Thursday, January 28, 2016

3 Lettering Tips for Beginners

This month I promised to bring more lettering-themed posts to the blog. So far I've shared my favorite supplies, how to prep gouache, and an upcoming chalk lettering challenge! Today I want to share a few tips for beginners which will hopefully help you on your lettering journey, regardless of which medium you use (markers, pointed pens, chalk, etc.).

Start small (and slow)

When you're first starting out, pick one medium and stick with it as you get the hang of forming the letters and creating shapes. I recommend starting with brush tip markers, like Tombow Duel Brush Pens or Artist's Loft Watercolor Duel Tip Markers. Or you can use some more simple tools, like pencils and pens, depending on the lettering style you're practicing. Mastering one medium first will help you build your skills and add different mediums in the future.

When you start lettering, take your time. Don't rush through forming the letters. Going slow will help you keep control of the tool you're using and the letter you are forming. Focus on the shape that you are drawing and how you want it to look.

Don't expect your lettering to look perfect from the get-go. Sometimes it takes a long time to get to where you want your lettering to be. Give yourself time to practice and master the art of forming letters. An easy way to do this is by focusing on forming one letter at a time and writing that letter over and over. As you practice a letter, you can determine what shape and style you like best.

Try different things

If you learned cursive in school, you probably learned the precise form for each letter. That is a great foundation for artistic lettering, but sometimes it's not the best way to shape or write letters. I've noticed as I've practiced modern calligraphy and other types of lettering that sometimes letters look better when they are formed differently. Don't be afraid to branch out and form your letters in new and different ways.

Also give yourself the freedom to try new products. I know I said stick with one lettering medium at first, but sometimes new products can help you improve. Try different types of paper, different brands, even different tools you've never tried. Variety in lettering keeps things interesting and fun.

Check out other people's work

I love following other typographers on Instagram. They give me daily inspiration, ideas, and motivation. I recommend finding and following several accounts that regularly post lettering in the styles you want to learn. If they have videos or blogs, check them out for tips and advice, as well as visual demonstrations of how they form their letters.

Following typographers on Periscope is another way to get new insight and also ask questions. Plus you can watch demonstrations, learn about different products, and network with other typographers. Once you find and follow one, it will be easy to discover more.

Got a question? Leave it in the comments below or tweet me @MrsEliseMance. Check back soon for more typography tips and tricks!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Join the Chalk Letter Challenge!

This month I've had a lot of fun practicing my brush lettering skills with the #BrushLetterPracticeChallenge hosted by letterer and Instagrammer Olivia. I love having a word already given to me that I can use for lettering practice. Sometimes I have a hard time thinking of good words to write, and this just makes it that much simpler.

Well, I decided to venture out into the world of creative challenges by making a challenge of my own! It's called the Chalk Letter Challenge and it's starting February 1!

One of the gifts I got for Christmas was The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering by Valerie McKeehan, and it has inspired me to work harder on my chalk designs. And that's where I got the idea for the Chalk Letter Challenge.

My hope in creating this challenge is to practice different styles of chalk lettering, and to also get creative with different design elements. And, I would LOVE it if you decided to join in! You don't have to have Val's book or fancy equipment or even an Instagram account. All you need is some chalk, a board, and the challenge prompts, which are below.

Here's how the Chalk Letter Challenge works: First, print or save the prompt image so you can access it quickly and easily each day. If you have Instagram, you can share the image by reposting it from my account, or by saving the image below on your phone and posting it on your account. Make sure to use the hashtag (#ChalkLetterChallenge) and tag me in the photo so I can follow your progress! If you don't have Instagram, you can leave a comment or shoot me an email to let me know you're joining in!

After that it's pretty simple. Each day there is a different word for you to practice. I tried to pick words that would be relevant to chalk lettering work, the season, and--in their entirety--include all the letters of the alphabet. After you've lettered your word, snap a photo and share it on Instagram with the hashtag! (Or share it on whatever social media site you like best.)

I will be following the hashtag and I would love to see your unique work and your progress. If you miss a day, no worries! February is going to be a really  busy month for me, so I will probably miss a day here and there too. You can absolutely use more than one prompt word in your design or catch up on missed words anytime.

