I love, love, love signing books. I’m used to people saying, “I wish I could draw,” but there have been a surprising number of folks on this tour who remark on my handwriting. Sometimes people just like it, and sometimes people are really surprised that it’s the same handwriting that’s in the book. (A lot of people think that the writing in the book is a font.)
The underlying notion here is that handwriting is somehow magical, that you’re just naturally gifted with lovely penmanship. But as I explain to folks on tour, just as I learned to draw by copying Garfield cartoons, I learned to write by copying other people’s handwriting.
My first two handwriting heroes were Phil Collins and John Lennon:
I spent hours copying their handwriting, and when I found Jimi Hendrix’s handwriting, I spent hours copying him, too:
And in my later life, some of my favorite artists have been obsessed with handwriting. Lynda Barry practices the alphabet with her brush everyday as a way to get warmed up. You can see little alphabets pop up in her drawings:
The handwriting in Steal is my attempt to rip off Maira Kalman and Steve Brodner:
As Lynda says, “In the digital age, don’t forget to use your digits!” There some studies that suggest handwriting boosts the brain and that handwriting helps you learn. It’s a damned shame penmanship isn’t taught more in school.
Anyways, the point is: handwriting, drawing…it’s all marks on the page. The way towards better handwriting is explained in chapter two of Steal: start copying. To paraphrase Jack Kirby, if you like the way a man writes, steal his hand. Copy him. As you’re copying his writing, the copy will mutate, and you’ll find your own hand.
For more on handwriting, check out my “handwriting” tumblr tag→