Author Topic: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?  (Read 2649 times)

Offline Jehu

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Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« on: January 07, 2020, 07:58:07 PM »
Hey folks, I'm looking for some input/advice.

After decades of slowly deteriorating handwriting (terrible printing), I finally committed to do something about it and to relearn cursive. After a bit of research, I settled on monoline Spencerian, which I think looks beautiful when done well. I've been at it fairly consistently for almost 2 years and have made reasonable progress (I'm currently on Book 4 of the Mott Media workbooks). However, it still tends to get sloppy and fall apart a bit when I get going quickly.

Although I love the look of Spencerian, at the end of the day I want a functional and legible, everyday cursive hand that I can use consistently and at speed. My understanding is that Cursive Italic is often recommended for this purpose. I also understand that non-cursive Italic is essentially the same without the joins, so I can rehab my terrible printing at the same time!


So what would you advise? Stick with Spencerian (sunk costs, etc.), or start from square one with Italic and see how that compares? (And please no suggestions for Palmer or D'Nealian... even though they're related to Spencerian, I think they're hideous!)

Thanks!

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2020, 09:29:29 AM »
Funny - I find Palmer very similar to Business writing which is more or less the same as monoline Spencerian. I will have to some day take a closer look at the differences.

I say give it a try. You can always go back to Spencerian. I have tried many throughout the years but my regular every-day handwriting is still awful.  ;D

I recommend this book (Amazon affiliate link if you click on the picture):

Truly, Erica
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Offline Jehu

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2020, 06:53:16 PM »
Thanks, Erica. Maybe I will look into the book that you recommend... it seems to be a popular one from what little investigating I've done into Italic.

To give an idea, here is where I am currently at when writing carefully:


And here is at a normal writing speed:


One issue is that even when I think I've written somewhat reasonably (i.e., closer to the former than the latter), no one under 30 can read it!
« Last Edit: January 12, 2020, 06:57:23 PM by Jehu »

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2020, 07:20:58 AM »
In my years of teaching, there have been plenty of people who just want to improve their everyday penmanship. There are also numerous calligraphers who insist that they *can't* improve their penmanship and some insist it has gotten worse since they became a calligrapher. This was frequently a hot topic at IAMPETH conferences.

IMHO - it is all about the speed -AND- the warm up.
If I go to my grocery list to jot down a couple items quickly, the penmanship will be unpleasant.
We can all write mindlessly - and mindless cursive, done as fast as possible will be scrawly.
If I slow down -just a tiny bit - and think about what I am writing - it will be lovely.

If I am going to write a thank you note, I always do a couple lines of warm up. Otherwise, the warm up happens on the thank you note and the first line or two will be a little less lovely than the rest of the note. I'm the only one who will notice -- but, I prefer to see the consistency. Once I have warmed up, I can execute very pretty penmanship as fast as I can scrawl - but I know from experience that the warm up is essential. Anything that is called a *running hand* was intended to be written fast.

Something I recommend for handwriting repair is to look at your existing penmanship and start fixing things.
If your penmanship has no loops, then you might be a good candidate for italics.
If you have loops - maybe Spencerian is a good choice.
But, I recommend trying both.

Consider which style you learned in school. I learned the nasty Zaner-Bloser in the 60s and -for me- the best improvement came when I switched to italics because it nudged me out of the ugly ZB style. After I had pretty italic penmanship - when I went to Spencerian, it was much easier to morph the ZB into a Spencerian style. I call mine Jeanerian - since there are little quirks that I like - that are not on the exemplar.

Also, look at the shapes of your small letter a. Those little teardrops in Spencerian are a little faster to make than an oval.
Look at Spencerian Ladies Hand. It is not as extended as classic Spencerian. It is more compact and is a good choice for everyday penmanship.

I agree that Palmer is hideous. But it is mostly the caps that are so offensive. You can choose prettier caps.

Feel free to post a sample of your everyday penmanship - and it might prompt other suggestions.

The two years spent on Spencerian will never be a waste. You will never know if italics are going to help unless you try them. For me -- the combination of learning both was what tipped my everyday penmanship into something I really liked, that I can do at top speed (with warm up.)

Offline Jehu

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2020, 04:43:34 PM »
Thanks for your response, Jean. Your point about warming up is well-taken; I always warm up a bit at the beginning of practice, but of course not when I'm just jotting something down through the day. And both of the samples I posted above are light years ahead of where I was two years ago, so I'm firmly in the "you *can* improve your handwriting" camp!

