Family & Friends & Ampersands…our greatest holiday gifts

Family & Friends includes my cats!

#75 Family & Friends
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First, to my own family & friends:

I love you, I appre­ci­ate you, I respect you,
I enjoy you, I thank you.
But most of all, I love you.

About this edition

I got the idea for Amper­Art #75, Fam­i­ly & Friends, fea­tur­ing our friend the fun & fab­u­lous amper­sand, about a month ago, after a friend & a fam­i­ly mem­ber came to my res­cue. More on that lat­er. (Thanks, Joe. Thanks, Roz.) 

Fam­i­ly & Friends is a very spe­cial Amper­Art title to me & hope­ful­ly to you. I went through sev­er­al iter­a­tions to bring you a mean­ing­ful, ele­gant piece that you might want to send to oth­ers with your own sen­ti­ments, or frame for your fam­i­ly room (or Fam­i­ly & Friends Room) wall. It was issued for Thanks­giv­ing 2014, but let’s face it, Fam­i­ly & Friends are timeless.

First, you’ll meet my own fam­i­ly & friends (includ­ing my pets, of course). I am blessed with a lov­ing fam­i­ly &  friends that are the very best. That includes you, too, my awe­some read­ers & sub­scribers — you’re my Amper­Art family!

Then, you’ll see how the Fam­i­ly & Friends edi­tion was cre­at­ed. In response to sev­er­al requests from sub­scribers who want to see how I cre­ate Amper­Art, or how I even choose a top­ic, I’ve explained the process in the next sec­tion. (This par­tic­u­lar Fam­i­ly & Friends piece posed sev­er­al chal­lenges even though the design is quite sim­ple. It’s a per­fect exam­ple of why each Amper­Art piece can take 20 hours or more.)

My own family & friends

I am blessed with a won­der­ful family:

Mom & Dad (both gone but always in my heart) — both of my par­ents are the def­i­n­i­tion of integrity.

My sis­ter Roslyn & my broth­ers Andy & Robyou are the epit­o­me of love, friend­ship, hon­esty and gen­eros­i­ty. You’ve always been there when your eccen­tric black sheep of a broth­er need­ed a help­ing hand or a hand-​out. Thank you.

Mary Ann, you helped me get my very first van so I could start my busi­ness. You took care of us kids when Mom near­ly died. And today you com­ment on every one of my Amper­Art pieces. You’re very spe­cial to me…cuz you’re my favorite cuz.

My friends are so plen­ti­ful there prob­a­bly aren’t enough giga­bytes on the serv­er to list them all, so I’ll men­tion the old­est and dear­est, in the order they came into my life: Gary R, Gary S, Joe R (we’re talk­ing ele­men­tary and junior high on those three), Lande WGregg & Jill, Mardy D, Deb­o­rah T, Lisa S (& lat­er Sean), Jim B (if it weren’t for him I’d still be design­ing with a T‑square), Mark H (& lat­er Crys­tal), Pat B, Tara K, Mar­ty K, Sandy J, Denis W, Jeanette F. Those who have depart­ed, whom I miss dear­ly: Gilbert (the one & only!), Joe F, Pre­ston H.

My fur­ry fam­i­ly: Tiger, Bull­dog, Don­ald (yes, a duck), Woofer (my very best friend for six­teen years), Bri­quette, Amos & Andy…and my cur­rent awe­some crea­tures, Jeep­ers & Bebe.

I feel like I’m at the podi­um for the Oscars! Well, you see, that’s what my fam­i­ly & friends do for me.

Now back to what inspired this piece: Last month I had a seri­ous cir­cum­stance, and between my best friend Joe Rin­au­do and my best sis­ter Roslyn (she’d be my best sis­ter, I’m sure, if I had a dozen but she too is the one & only) they did some­thing for me as a com­plete sur­prise, sav­ing me from being home­less for the sec­ond time in my life. Imme­di­ate­ly I thought of com­bin­ing “Fam­i­ly & Friends” into one piece of art — to me they are often one and the same. My broth­ers & many friends & even a few clients have also helped me in need — tremen­dous­ly. If I did­n’t have to get this sent out right now I’d tell you about those Fam­i­ly & Friends expe­ri­ences, too. Instead, I’ll come up with some new ideas to illus­trate those episodes in future editions.

How this project began…and wouldn’t end

This Fam­i­ly & Friends piece encoun­tered so many obsta­cles and mor­phed through so many changes I fig­ured it’s the per­fect exam­ple to explain how I cre­ate my Amper­Art pieces.

This Amper­Art had to be spe­cial. After all, we’re talk­ing about our Friends & Fam­i­ly here. Or is it Fam­i­ly & Friends?

Right off, problem #1: Family & Friends, or…

The first mind-​boggling task in cre­at­ing this piece was whether to call it “Friends & Fam­i­ly” which flows off the tongue and and has a nice ring (in fact, the orig­i­nal title was “Friends & Fam­i­ly” just because it’s so famil­iar and came to me first); or “Fam­i­ly & Friends” which puts fam­i­ly first, where I believe it belongs.

