Author Topic: Can we talk about posture, hand position, and nib angle? So frustrated...  (Read 3624 times)

Offline JessicaC

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I've been doing pointed pen for about 10 days and now I'm afraid I've been doing it all wrong!  I've watched Joe Vitolo's video, and looked at Don and Ron Tate's photo and I'm still have questions.

http://www.iampeth.com/videos/001VitoloScriptPenPaperPosition.wmv

http://www.iampeth.com/lessons/getting_started/Don_and_Ron/don_and_ron_index.html

First, do I "have" to sit square with the writing surface?  I came across this teacher who writes that it's acceptable to sit sideways as long as the torso isn't contorted.  See this post: http://deannsinghcalligraphy.blogspot.com/2012/01/january-9-2012-copperplate-class-1-at.html

Second, I just realized today that I curl my hand in slightly as I write, although I think the nib axis does line up with my right shoulder.  If I don't curl my hand in a little, when I make ascenders, I have to move my whole hand up, rather than just extending my fingers with the pen.  Is that normal?  Also, if you've seen Joe's video, he has the 55 deg lines pointing to his stomach.  To get my nib to line up with the 55 deg line, I have to turn the paper so much that I'm practically writing vertically!

Third, when I'm writing, I feel like I can't see what I'm doing.  I'm on the short side, only 5'4", so I know that's part of it.  But if I'm supposed to have my whole forearm, including my elbow, on the table, as well as have the 55 deg line point to my stomach, it puts my paper so far away from me!  That sounds really stupid, doesn't it?  (maybe I need a booster seat!  lol)

I could just ask more and more questions, but I guess I really need to see a video or series of photos of someone's whole upper body as they are writing and so far I haven't found one.  If anyone can offer me any help or opinions, (or sympathy, heh) I would be so appreciative.  Today's practice session was one of those discouraging ink spattering ones.   ::)

Offline Heebs

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I think this really comes down to how you personally write, it might be optimal (traditional?) to have the nib/lines pointing at your stomach like Dr. Joe's video recommends but I have friends with the same writing style as you where the baseline is practically running vertical to writing surface. Try Erica's advice of placing the nib down with your eyes closed, opening them and then rotating the paper to match your comfort zone. If you feel the angle is too extreme you might have to work on adjusting your writing style, I've seen people spend months (and probably more) to correct this in order to have an easier time writing.

I'm 6' tall but due to my desk being tall I have to have my seat all the way up to write comfortably so this isn't limited to just shorter people, you have to adjust to your writing surface :)

Offline AndyT

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Haha!  I'm also 6' but getting more and more long sighted, so it doesn't help much.

The business about hand position is interesting.  The "end of the pen pointing over the right shoulder" hold is not so easy to cultivate (yes, I've tried), and I suspect that rather few people persevere with it nowadays.  In days of yore before the advent of oblique holders it was essential and widely taught from an early age, sometimes by means of aids as shown in the attached illustrations from Foster's Practical Penmanship.  :)  In addition to placing the pen at a better angle, it does encourage muscular as opposed to finger movement, so it's certainly not a bad thing but may take a matter of months to get right.

The wide adoption of oblique holders led to some heated debate in the penmens' journals - some old timers seemed to take the view that by allowing a more natural hand position the infernal new gadgets were de-skilling the profession.  (No doubt there was a similar chorus of harrumphs from skilled quill cutters when steel pens first arrived).  The oblique holder prevailed, and I think we can all be grateful for that.

It may be heartening to have a look at some of the videos by Erica and Schin, and examine their hand positions: no wrist straining and a surprising amount of finger movement ... the results speak for themselves, of course.  My advice is to be taken with a pinch of salt as I'm no skilled calligrapher, but for what it's worth it would be to rotate the paper and use the grip which feels most comfortable.

Offline Erica McPhee

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True confession - when I started pointed pen I didn't give one lick of attention to hand position, arm position, posture, how I sat, etc. I just concentrated on learning the letters! But as I progressed, I learned whole arm movements (because I love to flourish). And in hindsight, it is best to start as you mean to go on.

With that said, I really hold my pen as if I would any other pen when writing. And I turn my paper almost horizontal to the left! I also work on a very tall chair (I'm 5'4" as well) so I can be on top of my work. I work on a light board so my entire arm never touches the table. But my forearm does rest gently on the light box except when I'm doing whole arm movements.

