Five questions for creatives

Andrew Kelly

Andrew Kelly is a freelance calligrapher and hand lettering artist. He specialises in custom-type logo design, calligraphy and hand lettering commissions he also has a background in design and photography. With nearly 29,000 followers on Instagram alone, his daily calligraphy posts receive a lot of love from his fans and showcase his exceptional talent for lettering and typography.

How did you get into the creative industry, and was there a defining point in your career that led you on that path?

I’ve always felt part of the creative industry, but battled with a fascination with technical subjects too which have pulled me in different directions. I graduated from University with an Engineering degree and found my way into the Automotive sector. Marketing quickly became my principal area of interest and that really allowed me to see how I could build a creative career in one way or another. I’ve always had to balance that technical side with the purely creative drive we all recognise – that pure need to create. That’s been through side projects like painting and photography. But as I’ve built those skills up I’ve been fortunate enough to integrate them into my day job and career. I wish I could point to a definitive moment, but I think honestly I just spent my entire career trying to balance what might appear to be conflicting interests and skills.

Is there anything you would change in your current career and if so why?

Definitely; I wish I’d taken a lot more risk when I was younger and made some bigger jumps earlier on. For a long time, I felt I needed to ‘put in my time’ into various jobs and I really didn’t need to. I think I would have really benefited from pushing myself out of my comfort zone and trying to reach for things that I wasn’t completely sure I could do. As you go through life and collect responsibilities you lose the opportunity to take real risks. There’s an important skill in life, and that’s how to assess risk. Being too risk averse, thinking your world might collapse if you make a small change, will limit your opportunities.

Where do you see yourself, and your career in five years’ time?

That’s a tough question, because I don’t have a solid plan, and I know that’s one of my biggest weaknesses. As I concentrate on calligraphy and hand lettering I expect to see myself mastering some of this craft. These are deeply technical subjects that result in beautiful forms and a beguiling aesthetic. So looking forward I see myself having a deeper understanding of the subject. Within those five years, I’d love to study under some of the Calligraphers that I’ve learned about – I definitely have a bucket list of artists I’d love to learn from. But in career terms, I just hope I get to continue doing work that I love, even if that’s part of a broader set of responsibilities.

Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?

The further I get along this journey one thing becomes clearer and clearer, and that’s the importance of practice and dedication to your craft. There just aren’t any shortcuts to building up a skill – you need to practice. So if I try to build a habit it’s to practice as much as I can, daily whenever possible. Practice helps build muscle memory that allows you to concentrate on the bigger picture. When you watch a craftsman execute something with apparent effortless grace, that’s not luck or improvisation. It’s deeply ingrained muscle memory built up over hours and hours of practice. So to be efficient, that it is to execute cleanly and gracefully the first time, you need to have practised.

What tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in the creative industry?

Take time to learn your craft. Be that graphic design, typography, animation, writing, sound design, whatever it is, take time to learn. See others in your area of expertise as collaborators, not competition; always be ready to learn from someone else, and likewise, give freely and teach what you know. Don’t be afraid to question things: if something doesn’t make sense to you, keep asking questions. You’ll either learn something important or find something everyone overlooked. Trust your own judgement; you may not feel confident the whole time but deep down you know what’s right for you. Nurture your network of friends, associates and acquaintances, so many opportunities arise from being ‘that friend that knows all about that stuff’. Lastly, most importantly, be true to yourself. The creative industry relies on you doing things about which you are passionate. Be true to that passion. If you wake up in the morning and you’re not looking forward to your day, it’s time to rethink and consider changing direction. Learn how to take risks which allow you to stay true to yourself and the things and people you care about.

You can see more of Andrew Kelly’s work on his blog: