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Today’s exciting for me because I get to introduce you to one of my best friends! Her name is Kiley Bennett and many of you might know her better as the amazingly talented hand lettering artist of Kiley in Kentucky. She was born and raised in Kentucky and is currently living in a small college town in Illinois with her hilarious husband Daniel and her sassy cat Bea. She is a full-time lettering artist and teacher, Tombow USA brand ambassador, and released her first book Super Simple Hand Lettering this past January.
Kiley and I met on Instagram. Our friendship started just by commenting on each other’s Instagram stories and when we were both working on our first books, we began talking more frequently, encouraging one another in that process. Eventually, we started chatting over GroupMe in a small business group Kiley started. Because of our similar businesses and personalities, our friendship really hit it off on a personal level too. She has become one of my nearest and dearest friends and I would love for all the people in my community to get to know her sweetness and learn from her experience as a full-time lettering artist!
So, aside from a few questions from me, I’ll let Kiley take it away…
When did you start hand lettering?
It’s a long story, so get ready! I discovered hand-lettering on Pinterest! When Pinterest first began (I’m talking back when it was invitation only and you had to get on a waiting list to join) I was seeing a lot of art – specifically lettering – on Pinterest and was very inspired to try my hand at it. I have always had the art itch, loving to draw and paint growing up, and lettering felt like a new challenge that I wanted to take on!
At this point, I didn’t know THE FIRST THING about lettering. I bought a pack of Micron Pens and a sketchbook and tried to copy things I saw online. I was quickly discouraged by how little progress I saw in my lettering practice, and I gave it up within a couple of months. Hindsight is 20/20, because it’s obvious to me that I didn’t progress at all because I wasn’t educated on lettering in the slightest. I didn’t know what lettering was (downstrokes? What are those?!), the right tools to start out with, or the basic foundations of creating lettering in any form.
Fast forward 2-ish years and I was a receptionist at an ad agency in New York City, surrounded by typographers, graphic designers, and lettering artists. I learned what a brush pen was and thought ‘now that I can do.’ I be-bopped over to Dick Blick on my lunch break, bought a pack of Tombow Dual Brush Pens, and the rest is history. At the time, I was very inspired by Amanda Arneill. She is the fairy godmother of brush lettering, in my opinion! I’m still incredibly inspired by her lettering and the brand she’s created, but these days I am thankful to have developed my own style that I love and continually draw inspiration from. I keep my outside influences to a minimum because that is the key for me when I’m in creation mode! I originally fell in love with lettering because of how relaxing and satisfying it was, but now I love it because it has given me this life I love! I work from home in my own studio, I make my own hours, I have an incredible community of friends and students around me, and it feels like a DREAM.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career as a hand lettering artist?
A little while into my lettering practice, I felt confident enough in my ability to make cute hand-lettered gifts for friends and family and felt as if I should start selling on Etsy. Etsy worked for a little while, but I quickly discovered that I did not enjoy the fulfillment and customer service side of having an online shop, but I did enjoy giving advice, sharing tips, and showing my friends how to use a brush pen. Having taken numerous online courses for business and Etsy from other creatives in my industry, I knew there was a market for online education in the creative world. I also knew that teaching would be a much better fit for my personality…and that creating online classes would give me an even more flexible lifestyle. It almost wasn’t even a decision. I just went for it! I came out with my first online class less than a year into having an Etsy Shop, and since then I have shut down Etsy and produced three more online classes.
You are clearly passionate about passing along your love of lettering! You just came out with a brand new online course to help others get started. Tell us about that!
My new class is called Learn to Letter and it’s a class for the complete beginner. I decided to structure this class much like I would an in-person workshop so that those who can’t make my in-person workshops (due to travel, circumstance, time conflicts, etc.) could purchase my online course and learn from the comfort of their home in a pressure-free, go-at-your-own-pace way. I’m so excited about this class because it is what I needed all those years ago when I bought my pack of Micron pens and didn’t know what to do with them. I can’t even imagine how different my life would be now if I had discovered the brush pen two years earlier than I did. I’m also proud that my other class, Love How You Letter, is a natural next-step for any lettering artist. Once you learn the basics of lettering (or even well after), the next thing I believe any artist should focus on is developing and nurturing their unique style. Love How You Letter does just that!
What is your number one piece of advice to people just starting out with hand lettering?
You’re going to be bad before you can be good. I got discouraged and gave lettering up completely because I wasn’t a professional within two months. Even when I started using brush pens, it took me at least 6 months of daily practice before I was confident in my skills. For some, it takes even longer! If you’re not where you want to be right now, don’t sweat it. Practice, be consistent and stick with it. You. Will. Improve. It just takes time.
You mentioned briefly about what inspired you when you got started lettering, but I’d love to hear about what inspires you now!
As I mentioned previously, when it comes to lettering, I really try to keep my eyes on my own paper (literally and figuratively), because that’s what fosters creativity for me. However, since my hobby became my career, I’ve had to find new hobbies! One of those hobbies is painting. I love using gouache and acrylics to create abstract art, dabble with landscapes, and just explore color and pattern and movement with paint. I do not sell my work, nor do I teach painting, so it’s definitely just a hobby, and I like to keep it that way. I created a separate Instagram account to share my paintings (@loandroseco) if you’d like to check them out! Having a creative outlet aside from lettering has been key in keeping my ‘lettering fire burning.’ I could easily suffer from burnout if I didn’t have something else to turn to!
If people want to get to know more about you and learn about your online courses, how can they find you?
If you would like 10% off either of Kiley’s online courses, click HERE to choose between Learn to Letter (for total beginners) and The Love How You Letter Class (for experienced letterers). Use the code lauren10 at checkout!
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