Calligraphy 101: Lowercase Letters

So you’ve been practicing your basic strokes and you’re ready to move on to actual lettering! Let’s do baby steps: this week, it’s time to focus on lowercase letters.

If you’re joining me for the first time, this is Part 2 of a short series in which I curate the best of the best lettering resources for beginners. See Part 1 here: The Basic Strokes. I know you’re busy; I’m busy, too. But I promise it is so worth it to have a creative outlet to escape from that busy lifestyle, if only for ten minutes. In this series, I will provide no more than 5 resources that you can consume at work, at home, or anywhere in between. Let your new hobby begin!

Resource #1: Loveleigh Loops

This is a pretty long video, but an informative one. It shows you how to build a lowercase letter from the basic strokes. If you’re practicing at work or while the baby is sleeping, you could put this video on mute and start at 1:37. Take note of the building blocks of each letter, then see how she lefts her pen/pauses between each stroke in order to perfect the letter. 

***Bonus Resource: @loveleighloops on Instagram***

Twins Jillian and Jordan have a ton of good information on their Instagram feed. Search #loveleighlessons to see their instructional information, or just scroll through their feed to see videos and tips! (This is not a paid advertisement. I just appreciate good information.)

Resource #2: The Lemonade Store

I’ve already said it once: I love lettering with fat Crayola markers. I think they’re the best beginner calligraphy tool–as well as my preferred “brush” lettering tool. This video is much shorter than the Loveleigh Loops one, but it doesn’t break down the letter by basic strokes. This is a good one for those of you who just want a fast(er) overview of lettering each of the lowercase letters. 

Resource #3: Stephen Bradbury Design

Stephen’s lettering style is a bit different from modern calligraphy, but some of you may like to try it. This style is like when calligraphy meets graffiti. I love it!

Resource #4: One Artsy Mama – Free Lettering Practice Sheets

(Image from One Artsy Mama)

There are a ton of lettering practice sheets and workbooks that you can buy through artists’ websites  and Etsy stores. I wanted to find something free, though.  On this page, you can print off free practice sheets and letter directly on the page, or use tracing paper to letter over the page.

Disclaimer: The sheets that you can purchase have more information about the motions of lettering, and how to go about drawing each letter. With this free one, you’ve got to be aware of how the basic strokes fit in yourself.  

Resource #5: My Stories @nerdladydraws!

OK, shameless plug here. But really, I was trying to find more lowercase lettering sources and found them all boring, repetitive, or incomplete. Keep an eye out on my Instagram stories @nerdladydraws over the next few weeks for quick videos on how to letter each of the lowercase letters with the basic strokes. If you miss anything, I’ll save each video in my story highlights.

In these videos, I’ll use a different color for each stroke so that you can see how to build each letter. They will be muted so that you can watch them when you’re supposed to be quiet (because otherwise you’ll here my child screaming or the latest Hallmark movie I’m watching). 

That’s it! Now go practice lettering! Let me know how you’re doing by commenting below or finding me on Instagram @nerdladydraws! 

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Persist.

Hey, you.

Yes, you.

I see you.

I see you working your ass off, doing your research, doing all the things, staying up late and waking up early. I see that you’re still waiting. I am, too.

And I’m telling you, persist. Because the struggle is where all the fun is.

You got this.

And even if you don’t, have as much fun as you can fighting for it.

Oh, the things you can do with ten minutes!

