most likely duplicate, chop off an reuse parts and instances of a glyph I find both pleasing and crucial to the final character design. It’s usually the letter “I” but could be any other that’ll be the foundation for all succeeding glyphs. This accelerates the design process and make the final design uniform. I do the same for my ambigrams.
So, after I ended up with a G/S glyph to my liking, I made a duplicate to be tinkered with. I flipped the “G” horizontally in preparation for the A/E glyph deciding to work on the “E” face first. The AHA! was immediate. Didn’t even have to chop anything off. I excitedly moved a few nodes in place and there it was. All it needed now was the “M”.
Shorter tangent: I had previously created a monoweight ambigram piece called “HUMAN”, so coming in I knew I’d be doing the “M” in a similar fashion, just three vertical lines with the middle shortened.
Done! Now I was only looking for stray nodes when another AHA! came. Was I that slow? Haha!
I again created an instance of the A/E glyph, reworked it a bit and arranged them to form: SAGE. No AGES. wait let me add…
Ladies and Gents, SAGES, my first spinonym.
Since, it was intended for a different word, I think the character design is a bit off for this specific word configuration, but it’s perfect for “games”.
While I’m glad I got another amb type for my folio, it’s the process of creation that got me most excited – even if it’s by accident. And that is why I’m going to try and purposefully design a spinonym with a character design befitting the word in the coming days.
Because the previous issue was practically just a reprint of an old write-up, I’m putting up this second post for this month. And it’s one flashy ambigram.
This one is has been gathering digital dust for over a year now. I cannot recall which came first, this one or my “Big Bang” piece, but you can see that I have similarly utilized the B/G flip. Just as much, I don’t remember what inspired me to create this, or what was the lead up to it, but I recall being excited after having figured out out the LI/N solution more than the B/G.
I love how whimsical this ambigram look, beginning with the letterform right down to the inlaid mesh – which took me a damn long time to get just the way I like it!
Unfortunately, that’s all I have to say about the piece… I love it, I damn like looking at it but other than that I got nothing!
So see you next issue, then!
After I joined the community of ambigrammists in the now non-extant ambigram.net, I was asked by then moderator(?) Nikita if I’d like to take on a challenge that would be featured on one of the recurring segments of the website called QuickDraw.
It usually feature two ambigrammists taking on a soon to be revealed word, and would have a week or two to come up with a solution and a short description of the process. The other artist I was paired with (or against) was Bill Sterigoudis, who arrived with, interestingly enough, a similar solution.
Daunting to a noob who wanted to leave a good impression – especially after debuting a 1st runner-up piece to a then recently concluded contest – I agreed!
Below are both the pieces and the narrative it came with. Re-reading the text, I don’t know what on Earth I was talking about – which could (or not) be attributed to an evolution of sort of my ambigram making process.
Since this is my first QD Challenge, I was surprised to get a fairly simple word… NOT.
This turned out to be very challenging since I wanted to veer off from my usual font-styling.
However, in my experience a word or phrase and its letter correlation pretty much dictate the font style.
After deciding to do a rotational ambigram, I first did my letter correlation to see which letter match with which.
Then come in the sketches. I’m a very rough sketcher which tends to be a problem when digitally tracing the lines, but i’m used to it.
I set out to try and do an ambigram with intertwining letter parts, but if it’s not doable – I have in mind a simpler design.
The challenge here, I found, was the “a” and the “g-t” correlation. although “a” is simple enough, finding an accurate letterform to match the entire font style was tricky. solving the “g-t” problem took me longer than I expected.
I tried using the “r”‘s leg and even styling the “i” dot for the “g”‘s outer bowl. all in all this process yeilded me two font styles: one semi-gothic and the other scriptic.
I usually just do half the ambigram (for convenience, mostly). so i scanned the sketches and imported them to a vector based program for tracing and node editing. after fully re-creating the half-ambigram,
I line it up to see the whole image. then I tweak the ambigram basically to try and improve legibility and/or aesthetics.
After a half-a-dozen semi-gothic design varieties, editing the ambigram with either or both with CorelDraw and/or Photoshop as may be required, commences. I decided to go with a simple design with the Argentine flag as inspiration.
finishing the scriptic style, however, demanded more attention so it would not read “Vargentina” rather a double stemmed capital “a”.
I don’t know if I’d do it the same way were I to try and have a go with it today… probably yes, because looking at it with a “not-a-noob-anymore” eyes, I see a couple of places where I might make it less busy; where I probably overthought it.
Now, since this is basically a “re-upload” (and almost a cheat) I feel compelled to post another ambigram piece. If so, it will be the first time in a while since I posted more than once in a month! I kinda like it. And I think I have a cool piece for it (it’s just that I don’t have a narrative to go with it, hehe). So maybe I will do that by next week, yeah, for sure by next week so be sure to be here then, and thanks for dropping by.
You could say that this is one of those ambigrams that I’ve been trying to design for sometime where the solution has been staring back at me for just as long.
Stubbornly trying to create a straight up rotational ambigram, only recently did I realize that by making a convincing ligature for the glyph that would be in place of the “O” which in turn leads up to the “S’s” beak, I could create a decent chain ambigram. Just enough not to make it too different from the two other Os of the typeface I chose to emulate, nor getting too far off with the play on the angel/demon symbols.
This is my take on Gaiman and Pratchett’s successful collaboration. I have always enjoyed Gaiman’s work and Sandman was my gateway drug. If you navigate back to issue 52 of this blog, you may see my ambigrammic take on it along with other DC Comics properties.
Each glyph with this configuration is the most natural looking so I settled on it, with only the O/S flip really to contend with. As with other ambigrams I do, there is another version that looks totally different typeface-wise. This one is more of a Blackletter type that although was second to be created was an easier exercise. However, I thought that this final version was easier to read.
And here below is the B/W version of the final ambigram, laid over the one of the original sketches.
As a bonus, here’s the other version as a case study.
While the “M E N” glyphs are legible and the forms are very consistent, the others seems too obscure even when I tweak either the height or the weight (thickness). Also I find the O/S flip weak as compared to the final version.
A little housekeeping before we go. This feature preempted a throwback posting of a design I submitted to a head to head ambigram-off called QuickDraw on a now unfortunately closed website. I’ll go to specifics by then and it’s probably going to be put up next month unless…
It’s an old piece and pretty rough around the edges but we’ll get to my personal progression.
Anyways, to tie things back to this post, I’m still trying to complete the “Endless” series of ambigrams that I was finally able to initiate with the “Sandman/Morpheus” symbiotogram (see issue 52). Here’s hoping I could put it up before the year’s end.
Oh, and by the way, the wing elements I used on the background were downloaded from https://www.uihere.com/ and guess what? They’re free! The texture is mine, though.
Created by Jim Fernandez in the ’70s, this demigod is the spawn of the Aztec serpent god Kukulkan. This bald, green hulk of a monster’s most prominent features are the two constrictors protruding (about a couple of feet) from either side of his shoulders.
Regarded more as a villain, he enjoyed a considerably extensive publication that has spun off a couple of series in its heyday, was adapted into films, and had its revival in print a few years back.
When I first featured the “Darna/Narda” symbiotogram, I never thought I’d get to make a follow-up issue, much more a third! I’m glad that should this be the last Filipino comic character I ambigrammize – (hopefully not), at least I capped it off with a sort-of-trilogy (XD). To think while “Panday” was published first, “Zuma” was conceived earlier – only that I was not satisfied with the first iteration, so it got pushed further back.
This piece was finished last year after a lot of tinkering with the main glyphs and the final image itself, about the same time another ambigram piece (based on a more internationally well known literary classic which will definitely be featured here sometime soon) was done.
Unlike the two previous “Komiks” feature’s isolated overlaid rendering, I decided to set the ambigram as a stone relief, emulating those artifacts found in the famed 16th century Mesoamerican sites.
But, it wouldn’t be much of a series if I don’t set this image on the “Komiks” page background… so here it is.
I’ve also included the progress sketches and final line art, so you could get an idea on how the design evolved from a possible mirror ambigram solution to its current rotational interpretation.
Finally, I’d like to acknowledge a couple of creators whose work I used to enhance mine. Although Pixabay says no attribution is required, yet it’s the least I could do when they’re absolutely free – even for commercial use!
Yes, it has been a while.
To make up for the long absence (or at least try to), this feature is a special one. It is called Tempus Fugit.
Finalized in a stylized Blackletter Type, this is not my first remake of an previously created ambigram. But this get to be the first to be showcased. The first iteration of this design, created about five or six years back, was more Script in form, though similarly a chain-type ambigram.
While I was very much happy with my first take on the phrase, it was pretty obvious (to me) that I could improve on it – didn’t know how or what, but I was positive a better version could be done.
After a whole lot of sketches over time, I thought I made a breakthrough last year and fired off my CorelDraw. Took maybe four days shuffling back and forth with Draw and Photoshop to get to what I consider to be the final ambigram.
However I might take the ambigram further by incorporating it with a steampunk sculpture I have been meaning to do – soon as I find a way to punch it out of a metal sheet.
But in the mean time, we’ll just have to make do with a vector file.
Along with a photograph of the original ambigram in a real world application made in 2014, please be amused by my #taketwo on Tempus Fugit.
In the previous installment of this blog I briefly mentioned the lag between posts. And as I was trying to finish up on the artworks for that (while simultaneously procrastinating) I was able to sketch out and work on a whole lot of other ambigram designs. This is one of those.
The Haribon (a portmanteau of Haring Ibon or Hari ng Ibon), literally, king of birds, is endemic to the archipelago and has dislodged the (Red) Maya as our National Bird for about 20 some odd years now. Previously (mis)named Monkey-eating Eagle for it’s initially reported dietary habits, this wide winged predator is still listed as endangered mainly due to displacement by deforestation. A monogamous pair breed usually every other year, hatching only one chick to rear give or take until about a year after.
Going in, I was hoping for a mirror ambigram as a final result – so i can top it with a graphic rendering of the bird with its glorious shaggy crown and wings spread wide. But as I’ve always known for it to be, it’s the word that dictate the form. This time it’s a rotational ambigram.
I tried out other faces but Blackletter makes it more regal. After the final ambigram was created, I opted to simulate the gradient hatching pattern usually found in currencies.
Having been fortunate enough to work between 1994-2007 for the grand-pappy of labels in the Philippine recording industry, I had the privilege, in 2003, to collaborate with two of my musical heroes in time to commemorate over two decades of unparalleled contribution to OPM, Lolit and Pendong (sans Mike and Saro) of Asin.
Growing up with a musician parent has opened me up to appreciate a grand spectra of music genre, ‘though I feel that even without my father’s influence I would have gravitated onto some great music by myself. (He’s more of a standards kind-of-guy, but would later in his career sometimes crank it up a notch by taking on a few pop music in his repertoire.) As a “totoy” then a“Bagets” in the mid-70’s and through the 80’s, I was swept for a ride with the emergence of what is essentially the foundation of Original Pilipino Music (a distinct category in Filipino music separating it from the indigenous, the standards, the foreign covers and Kundimans): the Manila Sound, the Manila Pop(ular) Music, Pinoy Rock, Pinoy Novelty and Pinoy Folk- to which Asin’smusic is categorized. As (probably) with most of my peers, my introduction to the music of Asin was via a bootlegged cassette tape… and the 70’s and 80’s saw the proliferation of bootlegged everything in Manila, especially mixtapes. Along with their contemporaries, Asin’s music was teeming with social commentaries. Interestingly enough, the music they brought forth significantly plays more than just as background score to the most tumultuous part of the country’s contemporary history. Their music became staples in the cries for sociopolitical change at that time and for the years following. While classic OPM ruled the airwaves at that time, the early 80’s through the early 90’s saw its decline when MTV crashed the party, the Manila Sound, Pinoy Rock and Pinoy Folk has been relegated to weekend radio playlist up until a renaissance of sort took its place back mid-90’s.
