Why Adding Words to Paintings is the Ultimate Inspirational Tool

Hearing Your Inner Voice: Words in Art

Inspirational Art Quote | Vincent van Gogh | ArtistsNetwork

Sometimes, all it takes is a single word, like “determination,” to spark our creative fire. Other times, motivational quotes, such as the one above, seem to ignite an unceasing flame in us to achieve our goals.

We all have them: words, phrases and sayings that inspire, motivate and drive us to be better people and artists. And, we most likely all have a favorite artwork that equally fuels our passions. So as artists, why not combine our favorite words with our paintings for the ultimate inspirational tool?

After all, “painting is a visual language and, when paired with words, becomes even stronger in communicating our inner world,” says artist Mati Rose McDonough. She is the co-author of Painting the Sacred Within, along with her friend and fellow artist, Faith Evans-Sills.

Choosing a strong word to include in a painting can bring together the “theme” of that specific art piece and what you are trying to communicate overall through your art and in your life. Below is a fun demo pulled from McDonough and Evans-Sills book, so you can start getting your words and brushstrokes on the same page (pun intended). Enjoy!

Lettering with a Brush

Adding Words to Paintings | Calligraphy | Words in Art | Writing with a Brush | Mati Rose McDonough and Faith Evans-Sills | ArtistsNetwork

We each have a unique signature that carries a powerful weight along with its message. Lettering is your natural mark marking. When you combine your script with your artwork, you bring tremendous meaning to your painterly expressions.

In this demo, you will choose a strong a word to use as a continued theme and reminder of what’s meaningful to you. Here’s what you will need to get started:

  • Acrylic paints
  • A marker
  • Paintbrushes (small with clean, crisp tips)
  • Water

1. A Helping Hand

You may want to have a friend or family member write your own word or a quote on your hand to fully embody the word(s).

Adding Words to Paintings | Calligraphy | Words in Art | Writing with a Brush | Mati Rose McDonough and Faith Evans-Sills | ArtistsNetwork

2. Tiny but Mighty Tools

Using watered-down or fluid acrylic paints (sometimes I use water-resistant black India ink), start writing your word or words with a small brush.

Adding Words to Paintings | Calligraphy | Words in Art | Writing with a Brush | Mati Rose McDonough and Faith Evans-Sills | ArtistsNetwork

3. Writing Words in Style

Begin the script, adding calligraphic elements like curves to the words. Think about where compositionally it works to paint the word in the painting — if there’s a perfect clearing for the word or if you want to create one before you begin with a swath of paint.

Adding Words to Paintings | Calligraphy | Words in Art | Writing with a Brush | Mati Rose McDonough and Faith Evans-Sills | ArtistsNetwork

4. Through Thick and Thin

It’s helpful to vary the width of the letters from thick to thin for visual interest.

Adding Words to Paintings | Calligraphy | Words in Art | Writing with a Brush | Mati Rose McDonough and Faith Evans-Sills | ArtistsNetwork

5. Carrying On

Continue lettering in a fluid, cursive way. 

Adding Words to Paintings | Calligraphy | Words in Art | Writing with a Brush | Mati Rose McDonough and Faith Evans-Sills | ArtistsNetwork

6. Attention’s in the Details

Go over the script multiple times. And treat the lettering as a word, but also as a painting by paying attention to the curves and varying the lines.

Adding Words to Paintings | Calligraphy | Words in Art | Writing with a Brush | Mati Rose McDonough and Faith Evans-Sills | ArtistsNetwork

7. Adding the Final Touches

Finish your word, making sure it reads well and takes up space beautifully.

Adding Words to Paintings | Calligraphy | Words in Art | Writing with a Brush | Mati Rose McDonough and Faith Evans-Sills | ArtistsNetwork

If you want more words to inspire your next creative project, here are a few paintings made by Mary Wangerin. She often uses exquisite hand-painted lettering in her art, inviting the viewer to experience words in a deeper way.

 

Adding Words to Paintings | Calligraphy | Words in Art | Writing with a Brush | Mati Rose McDonough and Faith Evans-Sills | ArtistsNetwork

Art by Mary Wangerin

 

We asked her how she chooses the works she works with. “I love to incorporate words or quotes into my work. Often, the words I choose tend to reflect how I’m feeling that day,” says Wangerin. “They serve as gentle reminders, inspiration and guides. I believe in the beauty of imperfections and messes, so almost all of my lettering mirrors this. I grab a small-tipped paintbrush and go for it, rarely ever using a pencil first. The process is so freeing.”

 

Adding Words to Paintings | Calligraphy | Words in Art | Writing with a Brush | Mati Rose McDonough and Faith Evans-Sills | ArtistsNetwork

Art by Mary Wangerin


Touch Up on Your Lettering

If you’re new to calligraphy, or just want a refresher, then check out Jen Wagner’s new North Light Book, Happy Hand Lettering. This book is filled with lettering tips, techniques and tutorials to help you bring your words to life.

Intrigued? Enjoy this teaser trailer for Happy Hand Lettering before getting started!

 

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