I went to the cur­rent source for all answers to the uni­verse: Google. I sim­ply typed in both terms to see which had more entries. It was astound­ing: “Friends & Fam­i­ly” came in at 2,110,000,000 results (in .47 sec­onds). But wait — “Fam­i­ly & Friends” returned 2,110,000,000 results (0.33 sec­onds). The same num­ber, just slight­ly faster. Either way, over 2 tril­lion items about our fam­i­lies & friends & friends & fam­i­lies is impres­sive. But…I was still in a quandry.

I tried rea­son­ing it out:

Friends can include fam­i­ly mem­bers, but some fam­i­ly mem­bers just aren’t your friends!* So it’s “Friends & Family.”


Some friends are so spe­cial they’re con­sid­ered fam­i­ly. So it’s “Fam­i­ly & Friends.”

These lit­tle things can hang me up, so the work­ing title was sim­ply F & F. I began work­ing on the design, fig­ur­ing I’d fig­ure it out before the last pix­el was in place. F it!

As I was cre­at­ing the art­work, an idea hit me (some­times that hurts my brain): try to find some quotes about fam­i­ly & friends. There were quite a few, not sur­pris­ing­ly, but one stood out:

Love over­flows and joy nev­er ends
In a home that is blessed with fam­i­ly and friends

It cap­tured the essence of these spe­cial peo­ple, fam­i­ly who are friends & friends who are fam­i­ly. What the poem says is so true, I adapt­ed it for my piece of art. And in the process real­ized that the title absolute­ly, pos­i­tive­ly had to be “Fam­i­ly & Friends” because that’s how the poem is writ­ten. Oth­er­wise it would­n’t rhyme. Prob­lem #1 solved!

Fam­i­ly & Friends…I like that. As stat­ed above, I believe fam­i­ly does come first. And I do con­sid­er my very best friends fam­i­ly. (That goes for my cats too, past and present.)

I set some type, giv­ing it a sol­id, rev­er­ent feel. Changed a few things around to suit my taste:

1. First, we got­ta replace “and” with an amper­sand. Done.

2. I pre­fer the “…nds” end­ing the first and sec­ond lines, even though the cadence is thrown off.

3. Most impor­tant to me was chang­ing “home” or “house” to some­thing greater — life itself. Besides, when I was home­less my fam­i­ly & friends were still around, more val­ued than ever.

4. Final­ly, there’s noth­ing wrong with the word “blessed” but I changed it to “rich” to relate to the gold­en text, “Fam­i­ly & Friends.” I even changed it lat­er to “in a life that is linked by” to relate to the final treat­ment at the bot­tom — com­ing up next — and even had all the files final­ized and for­mat­ted, uploaded, etc., which takes a cou­ple hours itself. But it was just too weird of a word. So I revert­ed to “rich” and final­ized, for­mat­ted and uploaded Fam­i­ly & Friends all over again. (That’s what Walt would have done. Wish I could say he was a friend I per­son­al­ly met, but he was my “sur­ro­gate father” every Sun­day night on TV after my dad passed away when I was ten.)

Next I added a rel­e­vant (so I thought) piece of art. Here’s the orig­i­nal design (keep your com­ments to your­self, no mat­ter if you’re my very best friend):

Family & Friends early version

So…did I invite my family & friends to a rally? Or a concert? Or a Superman sighting?
This is supposed to represent a bunch of family & friends just hanging out,
enjoying each other’s company. But it doesn’t. Not at all.

Then problem #2: what are these Family & Friends doing?

I pulled out every trick in the artist’s beret to turn these sil­hou­ette clip art images into some­thing that did­n’t scream “cheesy com­pa­ny newsletter.”

This Amper­Art piece, hon­or­ing and cel­e­brat­ing the most spe­cial peo­ple in my life — Fam­i­ly & Friends — just was­n’t there yet. With only hours till dead­line (it’s now three sev­en nine hours a full day past) I still had reser­va­tions about send­ing it out like this.

One more search for a bet­ter group of people…and…

I found it! Paper people!

Think back…what rep­re­sent­ed the most spe­cial peo­ple in your life when you were a kid? The chain peo­ple you cut out of paper! Right? (Well, it was for me, since I coud­n’t draw any­thing but stick fig­ures — and still can’t.) The idea did­n’t just come to me; an image popped up on one of my stock art search­es. Then I did a search for “paper cutout peo­ple” think­ing there might be one or two. There were over one mil­lion results! (In .40 sec­onds.) The offi­cial term for these things seems to be “paper peo­ple chain” or “paper chain dolls” — I’ll stick to the for­mer, as few of my friends would be con­sid­ered dolls. (Sis, you’re a doll.)

I found an entire page of paper peo­ple chains on Pin­ter­est, and there are hun­dreds more images on clip art sites. (I know, as a pro­fes­sion­al design­er I should­n’t even men­tion that medi­um, but some­times it proves to be a gold­mine. With judi­cious con­cep­tu­al strat­e­gy, a sil­ly piece of clip art can be trans­formed into a respectable ele­ment of design.)