“I wish I could do that.” It’s the most common phrase I hear from friends when I show off my latest lettering project. There’s part of me that wants to hold on to this thought and think I am special and gifted and talented… But I would be lying. Because the truth is, this is a skill, and I practice a lot. I know for a fact that I’m not talented—the pieces by those who have true talent are miles ahead of any of my work—but I do know that I am committed. And that I can get quite obsessed. So when I tell my friends that they can do it, they always come back with the second most common phrase I hear: “Yeah, but I don’t have time.” Here’s the thing. You do have time. I started lettering because after about 8 months of breastfeeding and pumping to Netflix, I got tired of passively absorbing information. I needed to do something. So I started watching lettering videos and tutorials. I started applying what I learned in any spare time I could find: in the 5 minutes it would take for my husband to change a diaper, during a test I was administering at school, while my kid was slowly learning how to hold a yogurt melt and start feeding herself. What started off as just a few minutes a day developed into an obsession. During those mundane periods of my day, when I would usually spend scrolling through social media, I started watching tutorials and practicing. And it all started with just giving myself ten minutes a day. Ten minutes to myself. Ten minutes to work on something for me. For me, those ten minutes became thirty, and eventually turned into an obsession that could keep me up all night. I have loved developing my skills. I can now look back on pieces from a year ago and cringe with a smile… I was proud of what I could do then, but I have grown so much.  I mean, look at this before and after for proof: And it wasn’t talent. It was simply finding those ten minutes every day to practice, and sticking to it. You have ten minutes. Hell, if you don’t have ten minutes, you’ve at least got some passing time that you’re wasting away scrolling through social media and getting angry at the news. How about spending that time watching tutorials on mute and learning to create something positive for the world? Today, I want you to think about something that makes you say, “I wish I could do that.” And I want you to give yourself ten minutes to try it out. Not just today. But tomorrow and the next day and the next. Do it when you notice your thumb scrolling up your screen, searching for some new bland piece of information for your brain to grasp. Do it when you’re browsing through Netflix, hunting for the next show that will change your life. Do it when you run away to a corner of the house to hide from your kids and your spouse for just ten minutes to get your sanity back (oh, wait, is that just me?). It took me a whole summer to really get myself into the habit of developing my skills every day and see myself growing as an artist. And it took a lot of support from my friends and the Instagram lettering community. Find your people. Tell them what you’re working on. And start working. Keep at it and watch yourself grow. So here’s the challenge: Find that one thing that you can learn, practice, and grow in. That thing that makes you go “Man, I wish I could do that.” And make yourself do that thing from now until Christmas. And add me to your team of cheerleaders. Because I believe in you. You can do that. Let me know how you’re doing by commenting here on my blog, or tagging me on Instagram @nerdladydraws. I’m here to pump you up and say OMG THAT IS SO AMAZING as you go about your journey. Y’all. This gets me excited. Can you imagine what you can do with just ten minutes a day? Leave a comment and tell me what you’ve always wanted to do!

September Highlights

Greetings, nerds!

I’ve been listening to a lot of Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger Podcast lately. She’s got a personable voice and five minutes of it are more engaging than the other business/creative podcasts I’ve tried. (Also, if you know any business/creative podcasts that are actually fun to listen to, could you comment with a suggestion? I’m looking for more, but everything I’ve tried has bored me on my commute.) She’s inspired me to take on a new goal for this venture of mine: expanding beyond Instagram, because that algorithm cannot be trusted.

She’s all about mailing lists and email newsletters as a more trustworthy way of reaching one’s audience. Honestly, I don’t have the time to figure that out right now or to add it to all my other practices. So I’m going to focus on using my blog as another way of reaching people and spreading the nerdiness.

At the end of each month, I’d like to give you a few highlights: my favorite projects from the month, features of some cool pieces that I’ve seen from others during those hours I spend scrolling on Instagram, and an update on my reading life. You can always see me gushing about all of these on my Instagram feed and stories, but it’s so easy to lose it all in the algorithm. This is a more dependable way of keeping you up to date.

If you signed up for email updates — YAY, YOU! Thanks for being awesome! If you haven’t, the link is in the right column –>

And remember, you can always find me on Instagram @nerdladydraws. Let me know if you found me through this blog and we can be friends, like, NOW!

Enough blabbing! Here are September Highlights:

My Favorite Projects

#1: Acrylic Boards

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I added custom acrylic board lettering to my Etsy shop this month! I love the clear, glossy look that gives these handlettered pieces a level of sophistication.

#2 Nursery Decor

 

Two of my friends asked me to create canvas pieces for their kids. It started with a quote and vague ideas, and we worked together to make these beauties happen! I love collaborating to make pieces that I never could have dreamed of on my own!

#3 Library Art

 

My school librarian and I teamed up to decorate the library. She provided the words and chalkboards, and I lettered them. Can’t wait to do more pieces this year!