My hope that we can share tips and tricks, and maybe I can get in some Periscope tutorials too! I'm definitely not a chalk expert, but I have been doing paid and unpaid chalk projects for a while and I would love to keep growing my skills. I hope you'll join me!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Lessons from the Crash Site

I'm the type of person that usually sees the worst in myself. I see all the times I get things wrong. I see my mistakes, my missteps, my unholiness. I think a lot of this comes from the way I grew up viewing God--that He was disappointed in me regularly because of my actions. Sometimes it's hard for me to see myself in any other way than where I've failed.

I'm thankful for the moments when I can see that God is working in me. Those are the moments I know I'm not seeing myself for myself. I'm seeing Him at work in me, changing my heart, and for that I am hugely grateful. I got a little glimmer of that this weekend when we got into a literal fender bender in the Costco parking lot.

There was an older gentleman who backed his SUV into ours. His was fine, but ours got a nice big dent in the front bumper. As soon as it happened I had this thought of, it's happened, our nice car has been damaged. And I waited for some feelings of anxiety or disappointment to set in.

I used to be a massively appearance-based person. I weighed most of my choices by how I would look, including in the areas of dating relationships, clothes shopping, and activities I would get involved in. It all came down to how I appeared. I thought if I surrounded myself with people and things that looked a certain way, I would subsequently appear how I longed to appear to others.

I wanted to look like I had it all together, like I drew in attractive people and had enviable relationships. I wanted it to look like I had nice things, a sense of style, maybe even some extra money. It's sad how my identity became wrapped up in something so silly as how I appeared to other people, never mind who I was underneath it all.

Thanks to the work of God in my life, I've begun to grow in that area. I've been learning about humility, thankfulness, and identity. But I fully expected--when I looked at the crunched metal of the car I drove regularly--to feel all those feelings of panic and frustration over marred appearances. But it was totally opposite, I didn't care at all. No one was hurt, it was just a thing. It was such a freeing feeling to not let the appearance of something affect me.

I don't know if God let the accident happen for that purpose or for multiple purposes. But I am thankful for the opportunity to see change in myself. I am thankful to continue learning lessons of value and worth, and what really matters. I'm thankful that there's hope to be found in the heart-changing work of Jesus. I'm thankful that He's not done with me yet.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Dreams + Why I'm Letting Mine Go

I've had this topic on my mind a lot lately, and I've wrestled with how to express it adequately. It's taken three attempts to finally come together, but I think it's been worth it.

What I want to write about and process in this space is the idea of dreams. Not the ones we have while asleep, but the ones we set up for ourselves--our hopes and goals and desires. The type of dreams people are always talking about in quippy quotes and profound statements. The ones that lead to us becoming the successful, respected, recognized person we want to be. The ones many people's worlds revolve around, even fellow Christians.

We've done a fantastic job of convincing ourselves that our dreams mean the world. And while having a dream or a desire isn't inherently bad, it can be  when we let it take the place of our true purpose and calling in life. In those times, dreams can quickly become a distraction and evolve into something worse, an idol. Dreams can lead us to a selfish place where the only thing that matters is me  and what I want.

I've felt convicted about my personal dreams and goals for years, ever since college when I felt an unmistakable call to realign my priorities. I've been feeling that nudge in little and big ways ever since. Sometimes it's a temporary situation--I need to set aside what I want in order to do something more important now. Other times it's bigger--I have to make a change that will affect the rest of my life. Always it's a wrestling, against myself and what I want. I'm good at doing what I want. Doing what I know I should do is harder.

But the truth is, our dreams should never become our ultimate goal in life. As great as we think they are, as good as they sound, as passionate as we are about them, they're not meant to be our ultimate priority. And while I do think we can honor God in our dreams and our hopes, He is the ultimate designer of our true purpose. In order to keep dreams from becoming idols, we have to fix ourselves on the long term goal of pursuing and fulfilling our ultimate purpose. Everything else will, in the end, be simply a temporary and empty pursuit.

