For the second of our Meet the Maker interviews, we get to know friend of Pen Pusher, Andra from @adadletters who has supplied many of the inspiration videos you may have seen here on the site.
Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Andra Elena Danciu. I was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania and moved to Leicester, England in Autumn of 2015.
I always loved drawing and beautiful writing from watching my dad doing these when I was a child. He draws and writes beautifully! I’ve seen him using pencils, fountain pens, markers, paint and paint brushes - even a pyrography machine! He taught me and I absolutely loved it but then time went by and due to circumstances, I lost the passion.
How did you begin your lettering journey?
I truly started my lettering journey in November 2018, though I was already prepared to quit just a few months after starting out. I thought it was not a skill for me. I couldn’t find my place and style. Something was off, though a fair amount of people loved what I shared on social media.
Even though I couldn’t see myself continuing I still invested in some books and those books changed everything for me! The Calligrapher's Bible: 100 Complete Alphabets and How to Draw Them by David Harris was a game changer. I fell in love with Copperplate, English Roundhand, minuscules and flourished capitals. I wanted to learn and understand more and in the book there are just a few instructions. I wanted to go more in depth.
When I got Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy: A Step-by-Step Manual by Eleanor Winters I was in awe. I started practising religiously from this book - not with dip pens but with my favourite tools, brush pens, more specifically small tip brush pens. I also got the fascinating book, The Universal Penman by George Bickham - a collection of writing exemplars which helped to popularise the English Roundhand script in the 18th century. I absolutely love these books and cherish them so much!
My passion was restored and with consistent practice, I progressed tremendously and proved to myself that I am capable if I set my mind to it. I had great references, instructions and I consider the authors my mentors. In the last few years I changed my mindset completely. I think anyone can do it if they have a clear goal. Once you know what you want to achieve you can definitely do it!
Do you have favourite styles of lettering and what makes these so enticing?
My favourite script is Copperplate, English Roundhand calligraphy. My modern style is based on it. I use brush pens and call my style modern brush pen calligraphy. It resembles copperplate but I allow myself more freedom in creating the letters, hence calling it modern and a tribute. I’m just so happy when I write it!
Other calligraphy scripts I love are Italic and Gothic. I also love hand lettering, which is the art of drawing the letters instead of writing them. I just love these.
What are your favourite pens or lettering tools to work with?
Small tip brush pens are perfect for practice and I have quite a few. Pentel Touch and Tombow Fudenosuke brush pens helped me practise every single day and progress tremendously. Because I learnt the basic strokes and letter formation with these, I achieved great control and can now handle most of the brush pens - small tips, medium tips and large tips.
For Italic and Gothic script, I love the Pilot Parallel Pens. I am also a digital artist and love the Apple Pencil and Procreate on the iPad.
What have been your proudest moments throughout your lettering journey?
My proudest moment was when my father told me, and I quote: “In my small world, I’ve never seen anyone to write so beautifully.” I was so happy!
I also work with my brother, which is the happiest thing to do. We work at long distance because he is in Romania. He has a cutting machine, a thermal press machine and a lot of experience! He is a great visual artist and designer, and we both create designs and use them to print T-shirts and other accessories. I use Procreate for all the designs I create.
Another great opportunity I had was when I was contacted by the amazing Lou Collins to take part of the design team for Simply Lettering magazine. I can’t put into words the excitement and how emotional I was back then. Working with the team was the best. I had the opportunity to connect with many wonderful people!
A wonderful opportunity was teaming up with Pen Pusher for 24 days of entertainment and inspiration in the Pen Pusher Advent Challenge. What can be more amazing than entertaining, motivating, supporting and encouraging the community to connect with other lettering artists to share and inspire? I loved being part of this!
Other than these, my work is often shared and recognised by people who contact me for commissions or guidance in their own lettering journeys, and by art brands whose tools I use, and it’s a joy every time!
What advice would you give to beginners just starting in calligraphy?
What I would have advised myself at the beginning of my lettering journey! Decide what you want to achieve: have a clear goal and practise for a minimum of 15 minutes each and every day. If you start doing as I did, practising by chaotically writing random words on paper, put that aside for now and start truly practising. Strip it back to the basic strokes, using guidelines, having a good posture and minding your breathing. Make sure you have a good grip and watch the movement of your hand - you know this when writing is a pleasure not painful.
Stop comparing with others but compare your old work with your recent one and pat yourself on your back, recognising every bit of progress. There are so many things that contribute to the pace of the progress and what is important is the journey. Find a community, a mentor, be consistent, research, read, learn the basics and believe in yourself. It's about progress not perfection!
Can you share a few of your favourite projects with us?
Here are a few of my favourites.
Heat transfer vinyl
I love creating designs for T-shirts and other accessories. Here is my design on heat transfer vinyl. My brother used his cutting machine then carefully removed the excess vinyl.
Custom wrapping paper
I love creating my own wrapping paper designs for special occasions.
Digital designs in Procreate
For more inspiration from Andra, you can follow her on the platforms below: