How To Get Better Letter Connections

Let’s talk about letter connections. Before I get started,  I want to know if you have ever started to write a word and…
A. Run out of room on your paper
B. Gotten so stuck on how to write a specific letter that you ended up changing words
C. Had trouble connecting two letters together

If you’re anything like me, then your answer is probably actually more like D. All of the above
Here are some quick letter-connecting tips that should help you to simplify the process!

Before you even put your pen to the paper, map out where you’re going to write. Move your arm in all the right ways, but don’t touch the pen to the paper (or you can even sketch it out with a pencil)! Sometimes when I practice it this way before I write I am able to come up with a better composition AND my words usually fit on the page better too!

Practice the letters that frustrate you EVEN if you think you’ll never have to write them. Spoiler alert: they will come up somewhere! Find at least one way to write each letter that works for you. Do this proactively so that you don’t have to panic while calligraphing on wedding invitations!

Remember that every single letter and stroke should be leading somewhere! Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Each letter starts somewhere: the end of one letter should be leading into the beginning of another letter. As you write a letter, think about what letter comes next and where that begins. This will help you to better connect them together.

Calligraphy is NOT cursive! When you write in cursive you aren’t supposed to lift your pen off the page between letters, but in calligraphy you are constantly lifting your pen.  In the image above, the space between each letter shows where to pick up the pen. Lifting the pen between strokes is important and it will also help you to sloooooww down. Think about what letter is coming next and how you can connect to it!

Right now I am working on a second part of my Brush Calligraphy Guide and I am hoping to help you with letter connections, building your own style, and creating pieces. I would love your help – what have you struggled with the most while learning calligraphy? Tell me in the comments below or come chat on Instagram (click here)!


X marks the spot where the exit stroke of each letter meets the entrance stroke of the next.

Seasons Of Calligraphy

It was 2015, I was finishing up my final semester of college, and I was beyond the point of overwhelmed. My mind was constantly racing through all of the items on my to-do list and rest was not something I was able to enjoy regularly. When I got my first supplies, I felt a wave of relief as I began to create new letterforms. I was able to turn off my over-thinking and enjoy making beautiful things. I want to share this joy with as many people as I can!

I was a senior in college working on my Bachelor’s in Foundational Mathematics. I had a vague plan about what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure about the roadmap. I chose my major because I enjoyed math and because it felt like a very practical option. I knew that I would certainly be able to find a job if I had a degree in Math. I was hopeful that I would become a teacher, but very uncertain about life post-college.

All of the pressure of math homework, tests, graduating, dating, living far away from my family, and any other normal stressors for 21 year olds were really taking a toll on me. I have never excelled at leaving balance in my life for rest and rejuvenation, which is why I was feeling like I was running completely on empty.

I went to the craft store and tried to find some brush pens with absolutely no idea what to look for. I found some cheap pens with bristles that I thought might do the trick. They did not work out how I had hoped they would, but I still enjoyed trying them out a lot more than I expected to. Slowly, I began to learn more about calligraphy and found different styles of brush pens that I liked.

As my interest grew, I began to try any kind of brush pen that I could find. I thought that there would be NO WAY I could ever be good at writing with brush pens because they were so impossible. It makes me laugh when I think about it now! I was so frustrated because it took so much work to get good at this. But it helped me to stop, breathe, and relax as I entered into my post-college life.

As is the usual story, life did not pan out exactly according to plan after college. It took me longer than I wanted to get started in the credential program (which was actually only one semester, but at the time it felt defeating). During this time, I spent a lot of time building up my Instagram and Etsy accounts. I started selling prints and cards. Eventually, I was calligraphing escort cards and invitations for weddings. I couldn’t believe it because it was never something I had pictured myself doing.

At the end of the summer in 2016,  I was hired as a first grade teacher. This is where calligraphy started to fall into a new roll in my life. Once I accepted the job as a first grade teacher, I started to back away from my side job as a calligrapher. It’s interesting how something that is meant to relax you can so quickly change into another point of stress. This is when I decided to take a step back from any and all wedding calligraphy. It had quickly become something that drained me and stressed me out more than it filled me up.

