Author Topic: How long will it take to learn Spencerian?  (Read 691 times)

Offline Aituaje

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How long will it take to learn Spencerian?
« on: October 19, 2017, 01:30:39 PM »
I know every individual is unique, and that some people pick up calligraphic styles faster than others, but I'm not really looking for any exact answers, just more of a collection of personal experience.

Personally, what stages did you go through to learn Spencerian? And how long did it take to get through each stage? What process did you use to learn Spencerian? I'm asking because I'm the type of person that likes having everything planned out (also, I'm thinking of calligraphing some Easter cards next year) so I'd like to have some sort of general standard to compare my progress against.

Is calligraphing a word?

Also, I was reading a book (I can't remember the title, but I do remember it was in public domain) and the author claimed that if one were to adopt the perfect sitting posture and held the pen with perfect form, then one could write indefinitely without tiring. Well, maybe not indefinitely, but for several hours at a time. Has anyone done this? Written for several hours without tiring? Did you do anything unique?

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: How long will it take to learn Spencerian?
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2017, 08:18:25 AM »
I know every individual is unique, and that some people pick up calligraphic styles faster than others, but I'm not really looking for any exact answers, just more of a collection of personal experience.

Personally, what stages did you go through to learn Spencerian? And how long did it take to get through each stage? What process did you use to learn Spencerian? I'm asking because I'm the type of person that likes having everything planned out (also, I'm thinking of calligraphing some Easter cards next year) so I'd like to have some sort of general standard to compare my progress against.

Is calligraphing a word?

Also, I was reading a book (I can't remember the title, but I do remember it was in public domain) and the author claimed that if one were to adopt the perfect sitting posture and held the pen with perfect form, then one could write indefinitely without tiring. Well, maybe not indefinitely, but for several hours at a time. Has anyone done this? Written for several hours without tiring? Did you do anything unique?

You asked for a general standard to compare progress. IMHO - it would be impossible to find a general standard and even if we could, it would not make a difference to our personal journeys. There is no way to gauge progress. Salman has had remarkable success with people on this forum. There is no way to know why some progress faster than others. People show up with a variety of skills already in place. Beginners are not blank slates. Everyone has been writing (or scrawling) words since they were 5 years old. Some people have honed skills in other areas that will boost their progress when they start calligraphy. Some people have a little quirk (like the way they hold their pen) which might be a significant stumbling block - so they might need to modify their grip before there is any progress.

Avoid comparing your path to the paths of others. The only comparison that matters is your practice page from 2 weeks ago or 2 years ago and what you are doing today. You want to see personal progress. Take comfort in knowing that progress will continue for as long as you are writing. Few of us feel like we have no place to improve. Mostly, we get rusty - and have to restore the skills.

In my very first class (25 years ago) - 7 weeks of italic - it was obvious to everyone that my progress from week to week was the fastest in the class. Others would ask, "Good grief, how much time are you spending on practice?" The teacher had recommended 20 minutes per day. I knew that I was spending 4-5 hours per day. But, I did not want to tell anyone. I thought if I admitted to 4-5 hours per day, they would say, "Well, gee, if you are doing THAT much practice, you should be better." The amount of time spent is no guarantee of quality progress. I also had a leg up on the rest of the students because I had been a graphic designer in the days before desk top publishing so all of the layouts were done by hand which gave me hours and hours of imitating fonts - which is a lot like calligraphy. I had a degree in fine art and knew how to draw. Those skills made a huge difference when I was just starting in calligraphy. Now that I am teaching, I find that students with certain skills learn *faster* but faster doesn't matter. Everyone has an equal chance of achieving their goal.

The answer to your question about how many hours a day a person can write - is - yes, you can write 8 hours a day - or more. But you better be sitting properly and you better take a break every 30 minutes to stand up, stretch and be sure to look out the window. Give your eyes a break from the close up work.

