Recently I announced a new site feature called ‘Lettering Legends’. You can read more about ‘Lettering Legends’ here, but to summarise it’s an exciting feature where I highlight great people from the lettering world. Some you may be familiar with already, and some might be new names to you.
I’m kicking the first Lettering Legends feature off with an interview. I interviewed brush lettering artist Emma Holmes. You may have come across some of Emma’s brush work before on Instagram or Tumblr, or you may have found her Brush Lettering Tutorial website which is full of really useful content. I have two reasons for choosing Emma as Lettering Tutorials first ever ‘Lettering Legend’. Firstly Emma is the person who inspired me to start this site, we have been friends a while and she has always been giving me confidence and inspiration. Secondly I thought she really deserved to be highlighted, as she is very inspiring to others also. Emma’s Instagram feed is full of lettering she’s created that will cheer you up, give you a push, make you smile and help you.
You started exploring lettering and then moved towards brush lettering, tell us more about that?
“Sure! It was actually more like brush lettering, hand lettering then back to brush lettering!
I came across Valentina Harper’s work which lead me to the lovely Kal Barteski and I fell in love with her brush script.
I did Kal’s original script school which is now Life | Scripted with sumi brushes which I adored, but at the time, I wasn’t able to prioritise time to make that practice a habit. Something about it stuck with me though and has never left me.
I can’t truly remember how the hand lettering kicked off, but I ended up getting a stylus for my ipad. I was going through a bit of a tough patch at the time and I just wanted a way to relax and practice lettering easily, without mess, wherever I was. I sketched out something in Paper by FiftyThree then posted it to my Tumblr account where Amy Cao from FiftyThree reblogged it and it got some unexpected love. It ended up being featured on the FiftyThree site (thanks Amy) and it sparked my interest to explore further.
It was an activity I really enjoyed and it seemed to serve other people and inspire them which I loved.
I practiced hand lettering and explored it but found it really hard on my hands and kinda laborious, even though I liked the end result, the process is more important to me. So I went back to the brush.
I did a brushpen workshop with Beppeartz which was awesome and drew inspiration from there but I knew I didn’t want to go deep with the classical style and instead just write in whatever my loose freehand style was. I yearned to be free rather than worry about precise letter forms and getting it “right”! I have a hard enough time with wanting stuff to be pefect as it is and that sucks the joy out of any activity, so I went with the freestyle expression route.
I kinda crossed the brush pens with Kal’s sumi style and came up with my own expression.
James Victore has been a big influence, reminding me to “Feck Perfuction”. I no longer follow rules of where the thicks and thins go, I just write, it’s more art to me than lettering. It just happens to be words.
The reason I love brushes so much is beacuse it is a smooth and flowing motion. I find it rhythmical and calming and like mediation almost. I love all things like this – skateboarding, surfing, music, and it just seems to fit in with who I am.”
Have you had any inky accidents?
“Most of my work is inky accidents!
Apart from that, nothing major, but I’ve definitely got spots of ink on some of my clothes.”
You’ve created some lovely, and very unique screen print work using lettering and themes from the Christmas movie Elf and the Lorax movie. How did these ideas begin?
“Thanks! Elf is one of my all time favourite movies. I just love Buddy the Elf. His lines are something me and my friends quote to each other to make each other laugh, so I thought that it would be awesome to have them in one place as a piece of artwork. I’m not sure how I came up with the idea, possibly at the time, I was looking at hand lettering inspiration and there seemed to be a trend of silhouettes with lettering in, so I thought I would give it a go, Emma style. I don’t really like to follow trends but in this case, I seemed to get away with it and make it my own. I was really fortunate to have Dave Fortune from UWE invite me in to try screen printing and he was the one that came up with the 3 colour blend which really brought it to life! Cheers Dave!
For the Lorax print, my sister in law told me about the quote which she said she loved and told me about the movie, which I also loved. It was her birthday coming up and so I set about creating something for her around that. I traced the trees from the original artwork. This one was screen printed with the help of John Lynch, a previous student of Dave who was running a workshop which I attended.
I love how movies can inspire us, make us laugh and most of all remind us not to take life too seriously. I’m a big kid at heart. Don’t get me started on Frozen. Oh wow, I could totally do a Frozen piece! I’m in love with Olaf.”
Do you think it’s best to be comfortable at lots of different styles of lettering or develop your own style?
“I say do what’s in your heart, whatever that is for you.”
What advice or tips would you give those first starting out at lettering?
“Stay open. Practice. just start! By all means look at other people’s work for inspiration and copy (but don’t share it) to get you going, but make sure you follow and develop your own style by just being you, however that comes out on paper.”
What are some of your greatest lettering achievements?
“I had a piece published in Typism Book One, which was pretty cool!
Beyond that though, my achievements are more subtle and internal. When someone leaves me a message that I shared some words that they needed to hear that day is my greatest achievement. Jim Rohn talked about the power to inspire another with words. So if I can do that, that’s massive for me.”
If you could only ever letter one word again, what would it be and why?
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Because its the awesomest word ever, Mary Poppins (and Julie Andrews) is a bad ass, plus it’s got a ton of letters in so I’d never get bored. Plus it’s a song. Who doesn’t love that word? It inspires magic!”
“Thank you for asking me! Keep up the good work!”