Featured Pieces by Fellow Insta-Artists

I love sharing work by fellow creatives. The images should have hyperlinks straight to these artists’ profiles. Check them out!

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My Reading Life

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I’ve gotten into a habit of reading 3 things at once: a physical book for in-class reading, an e-book for when I’m sitting in the dark and putting my daughter to sleep, and an audiobook for my commute. It’s made reading feel more like consuming my favorite TV shows, in a good way. It takes longer to finish a book, and I tend to finish all of them at the same time, giving me a bit of a literary hangover in which I binge on podcasts and Netflix until I’m ready to dive back into books.

This month, I’m in progress… I’ve been reading The Silkworm and The Astonishing Color of After as e-books, and Fahrenheit 451 as a physical book. I finished Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt as an audiobook (LOVED hearing him read it himself — it made the story that much more meaningful) and started The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Angela’s Ashes was Book #21 of the year! I think I’ll actually make it to 25 books for the first time since before my child was born!


Well, that’s it for now, friends! Let me know how your nerdy adventures are going by sharing your favorite podcasts, favorite artist accounts, or your most recent reads in the comments! I’m always on the lookout for new stories and art to consume. Until next time, stay nerdy, my friends!

Regeneration Speeches for Humans

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I finally watched Capaldi’s final episode. Although I liked his quirky personality, I never quite warmed up to his series because of the storylines. Regardless, I still got a little teary-eyed in his final moments.

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Doctor Who does such a good job of giving each actor a dignified farewell with a speech that fits his personality and appearances from each of his companions. It’s always a painful farewell.

In the past, I thought this is a bit odd, considering the character of the Doctor is technically just changing in appearance. But as this was a year of many farewells and changes for me, I finally understood why the Doctor experiences such anguish as he changes form.

We often think of change as something that happens outside of ourselves: new job, new school, new friends, new house. But with every major life change, we also say goodbye to who we were during that stage of our life. The phase with Converse shoes ends to welcome the bow tie, which eventually gives way to sunglasses and a guitar.*

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Although it’s exciting to think of the new things we will experience in every new stage of our lives, I don’t know if we quite give the time and reflection it takes to say goodbye to who we were. Because that person, with their experiences and relationships, was a pretty amazing person, too. The exciting new things to come shouldn’t make us forget or devalue who we were during each of our early stages.

In Capaldi’s final episode, the Doctor held on. He didn’t want to regenerate. He didn’t want to let go. And when he finally did, he gave himself a most glorious speech: a reminder of everything he learned, everything he wanted his next self to hold dear.

And with that speech, he was finally able to let go and make the change.

When I made all my big changes this summer, I took a lot of time to say goodbye to my colleagues, my students, my school, my house–everything and everyone except myself. I was really proud of the person I had become in that stage of my life. I deserved a goodbye.

In August, I had a rocky start to my new stage. Now I think it was because I hadn’t fully let go. I hadn’t given myself a worthy goodbye. I didn’t give the person I was give her final farewell speech, give her advice to me, and say goodbye on her own terms.

I’m going to take a page from the Doctor’s book and give time to value who I was in my last stage of life. I’m going to let that person give her farewell and her advice for me as I embrace my new role. And with that, I hope to be able to move forward confidently into the new person that I will become. 

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Do you think you give yourself enough time to reflect on yourself before you move on to new stages in life? Comment below with lessons you’ve learned in your early stages that you still hold on to!

 

——-

*Ten, Eleven, and Twelve’s iconic accessories, respectively.

Both handlettering pieces in this entry are original pieces by me! They were done digitally using the Procreate app. See more of my work on Instagram @nerdladydraws.

My Literary Whiteboard Lettering Project: Spring Semester and Final Reflections

I started off the 2017-2018 school year frustrated and motivated–a dangerously good place to be. I was frustrated because the current trend in language arts education seems to be moving away from literature. Nonfiction is more valuable in the real world, they say. It probably is, but I like fiction.

I was motivated, though, after attending a conference featuring the English teacher gods, Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. Gallagher, especially, was arguing for the value of fiction and literature. He proposed daily book talks and reading time to allow kids to build on their reading skills. Prepared for the usual teacher counterargument of “But we never have time,” Gallagher and Kittle even shared a daily time plan that outlined exactly how to make it work.

