The Art of Watercolor Lettering – Kelly Klapstein

art of watercolor lettering cover

“A Beginner’s Step-by-Step Guide to Painting Modern Calligraphy and Lettered Art”

Being more creative is one of my constant goals, but it can be intimidating for a beginner to get started. Calligraphy, for example, has a huge appeal to me, to the point where I’ve bought pens and inks and started practicing – and always been too disappointed to go on. And don’t get me started on watercolour – looks gorgeous, but not the easiest!

Combining the two forms intrigued me – surely it would just make for ‘difficult squared’?

This book starts off, as with most art books, with a list of equipment and some discussion about the various options – of brushes, papers, paints, and sundries. There’s a brief explanation of colour mixing theory, and then some simple warm up exercises to get you used to holding the brush and working with the paint.

As you can see, this is all very non-threatening, and perfect for total beginners as well as those who need a bit of a confidence boost!

The third chapter introduces the lettering, talking about the basic and some more complex styles. This is the ‘calligraphy’ part, if you like. Then we move on to the ‘watercolour’ part (yes, the whole book is that, but most intensely here!) and – oooh! The techniques (rainbows!) and hints (wet on wet effects) and use of colour is just making me want to go grab a paintbrush and start right now! I mean, look at this:

galaxy lettering example


The author also briefly covers other things like watercolour pencils and water-based brush markers, before suggesting how to use what you’ve learned to make ‘dreamy designs’.

Overall, I really like this book. It combines two art forms I hadn’t really thought to try together, and is presented in clear, easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions that will get just about anyone started and on their way to a fun, pretty hobby with all sorts of uses.

NetGalley eARC: 146 pages / 7 chapters
First published: 2019
Series: none
Read November 2019

My rating: 9/10

Creative Journaling – Renee Day

creative journaling cover

“A guide to over 100 techniques and ideas”

It’s been a few years since I stumbled across the concept of Bullet Journaling, and it grabbed me from the start: a mix of organisation and creativity sounds absolutely my thing! However, I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut with my ‘spreads’ (page designs) over the past year, never really got as creative with it all as I wanted, and am actually taking a bit of a break right now. My intention is to start a new journal with new enthusiasm for the new year.

So, when I spotted this book on NetGalley, it felt like a bit of a sign! 😉

Renee Day is behind the instagram account @theDIYday, and if you’re familiar with it you might know what to expect from this book. It covers four different kinds of journalling – dot grid (what I’d call bullet journaling), junk (aka altered book), mixed media, and travel. There are also section at the start and end on choosing materials and supplies, types of lettering, and making your own ‘extras’.

The first section was of most interest to me. If you’re a long-time ‘BuJo’er’ then you might find this a bit basic, or like me you might be glad of the different ideas – all fairly simple and ‘doable’, thank goodness! In fact, the idea of a reusable layout page struck me as genius! There are different styles, different techniques or embellishments, all presented in a step-by-step form with added hints and tips.

The ideas do get progressively more complex, so as a beginner you could follow each in turn and build your confidence – and your craft stash, if you want to try them all! I’d never thought about using my card-making kit (stamps, punches, etc) for my journal, but what a great way to try stuff out.

Up to this point, Ms Day is on the side of stamps and tapes rather than a lot of artistic skill, which is something of a relief. She gets a bit more crafty with the ‘junk journaling’, something new to me but which is quite intriguing, and more again with the mixed media. This feels aspirational for me right now – maybe after some confidence building with my bujo I’ll feel more capable of creating a ‘hot glue layout’, or something this pretty:

stitched galaxy layout from book

After the fairly self-explanatory travel journalling section, I really loved the section on ‘DIY accessories’ – make your own tabs looks fab, and I would never have thought of making my own washi tape or decorated paperclips.

Overall, this is a lovely book full of ideas for beginners and more experienced journallers alike. The step-by-step instructions makes it a lot more accessible than the equivalent blog/social-media offering, too. Recommended – and might just spark a good New Year’s Resolution for me 😉

NetGalley eARC: 211 pages
First published: 14th January 2020
Series: none
Read November 2019

My rating: 8/10

A Dangle A Day – Angela Porter

a dangle a day cover

“A dangle is a beautiful string of charms you can use to decorate all kinds of things, including alphabets, shapes, borders, illustrations, quotations, and anything else you can think of.”

I got into zentangling a while back – sort of doodling with rules – and I’ve been meaning to get back into it for ages. I’ve also taking to Bullet Journalling in a big way, finding it a fab mix of my needs to be organised and a bit creative. So when I spotted A Dangle A Day on NetGalley, it looked just my thing – and I was right!

The first section is on lettering. This has always appealed to me, and there are plenty of step-by-step examples – one for each letter and number, each in a different kind of style to mix and match – which will be very handy when I’m stuck for inspiration.

The second section is on seasons. Doodles and ‘dangles’ can look quite simple, but coming up with ideas is half the battle. The author took that work out of the equation for me, providing dozens of examples of just the kinds of seasonally-appropriate little doodles I was after, be that holly or bells for Christmas, hearts and flowers, or more abstract designs, plus colour schemes that match the seasons.

The actual ‘dangle’ part of the title refers to stringing doodles together in streamer-like chains, and while I wasn’t too sure about that part to begin with, the description of using them as BuJo section breaks was a lightbulb moment. They were also perfect for decorating my Christmas card envelopes.

Dangles and zentangling and doodling are lovely, relaxing and just ‘nice’ activities that I recommend wholeheartedly, and this book is a fantastic resource for inspiration. There are sections after each example for you to have your own go, if you have the physical book, but even if not – get the pens out, and have a play about. It’s great for the soul 🙂

NetGalley eARC: 147 pages
First published: 2019
Series: none
Finished reading: 9th February 2019

My rating: 9/10