Alright pen pals! Are you ready to get drilling!? (Cheeky innuendos are not going to stop BTW). Last lesson we learned all about my staple strokes of brush pen lettering – and now we’re going to learn the importance of repeating them all, a LOT.
I’ve mentioned “muscle memory” previously, and the aim of drills is to embed these strokes into our muscle memory, so that when we letter a word in future, our body will remember how it’s supposed to be done.
Think about when you pick up a pen for the first time in aaaaaages, these days we all live on our phones and computers. Our handwriting looks nowhere near as sexy as it did the day we got our pen licence, right? It’s because our body isn’t regularly using its muscle memory for this task and struggles to remember how it’s done.
Have you ever gone overseas or on holiday for a long period of time and got home to buy something with your credit card and not remembered which pattern your PIN is on the keypad? That’s your muscle memory being senile! (I always thought it was my crap numerical memory).
Ever jumped on a bike for the first time in years? (*raises hand to that time in 2015 I thought it would be fun to do a 4 hour bike tour of Paris on a 40 degree day in crazy traffic despite not riding a bike for 15 years. Deep, deep embarrassment ensued). This is all muscle memory, and when we don’t use it regularly, it ‘forgets’.
So, what’s that got to do with lettering? Just letter words every day and you’ll be sweet?
Well, yes and no.
Sometimes you’ll be lettering and you’ll get SO frustrated over the inconsistencies in your thicks and thins, or you’ll go all shaky on the upstroke, or not connect your lines smoothly. This is 9* times out of 10 (*made up statistic but probably true) due to your muscle memory not being flexed enough, or properly!
So what do we need to do?
We need to pull out our staple strokes and repeat them again, and again, and again.
It sounds hideously boring but I promise you it will improve your lettering – and not only that – it’s very therapeutic!
Take a look at some drill practise I posted to Instagram a little while back for an idea of how to practise them:
Did you see my blog post a few weeks ago on 8 staple strokes? If not you can head to www.blackchalkco.com for more info. I'll soon be adding the next lesson on drills, which is what I'm doing in this video 😊 A drill is when you repeat the same stroke over and over. Repetition helps build the stroke into your muscle memory and makes it easier to letter your words because the strokes become second nature to you. Some people use drills as a warm up exercise, and some complete them when they're having an "off" lettering day when their strokes are shaky or inconsistent. Have you done your drills lately? . 🎥: 4x speed (and I was still going too fast) ✒: pentel sign brush pen 📋: rhodia grid paper
So, when should you do drills? 6am every day for 1 hour, right after your low fat, high GI breakfast and before your daily 2 hour bikram yoga class, because you’re superman/woman and NEED to do everything a book or website tells you to do in order to be good at life? Well, if you really want to. But I know how unsustainable doing something you feel you “have” to do, is.
In all honesty I rarely do them because I’m a secret rebel and refuse to admit when my muscle memory is failing me, and mostly because I letter twice or more a day so my muscle is pretty well toned (still working on the 6 pack though). I definitely won’t do them as thoroughly as the video above every time, but when I recognise a particular stroke or letter that I’m not nailing, I’ll grab a scrap piece of paper, take a deep breath and repeat a few. And that’s when I recommend you do them, too. When you feel you need a helping hand with your pen strokes.
Some people (who are probably much more elite letterers than me for this exact reason) will do drills EVERY TIME they sit down to letter. They do it as a warm up – and that’s definitely not a bad thing to do if you have the time and discipline! Especially when you’re starting out.
Drills are really that simple. You’ve already got the staple strokes down pat from the previous lesson, so now focus your energy on concreting those movements into your muscle memory! This will allow you to letter in future without having to place as much conscious effort onto each and every stroke, as your body will be doing the work for you.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns please leave a message below!