5 Things Hand-Lettering Taught Me!

This December marks about a year since I started learning hand-lettering (or calligraphy, to use the term loosely). I can't remember exactly when I started, but I do remember my mum getting me a set of nibs just before Christmas 2014, and me experimenting with them on our Christmas cards. I wouldn't say the year since then has brought leaps and bounds in progress, but I've learnt a lot-- both in technique, and in life.

#1 Practice

Ironically, this was number one on the last Lessons post I did too. Either I haven't internalised the lesson or this is just so applicable across the board! Flipping through the various notepads and scrap paper I used to scribble on, it is so visible at a glance how my penmanship has improved. Sometimes the learning curve is jagged. Using a new brush can take me back to step zero before I learn how to use it well. Hand-lettering when I am tired has been proven to be a bad idea- I cannot hold the pen steady, I get lazy with strokes, et cetera. But on the whole, it is very fulfilling to look through these roses of yesterday and feel so very consciously how far time can take you- especially since I tend to doodle whatever is on my mind, so my state of mind and worries are very visible from the practice pages!

#2 Adventure

This is about not being afraid to try new things. I still get too crazy when I see new brushes in the stores. (This is probably bad for my wallet.) But, even with the brushes I have, I like to scroll through Pinterest and Instagram to get inspiration of new hand-lettering styles to try. Hand-lettering for a year has taught me that I do have a style I fall back on when casually doodling, but it has also taught me that my hand can learn new styles as long as my brain is up to it! Sometimes this involves practising writing a single letter differently; sometimes this involves going crazy on flourishes (which I haven't mastered yet, sadly and frustratingly); and sometimes this involves totally changing the picture and writing in completely different handwriting. Some of these adventures have incorporated themselves into my fallback style, which is fun to watch.

#3 Mistakes

I've learnt to go with the flow a lot more with hand-lettering. Sometimes, a little quiver can really make a piece! This was especially so every time I tried a new brush and wasn't used to controlling it. I'd shake a little, or apply a little less or more weight than I ought to, and the words would come out differently. But sometimes these mistakes really make the words turn out more beautifully than even I intended- and ironically, I'd try to make the mistake intentionally the next time round!

#4 Patience

Closely linked to practice, but not quite: this is more about learning to go really slow when writing. I used to rush. Sometimes I still do, when I'm frustrated, or when I've an idea in my head which I cannot wait to execute. But I have learnt (and I thank Instagram videos a lot for this) that sometimes, the best-paced pieces- those where the words fall together nicely, where there are flourishes which just flow perfectly- take time to do. Sometimes you have to lift your pen off the page and pause and reassess. Sometimes you take really long just to write one short word! And that's okay. In fact, that's great.

#5 Share

The final lesson I learnt is super important. I don't hesitate to credit a lot of my learning to Instagram users who, apart from posting really inspirational masterpieces, also were very forthcoming in answering questions and imparting advice to amateurs like myself. These ranged from the very Beginner-type questions ("what kind of brush pens would you recommend for someone just starting out?") to the community kind ("where did you find this in Singapore?"). A lot of times, it's just, "What pen are you using?" And watching others use the same instruments you have, but in wholly different and amazing ways, is crazily inspirational as well.

5 Amazing Instagrammers to Follow

  1. @artsynibs
  2. @sowinlove
  3. @theletterbelle
  4. @amandaarneill
  5. @jennyhighsmith

Another side to sharing- sharing your journey with those who are on the same page, or just starting out, too. I'm learning a lot from chatting with friends who are similarly trying out hand-lettering. And now, I'm hoping to learn more by setting down these lessons on a page. 

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