Saturday, January 2, 2021

First Steps into Brushlettering


An encouraging verse to start the new year! 

In 2019, I made my first post on Instagram announcing that I was taking up some new hobbies: calligraphy and handlettering. Despite those bold claims, I made pathetically little progress in this ambition during that year. Every once in a while, I would pick up the brush pen that I had impulsively bought and try to form a few letters. Inevitably, I would become discouraged with how lopsided and uneven my letters looked and then abandon the project. Of course, my discouragement had not stopped me from pinning endless pictures of pretty projects on Pinterest and wishing the writing in my planner was more stylish.

Finally, last summer, with a shiny new subscription to blueprint (now Craftsy) in my hands, I decided to take this ambition more seriously. Fortunately for me, there were several classes on brush calligraphy and lettering and so I binge-watched course after course while procrastinating from my studies (For the record, I still passed my exam!).  It was useful to get a sense of the different approaches and styles to brush calligraphy. I discovered just how attached I am to my own style of handwriting when I found myself feeling surprisingly uneasy copying someone else’s lettering. I ended up picking and choosing the techniques I felt most comfortable with from the various instructors and cobbled together the lettering style that I am quite happy with.

Practise. Practise. Practise.

 This has become my favourite size to write - I find my lettering looks more natural. 

Like any new skill, I still need a lot more practice but I can definitely see myself continuing this. 

If you are flirting with the idea of trying brushlettering yourself but do not know where to begin, then these are the two courses that I started with:


Brush Pen Calligraphy Workshop by Sharisse DeLeon

Sharisse’s course was a short, breezy overview. She covered the basics from how to hold the pen to walking through the fundamental strokes (“thin up, thick down”). Her most useful segment, for me, was when she demonstrated the difference between brush calligraphy and cursive writing; in brush calligraphy, you are constantly lifting your pen to prevent the strokes from becoming too heavy. That was a revelation because I finally understood why I had been so dissatisfied with my early attempts – I had approached brushlettering like it was cursive writing using a fancy pen. Once I learned to give my letters “breathing room”, my attempts looked much more balanced. She ended the course with some neat techniques on how to do some basic flourishes and blend inks. I have not gotten around to trying them yet but I like the effects.


Brush Lettering: Cards, Envelopes & More by Krislam Chin

Krislam’s course was much longer, mainly because she took the time to demonstrate how to form every single letter in both upper and lower case. She was also more technical, explaining the different parts of letters (ie. Ascenders, base-line, x-line, etc.) and discussing elements of designing compositions (eg. spacing, hierarchy). Interestingly, in contrast to Sharisse’s teaching, Krislam tried to reassure the audience by saying that brushlettering is very similar to cursive writing. Krislam’s lettering style did have a more cursive writing “look” (if that makes sense) while I found Sharisse’s style more clean and open. However, I liked Krislam’s final projects better than Sharisse’s. They were bolder and more fun.

Of course, there are many, many other tutorials and resources out there (this is such a trendy thing nowadays) including many free videos on youtube. A quick peek around Pinterest will show you drills and worksheets galore. 

One of my goals for 2021 is to experiment with more styles and different techniques. It will be interesting to see how my lettering evolves. Onwards to a creative new year! 

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