I'm not quite sure exactly when my love affair began with letters, but it was definitely before I called it "calligraphy". In grade school I remember learning cursive and becoming OBSESSED. I would write words in cursive and practice my signature for hours. In middle school, I began to notice my classmates' differences in their handwriting and began trying to write my notes in their handwriting style. Pretty typical middle school, just trying to fit in. I eventually found a handwriting style that worked for me, and stuck with it.
Fast forward about 10 years, and I'm a recent art school graduate that happens to be obsessed with Pinterest. Calligraphy and hand lettering are on-trend and I want in. I found a site called Skillshare, which is an awesome place where you can learn from artist professionals around the globe on topics like design, photography, crafts, and lettering. I joined Mary Kate McDevitt's Skillshare class called Hand Lettering Essentials for Beginners. One exercise she suggested, which I really liked, was tracing printed alphabets. This gave me a better understanding of each letter of the alphabet and how exactly it's shaped. I was so impressed by her work and tried it out myself. Here is the first piece I ever did...*GULP*...
We all start somewhere! Strangely enough, two days after I created "The World is Beautiful", my boyfriend proposed!!
Now that I was an ENGAGED, Pinterest obsessed woman, I really wanted to get good at lettering! I continued taking classes on Skillshare including Introduction to Modern Calligraphy from Molly Jacques (which by the way doesn't even exist anymore!), and Lettering for Designers by Jessica Hische.
Throughout the planning of my wedding, I continued practicing lettering and took my lettering supplies with me everywhere. I tried out lots of different tools including brush pens, pointed pens, chalkboard writing, and watercolor brushes. When you're first starting out I think it's really important to try everything and see what you're really drawn to. In this stage, I realized I wasn't feeling very connected to hand lettering, which is the art of drawing and sketching letterforms. I was more intrigued by calligraphy, which is the art of writing beautifully.
I took a few more Skillshare classes, this time focusing on calligraphy. Waterbrush Lettering Essentials by Teela Cunningham and Pen and Ink Calligraphy: The Art of the Envelope by Bryn Chernoff. I also took an in-person calligraphy class, Flourish: A Modern Calligraphy Workshop, taught by Angela from Saffron Avenue.
By this time, I was completely hooked. Over the next year or so, I continued practicing - trying new tools, materials, and styles of writing. I began following other calligraphers and letterers, and getting inspired by their work and picking up tips and tricks along the way.
It wasn't until two years after writing that first quote that I actually felt like I had a unique style and could sell my calligraphy services. I remember hearing this same thing from Molly Jacques that it took her about two years before she felt "good enough" and I thought that was a crazy-long time. But, it really is a time-intensive craft. Repetition is key and it's the only way to get better. It doesn't matter how many online classes you watch, you won't get better unless you're doing it.
Even now, I have so much more to learn! I am constantly challenging myself and finding new tools or techniques to try. Most recently, my husband gifted me an iPad Pro and it is the coolest thing since sliced bread (he's so awesome). It is completely unlimited possibilities at my fingertips. Getting inspired by new tools and materials is what gets me re-invigorated the same way I was when I first started on this lettering journey over three years ago.
Are you interested in learning calligraphy?
I'll be teaching a brush lettering workshop at Camp Bar in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin on Wednesday, October 17th!