The Letter People – Every Day January

This year, as every year, I want to learn more things, make more things, and be more creative. What I’ve landed on at the moment is a desire to improve my hand lettering. My handwriting itself is atrocious, just because I don’t do it much. If I sit down and focus I can do a decent cursive, but it’s always on a slant, and I’ve lost the inherent skill of making all my letters the same size.  I also find myself switching between cursive and print almost at random, within the same word.

I have seen friends of mine and artists online sit down and swirl out the most amazing hand lettering, and I know that they must have worked long and hard to acquire that type of effortless-seeming skill. So I decided I’d work on it too.

I suspect that all art soothes the brain, but I think art you physically make with your two hands (non digitally) may have more of a role in reconnecting brain to hands to mood than art you make with a mouse. Not saying one or the other is better, just saying that it seems to me, based on nothing scientific at all,that drawing with your hands might make your brain light up in different places. Why not try? If I can find any thing to do with my hands that might help my brain not feel the way it currently feels, I will give it a whirl.

Here’s a super non-scientific article from the Huffington Post about the benefits of art for adults.

So I got this book:

The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering by Valerie McKeehan

and I got a bunch of chalk and a chalkboard surface:


The book has chalkboard surfaces in the front and the back, but I am at a loss to see how you’d use them to practice while you were also looking at the examples in the book.  (Seriously, how?)

The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering, by Valerie McJeehan
The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering, by Valerie McJeehan

Anyway, today I didn’t use any of that stuff, I went (after therapy, yay, #projectsanity) to a local coffee shop and ate lunch at a table by the window, and practiced with colored pencils. I figured, OK it’s not chalk, but any lettering practice is bound to help.

hand lettering
There was caramel swirl cheesecake, I won’t say there wasn’t.

And I sat down like I was in first grade and started to practice my printing. It was fun and also frustrating, I was glad I had drawn baselines, because I really do write downhill somehow. I did basic sans serif, serif and script, painstakingly writing my name in each.


The book has examples of all the different types of letterforms, and talks about how to create them, and to think of them as shapes, not letters, so you don’t get them confused with handwriting.

Then I practiced some flourishes, and then just writing the month over and over (I switched to my rainbow pencil because, well, rainbow pencil)


hand lettering

It was a fun exercise, I enjoyed it. I have tons of practice to put in, but I am hoping that by this time next year I might be able to sit down and use my amazing hand lettering skills to effortlessly draw out some lovely saying or phrase to delight and amaze my friends. Maybe!

It’s weird because I can come home and with 10-15 minutes on the computer I can whip up whatever I want in any fancy font I want, that’s a skill I have mastered.


But the point is not the finished thing, is it. The point is how you got there, and what your brain did, and what your hands did, and what you learned. So I am going to continue this project, and I am determined to become better.

Is there anything you’re learning how to do in 2016?


3 years ago


  1. I am learning how to stop being a “yes” man. This will be uncomfortable, but worth it in the long run. Then on to more creative endeavors, hopefully. Have fun with the lettering!

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