Typism Book 8 Feature—Jake Rainis

Feb 18, 2023

Jake Rainis is an independent lettering artist based in the USA and a regular contributor to the Typism books.

Jake Rainis was born and raised in Massachusetts, USA and has lived in Boston since his late teenage years when he moved there to study. He considers himself a creative person and discovered a passion for art at an early age. He pursued a degree in graphic design at university, as he saw it as a way to pursue his creativity while still having financial stability.

However, he discovered that he was not particularly skilled in graphic design and was told that his work was one-dimensional. Nevertheless, during his time at university, he was also tasked with building websites, which led him to develop a knack for working in code. He eventually transitioned into a career in software and has since worked at several agencies and consultancies, currently working full-time as a software architect.

This turn of events turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Jake as he enjoys working in the tech industry and it allows him to reserve his creative energy for his personal projects, particularly calligraphy.

One rainy Saturday, Jake was browsing a local bookstore when he came across a book titled "Calligraphy in 24 Hours" by Veiko Kespersaks. The book was comprehensive and accessible, featuring various styles of calligraphy. Jake thought it would make for a fun weekend project and decided to give it a try.

To his surprise, the weekend project turned into a lifelong passion. Jake started with traditional pointed and flat pen calligraphy such as Copperplate, Spencerian, and various forms of Blackletter, and eventually moved on to more modern hand-lettering.

While he enjoyed all aspects of creating typographic pieces, Jake was particularly drawn to Blackletter scripts. As a result, he decided to narrow his focus to that style and make it the central theme of his work, and boy are we glad he did as his blackletter work always blows us away.


We asked Jake to tell us the story behind the artwork he submitted for Typism Book 8. 

This piece is called "Litany Against Fear" and it features the words "Fear is the Mind-Killer". The words are actually a fragment of a quote from the Dune novels by Frank Herbert. Throughout the storyline, a powerful and spiritually-advanced group of women recite the Litany of Fear in the face of danger and distress to focus their minds.

The full quote: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” —Frank Herbert

This piece was a personal project, but I was excited when the opportunity to submit it as an entry to Typism came along.

Most of my work typically begins with pencil and paper, but this particular piece was done on a whim while I was travelling and I only had my iPad on hand. Coincidentally, I've found the iPad (with the Procreate) app to be a phenomenal tool for creativity. But regardless of whether I'm working in an analog or digital fashion, I approach a new piece in the same way.

When creating a composition, I typically start with extremely rough thumbnail sketches just to get a feel for word proportion and balance. Sometimes this comes along quickly while other times it requires some iteration and experimentation.

I try not to overthink this part too much as there is plenty of opportunity later on in the process to bring it all to life. The main goal is deciding on a general direction. I then sketch all of the letters out somewhat roughly.

With prominent letters that begin the important words (like the F in Fear, the M in mind, and the K in killer), I might play with the letter structure a bit to make sure they have some character, but I don't add too much flare or style just yet. Once I have the letters sketched out, I'll stitch them together into words to get the kerning balanced.

Then I'll start scaling, stretching, and arranging the individual words into a suitable composition that more or less follows the direction I decided on with my thumbnail.

When the composition starts to come together, I begin seeing relationships between certain letters and words which reveal opportunities for unique ligatures, flourishes, and other decorative elements. However, I restrain myself from adding these until the very end. I like to think of them as finishing touches. Ultimately, I want them to complement the composition instead of being a crucial part of it. From here on out, I go on autopilot and let my hands do the rest.

This is where I trace over and fill in the words with a fine liner and finish by adding textures and flourishes where appropriate.

I've spoken to many lettering and calligraphy artists that are able to envision a composition and execute it immediately. I envy this but I've resigned to the fact that it's just not how my mind works. Instead, I like to compartmentalize my process into different phases to create little bits and pieces and then put them together. It's a bit tedious, but I've found it to be quite effective for my working style.

I frequently work in B&W, but whether it's black on white versus white on black is a decision I don't typically make until later on in the piece. In this scenario, I opted to go white on black once I started adding more grungy textures. And fortunately, when it came to submitting it to Typism, all I had to do was crop and size the work to fit the book's specifications. 

What advice would you give to people who want to submit their work for the next Typism book?

Greatness doesn't happen overnight. It happens over many, many nights. Do your best work and give it a shot! But don't be discouraged if you aren't selected.

The Typism community is a vibrant one comprised of many amazing artists and designers who have been pushing the boundaries of typographic art for years on end. Draw on them for inspiration, show up every day, and keep progressing with your work. After some time, you'll be amazed at what you've been able to accomplish with some passion and dedication.

Words can't express the excitement of when I first saw my work printed in Typism. Since its inception, the Typism publication has been one of my biggest sources of inspiration. There were (and still are) so many incredible artists that I've discovered and look up to that have been featured across the Typism editions and it's because of them that I've constantly strived to get to the next level. For that reason, it's an absolute honour to be featured alongside them.

 Thank you, Jake, for sharing your personal story and allowing us to include this work in Typism Book 8. The call-out for Book 9 will be in mid-2023.

You can see more of Jake's work on his Instagram and watch his videos in his YouTube.

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