10 Questions with Kim vanderHelm
Inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, I'm asking letterers and calligraphers I admire to share their thoughts on success, frustration, personal experiences, and more.
What's your name and where can we find you?
What's your lettering / calligraphy background?
I went to school for design, so I would say I came to lettering through typography. I've always loved words and writing, so lettering has been a fun way to combine illustration and design with writing!
When was the last time you surprised yourself?
Just last week! I was working on an illustration for a gift and wasn't sure if my idea would turn out since I didn't have a specific destination for the piece and I was trying out some new-to-me illustration techniques. It was a fun project and I was really happy with how the piece turned out in the end—it was a discovery process the whole way!
What is your greatest frustration in the creative process?
In lettering, since I'm fairly new to it, I sometimes get a bit frustrated when I don't quite have the skills to execute a concept in the way I have envisioned it. But the solution to that is practice and education, two things I enjoy, so it's not necessarily a terrible frustration to have. :)
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
That is a bit of a tricky question! I would say my greatest achievement changes as days go by and I try—and accomplish—new things. I try to celebrate achievements big and small, ordinary and extraordinary, because to me, being a creative is a lifelong process. Each time I complete a lettering piece that was particularly challenging, or out of my comfort zone, or is a concept I'm really excited about—those feel like great achievements to me. Other days, simple things like putting pen to paper, sketching, and enjoying life is a great achievement.
Who are your favorite artists?
Oh, I have many favourite designers and artists. I'll only name a couple since this could become a very long list, otherwise! Gemma O'Brien is a letterer/typographer I greatly admire. I love her versatility and how she combines type and illustrations so seamlessly and creatively. Dana Tanamachi is another of my favourite designers/illustrators/letterers—I am in awe of her work. I recently received the Illuminated Bible, which she illustrated and lettered (I think it has around 464 original illustrations in it!). It is incredible, as is all of Dana's work, and I would definitely recommend checking it out.
What is your motto?
I don't necessarily have one solid motto, but I read a great phrase from author Jeff Goins that has stuck with me: Run your own race. It's a great reminder to myself to always keep moving forward, to not compare my journey with other peoples' journeys, and how important it is to just run my race well.
If you weren't a letterer/calligrapher, what would you be and why?
Well, in addition to being a letterer, I'm also a designer. I love to create, to grab onto a problem then use research and design to address that challenge. One of my favourite parts of being a designer is how design can be used to help and inspire others, from products to experiences and more.
What's your ONE piece of advice to people starting out?
Since I feel like I am also fairly new to lettering, my advice to others and a reminder to myself is to just get started. Place that pen on the paper and go for it. Taking workshops and courses (online or in person) is a great way to get into lettering and accelerate your learning.