It's hard to surrender the things we so desperately want to accomplish. It's hard to let go of a dream. But I think teaching ourselves to listen to the truth will help. This world we live in is constantly trying to tell us how to define our value and worth. But it's always about something that won't last: money or success or beauty or possessions, a dream. It's always something we have to fight for, even at the expense of relationships, community, and time. I think that this type of thinking is so ingrained in us, we can't see anything else.

I believe that if we got a one-second glimpse of what waits for us after this world, we'd never think about our dreams again. We wouldn't even care about the things we had built our lives around. Money would mean nothing, fame would seem ridiculous, success would be laughable. The temporary would dissolve into what we were truly made for, the purpose God has called us to on earth and what awaits us when this world is gone.

The awesome thing is, we do get a glimpse of what's to come in the book of Revelation. It's full of prophecy and imagery and honestly some really confusing parts. But it also gives us a picture of what it will be like when everything is made new. When we finally get to where we're headed on this journey, Revelation 21 tells us a piece of what awaits followers of Jesus: paradise with God, a place where we will worship Him and revel in His glory forever.

Glory. That word appears at least 16 times in Revelation, depending on your exact translation. The majority of these references are describing or ascribing to God. Verses like Revelation 4:9-11 which says,
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the One seated on the throne, the One who lives forever and ever, the 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne, worship the One who lives forever and ever, cast their crowns before the throne, and say: "Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created."
And Revelation 5:13-14,
I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: "Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.
I think if we look at heaven as described in Revelation, we can get a good idea of our ultimate purpose, what is waiting for us in eternity, and what we need to be doing before we get there. Also, there are other passages in Scripture that outline a clear and definitive purpose for us while we are on earth. Some of those include,

  • Matthew 5:13-16: To be salt and light to the world around you so that people will give glory to God.
  • Matthew 22:37-40: To love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love others.
  • Matthew 28:19-20: To make disciples, baptize them, and teach them everything commanded by Jesus.
  • Romans 12:1-2: To worship God by presenting yourself to Him as a living sacrifice. And to be transformed, able to discern the will of God.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18: To reflect the glory of God and be transformed into the image of Christ.
  • Ephesians 2:10: To carry out the good works that God has prepared for you.
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17: To become complete and equipped for good work, which will bring God glory.
  • Hebrews 10:24-25: To encourage other Christians and spur them on to love and good deeds.
  • 2 Peter 2:12: To conduct yourself in a way that will cause others to glorify God.

These are the things we should be striving after, that consume our efforts, that motivate our lives. This is where real, lasting worth lies. Not in our ideas of greatness, but in God's commands. This is the gold that will withstand the fire. This is the eternal that will not fade. This is our purpose.

The point of this post isn't to discourage you from having a dream and working toward it. The point is to remind those of us who follow Jesus that our dreams should align with our God-given purpose. In all that we do, we should be continually aligning ourselves with His will and plan for our lives. It will ultimately bring the most joy, the most purpose, the most good for us and for our world.

So I want to challenge myself and all of you: in 2016, set a dream for yourself that will bring God glory and usher you toward your true purpose.

Monday, January 4, 2016

How to Prep Gouache for Brush Lettering + Calligraphy

Today I'm sharing more about my typography techniques! If you missed my first post on lettering, check it out for a list of some of the supplies I use. In this post, I'll be sharing how to prep gouache (rhymes with squash), a form of opaque watercolor that can be used for both brush lettering and calligraphy. This post is the important next step before I move on into sharing specifics about lettering styles.

For this example, I prepped Winsor & Newton's Designers Gouache in Primary Blue. However, I typically use the less expensive Artist's Loft Gouache for practicing or personal projects. It works well and won't break the bank.

Step One: Assemble Supplies

When prepping gouache, you will need a small, deep container in which to mix, use, and store unused paint. I used a paint cup--about 3.5 oz in volume and about an inch deep--with a storage lid. I recommend using a small cup like this for a couple reasons. One, if your cup is too big, you will have either too-watery gouache or too much mixture, and to start, you don't need a lot of gouache mixture. Two, if your container is too shallow, you won't be able to properly dip and load your calligraphy nib.

You definitely don't have to buy paint cups to mix your gouache. You can use something small you have at home, like an empty Carmex lip balm jar. However, it is nice to have a container with a lid so you can store any unused mix until you're ready to letter again.

