How to create flowing journaling

Hi Get Messians! Jennifer (@stitchandletter) here. I’m so excited to show you one of my favorite lettering styles, what I’m calling “connected lettering.” I’ve been lettering with this style for about 10 years–maybe I made it up, maybe I didn’t, but I certainly feel like I’ve made it my own, and that’s what I want to show you how to do today.

One of my primary purposes when I journal is to make meaning. I like to draw on symbolism throughout my spreads and lettering can absolutely be a form of symbolism. In this instance, the lettering becomes imagery, another layer of meaning and journaling.

The Basics

To start, let’s practice. that’s how everything starts, right?

Get a pencil and a plain sheet of paper, in or outside your journal — you might feel more free if it’s a scrap piece of paper outside your journal. I find a pencil adds some texture and resistance to the writing and are also more freeing.

And let’s just start writing our cursive, in our own handwriting, with no spaces. Take it slow at first. It takes a while to get used to not picking up your pencil in between the letters and in between the words. I cross my T’s and dot my i’s after I’ve finished the line.

Let’s write out “getmessyartjournal” a few times, in your own handwriting, without spaces. see how many words you can fit on the line, see how you want to deal with line breaks as you go down the page. As you get further down the page, start to let loose. Get looser with your handwriting, even get a little messy. Experiment with styles, but keep it connected.

Dissecting my practice photo some, you can see line 1 is pretty much my standard hand writing with elongated spaces between the words. Line 2 plays with the spacing of the words from each other; lines 3 and 5 play with the direction of the elongated spaces between the words– the spaces you fill in between your letters can be flat like underscores or curved like flourishes. In the former instance (like line 3) it will feel like dragging your pencil in a straight line across until you are ready to write the next word. In line 4 I’ve added a scribble flourish, which is a fun accent I love to use. In line 6 I played around with dotted lines to show you different directions of filler spaces. If you’re struggling to keep your pen down continuously, you can go back and fill the spaces between the words.

You may start to connect the look of the letters with different emotions. Play with size and style — and speed! Messy writing for messy thoughts or big bold expressive writing for anger, sweet curves for sweetness, etc. Add embellishments (like knots, stars, hearts) to the beginnings and ends of your lines. Once you feel comfortable you can move towards your favorite pens and into your journal.

This lettering an added layer of expression in your journal, the way you letter in your journal/your journaling becomes its own form of journaling.

Lettering in & around shapes

Once you feel comfortable lettering connectedly in a straight line, let’s add some shape. This is where this type of lettering can really come to life in your journal, integrating words and imagery.

Lettering around a circle will take some practice, and some pre-sketching. For this image I sketched out the lettering in pencil at least 5 times before the words fit around the circle the way i wanted. Kneaded erasers are my lettering BFF. it is not a weakness to draft with a pencil before you letter over it in pen — that’s what the pros do!

As you letter around a shape you may find it easier to turn your journal around with you as you go. You may find it easier to connect the words once you’ve written everything out and that’s fine. Experiment and find what works for you. You’ll discover your process and your style as you practice.

Here’s an example from a member from the community and a real-life friend, Jaimee or @_havenwood. During an art journaling date, she wanted to add lettering to this spread but didn’t know where to put it. I thought connected lettering would look great around the figure’s head and connect perfectly to the imagery of the hand with the nib. I love the way it turned out, Jaimee!

Another option

Another way to bring this lettering to life is as a background. It would be great to use during a brain dump since the connectedness lends itself well to stream of conscious writing. For the spread I specifically made for this tutorial I used it as a background to state “I am trying” and ask “am I trying.” The repetitive nature blurs the lines between the phrases and really mirrored my frame of mind.

Then I painted over it with white and black acrylic paint to make a base for another round of connected lettering. The white is nice because it still allowed the text to show through from the background. I sketched out my lettering in pencil first, then lettered over it with a sharpie pen (which worked well over the acrylic,) and then let it dry fully before erasing the pencil underneath.

I love pushing myself with this lettering to integrate it fully with the other elements of the spread, fitting it, connecting it, rather than having the lettering or the journaling feeling separate from the art. So I composed the second round of connected lettering to seem like it was going into the valves of the heart. Finally, I drew on inspiration from Lauren Caterson and Vanessa to staple thread into my art journal, extra texture and symbolism — and so fun.

To top it off, I added one more phrase of connected lettering up the side of the heart and into the thread. In this way the lettering has taken on a lot of symbolism and really plays into the spread as a whole.

I hope you have fun experimenting with this lettering style! Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Use it to get messy and be expressive. I can’t wait to see what you make.

10 Comments

  1. Laura Rahuba

    This is great; can’t wait to try it!

  2. Clare Davis Etheridge

    I love your work Jennifer and your hand lettering is so lovely. Thanks for sharing your technique, I like the ‘phrase as background’ idea and I might incorporate that in a page I am working on right now. Thanks!

  3. Elizabeth D.

    Beautiful work, Jennifer! I love how you’ve broken this down, step by step. <3 Can't wait to try!

  4. Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

    That spread with the heart totally appeals to me so much. And I have said it before and will again, I wish I could go on art dates with Jaimee and you!

  5. Sarah Rondon

    It’s always great seeing your work and handwriting. I really like how this works going around shapes!

  6. Misty Granade

    LOVE THIS!!

  7. Sasha Zinevych

    This is absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, Jennifer! I love how this type of lettering looks, so I am definitely going to give it a go!

  8. Charlotte Erichsen

    This is so reminding me of the days I learned to handwrite! When trying I thought it is a techniques that would probably not have evolved in Germany, because we have much more punctuation marks and these little points on the ä, ö, ü. So you have to stop the connected writing or go back all the time and I haven’t found a good way to incorporate commas. I feel strange to leave them out -> education resists 🙂

  9. Shelley Hitz

    I love this! Thanks for sharing 🙂