Create a Signature You Love | Origin Story
I grew up with three brothers and a life-or-death need to be special. “Something to prove” doesn’t begin to cover it.
I often made decisions based on what I thought made me the right kind of person, or on trying to prove that I could do everything. I wanted to be smart, athletic, creative, analytical, strong, beautiful, left-brained, right-brained, whole-brained.
Above all, I wanted to be the hardest worker. In my family, motivation and tenacity are the most prized characteristics.
Despite all this, there was one thing that I knew – through and through – that I couldn’t do, no matter what:
My drawings never made it past stick figures. My handwriting was childlike. My signature looked the same as it had the first time I signed it… in third grade. The implication seemed obvious; I had no artistic talent. I labeled artistic work as “off-limits” within my own mind.
And yet, inwardly, my fascination with art grew. I spent hours and hours combing through art online. Beautiful, fantastical, perfect art.
The more art I consumed, the more I felt a painful longing to be able to do what these artists did – to express myself creatively, to know what it felt like to create great art – but I was convinced that artists had some kind of magical power that wasn’t available to me.
I read the comments on the images I loved. I saw that there were thousands of people who felt like I did. Their desire to create was desperate and fanatical. They had creativity that wanted to be expressed, but they felt they would never have the talent or skills they needed to bring their ideas to life.
Still, they begged artists to teach them, they probed for every detail on how the artists learned and what tools they used. They showered them with praise that bordered on worship, and with forlorn wishes to be like them.
It took a long time before I realized that every artist who took the time to respond was saying essentially the same thing:
“I worked hard to get this good.”
“There is nothing special about me.”
“When I started, I sucked.”
“This took time – hundreds or thousands of hours over the course of months or years.”
There was always a quality of frustration or futility underlying the artists’ words – a sense that they thought their fans were missing the point, a sense that they knew they wouldn’t be believed. Over and over again, I saw artists advise their followers to try their own hands, to be willing to make mistakes, to keep practicing.
What’s wrong with this picture? Thousands of fans suffering from the conviction that they don’t have the gift for art, and hundreds of artists frustrated that no one will believe their talent came from practice and not from natural ability.
I started to wonder; what if artistic talent isn’t a gift that some people have, and some people don’t? What if creativity is just a skill that can be developed and refined? This is where Create a Signature You Love was born.
After all, I knew for certain that if I could acquire artistic skill, anyone could.
When I finally tried my own hand, I found out that the artists were right.
I didn’t have tap into some mystical, inner creative genius to redesign my signature; I just had to learn about visual balance and penmanship aesthetics. I didn’t have to pray that my hand would start obeying my mind and begin moving in precise, fluid motions; I just had to learn effective practice techniques and spend some time doing them.
I wrote Create a Signature You Love because I wanted to share my experience and to help people develop their creativity and artistic skill – especially if they are convinced (like I was) that they don’t have what it takes to make beautiful art. I wanted to explicitly talk about how to show up, how to enjoy practice, and how to keep going even when it seems like you’re not any good. In my book, I teach these concepts by applying them in a practical manner to signature design and improvement.