Lisa Criswell

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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 learning hand-lettering?

It was January 2015, and I was in the middle of an extremely stressful full-time internship. I found myself craving some sort of creative outlet - something to help me feel more grounded and joyful in the midst of the daily grind. While browsing the internet, I stumbled upon the Better Lettering Course by chance - I honestly don't remember how I found it! - and was immediately drawn to the idea of learning lettering. I'd dabbled in calligraphy as a preteen and have always loved beautiful handwriting, so I thought it would be fun to pick up a pen again and give it a try. Also, as a lifetime lover of words and language, books and writing, I sensed that bringing powerful words to life through beautiful letters would be a great source of self-care for me.

What were some of your thoughts as you started out?

I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, so when I started out I was fixated on making my letters and compositions look a certain way. I would look at established lettering artists like Caroline with awe, feeling frustrated that my work didn't look like theirs. But it also began to sink in that imperfections and variations are what differentiates hand-lettering from a font - they are the very things that make a lettering piece interesting and visually appealing! That helped me to just continue practicing and trusting my instincts as I developed my own style.

Lettering by Lisa Criswell on Hand Lettering for Beginners

Lettering by Lisa Criswell on Hand Lettering for Beginners

Lettering by Lisa Criswell on Hand Lettering for Beginners

Lettering by Lisa Criswell on Hand Lettering for Beginners

How did the Better Lettering Course help you grow in your hand-lettering skills?

I was a TOTAL beginner when I took the course, so it really gave me the foundational skills I needed to get started. When Caroline touched on how to create "faux calligraphy," I was totally mesmerized. That got me hooked. It was so helpful to walk through the process of creating a composition from draft to final product. Her digitizing process was so accessible, and I use many of those tips to this day. And I think one of the biggest things that inspired me to continue to grow my skills was the community Caroline built around the course! I started joining the monthly Instagram challenges and was so inspired and encouraged by the other students. I felt super motivated to keep practicing and growing!

From early 2015 when I first started doing Better Lettering Course challenges.

From early 2015 when I first started doing Better Lettering Course challenges.

This lettering piece was done two years later, in early 2017.

This lettering piece was done two years later, in early 2017.

What surprised you most as you learned and practiced hand-lettering skills?

I'd hoped lettering would be relaxing and fun, but I underestimated just how meditative and satisfying it would be. I've never considered myself an "artist," but as I continued to immerse myself in hand-lettering, I began to realize there was all of this untapped creativity inside of me just waiting to be released. I would say that I now consider myself a lettering artist - something I never thought I would say! I've also felt incredibly empowered by the ability to earn money through my lettering. My Etsy shop has helped supplement my income and is currently helping me through a cross country move & job transition. This was something I never planned or anticipated, but it's been such a fun and rewarding experience.


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I'm a psychologist and part-time calligrapher/letterer from California, currently living in New Jersey. From a young age I've been enamored with the beauty and power of language, and now I love bringing words to life through the lettering arts. Lettering and calligraphy have become a refuge from stress and a source of empowerment in my life, and I share my creations with others through my Etsy shop, The Lively Pen.

Connect with Lisa on Instagram & Etsy