You know the feeling – you want to letter, you really do want to create, but you’re just feeling so stuck. So uninspired.
We’ve all fallen victim to the dreaded creative block before. It sucks, but lucky for us, there are ways around it.
In this second edition of Lettering Artists Weigh In, we hear from some pro-letterers some of the best ways to get over creative block and find lettering inspiration.
For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Lettering Artists Weigh In asks common lettering questions to pro-lettering artists. Experienced letterers and calligraphers weigh in on lettering topics by sharing their best tips and tricks with all of you.
Missed the first post? Click here to read all the best beginner lettering tips from the experts!
These letterers have proven track records of success, and if you’re looking to improve your lettering technique fast, there’s nobody better to help you along than someone who’s already “been there, done that.”
This week, I asked the pros where they turn to look for inspiration when they’re feeling stuck in their work.
Crystal Petersen – Crystal Petersen Design & Lettering
I’ll kick off this week with my favorite tips for places to source lettering inspiration. I’ve personally struggled a lot with creative block, but even more than that I’ve struggled with trying to find inspiration without ending up in a comparison trap with other artists.
If you happen to fall into the same habit of comparing your work to others, here’s something important to remember: there’s no such thing as perfection. We sometimes judge our own work much more harshly than the work of others, but I guarantee that if you look closely at something your favorite letterer posted you’re going to find something that keeps it from being perfect. It might not be obvious at first, but trust me, look closer and you’ll find there’s a wobbly line or uneven downstroke in there somewhere. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be striving for perfection. You should always reach beyond your comfort zone and keep practicing so your work represents the best you can do, but be kind to yourself too.
As far as where I find inspiration, the biggest thing that’s helped me overcome both comparison and creative block is keeping a sketchbook. I have two – one full of regular sketchbook stuff like lettering sketches and experiments, and one full of nothing but different lettering styles. Every letter has a different page full of style variations, and anytime I come across a letter I really like I add it to the book to reference later.
I find inspiration for the actual words and phrases I letter pretty much everywhere, but a lot of ideas come from Pinterest. I have a secret board for phrases I come across that I like so I can save them for later. That way, whenever I’m feeling like I want to letter but don’t know what to say I can just hop on over to that board and grab any of the quotes I’ve already collected without wasting any time!
Ashley Wenter – The Little Letterer
“I think I’m still fine-tuning my style, as are many artists. Because I am so inspired by other people and experiences, I’m ever evolving, which is pretty cool. More specifically, though, because I take inspiration from so many places, it’s really easy to get in a rut and compare yourself to other creatives. When this happens, I find taking time away from social media is really helpful. I sometimes just need space to work out all the creative thoughts that flood my brain. The other thing I’ve been doing lately is to give myself permission to be imperfect (that’s really hard for a perfectionist like me). I’ve done this by creating a maker’s journal. I have one rule for myself: don’t tear anything out! This tiny rule has been so impactful for me. In the past, I’ve created things on individual sheets of paper, hated them, and thrown them out. Having this little rule helps me to embrace the mess that comes along with learning and creating!”
Audrey Ko – Things Unseen Designs
“Sometimes, words don’t come as easily for me. I think I am wired to paint an illustration before the words come. For example, I might see a flower in a garden that inspires me to paint, and then I might write the name of the flower, or an adjective to describe the flower. In addition, my faith is very important to me. So I use well-known verses or phrases and ideas that are encouraging and uplifting to others. Lastly, I draw from my own experiences. The words you write are much more authentic when they come from deep within, when there’s a story behind them. So reflect on encouragements that your parents or friends may have said to you. Think of your favorite teacher. What’s your favorite movie? Don’t always follow what everyone else is saying. What is YOUR voice and what’s YOUR story?”
Megan Jones – Beauty Out of Ashes Design
“My Mom originally inspired me to start lettering! She wrote all the signs for my wedding, and so after that I decided to try my hand at it. After practicing for a mere few weeks, I got an Instagram and started posting. I also started following some of the more popular calligraphers on Instagram to get some inspiration.
As months have passed, I’ve realized it’s so easy to get discouraged and compare yourself to others, especially those that are better than you. I used to spend most of my lettering time looking for inspiration and trying to find the perfect quote, literally every single time I wanted to post something. So that’s why I created the bloom and grow lettering challenge! Not only did I need inspiration myself, I wanted to build a community of calligraphers who work to inspire and encourage each other! I get ideas and quotes for my challenge from Pinterest mostly, and I’ve found it to be a very helpful resource. I’m also heavily involved in several calligraphy Facebook groups, where I can ask questions and help answer other people’s questions as well. I’m also a part of a few Instagram pods, where we not only help get more traffic to each other’s Instagram posts, but also inspire one another daily! If someone were to tell me they were feeling uninspired or discouraged, I would advise them to get involved in the calligraphy community! And I would also tell them to start a Pinterest board dedicated solely to lettering inspiration, and then pin a bunch of ideas to go back and look at when they feel uninspired.”
Katlyn Sigmon – 7thStreetHaven
“Hey there! I’m so grateful to be a part of this sharing of advice and wisdom. I am inspired to provide hand-lettered, hand-painted signs that clients can add to their homes to create a haven that they long to return to at the end of every day. I am inspired to compliment the walls of any home or the decor of any wedding day with the beauty of wood and the story that every sign tells.
Inspiration can be found in so many places. I have found ideas for a sign based off of a bumper sticker. I keep a running list in my phone or take pictures when I’m out and about of something that fuels an idea in my head for another product. Keep your eyes open and document what you see! Culture is always changing so keep in mind trending phrases that should be memorialized on the medium of your choice. Some creative entrepreneurs I love to follow for inspiration and encouragement are @jennakutcher, @ashleymargaretcraft, and @laurenwilliamsart. And of course, get inspired by the reactions of your clients to continue lettering. Sometimes I get in a funk and play the comparison game – DON’T GO THERE! Reflect on successful projects you accomplished, favorite clients you collaborated with, and always be open to learning more about your art.”