If you’ve found yourself scrolling through your feeds lately, and paused on a stunning, hand lettered illustration, accented with colorful florals, you may have seen the work of Gia Graham. Gia Graham is a multi-talented, multi-hyphenate: a designer, hand lettering artist, and illustrator based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Originally from Barbados, she’s still a “sun-loving, flip flop-wearing island girl at heart,” to use her own words. After moving to the United States 20 years ago, Gia received her BFA in Graphic Design and worked in corporate design for six years before starting her own creative business. Since then, she’s worked as an independent artist, designer, and most recently, a Skillshare teacher.

Gia has taught four Skillshare classes, including a recent Staff Pick, Hand Lettering in Procreate. We caught up with Gia to discuss lettering, design, and who she’d invite to her dream creative dinner party.

How did you initially get into lettering and design? 

Since my degree is in graphic design, that was naturally my career path but I didn’t get into hand lettering until much later.

Art by Gia Graham
Art by Gia Graham

I had a line of greeting cards and gift products until 2016, when I unexpectedly had to retire the business and stay at home with my second son, because he was born prematurely. I needed a creative outlet so I bought an iPad Pro and started experimenting with hand lettering in 2018. I took a few classes, bought a few books and just jumped right in! The timing was perfect because Lauren Hom (who is also a Skillshare teacher) had just started her #HOMwork lettering challenges on Instagram so not only did that give me weekly prompts to practice my lettering skills, it also helped me find an online community and build camaraderie with other letterers. 

Where do you go to get creative inspiration?

I’m really inspired by color, nature and other art!  Sometimes I’ll see a photo that sparks an idea or a beautiful painting that inspires me. 

Have you developed any habits for working through a creative rut?

It sounds counterintuitive but for me, the best way out of a creative rut is to create! The longer I stay away, the harder it is to get back into a creative flow so when I’m feeling burned out, I allow myself a few days off to rest and recharge then, rather than trying to force a masterpiece, I just sketch for the joy of it… no expectations, no pressure. Eventually, an idea will click and I’m back in the rhythm of things.

Can you walk us through the process of creating a lettered illustration? From start to end, including choosing the stunning color palettes you go with.

They say “a picture paints a thousand words” – well, with lettering, your words ARE the picture so the first step is to decide what I want to say. I usually jot the words down and play around with placement so I can get a loose idea of the composition, then I think about lettering style and how I want to integrate the illustration. As far as colors go, I explain my entire process of choosing colors in my How To Create A Perfect Color Palette class so be sure to check that out.

Art by Gia Graham
Art by Gia Graham

They say “a picture paints a thousand words” – well, with lettering, your words ARE the picture so the first step is to decide what I want to say. I usually jot the words down and play around with placement so I can get a loose idea of the composition, then I think about lettering style and how I want to integrate the illustration. As far as colors go, I explain my entire process of choosing colors in my How To Create A Perfect Color Palette class so be sure to check that out.

“When you’re just starting out, it can be daunting to see someone else’s beautiful hand lettered work and not know where to begin to create that kind of art yourself. I wanted to break down the process into simple steps to show that it’s not impossible!”

Tell us about your class. What should students expect from it, and expect to get out of it?

I wanted to create an easy-to-digest yet comprehensive class on hand lettering for beginners. When you’re just starting out, it can be daunting to see someone else’s beautiful hand lettered work and not know where to begin to create that kind of art yourself. I wanted to break down the process into simple steps to show that it’s not impossible! I also wanted to incorporate a few tips and tricks I’ve learned that could also be helpful to those with a little more experience with lettering. The class was also a great way for me to answer all the frequently asked questions I’ve received on Instagram over the past couple years. 

Finish the sentence. If I wasn’t doing this, you would find me….

Art by Gia Graham
Art by Gia Graham

Aside from being my job, art is what I turn to when I want to relax, escape, focus… it’s such a huge part of my life! If I weren’t doing lettering and illustration specifically, I’m pretty sure I would be doing something else creative… maybe interior design or photography. 

You’re planning a dinner party for creatives who inspire you. You can invite 3 for a night of great food, conversation, some good wine if that suits you. Who do you invite and why?

Ava Duvernay – because she’s an exceptional filmmaker and her work is both beautiful and poignant. She has also worked with so many legendary people, I’m sure she would have LOTS of great stories to tell.  

Issa Rae – because she is the epitome of a successful multi-hyphenate artist who is true to herself… and she would probably keep us all laughing. Plus, I’d try to get the inside scoop on Insecure 😉 

Vashti Harrison – because I absolutely love her illustration style and she also has Caribbean roots so we would probably have a lot to talk about.

Where can we find you? 

You can find me on Instagram, get color palettes and short video tutorials via my once-a-month email newsletter or shop for my art prints on Society6!

Explore Hand Lettering with Gia Graham

Learn how to hand letter with Gia in her Staff Pick, Hand Lettering in Procreate.

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Skillshare

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