I am so excited to come back with this series with such a talent. Today, I am interviewing the lovely Julianna Swaney, an artist who’s career I have been following for many years. In fact, Julianna is the only artist on Etsy that I have ever bought a print from, not that there aren’t other incredible artists but I can never make up my mind, but when I saw Julianna’s work I bought it not even knowing where I would put it-her work just moves me. I started to really pay extra attention when I noticed that she started to add more and more lettering to her work and then I saw she was commissioned by another favorite artist to do the lettering for her book, Menagerie. It made my heart swell to see that she was garnering more well deserved exposure.
Where are you located?
How did you get started in lettering?
I’ve incorporated some handwritten text into my artwork for a long time. It wasn’t until a few years ago though I started getting requests from people who liked the writing they saw used in my drawings and wanted to commission me to do lettering for them. Now a big chunk of the work I do is hand lettering. I’m all self taught, and I definitely still feel like I have a lot to learn, but I love it!
What are some of your favorite supplies (inks, brushes, nibs, paper)?
For most lettering I really prefer the simple Micron pen with a 01 or 005 tip. They dry quickly and never seem to bleed. I sometimes wonder if I should try different pens in case I’m missing out on something better, but when I do that they always disappoint me and I go back to the Micron! If I’m doing calligraphy my favorite nib is the Speedball Hunt Globe No. 513 with a Sumi ink. For paper use a smooth bristol since it keeps things nice and crisp. I don’t need to use anything fancy since I’m usually just scanning the lettering into the computer.
Can you name some of your inspirations?
I’m definitely not the first person to do this but I love to look back at older sources for inspiration, especially to advertisements and ephemera from the 19th century. I personally have a collection ofantique trade cards from the late 1800’s that use wonderful and interesting type, and then of course I’m always searching out images of similar things on the web. One of my favorite websites sites for finding amazing type is the Duke University Library’s historic sheet music collection.
Can you go a little into your process of how you work on a project?
I’m someone who has to see something on paper before I can tell if it’s going to look good or even work, so I usually do tons and tons of sketches, ranging from rough to pretty finished. If I’m working with a client they never see half of the work I do! I pick out the best ones and we go over them together and narrow in on what they want, sometimes combining sketches, before making a final draft in pencil. Then I go over that in ink and scan it into the computer for final touch ups. If I’m incorporating some watercolor I do that separately on watercolor paper and combine them digitally.
Any recommendations of books or classes for lettering enthusiasts to further their studies?
Well, I think what’s been most helpful for me is looking though collections of typography and just practicing hand drawing different styles using those as guides. A good one is Vintage Type & Graphics by Steven Heller and Louise Fili.
Do you have some favorite projects you would like me to mention?
Yes! The one that really got me started lettering for other people was the book Menagerie by Sharon Montrose, I did all the text for the book. Also I’m pretty proud of two recent branding projects: What Delilah Did, a cross stitch designer in the UK and Ben & Colleen Wedding Photographers.
Any advice on what not to do?
Many tears have been shed because I impatiently went at some recently inked text with an eraser. It should be obvious, but I constantly have to remind myself: make absolutely sure all your ink is dry before trying to erase any pencil lines.
Name one random talent you have that people may not know.
Okay, this is very random but I have knack for finding four leaf clovers.