Revive Failed Paper Art with Creative Lettering

Like a lot of people, I have this thing about my handwriting. I hate it. Which means anytime I'm creating handmade cards or a paper collage where I want to add writing, I dread it. I feel like the moment I add that "personal touch," I've ruined everything that came before I put pen to paper.

handmade paper art recycled with lettering
Journaling over a less-than-stellar piece of artwork allows you to practice lettering
without risk.

I have been working on the issue of how to write creatively for a while now, paying attention to how other artists address this topic. And I've noticed a common theme. Virtually every artist says that to create artful printing or writing you should use a variety of tools, play, and practice, practice, practice.

Or, as Joanne Sharpe puts it: "Play, practice, write, repeat."

Joanne, a mixed-media artist and creative letterer extraordinaire, says she has been creating artful writing since the 1970s, and she still practices every day.

Joanne practices lettering in her art journals, but she also likes to make creative use of recycled artwork.

"I never throw anything away. I can't bear to part with any of my art, ever!" says Joanne. "I use my prints and paintings that aren't wonderful as platforms for my art journaling and mixed media. I create piles of pieces that I letter and journal on to use them as embellishments for paper art and other projects."

Joanne often starts by ripping up a not-so-great painting or print, re-shaping and saving the most interesting part. Then she letters a favorite quote, an inspirational message, or some personal journaling over the old artwork.

Joanne recommends using a black permanent pen, such as a Sharpie®, because it works best when writing over paint or printing ink.

This stenciled paper art could become a
handmade card with artful lettering.

Joanne then uses the new artwork as handmade cards, package or card embellishments, paper collage, mixed-media art pieces, art journals and other paper arts.

I love this concept for practicing artful lettering, because if it doesn't come out the way you want, you haven't wasted paper or ruined your previous work. And if you do like the results, you've turned a disappointing piece of artwork into something to be proud of.

Joanne demonstrates many simple and creative techniques for turning "bad handwriting" into artful lettering in her new Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM video, Artful Lettering: Tools and Techniques for Discovering Your Style.

I've already started practicing with some of Joanne's techniques, and I'm encouraged to hope that one day I will not "ruin" journal pages with my ugly handwriting.

P.S. What techniques or tricks do you use to turn your regular handwriting into something you're pleased to have as part of your art journal or other mixed-media paper art? Leave a comment below.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques, Paper Art and Zen Doodle


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