Gallagher and Kittle’s plan went something like this (sorry, I’m currently moving into a new home and my conference notes are packed away in a box somewhere):

  1. Opening 2 minutes: Book Talk
  2. 10 minutes of Self-Selected Reading Time (Students read independently while the teacher has private reading conferences with individual students, coaching them through their texts)
  3. Work on the current unit in 10-minute chunks of lecture, discussion, and independent work time
  4. Final 2 minutes: Share a strong sentence or excerpt written by a student.

I felt vindicated because they vouched for poetry and fiction in a modern world. I felt empowered because they gave me a plan to make it work. So I tried it out for a year. I edited it a bit to make it work for me, and to build in one of my new hobbies: handlettering. Going into the 2017-2018 school year, my goal was to start each day with a handlettered quote to start a book talk, then go into at least 10 minutes of reading time a day. I wanted to expose the kids to as many books from different time periods, genres, and types of writers as possible. I wanted to encourage reading, and I wanted to show my administration that fiction does matter.

I logged my lettered quotes on Instagram for a while, using the hashtag #literarywhiteboardlettering. I also kept a log on this blog, as well. I wasn’t really consistent with how I formatted the Instagram log and blog entries… that wasn’t the point. If you missed my earlier blogs on my Literary Whiteboard Lettering project, here they are:

And here’s my final set of literary whiteboards for the 2017-2018 year. I tried to mix it up with canon texts, fun reads, and necessary books for modern readers in a global, political world. I gave a few more book talks than this (e.g., Ready Player One; The Hate U Give; Love, Hate, and Other Filters), but spring semester got hectic and I didn’t have time to letter it all in the morning before class started. For the sake of avoiding information overload, I’ll restrain from giving synopses here. Check out these awesome books if these quotes entice you!

Day 61: Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

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Day 62: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)

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Day 63: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

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Day 64: Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)

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Day 65: Every Day (David Levithan)

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Day 66: Stardust (Neil Gaiman)

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Day 67: Author Feature – Rainbow Rowell

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Day 68: Julius Caesar (William Shakespeare)

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Day 69: A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)

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Day 70: The Tempest (William Shakespeare)

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Day 71: Othello (William Shakespeare)

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Day 72: Medea (Euripides)

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Day 73: Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)

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Day 74: American Gods (Neil Gaiman)

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Day 75: The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt)

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Day 76: Animal Farm (George Orwell)

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Day 77: All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque)

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Day 78: Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

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Day 79: Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)

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Details: All of these were done on whiteboards, using Expo or some other whiteboard marker brand. Most of the lettering varied from 2-4 feet (0.6-1.2m) in length and width, with the exception being the Goldfinch quote. That one was on a ten foot whiteboard wall. I completed all of these in whatever time I had in the morning before class started. Sometimes that was 30 minutes; usually, it was only 10 minutes.

You’ll probably notice a bit of a trend as you go through the school year. My compositions got really intricate and experimental during periods when I didn’t have many assignments to grade or my administration decided not to have so many meetings… and then at the end of the year, things got pretty simplistic and I started relying on my regular handwriting. At first, I hated that I was “giving up” on my handlettering goal, but then I had to remind myself that that wasn’t the point. The point was to give my kids a chance to hear some cool stories, and inspire them to read. And I think it worked.

I saw ninth graders who challenged themselves with Jekyll and Hyde, Catcher in the Rye, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes, and The Great Gatsby. I saw kids who went out of their comfort zones, and others who were just trying to get at least one book read. I saw myself growing as a reader and a teacher. I wasn’t able to keep up with reading conferences this year, so instead, I decided to read with them and share my reading journey with them. I felt better as a teacher because, for at least 12 minutes a day, I was doing what made me want to become an English teacher in the first place: escaping into other worlds through the pages of a book… before I had to snap back into the reality of being an English teacher in Texas in 2018.

I have 180 school days in a year. I didn’t have a book talk every day. I didn’t have SSR (self-selected reading) every day. I only got 44% of my goal, maybe 47% if you give me a little grace for a few book talks without lettered quotes. But this is where math doesn’t really help me.

