On the last Tuesday of every month, I feature a fellow type lover from the Richmond, VA area.
Victor Lares, of Van der Biest, has an incredible eye for detail: no doubt the result of his background in graphic design, his passion for photography and sheer talent. I chatted with him about influencers, his process and this beautiful city that we call home.
SARAH BARTON: You're from Venezuela originally. What brought you to Richmond?
VICTOR LARES: I was born and raised in Maracaibo, Venezuela and moved to Richmond, where my then girlfriend lived. We got married here in 2012.
SB: What do you love most about being a creative in this city?
VL: Richmond is a very diverse city when it comes to arts and crafts. There are so many people pursuing what they love to do. It ranges from sign painting, leather craft, music and so on and you can see it and feel it in the quality of the work they are putting out there. I find it extremely interesting to explore and find out what people around the city are working on, it doesn’t matter what creative field it is. I think that’s one of the most inspiring things about this place.
SB: Where do you get inspiration for your work? Who are some fellow Richmonders that inspire you? Non-Richmonders?
VL: All social media outlets are great sources of inspiration. I particularly spend time browsing through Dribbble, Behance and Instagram. I have three people who influence my work immensely: Ken Barber, Mika Melvas and Sergey Shapiro. All of them have a completely different background and specialize in different styles, but they all have a broad knowledge of what they do — it’s contagious.
One of the Richmonders I find really inspiring is Ross Trimmer from @surehandsings. His work is extremely clean and consistent. He also manages to apply so many different styles all with the same amazing quality. (NOTE FROM SB: Check out my RVA Q+A with Ross Trimmer!)
SB: How did you start lettering? What made you fall in love with typography?
VL: Ever since I can remember I’ve been interested in typography, but I really fell in love with it during my first year of college when I took a typography class. I got to learn so many things, and also experiment and do all kinds of compositions with type. I even got to create my first typeface. But it wasn’t until 2012 when I moved to the US that I found so many people doing lettering. At the time I was not too familiar with it, so I decided to try it and instantly fell in love with the fact that you are creating something custom and unique to fit either a client's need or just for fun. It’s extremely satisfying for me.
SB: You have a degree in graphic design and that's also your day job. (Me too!) Are you able to incorporate lettering into that job? Or do you keep the two professions separate?
VL: Unfortunately my day job doesn’t require the use of lettering since it's more focused on photography and design. If I could, I would love to incorporate lettering into it.
SB: How do you think your design background affects your lettering?
VL: It helps my lettering work immensely. It allows me to use basic design principles to develop well designed letters, harmonic compositions and overall create excellent work which is extremely important to me.
SB: What does your creative process look like from start to finish?
VL: My process is very similar to what most designers do. First I do some research to select a style that fits the project as well as some background research on the client. Then when an idea comes up, I try to sketch it as much as possible. This is the longest part of my creative process. I try to put down on paper every idea that crosses my mind, on a small scale and fast paced. This allows me to completely empty my mind and pushes me further to make something interesting and different.
When I’m done with all the sketching I select the ideas that are worth refining on a bigger scale. I go deep into the details trying to clean it up and make it look the way I want it to. When I’m happy with what I’ve done refining, I switch to the computer to create a vector piece.
SB: Do you prefer to vectorize all of your lettering or keep the hand drawn look?
VL: Lately I’ve been vectorizing all of my work, mainly to practice different techniques I’ve learned from fellow letterers on how to build letters the most effective and appealing way, but it wasn’t always like that. When I started, I used to keep it on paper then scan it and edit some of it using Photoshop to create the look I was going for.
SB: What are some of your favorite tools for lettering?
VL: As cliché as it might sound, I have to say pen and paper. It gives you so much freedom to do whatever you want, unlike an electronic medium which will constrain you to do only what the software allows you to do — that can sometimes hold back your creativity. Other than pen and paper, I mainly use Tombow Dual Brush Pens and Pentel Brush Pens to make rough sketches of brush lettering.
SB: What has been your favorite project and why? Hardest project?
VL: My favorite was the “Threefold” project which was my second year marriage anniversary gift to my wife. Since it was a personal project, I had the freedom to experiment with a style I had never done before: Copperplate, which has all the flourishes and swashes. That was a lot of fun. On the other hand I would say that the hardest so far was the “W” project I did as an entry to TypeFight. I felt the pressure of making something that was acceptable to the audience and that took the fun out of it and made it much harder for me.
SB: If you had a list of best-kept secrets (like websites, books, coaches) you’d recommend for lettering, what would you include and why?
VL: There are a few books I’m absolutely obsessed with: Photo-Lettering One Line Manual of Styles. This book is a must have for any letterer. It’s an index to the Alphabet Thesauruses Vol. 1, 2 and 3 (very rare and hard to find). If anyone is able to find these, get them without hesitation. They showcase such a wide variety of styles.
SB: What can we look forward to seeing from you in the next few months?
VL: I took a short break a few months ago to get my ideas straight and try to decide which direction to move forward in. Currently I’ve been working on my blog, specifically on tips for beginners. I have also been working on a couple of posters.
Check out Victor's website to stay up to date with his work.