Funky Calligraphy: Adventures in Hand Lettering

This article was written by Martice Smith II

Funky Calligraphy: Adventures in Hand-Lettering


Funky Calligraphy: Adventures in Hand Lettering, Tutorial by artist Martice Smith II

My graffiti-style lettering is a fun mixture of bold, expressive calligraphy with a whimsical, urban vibe. It’s what makes my handwriting so recognizable and unique.

Sometimes, I prefer my letters to look imperfect and scribbly. It’s important to me that my spirit, at the moment, transcends into my artistry.

Today, I’ll be your guide for a quick adventure on finding your “voice” within your hand-writing.

So, where do I find inspiration? Literally, everywhere!

Look around you…the world is your oyster. Take an adventure!

I challenge you to look at your surroundings differently. Here are a few places of inspiration I like to start with:

  • graffiti murals / graffiti on trains
  • billboards
  • food packaging
  • tribal symbols and jewelry
  • kids’ writing
  • Expand your powers of observation. Photograph interesting walls and surfaces, print them out and add to a visual journal. Doors, facades, an vintage signage are my favorite things to look for!
  • Flip through architecture catalogs and fashion magazines for contemporary design inspiration.
  • Look at brand packaging. Notice how the typefaces exude various emotions for you.

Now that you’ve been inspired, let’s play!

Here are some basic supplies to get started with lettering: 


Funky Calligraphy; supplies to gather

  • Speedball’s Super Black India Ink (waterproof, free flowing, and contains a deep opaque pigment. It’s one of my favorites!)
  • skewer or toothpick
  • assortment of markers and fine point pens (include a chisel-tip marker / calligraphy pen)
  • paper

Funky Calligraphy and graffiti; step-by-step process by Martice Smith II

  1. First, grab your biggest chisel-tip marker or calligraphy pen. Write large letterforms and work randomly across the page.
  2. Next, use a pen with a smaller point. Try writing a phrase in a circular shape. Rotate the page for smoother writing. Allow the words to look like a series of marks. It’s OK to leave some words illegible. By layering letters and strokes you create interesting effects and backgrounds.
  3. Exaggerate letterforms and lines – make them your own! Vary their size by alternating your thicker, chisel-tip markers with fine point pens.
  4. Finally, draw scribbly flourishes with a toothpick or skewer dipped in India ink. (Do this part last to allow the ink to dry without being disturbed.) Set aside to dry for a few minutes. Spray varnish to seal the surface.

Your creative design potential is limitless if you think beyond traditional calligraphy methods. Take a playful approach, forget about the “rules” and allow your imagination to soar!

Think about this:

What kinds of fonts make you feel happy? Do they happen to be skinny, thick, bold or a mixture of all three?

What about fonts that help a product look timeless and fresh?

Analyze the differences of vintage style vs. a more kid-friendly look. What would they look like combined? Try it!

Remember, the key to developing your own style is to allow yourself to play and experiment.

JOIN the fun!

If you want to learn more about expressive, free-style hand lettering, be sure to sign up for Martice’s newsletter. Be the first to know about her upcoming mini-workshops, featuring in-depth handwriting techniques.


Mixed-Media artist, designer, and instructor Martice Smith II

Martice Smith II is creative director of Martice Smith II – Illustration & Design Studio, based in Missouri and owner of Uneek Art Boutique. She established herself as a freelance Illustrator and graphic designer after receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree. Specializing in mixed-media illustrations, Martice’s love for fashion, typography and wildlife are infused with a combination of traditional and digital art techniques.




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Graffiti Charm Bracelet

This article was written by Martice Smith II

Martice Smith II demonstrates how to make graffiti charm bracelets ATC canvas sheets

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with creative ways to incorporate more color into my wardrobe and accessories. I shopped around my local art store’s jewelry section and I had a serendipitous moment: why not transform my art into ‘wearable art’? I grabbed up some fun-sized, canvas ATCs and some basic jewelry making supplies and imagined infusing them with my own, signature style…vibrant splashes of color and of course, graffiti flair!

Simply put, this tutorial is the perfect way to show off your artistic side when you’re on the go! I’m sure your Graffiti Charm Bracelet will serve as a unique statement piece and will strike up a conversation in no time…let’s get started!

Gather supplies and tools of your choice

Gather supplies and tools of your choice.

Note: ATC Canvas sheets measure 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches

**Not pictured: 12″ chain ; makes approx. 2 chains

Jump rings; start with 10-15 pieces

Paint and draw on the ATC canvas

1. Paint the front and back of the canvas ATCs with your favorite media.

Set aside to dry.

TIP: If you used any water-soluble media, make sure to varnish!

These canvas ATCs will be very light. For my bracelet, I glued two sheets together for a little more sturdiness.

Cut the ATC canvas into different shapes

2. Cut canvas into pieces.

Narrow shapes, squares, ovals, and irregular shapes will add more interest and variety to your design. These will be our “charms”.

Feel free to add extra layers of handwriting to some of the charms.

Paint the edges with black acrylic paint

3. Seal the edges with black acrylic paint or a gold leafing pen.

Pierce and attach jump rings

4. Using an awl, pierce through each piece of canvas, 1/4″ from the edge.

5. Insert jump rings.

Use needle-nose pliers to slowly open the jump rings.

Attach a jump ring through each of the holes in the cut out canvas pieces, using the pliers.

TIP: Try layering several pieces of canvas shapes together.

Also, think about pairing up a few complementary colors to give your bracelet’s color palette more contrast.

6. Measure around your wrist with a flexible tape measure or a piece of string, add 3/4″ to that measurement, and then cut the chain to that length.

Next, take your chain and attach the jump rings, however you wish.

I found that skipping every other link accommodated the number of canvas pieces I had without being too overwhelming.

7. Finally, attach a small lobster clasp closure to finish the graffiti charm bracelet.

Here's the finished graffiti charm bracelet!

Other variations to try:

More variety- Add ribbon

For a more feminine look, weave a silk ribbon through every other link in the chain. Secure ends with a double knot.

I rarely throw away leftover paper or fabric scraps from my previous projects. To clear the stash, I could also glue those bits onto the ATC canvas, before cutting. Got washi tape scraps? Use them for this project, too- they’d be perfect!

Have fun and don’t be shy to strut your beautiful artwork!


Author bio:

Mixed-media illustrator and designer Martice Smith II

Martice Smith II is creative director of Martice Smith II – Illustration & Design Studio, based in Kansas City, Missouri and owner of Uneek Art Boutique. She established herself as a freelance Illustrator and graphic designer after receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree.

Martice also contributes as an article writer for the Creating Mixed Media Art website.

You can see more of her work via her Facebook page or her blog. She invites you to join her monthly newsletter, Uneek Art Letter, for art biz tips, advice and free digital goodies!




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