Fast-forward to 2003 at Vicor Music, Lolit and Pendong had just signed a contract for an anniversary record release. Armed with my Nokia 3210 (yyyyup!), I got Lolit’s mobile number and forwarded her my bespoked ringtone “Cotabato” based on Ang Bayan kong Sinilangan. And because my boss’s office was about three meters away from mine I heard Lolit play the familiar 8-bit tune, followed by a short shriek and a roomful of chuckles. I was outed by my boss’s executive secretary (who btw gave me Lolit’s number) and was ushered in to be introduced as the guy to handle the album cover design and packaging. Pendong and his wife Chat just as soon, asked to be sent the same ringtone. (Whew!) Lolit later revealed that she shrieked because she was just talking about the song and Saro (their departed original vocalist) moments prior and thought it was a haunting!
The pictorial for the inlay, press and marketing releases was another first for me, as I had in collaboration, top caliber and veteran cinematographer Charlie Peralta behind the lens at Roper’s putting in to film what I had only a few days back sketched out. We would later on work on a couple more projects.
Creating the ambigram brought back a lot of great memories… working with the band, and of my 13 year gig at Vicor and even further back when I was younger. At times humming and/or bellowing out lyrics while bobbing my head with the full playlist in my head as I finalize the ambigram, making it a fun couple of days.
Although I almost hardheadedly kept on working on an S/I flip which had me going for a couple of sketches, a fairly easier and more pleasant solution was to, apparently, extend one of the “A’s” leg as a “tail” which would serve as the “N’s” back leg when flipped… making the “S” a perfect pivot. Stretch out each character a bit and ease out the tail to even up the spaces between the “I” and “N” when overturned. Since there were just two glyph to contend with, it was a fairly quick vector process than usual.
Based on the initial sketched design a vector file was created and then tweaked a few different ways. With the ambigram finished to my liking, I thought to myself that it would have been great had I known ambigram 15 or so years ago and have this piece (or a similar version) incorporated with the Baybayinscript on the cover I had done. But no… the Asin logo* holds way more coolness points with its history than this newfangled fan creation. Maybe on a future tribute album release or something… and after this maybe I’ll try a few more with other OPM legends.
#suliktad #danadonajr #imagefoundry
* The more commonly recognized Asin logo is actually it’s second logo. Earlier albums carried a stylized logo with the letters drawn as individual (salt) crystals.
I’m just going to come out and say that although it was not the song – nor the movie – that inspired me to create this ambigram, it, however, kept on playing non-stop in my mind all the while I was in the process. And I will bet John Parr’s voice is taking up space inside your head and between your ears right now as you read these first few lines.
I don’t blame you.
From a monotype sketch comes this fully digital vector. And while I was adamant on anchoring the chain on the “S” I was pleasantly surprised at how the dot on the “St.” abbreviation flipped over to be an apostrophe. As a whole my only concern with this is if the overturned “t” will be too much of an eyesore as it basically has nothing to do there but hang. But really looking at it (especially the full chain version) I thought it did not stick out too much like a sore thumb as I really had to look for that over turned glyph. And I thought to myself that if I even had to look for it, then it probably would not take much away from the whole picture.
I don’t really have much of an essay to write here as this is one of those spur of the moment ideas… I suddenly thought of it (a couple of months back) and somehow managed to finalize the artwork in about two days. Unlike my other ambigrams that I could go on with stories of wracking my brain to find a solution and finding little time to vectorize it- I am happy with this one, this was essentially an easy one for me.
Unfortunately though I could not think of a less obvious title for this post.
I can see the new horizon underneath the blazin’ sky
I’ll be where the eagle’s flying higher and higher...