Sev­er­al pho­tos and draw­ings of paper peo­ple chains came close to what I want­ed, but none exact­ly. So I decid­ed to cre­ate my own chain from scratch (on the com­put­er; it could take for­ev­er to find a pair of scis­sors around here). The places that were most help­ful in refresh­ing my mem­o­ry of what a typ­i­cal paper chain looked like (hey, it’s been over 50 years since I made one) were Pin­ter­est (here and here) and this step-​by-​step guide. The image that served as my mod­el is this one by “gus­ta­vorezende.” It’s sim­ple and basic, per­fect for a kid and for a grown-​up graph­ic design­er. Cre­at­ing the ini­tial uni­sex fig­ure was quite fun, just a cir­cle and a few lines which I “roughed up” as if cut by scis­sors. After cre­at­ing a mir­ror image of that one, I dupli­cat­ed and joined sev­er­al of them togeth­er. I gave each indi­vid­ual droid a ver­ti­cal skew and shad­ed every oth­er one to give the effect of being unfold­ed. In plac­ing on the page, I made sure the arms extend­ed off each edge so the chain would appear to con­tin­ue, sug­gest­ing more than just a dozen friends & fam­i­ly mem­bers. I feel sor­ry for those peo­ple, and I know they’re out there, who real­ly can’t count even twelve indi­vid­u­als as com­bined friends, fam­i­ly & rel­a­tives. I wish for them a vis­it from some­one who cares, this hol­i­day sea­son. Or even a Christ­mas card. 

Finally, problem #3: My Family & Friends aren’t quaint!

I love my lit­tle paper chain peo­ple! But I no longer like the type I set for the poem. It’s too for­mal and quaint for these robust lit­tle guys and gals. So I played around and came up with the per­fect font, Ad Lib.  It looks like the paper peo­ple cutouts on the bot­tom line. It was very pop­u­lar in the 1960s and real­ly cap­tured the mod­ern, care­free spir­it of the era. (Baby boomers saw it on Bat­man, The Bad News Bears, The Dat­ing Game, Night Gallery & In the Heat of the Night. Recent­ly Ad Lib was used on Ani­mat­ics mer­chan­dise. I use it, mod­i­fied, for my chaz sez blog.)

I don’t usu­al­ly com­bine such a loose, funky type­style with a clas­sic such as Goudy (the main text in gold) but some­times oppo­sites ren­der a per­fect match. Like beer & ice cream, hon­ey & mus­tard, or today’s fad, salt & caramel.

Ad Lib is fun & friend­ly & quirky (like many of our friends) so it’s the per­fect style to express the joy we get out of the var­i­ous peo­ple in our lives. Togeth­er, all those char­ac­ter­is­tics & per­son­al­i­ties & ages & eth­nic­i­ties add up to what is rep­re­sent­ed by our for­mal, yet still friend­ly, Goudy Old Style font: a trea­sure of fam­i­ly & friends that is PURE GOLD.

I could have dropped a shad­ow behind “Fam­i­ly & Friends” but chose to give it a gold­en glow instead. I did try a shad­ow behind the cut-​out let­ters and fig­ures — that made sense — but it was just too much. At least I tried.

A nice sur­prise was that the col­or and tex­ture I had already ren­dered as the back­ground, as well as the col­or for the cut-​out let­ter­ing and images, just hap­pened to already look like kraft paper (I remem­ber cut­ting the chains out of gro­cery bags) so I just left it alone. The back­ground was­n’t planned to resem­ble kraft (it was com­plet­ed before I got the idea for the paper peo­ple) but it was per­fect. Project finished.

*About the aster­isk after “…some fam­i­ly mem­bers just aren’t your friends!” —Mine are, always have been (except when we fought as kids, of course).

Dear Sub­scriber, thank you for being part of my Amper­Art family.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

May You & Your Fam­i­ly & Friends
enjoy each oth­er’s com­pa­ny with abound­ing, never-ending
Love & Joy 
this Thanks­giv­ing & through­out the Hol­i­day Season

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


Production notes for Family & Friends:
Original size: 20x30 inches
Program: Illustrator (abberrations removed in Photoshop)
Fonts: Goudy Oldstyle, Ad Lib
Ampersand: Goudy Old Style
Images for Family & Friends:
Paper People Chain: I credit these exceptional renderings to my inability to draw anything beyond a stick figure.
Paper texture background: pixe​den​.com
Quote “love overflows and joy never ends in a home that is blessed with family and friends”: author unknown, although this quote is ubiquitous in Google search results
Enjoy & share…

4 thoughts to “Family & Friends & Ampersands…our greatest holiday gifts”

    1. Oops…I for­got you’re a new­ly­wed. I should have list­ed you as Jeanette Y.
      (Why? Because you’re special!)
      What an incred­i­bly appro­pri­ate last name for you! Espe­cial­ly pre­ced­ed by your mid­dle name. You must always write it out in full!

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