I cannot assess my technique as right or wrong. But I can say I have never even noticed the direction of my pen staff!  :o

At some point I will try to do a full body video (ee gad!). But it won't look like anything much except a person sitting at a table writing!  ;D
Truly, Erica
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Offline schin

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Uh oh.. the age ol question is here again, and usually I run away at this point. Because, like Erica.. I didn't give a hoot about positions, axis, parallel, this or that.. it all confused me too much, so I just sat with the oblique pen, tried to get comfortable and just started writing. I am actually kind of hesitant to explain how I do it, because I think I am not holding it the 'proper' way. But.. for me the ends justify the means! Some master penmen have weird grips and some hold in a funny way, too. They say to sit up straight, but I've seen some masters hunch all the way down (due to bad eyes I suppose, I do too). And some poor left handers practically are inventing space technology to write with an oblique pen. Don't let all these weird mathematical arm measuring stuff detract you from the actual art.. read their advice and see what works and what doesn't.

This is how I am holding my oblique pen for right handers...
First just sit comfortably in front of the table as you do naturally. Now put your right arm down as if you're writing naturally.. hold the oblique pen as if it is a regular pen. Your wrist should be relaxed, not twisted weirdly. If your whole arm is on the table, okay, if just the forearm is on the table, that works too. Just be comfortable and make sure your arm and wrist can move around freely.
Then with your left hand, twist the paper anti-clockwise so it is parallel to your right arm. Now you will notice that in this way, the oblique flange should be making the slant for you naturally on the paper. If not, then twist the paper some more. Above all, your wrist and arm should be unrestrained and comfortable, let the flange do the work for you. Don't worry about the angle of the pen staff relative to your stomach or whatever, we're not engineers who cares omg. If you gotta twist your body a little, okay, if you gotta twist the paper, go ahead! As long as it looks kinda sorta like what everyone else is doing (and you're not in discomfort), and you find you can make amazing letters in this position, then stick with it! Just be comfortable, sit up straight (or as much as your eyes allow) and arms and wrist is unrestrained.

After some practice and familiarity you'll notice the stuff everyone else is talking about.. some lift their forearms for flourishing, some twist their wrists for shades.. you'll come across these in time and realize it makes sense. But don't worry about it yet.. the little epiphanies will come in good time. Just do what you can to get started.. it's okay to readjust the position in the future once you find you have to.. but right now do what you have to to make the pesky oblique holder your best friend!

Maybe after a few weeks of practice you can take a photo for us and we will critique your sitting or work.. remember it's a learning process, no one ever gets it right the first time!
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Offline Erica McPhee

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LOL! What Schin said!  ;D

Actually, the video I just posted a few days ago demonstrates the paper turning exercise Schin explains above. See it here;)
Truly, Erica
Lettering/Design Artist, Homeopath, Photographer, Mom, Wife
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Offline YokePenCo

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You also have to consider that the "proper position" noted by instruction comes from books published 100 years ago. The tools were the same, the nibs were the same, the style was the same. There was no variance from person to person.

Today we have people who prefer big pens, little pens, structured lettering, loose lettering, tall chairs, short chairs, etc, etc, etc...

My thought is.....sit comfortably with good posture (better for us all, less back issues) and write. If you get into things like whole arm method or other things you will learn by then what needs to be done to accomplish whatever it is you are going to do later.
Christopher J. Yoke
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Offline tintenfuchs

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I'm also having a hard time with being consistent in this, but here's what helps me. I'm not saying my way is a good way or anything, it might even be totally wrong, but it works for me ...

- The Erica/Dr. Vitolo method that was mentioned before, I'll try to explain it as simple as possible: Close your eyes, position your pen, open them; then turn the paper so that, when you make a stroke now, the stroke is parallel to the guidelines. Don't adjust your hand, adjust the paper! I noticed that the paper angle differs slightly every time I write, so this method is really cool and about the most useful technique I've encountered. If the paper is vertical, so what? Check out this video where Michael Sull writes, his angle is crazy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSgzuGjns9A

- The whole balancing your hand on your fingernails thing: Some hands are just not ideal for that. It hurts when I try to do that. So I rest my hand on the side of the little finger and a little on the side of my hand. When you put a piece of smooth scrap paper below the hand, it will glide just as well.

- Assume position. Make a stroke. Note how it feels. If it doesn't feel right, adjust your position slightly, then try again. When you've found the sweet spot, write and try to remember the sensation. Make strokes that help you remember how you held the pen/yourself the time it worked.
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Offline Pauline_HappyHandsProject

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Gosh, I never realised that hand positions and posture should be of concern. I've learned how to write comfortably, with just my forearm on the table. I kind of use my pinky to move through the lines, but I've never given it much thought. The only problem I have is probably my posture my back hurts after a while! A few minutes into writing, you'd notice my face getting closer and closer to the paper. Which probably explains the back pain. Ouch!
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