When your inner critic is a real loud-mouth like mine, trying something new — even something small — can be an uphill battle. Starting seems pointless when you think you’re doomed to fail and continuing, well that’s just a waste of everyone’s time. Time that could be spent sleeping, worrying and generally not allowing yourself to participate in life. Which is a pretty depressing way to begin a book review, I know, but stick with me mes amis, it’s not all bad. In fact, it’s mostly good. See I was really looking forward to reading and trying the exercises in Cristina Vanko’s Hand-Lettering for Everyone, but I was also damned intimidated. My inner critic sneered, “what business is it of yours? you haven’t put pen to paper since elementary school when you did those ridiculous 3D block letters on every title page, and that was 100 years ago!” But another (quieter) voice said, “but you really liked doing those block letters, why not try it for fun?” It was the second voice that got me started on the book, and Cristina’s voice that kept me going. There is inspiration and encouragement and honesty on every page, and wouldn’t you know? Cristina struggles with perfectionism too!
“Too often, I get caught up in the desire to perfect everything,” Cristina writes, “Then I remember that it’s called hand-lettering for a reason … The quirks from your hand help build your lettering’s unique character and set your work apart. Before you think about redoing something because a line wasn’t straight, the corner wasn’t round enough, or something wasn’t smooth enough — stop! I challenge you to appreciate lettering’s little quirks.”
Cristina guides us through the history and trends of typography (fascinating! really!), explores a wide variety of lettering styles and encourages us through creative hand-lettering exercises designed to help us develop our own particular style, and at the same time, learn more about what makes us tick. Some of the exercises are more labour-intensive than others — i.e. cutting letters out of a magazine to make a ransom note for that friend who hasn’t returned what she borrowed — and I skipped a few of those, but I appreciate that they’re meant to help us appreciate and take inspiration from the (lettering) world around us.
Hand-Lettering for Everyone is called a creative workbook, but to me, it’s a creative playbook. Because it’s meant to be written in I think it might be better coil-bound so the pages would lay flat while you work, but it’s a piddly complaint. If you love doodling and hand-lettering and want to improve your skills, pick up a copy and have fun with it. And tell your inner critic to shut up already.
Giveaway for U.S. readers!
To enter to win a copy of Hand-Lettering for Everyone (thank you Penguin Random House!), leave me a comment here telling me which of the hand-lettering styles is your favourite from the two pages above.
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Giveaway is open to residents of the contiguous United States ages 18+ and ends December 2.
Update December 3, 2015: Congratulations Sally W!
Penguin Random House sent me a copy of Hand-Lettering for Everyone in exchange for an honest review. Illustrations printed with permission from Hand-Lettering for Everyone by Cristina Vanko, from Tarcher Perigee, division of Penguin Random House, copyright Cristina Vanko 2015.