Hey everyone! Today marks the first of plenty of features for #SimpleAlphabets on instagram. The long and short of it is- for everyday of June, we shall be lettering an alphabet a day + some extras. I’ve asked some letterers I admire to share their skills throughout the challenge- as well as to also divulge a few secrets about their creative process. Fun, right? You can join in anytime- just head on over to @surelysimplechallenge and @surelysimpleblog and read this page to get all the details.
Our first teacher from the challenge is Jessica Chung- her field is actually education, so it’s no wonder that she’s a brilliant teacher. She has a clean and organised style both in planning out her day via the bullet journal as well as her playful lettering. Let’s get to know more from Jess herself:
Please tell me a bit about yourself.
I would describe myself a curious creative, community member, and educator – these identities are core to who I am. Curiosity has called me down exciting paths I never would have considered, almost always to my joy – so now I’m a Minneapolis-based blogger, hand lettering artist, and leadership educator – none of which I would have imagined for myself even just a few years ago. Oh, and coffee addict, I should add that too.
How would you describe your lettering/ calligraphy style?
I would describe my style as a modern script that is always evolving depending on what the work is.
What makes you motivated enough to keep on keeping on with your work?
I don’t really consider the act of Making as work, I suppose! I find myself being drawn to doing it. If I hear something funny, beautiful, powerful, I am CALLED to draw it out, letter it, almost memorialize it on paper. I also have a short attention span so I’m always flitting around trying different tools and techniques, which keeps things really fresh. Lettering is more immediate than my teaching work, so it’s also something tangible for me to use as both a discipline and hobby.
The other part of my lettering work is my shop, which I’m doing with two friends and partners. The act of working on community keeps me accountable, because I feel responsible in keeping things moving for all of us. I’m sure I’d be moving much slower if I was only accountable to myself!
Would you rather go the freelance way or do you prefer a more regulated and secure way of work?
At this point, I have a LOT of love for all the work I do – not only lettering but also blogging and my full-time job. Having a full-time job I love allows me a lot of freedom in my freelance work – I have to be and GET to be selective about the work I do, which means I can choose the work that really excites me. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go free-lance, to be honest!
What makes you the happiest when it comes to looking at your progress?
Technically? I love when I can see clean, consistent lines and spaces in my work – it just looks legit somehow, polished. When the flourish lands in the right place, or the white space between words is balanced. Overall, I love looking at my work from months ago, a year ago. The progress is remarkable. There are very few things I’ve ever practiced almost daily, and it’s humbling and exciting to see how far I’ve refined my style and technique since I started.
Half glass full or half glass empty? What’s your attitude in life in general?
Given my fortune of circumstance, I’ve had a really pleasant journey so far. I know too many people who haven’t, and so I have a distinct privilege of saying my glass is half full, that tomorrow will be better and full of new possibility, and that I can roll with whatever is coming. One of the most powerful lessons I learned in college was that “Life is written in pencil, not in pen.” That kind of freed me from this notion that life HAD to go according to a plan, and gave me some flexibility knowing that I can always adapt with more information and opportunity.
Who do you look up to in your field? Or in life as a whole?
Oh goodness. In the lettering world, I look up to a LOT of people – everyone has their distinct style and flair that is really incredible to witness. I love the playfulness of Amanda Arneill, the classiness of Lindsey Bugbee, the sassy modern style of Chrystal Elizabeth, the endless classic stylings of Paul Anthony, that masculinity of Colin Tierney, the delicacy of Erica, the colorful technique from Shannon, and so many others.
In my life, I look up to one of my best friends Kate. Her curiosity is unlike anyone’s I’ve ever seen – she’s always learning about the world, herself, and others. Her talent and interests cannot be limited to any one thing. Of course, I also look up to my parents and family. Anyone with refugee parents probably know exactly what I would mean by this.
How many hours do you put in for your work everyday?
For my lettering work, I put in an average of 30 minutes to an hour a day. Like I said, I hardly practice anything daily, so this is HUGE for me.
What book/ podcast are you currently reading/listening to?
Ugh, I am one of those people who’s in the middle of 20394838 things, always. I’m in the middle of Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler, the Freakonomics podcast, and Redirect by ___
How do you think you have evolved in your art- has it changed you?
One of the biggest things we talk about in leadership is the power of our intention. That your environment and actions can be transformed by your intention. Lettering has taught me that in a very tangible way. I have gotten through a lot of my life winging it, quick throwing things together. Though planful, I’m used to being able to procrastinating and then being fine with the result – but with lettering, I find I can’t progress without the deliberate practice. I say deliberate because it’s not the same to just do some practice strokes doodling on the side – I have to mindfully consider each one, feeling where my pen wants to go and how my hand is working with or against it. I have to be fully present to it if I want it to be any good. Cultivating that mindfulness has definitely changed me and how I approach other parts of my life, too.
What’s next in your artistic journey?
I’m working on marrying my two loves – teaching and lettering – by finding places to do a brush calligraphy workshop in my area this summer. This is a whole new process for me, and requires that I find the confidence to be able to say, “Yes, I have something to teach you,” which is really hard for me as a perpetual learner. I’m excited to get to a place where I feel confident offering something of value to other people – and having a kick ass time doing it.
Jessica Chung is a Minneapolis calligrapher/bullet journalist/blogger and face behind Pretty Prints & Paper. On her blog, she combines her passions for teaching and handlettering to inspire others to unleash their inner creative through tutorials, project ideas, and lessons about lettering and bullet journaling. You might find her in different states and countries, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, art classes of all kinds, a cappella concerts, or at the nearest Americano. Connect with her: Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Periscope
Thanks for sharing, Jessica! -Aaria