Something that I’ve loved the most about learning calligraphy and participating in the Instagram community are all of the encouraging, kind people I’ve met. Calligraphy has been an easy access point for me to encourage others, make them smile, and show how much I care about them. It’s so much more than a hobby that I want to do to make extra money on the side. I’d love to add the joy and grace that I’ve received from calligraphy to other people’s lives.

My love for calligraphy was rejuvenated when I began to see an opportunity to encourage other women to be okay with the seasons and the process. I began to find joy in finding words that built others up rather than words that were ‘popular’ or based upon what I might be able to sell. I started to find joy in the words themselves and the connection I found with other people – whether those people were fellow calligraphers or not.

There is an intense sense of comparison that has become magnified by the continued use of social media. It’s quick and easy to find someone who is better than you at something and someone that you feel you’re better than. There will always be someone who travels more than you do or has ‘better’ home decor than you do. You might find yourself thinking things like, “If only I were as good as ______.” Or “At least I’m not as bad as ________.” Or “I can’t do this because _______ is doing that.” And we push each other away because we are intimidated by our presence online and yet we are also dying for a real connection. It’s a really unfortunate reality that has come along with social media.

I found a new joy in calligraphy as I began to combat these lies. You have to be bad at something to get better at it. If you want to travel more, then you need to prioritize it and make it happen. If you want to be good at something, then you need to practice. You can’t just show up and expect to already be great at something. I found a new joy as I realized that I can do whatever it is that I want to, if only I’d be willing to put in some effort.

So, if you’re thinking about starting to learn calligraphy, if you’re frustrated about where you are at in your process of learning calligraphy, or if you’re a professional calligrapher, remember these three things:

  1. You are your own worst critic.
    Your art brings joy and kindness into other people’s lives. It reminds us all to slow down and take some extra time to write a handwritten note. It brings a smile to people’s faces when they see it. You see all of your flaws, but others do not. Do not tear yourself down in an effort to be humble or real. Be okay with where you are at and keep working hard.
  2. You don’t have to be the best – you should just be you.
    You don’t need to have more followers than so-and-so. You don’t need to sell more products, have better reviews, or make more unique products. You just need to be true to who you are and create what you find beautiful. Don’t forget why you got started and don’t be afraid of hard work.
  3. When you’re tired, take a break.
    You may feel like taking a break will slow your progress or lose your momentum, but I’ve found that NOT taking a break when you need one creates bigger problems. Sometimes the best thing that you can do is pause. Stop what you’re doing, stop striving for more, and focus on what’s right in front of you. Take a breath. This will give you more creativity, more freedom, and more joy!
    *This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fulfill orders or promises you’ve already made, but it does mean trying not to take on more when you’re already overwhelmed.

Each of our stories look different, but we all started with a common goal: beauty. You wanted to create something beautiful for someone that you love. Keep that feeling, that love alive and continue to use your talents to add beauty, grace, and joy to the world.

July Alphabet Challenge

Summertime is a wonderful, busy time. It’s filled with adventures, activities, weddings, parties, and anything else you can manage to stuff in. This can mean that all order and structure can fly out of your life – I know that has somewhat happened to me!

So, starting now (July 10th!) I introduce the July Alphabet Challenge!
*It’s ALWAYS better late than never*

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Together, we are going to go through the alphabet. We will start with the letter a and move our way to z (which will take us into August as well).

When you are getting started with calligraphy AND when you aren’t sure how to practice now that you’ve devoted so much time to this hobby, the alphabet is ALWAYS a good place to start!

Here’s the good stuff:

There is no official timeline – you just need to start at the letter a and make your way through the alphabet. We are all busy people and we all have other important things to do. The goal is to do one letter per day, but please don’t give up if you miss a day (or two or even ten!). The main goal is to get through the entire alphabet.

