You're reading an interview with an alumni from the Better Lettering Course. I'm sharing several of these stories on the blog to encourage and inspire anyone who has a desire to learn hand-lettering but who might be intimidated or fearful of diving in. Click here to read them all or, if you're a BLC alumn, submit your story here to be featured!
What made you want to start hand-lettering?
From the time I learned to write, I've been obsessed with handwriting. I can remember some of my favorite moments as a child were hearing someone (especially an adult!) say, "I love your handwriting!" Back then, I didn't know what lettering was (and it certainly wasn't the trend that it is today), but I was always passionate about it.
When I started my blog, Positively Present, in 2009, I was primarily using stock photography to add visual interest to my blog posts. Once I left my job in marketing to pursue the blog full time, I became more interested in graphic design and exploring how to create my own images and illustrations to enliven my blog posts. As I took more and more courses online, I gained more and more skills and my mind was opened to all kinds of creative concepts -- including the idea of hand-lettering, something I'd always been doing on paper, but never knew how to translate onto the screen. The more I saw others doing it, the more I felt inspired to give it a try.
What were some of you thoughts as you started out?
As I began my lettering journey, I saw amazing artists like Jessica Hische and Mary Kate McDevitt making careers out of lettering, but I knew I wasn't quite like them. I didn't have the patience or desire to make things precise and perfect. As I was working on my own style -- more handwriting than hand-lettering -- I came across Caroline's work and thought, wow, this is amazing! It's so beautiful and makes you feel so connected to the words, but it's not the traditional lettering that I'd seen.
Not only was I inspired by Caroline's work in particular, but I was inspired by the idea that lettering can be more of a creative, free-form art, with the restrictions of grids and sketches. Inspired by artists like Caroline (and Adam J. Kurtz and Kathy Weller), I started working on my own kind of lettering. At times it was incredibly frustrating because I didn't quite know what style I wanted to have, and I didn't want to restrict myself, but I felt I had to have a "look." It was around this time of frustration that I discovered the Better Lettering Course.
How did the Better Lettering Course help you grow in your hand-lettering skills?
The Better Lettering Course wasn't the first lettering course I'd taken, but it was by far the best. It was the only I felt not only taught me, but inspired me. Other courses I'd taken were more about learning the terminology and getting the concepts (which was great), but BLC took this further, making me want create and practice. It inspired me to think outside of the box, to explore different kinds of lettering, to investigate what I did or didn't love about my own handwriting and elevate that from handwriting to hand-lettering.
The great thing about the BLC course (and any other course I've taken from Caroline) is that it pairs her knowledge with inspiration. Knowledge is important, but it doesn't do a ton of good if you don't feel inspired to use it -- and that's what the BLC does. It teaches and inspires. It's that inspiring part that is so crucial because, if you're not inspired to get creative, to think outside the box, to actually practice, you're not going to get very far in anything.
What surprised you most as you learned and practiced hand-lettering skills?
As I learned and practiced my hand-lettering skills, I was surprised by the progress I made. I've been writing my whole life, but I'd never given as much thought and attention to it as I did after I took the BLC. It made me more aware of the choices I made with my lettering and, importantly, it made me more playful and open-minded. Rather that feeling every letter had to be perfect, I learned to embrace (and actually love!) a lot of my little lettering flaws. As someone who is very Type-A, this was incredibly freeing and it's made me a better letterer (and creative person in general).
I've also been pleasantly surprised by how much lettering has impacted my business. I sell stickers and pins based on my lettering, I've grown my following on Instagram substantially, and my next book -- all about self-love -- is going to feature dozens of hand-lettered pieces!
Dani DiPirro is an author, blogger, and designer living in a suburb of Washington, DC. In 2009, she launched PositivelyPresent.com as a way to share her personal experiences and insights on positivity, awareness, and self-love — things that didn’t always come easy to her!
Dani is the author of Stay Positive, The Positively Present Guide to Life, the Effortless Inspiration series, and a variety of e-books. She is also the founder of Twenty3, a design studio focused on positive products and inspired illustration.