Shelly Kim, also known as Letters By Shells is a self-taught Modern Brush Calligrapher and Illustrator based in Southern California. During Shelly’s journey, she has been traveling to teach others the beauty of Modern Brush Calligraphy and Watercolor Lettering paired with loose backgrounds and leaves. Shelly Kim’s journey started when she was unhappy at her full-time job and needed another outlet to relieve the stress and feel in control of her life again. Shelly Kim’s goal is to spread positivity through her artwork pieces and to also remind others that they are amazing, worthy, and can pursue anything in life.
1. What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from anything and everything! Whether it’s a quick drive to my local Trader Joes or a coffee shop. I also get excited during each season seeing all the colors change in the air that I can later incorporate into my lettering. I also get excited when I see which fruits and veggies are back in season so that I can attempt to paint them 😉
2. What mediums do you work with regularly and why?
I love working with brush pens, paints, and watercolor brushes to add more colors when creating my positive messages through my lettering and artwork pieces. Throughout my artwork, I hope that I can spread a positive message when others come across my work.
3. Explain your creative process.
A majority of the time, I just go all in. I try not to sketch or think about anything, but just go with my mood and what’s currently on my mind during the time I create the artwork pieces. I try my best to create loose, colorful and fun pieces without having a structure because I want the pieces to feel as natural as possible when being created. I noticed whenever I used to sketch or think too much about the piece, I was never satisfied with the outcome, which is why I don’t always follow a structure or sketch process when creating pieces.
4. Do you have anything exciting coming up that you would like us to share?
I am still reliving the experience, but I was recently invited to speak at today at Apple in New York to share my lettering journey, how/why I got started, and when I knew it was time to pursue lettering full-time. I also got selected to present at the Alt Summit Conference in Palm Springs next March of 2019 to discuss the importance of supporting others while in this creative industry and how that develops success. One last thing– I am in the final stages of finishing my book that will be on how to get started with Modern Brush Lettering, the Digitizing Process, iPad illustrations and so much more that will be released next Spring of 2019! 🙂
5. How did you begin your career as a professional artist, and how has your career evolved?
I came across this beautiful art called Modern Calligraphy around mid 2015, and then again around late 2015 because the first time I dabbled into it, I totally gave up until picking it back up again. Thank goodness I did because at the time, I had no idea that lettering would change my life and give me the chance to work and meet so many amazing people all around the world.
The reason I started lettering using brush pens and watercolors was because when I was working full-time after undergrad, I realized that my full-time job at that time was not my passion and I couldn’t picture myself staying at a job that I was not in love with. As months & years went by, I noticed that the simple things in life I once enjoyed were no longer enjoyable. I found myself burnt out, exhausted, stressed out, and very lonely during this process as I was counting down the days. I felt as if no one understood me. During this time, I started to look up positive affirmations again on social media and this is where I came across the beauty of hand lettering.
My life changed in that moment because I have always loved typography, I used to write various types of block lettering and art deco lettering styles, so when I saw hand lettering, this creativity inside of me exploded with joy and happiness. I wanted to learn everything about it, understand the different mediums, and basically become an expert in it. I wanted the chance to write positive messages about self-love and positive vibes to help me get through the days. There was definitely a reason behind it though. I wanted to learn this because, more than ever, I needed this creativity and positive drive in my life all over again. I needed some sort of escape and a chance to only focus on me, which is what I did when I was creating artwork pieces. I wanted to remind myself to enjoy the little things in life again. I also wanted to share this positivity that I was excited to share on a bigger platform such as social media – Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. I told myself, I know I am not the only one who is exhausted, stressed out, and feeling alone. I wanted to connect with others on so many levels and let them know how amazing, beautiful, strong, and worthy they are. And that they could pursue anything and everything they wanted too!
My life changed ever since I started posting my artwork pieces on Instagram and when I finally just threw myself out there. I did not realize that all these wonderful opportunities would come up and every year has been a different focus. In 2015, I was working on understanding my purpose and what I wanted to create. In 2016, I finally felt as if I understood my goal and started teaching Brush lettering. I also came out with my Modern Calligraphy and Art Deco Instructional Cards that I published with Quarto Publishing. In 2017, I started teaching more Brush lettering Workshops, experimenting with painting illustrations and also introduced a Watercolor Lettering Workshop too! This year, I was given the amazing opportunity to teach students on a larger platform at the Pinners Conference and collaborating with some amazing companies worldwide.
This is now the main purpose in doing what I love, having the chance to share my journey with others in hopes of also inspiring them along the way and helping them understand that it’s totally possible to pursue what they are most passionate about.
6. What are your favorite Princeton Art Brush products?
I absolutely love the Heritage™ Series, Velvetouch™ line, and Select Artiste™ line!
We are so excited to share the love of painting with Shelly Kim and couldn’t be happier to have her as a Princeton Brush ambassador. Stay tuned for more great things from Letters By Shells!