You can choose if you want to do lowercase, capitals, or both! I will be doing lowercase letters – I will also be creating them multiple ways. I think that this is a great way to practice and find your own style. It also helps you to think more creatively – kind of like flexing your creative muscles a little bit.

You can use any pen (or tool) that you want to! This means that we will likely be seeing letters made with pencils, Crayola markers, brush pens, dip pens, paint brushes, or whatever else we can find (food lettering anyone?). Be creative & colorful!

You need to post your work somewhere! You can post in the Facebook group on the thread for that letter, Instagram (in a post OR on your stories!), and even here in the comments. What makes a challenge like this so much fun? The other people that are doing it also! We want to encourage each other and we want to see your beautiful creations! Use the hashtag #abcsofjuly on everything you post so that we can find it!

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Let’s make something beautiful and encourage the beauty we see in each other as well! Come over to instagram to say that you’re joining in (even if you think it might take you longer than 26 days to complete!).

New to lettering and don’t know where to start? Here are a couple of resources:

Grab a FREE alphabet practice sheet here.

Start Lettering With Crayola Markers Here.

Best Brush Pens for Beginners Here.

Brush Calligraphy Guide Here.

Regular Tips on Instagram Here.

Questions? Leave them in the comments below!

Photos by my lovely friend Stephanie Kauffman – check out her website & instagram.

Letter More in June!

JUNE PROMPTS

JUNE IS HERE!
Are you ready to go? A lot of people enjoy traveling in the summer, so this month will feature a travel theme.

If you’re anything like me, then you may be feeling some fatigue right now. Especially if you are still in school OR you are a teacher like me. But I also know that everyone feels fatigue sometimes. The summer months can be quite busy, so be sure to give yourself the time to rest and recharge. One of the ways that I love to do that is through lettering!

So, be sure to make time at least ONCE a week to pause & try out these next few prompts. These are meant for beginner to intermediate letter lovers who like to take on a challenge. Don’t be afraid to try them out – you might just surprise yourself! How will you know if you can (or can’t) if you aren’t willing to try?!

PS. Looking for beginner tips like how to hold a pen, what pens to use, or basic strokes to get your started? I’ve probably got a blog post for that – click here!

JUNE PROMPTS!

WEEK ONE: Letter the name of the #1 place on your travel wish list.

My answer for this would have to be Italy. It is 100% on the top of my travel list. As soon as we have the chance, my husband and I are hoping to go to Italy!
Use your photo to tell us WHERE you to want to travel and then use your caption to tell us WHY!

WEEK TWO: Letter your best travel advice.

Make even the most mundane advice beautiful. You might be an advocate for the scenic route or getting to the airport four hours early. What is the best advice you’ve learned while traveling? Letter that & tell us about it in your caption!

WEEK THREE: Letter the name of your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to.

Think of all of the places that you’ve been. Which one stands out to you the most? Even if it was just because of the people you went with. Even if it isn’t somewhere luxurious and extravagant – it’s beautiful because you love it. Be creative!
Use your photo to tell us WHERE you went and then use your caption to tell us WHY it was your favorite!

WEEK FOUR: Use the word TRAVEL somehow.

This has been a common theme throughout the prompts because I like to see the different kinds of quotes that you guys find/come up with! It allows us to think outside the box. So, either create a quote or find one that uses the word travel in it. If you can’t find one- just letter the word travel! PS. A way to make that fun is to use different colors for each letter.

JOINING IN? COME TELL US ON MY JUNE INSTA POST!

Be sure to post your work to Instagram, use the hashtag #lettermore2018, and tag me (@lysstyler.letters) in your post as well!
I can’t wait to see what you create!

May Prompts

May

The best way to get better at something is through consistent practice.
Grab a brush pen and get ready to practice at least once per week!

Use whatever pens you have on hand, create something beautiful, snap a picture, and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #lettermore2018!

In my experience, it can be intimidating to think of what to write with your new, fun pens. It’s also a lot of fun to find other people who are learning alongside you. There is only one prompt per week because life can be busy sometimes.
You can do all of the prompts or just the ones that you have the time for –
it’s totally up to you!

