Handlettering: The Art of Illustrating

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Illustrated handlettering has been an on-going trend. From chalked menu boards in cafes, to festive cards on Pinterest, Handlettering, which people often tend to overlook, is not to be mistaken with Calligraphy.
As mentioned in my previous post, I will be conducting a Handlettering Workshop (click here to sign up/find out more). To fully understand the topic, I decided to interview some really talented people in the industry who illustrate for a living. I hope their answers inspire you as much as they have inspired me!


Left: Handlettering
Right: Not so well done calligraphy (sorry)
Designs by Manda Olivia 
(#mandasketchbook on ig)

What is Handlettering? Handlettering refers to printing letters on paper by hand. In some sense, it is a form of illustration because it serves as penning down graphics. It proves a form of knowledge in layouting. This form of mark making takes a different set of skills when compared to calligraphy.
Calligraphy takes 1 brush, 1 hand and some colour liquid. Handlettering, however, hones a different set of talent that infuses creativity and daringness. In the same way, handlettering is like illustrating. You, technically, become (in simplest terms) an illustrator of words.

Artists & Illustrators- To fully understand the meaning of Illustrating, I took it to some very talented people in the industry - Beverley Ng, Lesley Tang, Lost & Found Creatives, - to ask them questions like what illustration means to them, how it's applicable to our context today, etc. I must say that I've learnt so much after talking to them, and I hope you'll be as inspired to do create something too!

       
Left to Right:



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1.

To start off:
W H Y  /  I L L U S T R A T E?

Illustration Handlettering by Manda Olivia
(#mandasketchbook on ig)

What is Illustration - Illustration is the concept of "penning down your thoughts from ink to paper". It can be drawing objects or letters. Christina Wong (@lostandfoundcreatives), Lost & Found Creatives, describes it as the most human form of facilitating love and warmth on a piece of paper, especially when it is on greeting cards.  
Illustrating = Drawing. It brings out a sort of personal voice, as opposed to the normal graphic design which may come off as rigid. Most importantly, it is unique to an individual. "Everyone illustrates differently, even if it is the same subject." Through an illustration you can always sense that a part of the illustrator’s character and personality is in it too. That is how a style is born. 
Now that we've got that cleared, let's move on to:
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2. 

Find your voice
F I N D / a / S T Y L E :


Illustration by Beverley Ng

A style, as mentioned, is your voice. It's your personal liking translating into what you've created. It's also the things you see, do and feel. These things affect your design style. For Beverley (@bev.gif), it was rock music and the alternative lifestyle. 


Christmas Cards ('14) by Lost & Found Creatives

Experimenting with different techniques also helps a lot with finding a style. Christina mentions that her style is ever changing but what she finds consistent is trying new things and breaking her own limits. She then cites that Lost and Found Creatives' first Christmas collection was inspired by a sudden thought of “what if we translated Christmas food into Christmas design?”. That is how you find a new style.



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3. 

Illustrate
J U S T / a b o u t / A N Y T H I N G :

Illustrations by Lesley Tang

Lesley Tang (@yelselogy) illustrates skeletons, melting bodies, sea creatures and gross skin textures. Yes, you should illustrate anything. In some sense, it helps you pin point your likes and dislikes. Thus, creating your own style.
As agreed by Beverley and Lesley, the bottom line, still stands at how illustration is meant to be "expressive" and "freeing".


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4. 

Handlettering
W O R D S / i n / I L L U S T R A T I O N : 



Illustration Handlettering by Manda Olivia


"C'est la vie" in cursive handwritten script lettering - I've seen too many instagram accounts with that. Once in awhile, I'm guilty of penmanship scripting too. We do it because it makes something so much more "personal", as mentioned by Christina. "No same letter is the same yet they all come together looking like a fine piece of art on its own." 
Taking it one step further, Handlettering is not the same as scripting. Scripting is penmanship which you use a brush or a fine tip with ink. Handlettering involves a uniball and paper, a squirt bottle of pancake mix, a tree branch with sand or anything else you can create letters with. Think san serif vs serif fonts and creating layouts with a mathematical compass. It's an exhilarating process. Slightly slower than scripting, but still very accomplishing.




















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5. 

What to do with your work then after
F I N D / a / C O M M U N I T Y :  

Illustrated cards are a good way of showing love. One of the most inspiring things to hear from my interview with Beverley & Lesley is that they pop up at the occasional art markets to sell their prints. Art markets are a way to "meet not only the people who appreciate and support your work", but also "to build a community of fellow artists while (possibly) trading your work with theirs". 

"Being part of this kind of network is really helpful because it gives you chances to collaborate and exchange ideas with like-minded people."
 

-- Lesley Tang



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 x

All in all, Handlettering is the art of illustrating your thoughts. They always say introverts write better than they speak. Over the years, illustrating pictures/letters have become my own personal voice. I'm not sure if it's something for you, but it's worth experimenting on, eh?
Now, go on & go forth.

Special Thanks to: Bev, Lesley and Christina for doing the interviews with me :) You guys are so inspirational. Continue the fantastic work x