Happy Feature Friday!
This week we’re featuring Amber Garner and all her lettering talents! We love the different typography and media she uses to enhance her designs. Another aspect of Amber’s work philosophy that resonates with us is that she’s constantly practicing her lettering skills. When you look at her work it looks effortless, but that piece took practice, thought and even research! To learn more about Amber and how she honed her craft read on!
: Tell us a little about yourself as well as how you got your start in lettering.
: I’m currently living in Washington, DC with my fiancé and a few plants that have managed to survive my brown thumb. I’ve always been attracted to design, especially lettering and typography, but I’d never really sat down and deliberately attempted hand lettering. A few years ago I was on a plane with my sketchbook, and decided to try my hand at drawing out a quote from Harry Potter – “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.” It wasn’t pretty, but it was love at first flourish! I’ve practiced lettering in one form or another pretty much every day since then.
: How did you discover that you were so good at creating different types?
: I don’t think I became good at creating different type styles until I really learned a lot about typography, and the history of different styles. I’ve got an entire library in my head (and on my bookshelf) of type styles from many different eras, which influences my work a lot. I’ve always been really drawn to typography (I pride myself on my font identifying abilities). The tiny details and the historical context behind why they exist are so interesting to me.
: How would you describe your lettering style?
: I would say my lettering style is usually pretty informal and casual, but structured. I’m not concerned with every line being absolutely perfect (unless the piece calls for it), but I do make sure things like up properly, and I’m strict about using guidelines. I like to inject a lot of color into my final digitized pieces to create fun, bold pieces.
: What is the process for creating lettering, a phrase, or an illustration? (How do you decide what to write, what writing tools to use, the lettering style, the layout?)
: Deciding what to draw always seems to be the hardest part! I keep a document in Evernote where I can just jot down phrases and concepts as they come to me when I’m out and about. You never know what’s going to inspire an idea, so it pays off to have a portable way to keep track of your ideas. As far as tools or style and layout, it really all comes down to the phrase. I’m usually drawn to big, bold emphasis on the important words in a really short phrase, while a longer phrase might have more subtle changes between the most and least important words. And sometimes it just comes down to what style I’m in the mood to practice!
: You also run your own blog, sharelettering.com. What made you decide to start this and what kinds of things can people find on the page?
: When I first started getting serious about hand lettering, it was tough to find resources to help me learn. What was out there wasn’t a continuous curriculum, and it was scattered around the web – and a lot of it was far too advanced and intimidating. I wanted to create an approachable, centralized resource for tutorials and tips, where people of all skill levels can come to learn something. Share Lettering is full of resources about lettering tools, books, and classes, and tutorials about sketching, setting up guidelines, watercolor lettering, digitizing your work, and exercises to improve your skills.
: Do you have a favorite piece or phrase you’ve written?
: That’s a tough call! So many of my pieces feel precious and a lot of work goes into all of them. I think one of my recent favorites is a quote by Carl Sagan, which I did in brush lettering. Brush lettering was a medium I really struggled to learn, so it’s an amazing feeling to see how far I’ve come in that regard. And the final version was combined with a watercolor nebula I painted – I’m really drawn to finding ways to combine watercolor painting and lettering.
: What’s the most challenging part about perfecting your lettering and making it come out the way you envision?
: I think patience is the most challenging part. Lettering is an iterative process, and you have to realize that going in or you’re going to get frustrated. Most of the polished pieces I post to Instagram are not the first stab at a piece. They might be the 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th round of sketching. I think you have to accept and appreciate the process in order to push your lettering to the next level, or you’ll get frustrated and quit. If you always stop at the first round of sketching and call it good to go, you’ll never know how far you could have taken your skills.
: Your pieces have so much personality! What is the most fun part for you in making them?
: I really love digitizing my work. Usually I draw in black and white, which, while practical can get a little dull visually. Digitizing is where my work and vision truly comes to life, whether I’m working in Photoshop or Illustrator. I love exploring different color schemes, creating 3D effects on my type, and adding texture.
: Where do you see your art going in the future and anything coming up next for you that we should know about?
: I’d really like to explore editorial and advertising work. Spot lettering within a larger layout, rather than lettering being the entire piece, is very interesting to me. It can bring so much personality to an ad or cover page that a standard typeface just can’t. I do have an exciting tidbit I can share – I will have a lettering piece published in the upcoming GoodType Book, Volume 1!
: Any advice for those looking to learn hand lettering for themselves?
: Be patient. The people you’re intimidated by and feel you can never live up to have spent years honing their skill and dedicating themselves to their craft. If you put in the work and time, and practice every day, you can be that skilled.