Hand lettering, the art of creating unique pieces of work made up of letterforms is fast growing in popularity. There are many thousands of people from all around the globe already lettering, and many more getting interested in hand lettering each day.
There are classes available that are designed to take you from a complete beginner to a pro (if you put the work in) like Sean McCabe’s ‘Learn Lettering’ series. There are also projects in the making, like the one Typism is working on that will eventually provide a paid subscription membership community, open to anyone who wants to join. It’s also worth mentioning that there are books like the one by Cristina Vanko titled ‘Hand Lettering for Everyone’. Considering all of these things it is very much implied that like the title of Cristina’s book hand lettering is for everyone, but is this really the case?
A little while before I discovered the wonderful world of hand lettering, I had tried to find my place in a couple of niche art based communities unrelated to lettering. I will admit my confidence has grown a little since those days of other communities but I really did struggle to feel any kind of acceptance. It often felt like if you didn’t know the right people within the community you were destined to just quietly observe from a distance, never feeling like you really belonged. It also seemed apparent that there was a hierarchy amongst the artists. There were the ‘A Listers’, ‘B Listers’ and so on within these niche art communities, and reaching many of them was an almost impossible task, unless you were yourself considered an ‘A Lister’ or ‘B Lister’ of the art community. I tried a couple of times to reach out to different people, to ask questions or get input for articles that I was writing at the time and would never get responses back. Eventually I gave up on these communities.
Perhaps I didn’t try hard enough, perhaps I should have stuck at it a bit longer. Perhaps if Austin Kleon’s book ‘Show Your Work’ had existed at the time, I would have shown more of my work which may have earned me greater acceptance. These are just my individual past experiences maybe you’ve had similar, or maybe you’re surprised to read this as you’ve only ever experienced a welcoming atmosphere in communities you’ve tried to become a part of. My experiences certainly don’t apply to all art communities though, when I joined the lettering community over a year ago I was made to feel very accepted.
Upon developing an interest in hand lettering I started letteringtutorial.com to share my lettering experiences and mistakes. I wanted to keep a record of what I’d learned but also I hoped that my site could help other people too, and become a useful resource for anyone wanting to learn lettering from the beginning. After some initial positive reactions to the early lettering content I created I gained the confidence and courage to try reaching out to some very well known lettering artists for interviews, and to my surprise they were incredibly supportive. To my knowledge none of the artists I approached saw neither myself or my site as not being worth their time, which was so nice to feel after what I had encountered before.
When I reached out those first couple of times, I was a new lettering artist with a brand new website, and it could have been easy to turn me down. I was welcomed, and over time have built lasting connections with many of the lettering artists I have reached out to.
In my opinion I genuinely do think lettering is for everyone if you want to be involved, and acceptance doesn’t just rely on you creating work. If you don’t practice the art of lettering yourself, you still have the option of appreciating hand lettering for what it is. Brooke Bucherie founder of Goodtype does not really letter herself, but does collect and curate lettering that she finds inspiring and that she thinks will inspire others too. Goodtype is made up of a huge community and it’s easy to get started showing your appreciation for artists work. If you do choose to get more involved or have chosen to get more involved there’s a huge array of tools and resources available to help you master the skills it takes to become a well established hand lettering artist, and I have no doubt more and more will pop up over time.
There is also an ever growing community of lettering artists who are incredibly welcoming and supportive nearly everywhere you stumble upon within the lettering world. Shortly into my lettering journey my friend Emma a fellow lettering artist invited me to help manage a Facebook group ‘Hand Lettering HQ’ with her. Emma has stepped down from the group now and I manage it solely, it’s an excellent example though for showing that hand lettering is open to everyone and welcomes all those that have an interest or passion for lettering. With over 3000 members of all skill types and interest levels members are comfortable with sharing their work and often receive helpful and positive feedback. Some members similarly to how things work with Goodtype just enjoy looking at the lettering work that gets shared and like to show their appreciation.