As I said in another recent post - there is a tipping point after you learn the first few styles. The more you learn, the easier it becomes to learn a new style. IMHO the most valuable concept to get across to beginners is how to look at both the strokes as well as the white space. It is like riding a bike. It takes a while to get the hang of it - but once you do, everything else falls into place and you can work on refining the details. But if you do not enclose the proper amount of space within each letter and then leave the proper amount of space between the letters - you will not be replicating the exemplar.

And speaking of exemplars - I often see people with the exemplar off to the side or sometimes it's still inside their notebook. They might think they know what an *a* looks like - but the specifics are not yet embedded in their mind. The ideal place for your exemplar is sitting right above the page you are writing on. Your eye should be going back and forth - back and forth. Eventually, the exact shape will be in your head and also appearing on your paper. If you are making a whole page of a's - and with each one you think - nope, that's not quite right, try again, no that's not quite right, try again, nope....etc
...that is the least effective way to practice. You'd be better off tracing the exemplar - rather than just guessing. At least with tracing you would be developing muscle memory. Making a whole page of letters that are just slightly off is not helping you improve. It is reenforcing random shapes.

There are Spencerian practice sheets that have the proper strokes on a line and then space below to write. That is an ideal way to practice. You ask the stages of learning Spencerian and how long it took - for me - I pretty much learned all the basics in one weekend workshop with Mike Sull and I used the Spencerian book and worksheets that he uses in his classes. But this was after I had been studying other hands for 10 years. This illustrates my theory about the tipping point. With Italic, my first hand, it probably took a year to really get it to where I was satisfied.

One final note: don't worry about where you are on your journey. Planning things out is a good idea - but I don't think you can plan the actual progress. As I already mentioned - progress will continue for as long as you are writing. Plan to do those Easter cards. Don't worry about how much you have accomplished by then. Imagine yourself in 5 years, looking back at those cards and being happy that you have made progress. Or maybe you will have switched to piano lessons - and in 5 years you will say - Wow - I sure was good at Spencerian back then.

When I look back at my old italics - they are much better than what I do now - because I hardly ever do italics any more. At the time that italics were my best style, I thought Spencerian was weird. 10 years later, I discovered the joy of McCaffrey's ink and now I am a pointy pen person.

Enjoy your journey. Try everything. Discover the styles that are the most fun. Don't be surprised if you switch things up from time to time.

Is calligraphing a word? It can be if you like it. I use lettering as an all purpose verb for what we do.

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: How long will it take to learn Spencerian?
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2017, 10:33:57 AM »
For the reasons Jean so well articulates, this is an impossible question to accurately answer, even if the question were narrowed to "How long will it take me (meaning you) to learn Spencerian?"
In addition, what it means "to have learned Spencerian" varies among individuals.
But you were looking for a collection of experiences, so, in brief, here is mine.
I collected exemplars of Spencerian (and copperplate) for about 5 years before I attempted to write Spencerian. This isn't a prerequisite for writing, of course, but rather simply an indication that this might be an enduring interest for me. I began practice with Michael Sull's books, almost 5 years ago. Learning is a continuum, and breaking it down into stages is a somewhat arbitrary process (there are no exact definitions of various stages, other than perhaps beginner). So I was a beginner then.
On this forum, for the letter exchanges, we are asked to put ourselves in one of four categories, they being beginner, intermediate, advanced, and professional. That's one set of stages, I guess. I was never cognizant of exactly when I moved from beginner to, say, intermediate. Perhaps it could be said when I was of average skill of the group I'm in, this forum for me, after a year or so. Advanced? Perhaps when those recognized as masters or teachers say your work is good. It's all very vague.
Have I learned Spencerian? Well, yes, in the sense that a viewing of something I wrote in  Spencerian by someone who knows what Spencerian looks like could be identified as such. I have learned it to a certain degree.
I am not finished learning though, not after 5 years, and perhaps never, so in one sense I'm still a beginner.
Overall, I would simply say not to worry about which stage you might be in or how long it takes to learn Spencerian or any other hand, particularly at your age. You have time to learn anything. Were you my age and learning were to mean mastery, it might be a more germane question, given the more limited time.
So, just jump in with enthusiasm and enjoy the ride.