14 November 2022
Tombow Talks To: Alina Snepste
When did you decide you wanted to be a professional calligraphy artist?
To be honest, it was very soon after I came across learning brush lettering. I enjoyed it so much, it was so therapeutic and I remember thinking to myself – imagine doing this for a living? And it just clicked, I felt very determined to make this dream a reality. My passion for lettering gave me drive and motivation to turn it into my full time job. In fact, lettering positive phrases was a big part of what kept me going, having struggled with anxiety at the time. It helped me train my mind to hush negative self-talk.
How long have you been working as a calligraphist?
I picked up my first brush pen, which was in fact Tombow Dual Brush pen, in 2015. I was still studying graphic design at the time, and I officially started offering my calligraphy to clients in 2016.
Describe yourself in 3 words
Ah it’s a hard one. But I’d like to think that I’m caring, driven and ambitious.
Where do you find the inspiration?
I take time to get myself to the place where I can get out of my own head. Be it a relaxing dog walk, a little seaside stroll with my daughter, early morning coffee in the garden – once my mind is free of distractions the inspiration just comes to me. Being in nature is a big part of it. Seeing flowers, rolling hills, blue sea – often I want to evoke the feelings I get from those sights in my projects.
How do you ensure your calligraphy skills remain sharp?
Daily practice. I make sure to take time to letter for the sake of lettering. Putting aside projects, tutorial filming and class planning. I try to squeeze in lettering sessions for myself. I almost see it as journaling – lettering out my dreams and the words that keep me going. It can be hard to find time for it, but I always feel better afterwards. And also keep learning - recently I had a go at learning more of a traditional calligraphy style and it has unintentionally tweaked my lettering style slightly. It just moves with the time and changes throughout the years and that’s ok. I want to keep learning, improving and experimenting.
Who are your biggest artist influencers?
I love looking at floral paintings and I find the natural movement and the colours so fascinating. Some works I’ve been enjoying are from Ambrosius Bosschaert, Henri Fantin-Latour, and Claude Monet.
What is your favourite Tombow product? In which shade?
Tombow Dual Brush pens! I’m such a fan! It was the first pen I did lettering with and my love for Tombow products is still going strong. Currently I’m enjoying the summer shades. Tiki teal 407, Alice blue 291, Pink 723 and Light orange 025.
How do you define success as an artist?
Being able to be yourself and create what you want. Be able to rest and recharge in order to be productive. Have freedom of planning my own time and support my family. See someone’s face light up when they see my work, love my ideas or learn from me.
How do you engage with your community?
It’s mainly through social media. I enjoy chatting and interacting with other creatives on Instagram. I share lots of lettering content to keep the spark of lettering going and encourage daily practice.
I’ve also made a ‘Calligraphy Beginners’ group on Facebook which was originally designed for my calligraphy workshop attendees. It’s grown quite a lot and I love interacting with other letterers on there. We did a calligraphy card swap last Christmas and it was so much fun!
I take time to post lettering content on my blog and Youtube channel to keep lettering beginners motivated and eager to learn and progress.
Which project have you enjoyed the most?
It’s a wedding season and I’ve been really enjoying lettering place settings for my clients. I love working with pastel watercolours when painting a background and finishing off with a Tombow Fudenosuke pen lettering.
I’ve also been enjoying planning and teaching my online classes, we just finished doing a ‘lettering breakthrough course’ where we practiced letter joining for 4 weeks! It made my heart so full seeing everyone’s progress!
Bright or pastel colours?
I’d choose pastels million times over.
Thin or thick lines?
Thick! I love juicy thick brush strokes, the chunkier the pen the better.
If you could have dinner with three artists (past or present) who would they be?
Oh wow, wouldn’t that be exciting?
Paul Rand, Saul Bass and Quentin Blake.
They’ve all produced such extraordinary work.
Favourite Gallery or Museum?
Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. I found it so inspiring looking at his paintings and reading about his life. There’s so much emotion in his work!
What should we be watching on TV right now?
The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel. Palladino shows never get old.
Piece of design you wished you had created?
London underground map. Always fascinates me how something so elaborate can be put on paper in such a simplistic way.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
Between the South of France and the Italian Riviera.
Best advice you have ever been given?
Just go for it. Life is too short to second guess or let fear take over you. If it doesn’t work out, learn from it and move on.