MAY PROMPTS

WEEK ONE: YOU ARE ENOUGH

Whether you believe it to be true or not – you are enough. Who you are is enough! Don’t compare yourself to strangers on the internet. This is a message that we need to spread. Remind those that you know and love that who they are is enough! Feel free to tag some special people in your life who have helped you to realize this on your own.

WEEK TWO: PICK A LETTER AND CREATE IT 8 (OR MORE) DIFFERENT WAYS

When you are first starting to learn calligraphy it can be difficult to determine your own style. One of the best ways to move through this is to attempt each letter many different ways. In this exercise, you will create the same letter over and over. You can use different pens, colors, or simply just different styles of each letter. 

WEEK THREE: USE THE WORD BLOOM SOMEHOW

Choose a phrase that has the word bloom in it. I recently came across the phrase “There is nothing in nature that blooms all year, so don’t expect yourself to do so either.” You can always search for phrases on PinterestYou get to be creative with this one!

WEEK FOUR: CHOOSE ANY WORD – USE A DIFFERENT COLOR FOR EACH LETTER TO SHOWCASE LETTER CONNECTIONS

One way to really slow yourself down and practice letter connections is to alternate between pens. Here is an example to help give you an idea of what to do! 

Be sure to post your work to Instagram, use the hashtag #lettermore2018, and tag me (@lysstyler.letters) in your post as well!
I can’t wait to see what you create!

Are you joining in?!
Come tell us on Instagram & see who else is joining, too!

#lettermore2018 April Promps

April

Looking for some help to practice your new hobby more regularly?

Join in on these fun weekly prompts!
Use whatever pens you have on hand, create something beautiful, snap a picture, and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #lettermore2018!

It can be really difficult to know what to write when you’re getting started with calligraphy (well, and when you’ve been doing it for a long time too).

April Prompts

Week One: Use the word SPRING somehow

Choose a phrase that has the word spring in it. You can always search for phrases on Pinterest. Think, “Spring is in the air” or “A kind word is like a spring day”.
You get to be creative with this one!

Week Two: Community Over Competition

If you’ve been following along for a while, then you know I’m all about community over competition. I want us all to say a big fat NO to the comparison game. So, in your caption be sure to share about your experience with the calligraphy community (or any community that has had an impact on you!). Think positive!

Week Three: Practice a word with double letters (ex. happy, coffee, good)

This is a good exercise that should challenge you a little bit! Double letters have a way of challenging the way you think about connecting letters together. Bonus points if your word has more than one set of double letters, like coffee!

Week Four: Post your lowercase alphabet.

I have a feeling that some of you may be avoiding some of what I call the “dreaded letters”. You can’t avoid them forever! Create, photograph, and post your FULL lowercase alphabet. You can write all the letters connected together in one line or create a page full of colorful letters. Once again, you get to be creative!

Be sure to post your work to Instagram, use the hashtag #lettermore2018, and tag me (@lysstyler.letters) in your post as well!
I can’t wait to see what you create!

 

Are you joining in?!
Come tell us on Instagram & see who else is joining, too!

Tips for Conquering Creative Block.

Creative Block

Learn to rest, not to quit.
Easier said than done, am I right?!

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If (or should I say when?) you get exhausted and creativity becomes a struggle or frustration, step back. Don’t give up! You can always take a break, try something different, and search for more sources or inspiration.

Here are some things to try when you feel like quitting:

-Look for new inspiration in other artists, in nature, or on Pinterest.

I feel that I should start this off by saying that I am not suggesting you copy anyone else’s art. I am suggesting that you find inspiration. I prefer looking for artists with different mediums or styles than me, but a similar heart or purpose. For example, I mainly do brush calligraphy but I find a lot of inspiration through illustrators, graphic designers, and style bloggers. I search for colors, designs, photography, and words that speak to me!

I feel that searching for other types of artists helps me to think out of the box, but it also helps me to stay away from comparison. I have found that comparing my work to other people has always drained my creativity. It has made me feel less than and taken the joy out of art. As Lara Casey says, “Living on purpose turns comparison and coveting into compassion and cheering on. When you are living on purpose, it doesn’t matter what someone else’s journey looks like. We are all in this together.

-Look through some of your earliest creations

Even if you’ve only been working on calligraphy (or whatever creative outlet you’ve been trying!) for a few months, if you look back at all you’ve created you will find some progress! Notice that what we are looking for here is NOT extreme progress, advanced skill level, or perfection – we are only look for SOME progress.

Here is an example from my own brush calligraphy experience.

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August 2015

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February 2018

-Revisit the goals/purpose of your creative business or hobby

Sometimes when I’m feeling frustrated or drained of creativity, I find that I’ve lost focus on what’s important. It’s easy to get caught up in so many different things: Instagram followers, Etsy sales, Facebook likes, and so many other things. But none of these things are the reason you started this creative endeavor in the first place.

Pause and think about it. Why did you start this hobby? What has kept you pursuing it?

For me, I started calligraphy in an effort to relieve some stress. Over the last few years, it has consistently been a wonderful way for me to relax. I started teaching other people the art of brush calligraphy because I want to share that joy and rest with as many others as I can! This is the focus. Think back on why you started and revisit those initial moments of joy!

-Try a new/different hobby

Another great way to fuel creativity is through trying something new. Once I started my career as a first grade teacher, I started to lose some enthusiasm for calligraphy and focus on the wrong things. I would post my creations and wonder why no one liked what I was making. It was stripped of joy and I felt like there was nothing I could do.

I decided to take a watercolor floral class (and ended up also going to a Monvoir Workshop!) and found a renewed excitement for color theory and design. I also signed up for a cookie decorating class, which used my skills in another way. It also showed me that it was fun to challenge myself (I’m not a very consistent baker). I’ve also recently signed up for the #HOMwork challenges, which is full of prompts meant to challenge you creatively.

And, in most cases, I came running back to calligraphy because I’ve found it’s something that I’m good at. But I come back with a new variety of skills and understandings that can be used to improve my art!

-Step back, don’t create, and come back when you’re ready!

There is nothing wrong with taking a break. Especially when you really need it. Don’t push yourself to create when you are totally drained. Come back when you feel that joy again. This might be a week, it could be a month, or even longer.

Taking a break will remove a lot of that pressure that you keep putting on yourself. You don’t need to choose the length before you start. When you feel ready, pick it back up again!

None of these methods are perfect, but they are good to try when you’re feeling creatively drained. It takes a lot of energy to be creative. Don’t let yourself burn out!

I’d love to hear from you!
What are your favorite ways to conquer creative block? 
Leave a COMMENT below or come SHARE on this post!

The party is on Instagram!
Come hang out on Instagram for more brush calligraphy tips & pep talks!

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March Prompts

Practice makes progress.

You might be thinking, “it’s March, it’s too late to start something new.”
But, every day is a great day to start something new! Like Lara Casey says – there is nothing magical about January!
We can make positive changes in our lives any day.

So, let’s talk about the last time you picked up a brush pen.
For some of you that was last week, others it was last year, and some of you the answer is still…never. I’m not judging you, but I’m going to ask you (very nicely) – do you want to learn how to do calligraphy?
PS it’s totally okay if the answer is no.
BUT if the answer is YES, then it’s time to grab that pen and get practicing!

Picking up calligraphy is not about any skills that you may or may not already have. It’s ALL about the time, effort, and heart you are willing to put into it.

Map out your week and find at least 15 minutes where you’ll be able to sit down and practice. Because, hey, 15 minutes a week is better than 0! Start small and work your way up.

I’ve also got a great solution if you’re thinking, “but I never know what to write!”
I understand! I could never count the amount of times that I’ve been blocked from creativity simply because I don’t know what to write.

Here’s where I’m hoping to help you out!

March
I’ve talked to a few of you in the Beginner Brush Lettering Facebook group and we decided to incorporate two different kinds of prompts this month! A few of the prompts make you think about your own word/phrase and others tell you exactly what to write!

This gives us the opportunity to see the same words/phrases in all of our unique styles (love that!). And the prompts allow us to learn a little bit more about you and push your creativity a little bit!

MARCH PROMPTS

Week One: A quote from your favorite movie or TV show

Week Two: Purpose fuels passion

Week Three: Use the word LUCKY somehow

Week Four: You matter!

Week Five: A word that describes you (just one!)

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #lettermore2018 on your post so that we will see it! And be sure to scroll through the hashtag to see what other people have created!

* The weeks are based on how many Saturday’s there are in the month. Feel free to do each prompt at your own leisure!

 

Come say hi on Instagram & let me know you’re joining in on the challenge!

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Using Water Color for Calligraphy

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I recently received this Kassa Watercolor Set in the mail & I’m excited to share all about it with you guys! The set comes with a 9×12″ Watercolor Pad, 3 Water Brush Pens, and a Watercolor Palette (which also has a paint brush inside).

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There are 21 different colors to choose from and three different style water brushes. Water brushes are really nice because you don’t have to spend as much time dipping your paint brush in water, you simply squeeze the pen and a little more water comes through on the brush (You can even fill them with ink if you wanted to!). There are two round tip water brushes; one small and one medium sized. The other is a flat brush, which I don’t use quite as often, since I usually paint letters and leaves – I’m in no way a watercolor expert!

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I found that the easiest way to get started with the paints was to use the blue paint brush that came with the palette to wet the paint so that I could apply the water a little bit more aggressively without ruining the tips of the water brushes. Then, as I continued to use the color, I would add extra water by squeezing through the water brush. I was also able to mix various colors (in this case, mostly green and yellow) using the lid of the palette.

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I began with both of the blue pigments – in the end these two colors were quite similar, but one was a little bit lighter than the other. I love blue (totally my favorite color!) and I definitely love the shade of these particular blues. (“Love is patient” is the darker blue, while “Love is kind” was the lighter blue – you can see a slight change in the pigment).

Next, I decided to try out a watercolor wreath using green and yellow leaves. I will repeat that I’m not a watercolor expert, but I had fun experimenting with these colors!
To start, I traced out a circle with my pencil and then began painting in the leaves. I used the smaller of the round water brushes to create the leaves.

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I hesitated to add anything else to the piece because I was afraid I might mess it up, but I decided to snap a picture of the wreath and keep going. I debated between pink or blue words, but I decided I would stick with my favorite color for this one.

Lately I’ve been inspired by so many different people who are building their creative businesses on positivity and with the intention of building community. I know that being a creative can be exhausting and vulnerable, but I love seeing and meeting people who use their energy for positivity. SO, I decided to go with “be kind”. Because, honestly, I think we all need to be a little bit more kind – to each other and to ourselves!

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I chose to go with the darker blue because it’s kind of a dusty blue, which is just dreamy to me (and it was the color of my bridesmaid’s dresses!). I switched to the larger water brush for the words, so that they would fill up the inside of the wreath!

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And voila! Here’s the finished product. It was so fun to sit down, relax, and try something new this morning. These watercolors are perfect for you if you’re looking for some bright, vibrant colors. You can also mix them together in the lid, like I did with the green and yellow, to create some different shades that may not be seen in the palette right here. You can add some brown to the green for darker leaves if you wanted to!

These are great for watercolor lettering because water brushes make it simple to keep your brush damp in the midst of long words & phrases. You also get two different sizes of round brushes, so it works great for various projects!

To grab your own watercolor set, go to KassaUSA.com or grab their set on Amazon here!

Looking to learn more about brush calligraphy, but aren’t sure where to get started?!
Click on the link below to find my other blog posts!

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Want to see updates more frequently & find inspiration? Come hang out on Instagram!

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