According to Philippine urban legends, it is around Semana Santa (holy week) when the power of talismans (or agimat or anting-anting) manifests itself fully. Especially on Good Friday.
When I was young, I hear of tales told of men and women largely from the Southern Tagalog provinces, testing (or showing off) their talismans, which by the way is pronounced talis-man as opposed to the western tal-is-man, in what could be described as a grand fiesta or parade.After an oracion – a prayer spoken in “Latin” – was made, usually around 3pm, to a revered piece of rustic coin-sized smelted metal engraved or cast with either pagan symbol or Catholic imagery, that is either folded inside a similarly venerated cloth or worn around the neck tied to a crude leather twine as a jewelry, the test begin. Since my Latin is limited to those I learned in Biology, I cannot attest to the veracity of any Latin prayer in the stories, ‘tho I think that it’s mostly broken Castellano. Sporting a big grin, participants would hack themselves with a recently sharpened bolo (or any similarly fashioned exhibition) showing the bewildered spectators that indeed the power of prayer and faith in their talisman of choice prevent any harmful affliction.
Supposedly there are number of different specialized agimat. The one I described above is a typical one that block any harmful physical effect. There is also a tagabulag (bulag = blind, blindness) which renders the wearer invisible, and there are those that prevent sickness or poisoning. There are those that are supposed to enhance one’s virility and endowment, and there are those that increase chances of instant financial gratification, yes, a charm for gambling.
This pagan exercise has become intertwined with our Catholic faith, wherein a number of proliferating agimat now bear Christian iconography and mostly all of the deities prayed upon were replaced with names of Catholic cast of characters, however, our version is tied to our South-East Asian (Malay) roots. While the west have just as much rich narrative in their versions of the talisman, I think that the innate nature of Filipinos being a superstitious society made the amalgamation of multiple influences seamless. We are very much welcoming of other nations superstition and brew them in with ours.
Our pop culture is littered with references to heroes owing their powers to such items. A usual story would be of young men seeking hermits and after proving their worth were presented with a highly sought after talisman. While most agimat now can be commercially bought along the side streets of old churches, it used to be that amulets and charms were handed down by elders in their death beds- these are supposed to be the more powerful ones. Although, I remember that talismans provided by nature are even more powerful. Most popular is the Mutya ng Puso ng Saging, where one would need to religiously wait at midnight for it to drip from the tip of the banana blossom and catch it with their tongue. The actual power gained from this ritual seems vague as most story present the hero with whatever the storyteller come up with or as maybe required, ie, plot convenience. But the Mutya has got to be the most romanticized story of the agimat ever.
Personally, my draw to the agaimat is a result of me being a writer/dreamer/artist/creator and I celebrate its place and hold in my culture. But to its efficacy?… nah, maybe when I was 10. Although Manila is a very techie world now, to a certain degree a lot of Filipinos still swear by the agimat, which again I attribute to our superstitious nature. And admit it or not a lot of our historical (and present political) figures and leaders as well believe in the agimat.
The talisman and agimat suliktad were created a few years apart. While I have sketched agimat sometime 2008-9, it was only finished early 2015 to what it currently appear after a series of re-designs. Talisman was sketched early 2016 and was finished to the current style just recently, after a series of re-designs as well, which was an afterthought to make it similar to the style of agimat after realizing that I should put these two together since they are basically the same thing.
Although in creating talisman, I have the option of designing it to a fairly doable rotational ambigram, I opted to create a chain instead as I wanted to preserve the “s” flip more than anything and I really intended for it to form a ring around a symbol, which in the final design turned out to be the word agimat.
The coin and the oracion page were recent edits. However, the coin was a poor scan of the 70’s Jose Rizal peso coin that I had made around the same time in 2008-9. The distressed oracion paper is the same one I have used as background material for other ambigrams you might find in this blog. Finally, the generic pagan prayer in the oracion is a quick English to Google Latin translation, which I found out, oddly translates back to English quite differently.