You will also need water, a small paintbrush for mixing (I prefer one with firm bristles), a paper towel for spills and cleaning, and either an eye dropper or straw for adding the water to the paint cup. (Or you can just stand at the sink and use a very fine trickle of water, but start the flow before putting the cup underneath.)

Step Two: Place Gouache in Cup

Measuring out the gouache is a process of estimation. When I first learned how to prep gouache, the instructor showed us a swirl of the paint in the cup and said that was how much we should add. My advice for first timers, start small. You can always add a little more if your mixture is too thin. I usually add about a "loop" of paint, as shown below.

Side note:  If I'm mixing different colors to create a custom shade, this is the point in the process where I do it. I typically will add a few small dollops of each color and blend with a paintbrush. When I reach the desired shade, I move on to step three. Keep in mind that the water will slightly lighten whatever color you use.

Step Three: Add Water to Cup

Use your eye dropper or straw to fill the cup 1/2 way to 3/4 of the way with water. Again, if this is your first time, you can start with less and add more as needed.

Step Four: Mix Gouache and Water with Paintbrush

Use the paintbrush to mix the gouache and water together, pressing down and stirring in a circular motion. Periodically you can pull the brush out to see if gouache is clinging to it. If it is, slide the brush over the rim of the cup to scrape the gouache off and continue mixing. Make sure to press the bristles into the edges where the bottom and sides of the cup meet as the gouache may gather there. The goal is to blend all the solid pieces of gouache into the water.

Your gouache is properly mixed when it is fully blended with the water and the consistency is similar to milk. This is a good consistency for calligraphy. It's a little thicker and remains on the nib. When I do brush lettering, I usually delude the mixture with more water.

Step Five: Store Unused Mixture

The great part about using a cup with a lid is that it's super easy to store your mixture, or take it on-the-go. If your mixture has been sitting for a little while, the gouache may begin to separate somewhat and settle at the bottom. Before you use it again, mix it up with your paintbrush. If it's getting stringy or solid, it's time to dump it and make some fresh!

If you have any questions about gouache prep, please leave them in the comments or tweet to me @MrsEliseMance. Next I will be covering some lettering techniques using prepped gouache so stay tuned!

Friday, January 1, 2016

My Favorite Lettering Supplies

I'm excited to kick off a new year with some new things, both in my Etsy shop and here on my blog! I love creating and sharing art, and I want to bring more of that into this blog. To start, I'll be diving into lettering and typography art!

People often ask me about my typography: is it hard to learn, how do you do it, what supplies do you use? In upcoming posts, I'll dive more into sharing the ins and outs of creating different types of lettering art. To start, I'm sharing some of my current favorite lettering supplies--a list that is subject to change because it's always fun to try new things!

My Favorite Lettering Supplies

1. Nibs: I'm currently using these Speedball Hunt Bowl Pointed Pen No. 512 Nibs. I like the fine tip for making delicate lines and the bowl shape to hold more ink. These nibs work well in my next favorite supply...

2. Oblique Nib Holder: After I got this Speedball Oblique Pen Point Holder, I never went back to my standard nib holder. The oblique holder puts the point of the nib at a better angle for writing delicate calligraphy at a slant.

3. Inexpensive "Practice" Gouache: I love using gouache for calligraphy and painted lettering. Gouache is a form of opaque watercolor. When you're learning and practicing, you may go through a decent amount of gouache, so I recommend snagging some less expensive tubes, like this set of 12 paints Artist's Loft.

4. Designer Gouache: For special projects and fancy occasions, you may want to invest in a high quality gouache like Winsor and Newton Designers Gouache. A great color is Jet Black, though they have lots of options.

5. Paint Cups: Gouache does take some prep work to make it the proper consistency for use in a calligraphy pen. These Artist Loft Plastic Paint Cups work great for prepping, using, and storing gouache. [In a future post I'll go over the steps for prepping gouache.]

6. Slim Round Paint Brush: I've been doing more brush lettering and my favorite bush to use is a size 1 round, like this one from Michael's. The slim, long bristles are good for creating thin and thick lines, depending on the angle and pressure you put on them.

