After six years studying it, and four years working in this field, I believe now it's a good time to do this. This is not going to be a book, I promise, because for starters I usually don’t talk that much, I'm mostly an introvert. But I promise you that every single word below is coming from my heart.
Why did I choose lettering? Why not study anatomy, and then work in concept art, or even become one of those performers or contemporary artists that most of people don’t understand. I was studying Visual Arts when all started and I chose that major because I wanted to become a graphic designer. Not exactly the right beginning, but this is just one of those things we take a few years to finally realize are right for us.
For most of freshman year, all I could do was draw heads. They were realistic and drawn with a 6B pencil, the same one I would use to draw some music lyrics that were stuck in my head - nothing of my own, just some Queen, Tears for Fears (thanks, dad) and The Kooks here and there - I’m very far away from writing (or playing) music of my own, believe me. But between a very badly drawn skull in black ink and a piece of Bohemian Rhapsody on my sketchbook, I came up with something my drawing professor really liked. Not the skull, of course, but the really badly stylized lyric I had drawn.
“Forget the rest” she said, “invest your time in this”, pointing to the lyric.
“Wait, what? You're saying I should invest my time writing?” - fair question, because that could have me change my major from Visual Arts to Literature which was, well, kinda confusing.
“Of course not, I'm talking about this thing where you draw letters. Have you heard of letterpress?”
I started researching about letterpress, then typography, calligraphy and in the end found this weird thing where people draw letters as an illustration, not just for computer use. And even crazier, people consider that a form of art! With that in mind, I give most of my thanks to Paula Almozara. A couple of years later she came to me with a Letterpress research project and told me to apply. She was looking for a student to embrace it and do the work with her. Of course, I accepted it with no second thoughts and even though the project wasn’t approved by the government later on, I learned so many incredible things during that time, embracing even more that world of letters she introduced me to.
After that time it became harder for some other professors to accept that drawing letters was a form of art, because they had never seen somebody do that type of work, at least not in my college. But I didn’t care, that was all I had and knew how to do, and it felt weird to draw a sentence for a class project while everyone else was drawing a head, or an animal, or even a body. But their way, wasn’t my way, and I knew that.
During the last year of my graduation course, I began to create some book covers with sentences about happiness I had heard before (thanks Grey’s Anatomy), and I was just beginning to do vector work because it was very expensive to buy a lot of brush pens and markers every single week, and I already had a Wacom tablet and a nice computer (the very old 2011 MacBook Pro, bought with my IBM salary - one of the few good things that company allowed me to have by 2012). I couldn’t keep wasting money, and Adobe Illustrator was very cheap for students (it still is). I began doing vector work and that senior year, I met this other incredible woman and professor called Luisa Paraguai.
Luisa already knew some people I admired in the typography world from São Paulo, so when she introduced herself and I could see all her knowledge on typography and graphic design, my eyes began shining with happiness, because FINALLY someone in my college would teach me something I really wanted to spend hours with. Luiza explained the basic structure of typography, showed everyone some amazing references I had already researched by that time. It was everything I ever wanted and the only downside is that I only had this class for six months when I really should have had four years on this topic throughout my college career. As my final project arrived and I felt lost when it came to color palettes and concepts, Luisa spent half an hour teaching me about color theory, which helped me so much that I use until these days.
I finalized my project, graduated and three years later the Dean of my major department asked me to give a lettering workshop to the freshmen. Hard work is always worth it, and talent DOESN’T EXIST. :)
Text Revision: Mari Pinheiro