I’d rather look at it as 79 days I hit my goal. Seventy-nine days of reading and talking about books that I didn’t give myself before. Seventy-nine days when I got a little closer to the English teacher I wanted to be when I started teaching.

This next year’s going to be a bit more challenging for me. I’ll be teaching 10th and 11th grade, the years that mostly focus on nonfiction. I’m also starting at a new school… so I’ll be the new kid all over again. I’ve already told my team lead that I would like to continue my book talks and SSR time. I need it. It has helped me focus my classroom, and has even given me new energy to read for myself. I hope I’ll be able to keep it going during the nonfiction years. I think I can.

5 Instagram Accounts to Improve Your Handlettering Game

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I realize I sound a little snooty when I say I’m a “self-taught artist.” But the truth is, I’m cheap. I’ve seen plenty of lettering workshops in my area and online, and I’ve heard plenty of artists saying, “Invest in yourself! Take a class!” But. I don’t have the time or money for that. What I do have time for, however, is mining through Instagram during my spare time. It’s where I learned the basics of handlettering and calligraphy, and where I continue to learn and hone my style. Here are my favorite accounts to learn from:

#1: Andrea Fowler (@calligraphynerd)

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On Tuesdays, Andrea hosts “Tuesday Tip Time.” She shares short Instagram videos that address common beginner mistakes, like writing too fast or not taking breaks. Her video on the “wedge of space” between strokes completely changed my style of lettering! In addition to great tips, she’s a diehard Potterhead and caffeine addict, so her posts are always relatable and entertaining. Search #tuesdaytiptime or #calligraphynerdttt to go straight to her tips.

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#2: Lise (@inkandlise)

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Lise is the definition of versatility in handlettering. She has so many different styles, and she records herself writing. I am a visual-kinesthetic learner, and I have learned so much from just watching videos, then trying it myself. @inkandlise is the perfect place to start. She’s strong, she’s empowering, AND she even started an alphabet series tagged #inkandlisealphabets. It’s so easy to get stuck in the basic modern calligraphy style — Lise shows all the potential that handlettering has!

 

 

#3: Letter Archive (@letterarchive)

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What an amazing resource for lettering artists! This isn’t merely an account; it’s the collective work of hundreds of artists. If you search #letterarchive_[insert desired letter], you will find hundreds of different styles of writing that letter. I have gone here when my style doesn’t fit the composition that I’m doing, and I need ideas. The account itself features the best of the best, but I like looking through the hashtags for each letter to find what I’m looking for.

 

 

#4: Stefan Kunz (@stefankunz)… and a few others

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I’m attracted to typography and composition. When I started handlettering, I didn’t understand how artists like Stefan Kunz, Alyssa Robinson (@arobinsonart), Stephanie Baxter (@stephsayshello), and Dan Lee (@dandrawnwords) figured out how to make different sizes and fonts of letters fit together into one cohesive piece. But Stefan Kunz is gracious enough to show the secret behind the magic: grids. He has a few composition grids that he’s shared for free through his own account and through @goodtype, and you can buy sets of composition grids through his website. When I want to play with composition, I like to scroll through his, Alyssa’s, Stephanie’s, and Dan’s feeds to get in the zone.

 

 

#5: Lauren Hom (@homsweethom)

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Lauren is my inspiration for finding my own style as a lettering artist and social media content creator. Her account is a must for artists who are hoping to start their own business. In January, she launched #homwork, a weekly handlettering challenge designed to foster originality and freshness in the lettering community. She offers real advice on how to find your own voice and style instead of being just another picture of the same ol’ inspirational quotes on Instagram. I’ve only gone through her free coaching tools—her email newsletter, her Instagram stories, and her features on other lettering accounts like @goodtype—but she does also offer workshops. Hers is the only one I would consider paying for… and if I still feel like I’m serious in a year or so, I may actually cough up the money for her “Passion to Paid” online workshop.

 

I dream of the day when I’ll have enough expendable income to spend on an art class. But until then, I’ll keep digging through Instagram videos and accounts to figure out the magic.

If you’re into handlettering, art, or small business, comment and share the social media handles that inspire you!