7. Watercolor Markers: I started learning how to do modern calligraphy styles with duel tip watercolor markers. They can help you learn about how to apply pressure to create the shapes and lines you want for your lettering. My favorite ones to use are Tombow Duel Brush Pens which come in a wide variety of colors and sets.

8. Pad of Paper: I like mix media paper for everyday use with gouache and markers, two non-dry art mediums. I like this pad by Canson because it's a great size--not too small, not too big to take on-the-go--plus the pages are perforated for easy removal. If you're looking for a higher quality paper for special projects, I recommend an archival quality Bristol paper, like the Strathmore 500 series.

Other tools I use frequently include a ruler, ball bearing compass, scrap paper, cup of water, paper towels, pencil, and large eraser.

I'll be sharing more posts on lettering soon! If you have questions or certain things you want me to cover, please let me know. I firmly believe anyone can learn how to do different lettering techniques with patience and practice, so if you want to learn, now is the time!

Dressember: Week Four Recap

Dressember 2015 has come to an end, but it's still not too late to donate! The campaign will stay open until January 31. I've also extended my surprise thank-you gift incentive; for each donor who gives to my fundraiser throughout the month of January, I will send a gift! You can still help me meet my goal of $2,000--we're only $800 away! Plus, if you give $20+ and pick out a dress from the catalog, I will wear it!

In the mean time, check out week four's styles, stats, and dress sponsors! I am so thankful for everyone who has given to the campaign and supported me through their encouragement! I couldn't have done this without each one of you! While the campaign isn't technically over, I feel like it has been a success. Together we raised $194 more than last year and overall Dressember participants have raised over $862,000. Thank you so much for helping accomplish this!

Day Twenty-Two

About the look: This is dress L from the catalog, paired with an army green jacket, lettings, boots, and a belt.
Fundraising Stats: Total raised, $1,165.

Day Twenty-Three

About the look: This is the Dressember Dress, also in the catalog, layered with a black cardigan and ponte pants and paired with a grey scarf made by my friend and Dressember donor, Jessica!
Fundraising Stats: Total raised, $1,165.

Day Twenty-Four

 About the look: This is dress B from the catalog, paired with a printed cardigan, leggings and boots.
Fundraising Stats: Total raised, $1,165.

Day Twenty-Five

 About the look: For a fun, Christmas Day look, I styled dress H from the catalog with a red plaid scarf, leggings, boots, and a baby Christmas tree.
Fundraising Stats: Total raised, $1,165.

Day Twenty-Six

About the look: On day 26, my mom wore a dress with me so I invited her to join me in the photo! I wore dress E from the catalog, paired with a cardigan, ponte pants, boots, and a scarf. My mom wore a gingham shirt dress layered over a lightweight turtle neck tee and leggings with boots.
Fundraising Stats: Total raised, $1,165.

Day Twenty-Seven

About the look: This is dress I from the catalog, layered with a burgundy cardigan, leggings and boots.
Fundraising Stats: Total raised, $1,165.

Day Twenty-Eight

 About the look: This snow day outfit is dress F from the catalog, paired with a cowl neck sweatshirt, leggings, boots, hat, and coat..
Fundraising Stats: Total raised, $1,165.

Day Twenty-Nine

Dress sponsor: Beth
 About the look: This dress was selected from the catalog (option C) by my friend Beth. Day 29 was also her birthday--happy birthday, Beth! I styled the dress with a cardigan, which you can't see under my coat, and added a scarf, ponte pants, and boots.
Fundraising Stats: Total raised, $1,165.

Day Thirty

About the look: This is dress A from the catalog, paired with a scarf, leggings, knee-high socks, and boots.
Fundraising Stats: Total raised, $1,165.

Day Thirty-One

Dress sponsor: Julie
 About the look: This dress was selected from the catalog (option K) by my friend Julie. I styled today's dress with a cardigan, ponte pants, and booties.
Fundraising Stats: Total raised on day 31, $25. Grand total, $1,190.

Dressember 2015 Overall Stats

Grand Total Raised as of Jan. 1: $1,200
Total Unique Donors: 20
Percent of Goal Raised: 60%
Average Gift per Donor: $60
Visit my campaign page or make a donation.
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