Lou Collins shares the secrets of how she learned hand lettering

21 May 2019 0 Comments Feature, Interview

There is just something almost magical about opening a letter and revealing a handwritten note, isn’t there? It’s something I see so rarely, and exactly the reason I wanted to delve into the world of hand lettering.

When I first began exploring brush lettering, and all its other avenues, I soon came to realise that to learn the art, I would be starting a brand new skill from scratch. My current handwriting, atrocious as it was, would be irrelevant. I would be going back to doing basic upstrokes, downstrokes and curves. Teaching myself once again, how to carefully form each letter, and then how to connect those letters into words. It was almost a second chance at a skill I never quite grasped at at school, and I was more than excited.

With lettering of all styles around; modern brush lettering, calligraphy and even 3D lettering and typography, I had a lot to learn, but it was the brush pen lettering that initially caught my eye, and in all honesty, looked to be the simplest to master in the beginning. I think I spent more time saving pretty pictures of lettering that I hoped to be able to achieve in the future, rather than actually learning. I was nervous, i’ll admit, but I knew eventually I had to pick up one of those 50 new pens I had bought, and choose one of my eight new paper pads and just get practising.

So I did.

As with anyone teaching themselves a new skill, I maybe did not learn the orthodox way, but I got there eventually. I went straight in for the word ‘hello’ and then my name, and then my children’s names, and this went on for a few weeks, until I could not work out why I was suddenly not progressing any further. I looked at other people’s work, I thought I was doing everything correct, thick downstrokes and light upstrokes, but something wasn’t clicking.

You can find a template from Lou Collins to help you make this design in our free downloads

It was then that I put my pens down for a few weeks. I  almost decided I just was not cut out for this lettering thing, until I happened to catch a video of a well-known artist doing her practise strokes. Now this lady is amazing at lettering, she has been doing it for years, and yet she still feels the need to go back to the beginning? It made me think and it was then that I released that I should not have skipped that initial stage of learning the basic movements, and as one last attempt, I went back to the drawing board, or note paper, and began the ever-so-important process of working slowly through those few simple thick and thin strokes, making my curves perfect and flowing from an upstroke to a downstroke and then back again. I made sure I did this for a week without even attempting a letter. Not even that ‘hello’ again. After this time I went back through the alphabet letter by letter, and I repeat this process even now, before every lettering session – some days this is all I will do. It’s like trying to go for a run without warming up otherwise. You’ll just stumble and wonder why you just can not reach anywhere near your personal best.

So after I had found my way again, and started enjoying and actually progressing, there was no stopping me! I would write on walls before I decorated them, on sandy beaches, on frosty windows. I had learnt a new skill I was proud of, and not only that, I was still developing this every single day.

It has always been in me to teach what I know, and share any knowledge I gain, so I then wanted to make this process easier for others. It was with this idea I was fortunate enough to have been given the chance to develop some beginners’ tools specifically for brush lettering. You’d think this would be it. End goal reached and proud as punch! Yes, and no. At least I thought so until I discovered this new Simply Lettering magazine was being planned, and I was asked to be involved. What better way to share what I have learnt, and still have an excuse to browse gorgeous artists work and try out amazing new techniques?

I am quite literally living my dream at the moment, and can honestly say it comes down to having that little bit of patience and perseverance in the beginning. Any form of lettering is going to be a little more difficult than it looks at first, and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. You will need to build up new muscle memory in your hands and wrists, but it is so, so worth it. So now I can create those beautiful cards with personalised sentiments, but yes, my everyday handwriting is still absolutely terrible!

Lou shares her love and knowledge of lettering in every issue of Simply Lettering magazine as our Commissioning Editor. Don’t miss out, subscribe today!




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