I'm very intrigued by your comment about learning both Italic and Spencerian, because even if I do give Italic a go, I'd like to hang on to Spencerian if at all possible. Is there any advice on how to do that, or how to balance practice of the two styles? Bearing in mind that I can really only commit about 20-30 minutes a day to focused practice.

(Sorry for the slow responses; each of my posts seems to take a few days to be approved.)
« Last Edit: January 13, 2020, 04:54:09 PM by Jehu »

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2020, 07:44:54 AM »
Thank you for posting the samples.
Learning a specific calligraphic style is quite different from improving your penmanship.
With calligraphy, the goal is to replicate some pretty specific strokes and spaces.
The goal is to obliterate your penmanship quirks as much as possible.
With penmanship, the goal is to morph your writing into something that is more pleasing to your eye.
So you keep some of the quirks while adopting some of the characteristics from calligraphic styles.

Looking at your top sample - the strong points are consistency of slant, and a nice amount of space between the letters.
Compared to the bottom sample, it looks very nice.
IMHO, the area that needs the most attention is the *pinching* of the letters.
On the bottom sample, many of the letters are so compressed that you can hardly see any space within the letters.
On the top sample, several of the letters are lacking enough space (the space within an o or an a is called the counter)
Look at the e's - on some, I'm not sure that there is any space.

Starting a new style will not cancel out what you have learned from your Spencerian studies.
Don't switch back and forth on a daily basis. If you decide to try italics - maybe spend a month or so on italics.
Then, go back to Spencerian and see how the italic practice might have influenced your muscle memory.
Right now, your muscle memory is giving you *pinched* letters.
Some time spent on italics might help you to *inflate* the counters - and give the individual letters a little more oomph.

If you try italics, ignore the details on the ascenders and descenders. Just use a straight line. You don't need the serifs. Focus on the shapes that are within the x-height.
That's where you need to adjust the shapes.
The good thing about italics is that the almond shape is similar to the teardrop in Spencerian.
Working on both of them can be complementary - assuming you are doing an italic monoline - and not broad edge.
I would not recommend going back and forth between Spencerian and copperplate.

Your capital letters are gorgeous. I'd love to see all of them.
They are not pinched at all - so I'm sure you can pump a little air into your smaller letters.
Maybe you can do it without even going to the italics.

Another tip for improving penmanship is to force yourself to write with a larger x-height.
Just make the x-height larger - don't make the ascenders and descenders proportionate.
Leave them the height they are.
The larger x-height will give you practice at making larger counters - and then when you go back to the normal height,
you can maintain the more open spaces.

On the lined paper, the x-height is only about a third of the space.
If you penciled in a line at the center - and just increased your x-height by that much, you might see some improvement.

Hopefully, you will keep posting samples.
It helps others to see progress - and these samples show that you clearly have the ability.
Thanks again for posting.

To those people who say they can't read cursive - ask them to just try looking at each letter.
They can figure it out, if they just try.

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2020, 06:24:16 PM »
Look at Spencerian Ladies Hand. It is not as extended as classic Spencerian. It is more compact and is a good choice for everyday penmanship.


Just as clarification, Ladies Hand is the more extended version of regular Spencerian, wherein ascenders/descenders are 4x versus 3x in height.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2020, 09:07:05 PM by AnasaziWrites »

Offline Jehu

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2020, 01:37:37 AM »
Wow, thanks for the great advice, Jean.

My concern was that learning another style would ruin my progress with Spencerian, but it is great to hear that not only will learning Italic not be a detriment, it might actually improve it! I have no immediate plans to work on Copperplate, so no danger there.

Thanks also for your critique of my samples. I would never have noticed the 'pinching' of the letters, but now that you point it out, it is clearly an issue. I appreciate the tips on how to work on that.

I think that I will give Italic a go for a month (or two) and see where that takes me. If nothing else, I will have neat(er) printing when it comes to filling out forms.

Thanks again!

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2020, 07:24:13 AM »
Yes == the ascenders and descenders are extended -
I was looking at the amount of space it takes up from left to right.
We might be looking at different exemplars.
On mine - the number of letters per line of writing would be less that with standard Spencerian
so - I used the word *compressed* to describe *more-letters-per-inch*
if that makes sense.
For everyday penmanship - I find Spencerian to be *sprawling*
and like to compact the letters - maybe compact would have been a better word.

Thanks for pointing this out --

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2020, 09:15:16 AM »
Yes == the ascenders and descenders are extended -
I was looking at the amount of space it takes up from left to right.
We might be looking at different exemplars.
On mine - the number of letters per line of writing would be less that with standard Spencerian
so - I used the word *compressed* to describe *more-letters-per-inch*
if that makes sense.
For everyday penmanship - I find Spencerian to be *sprawling*
and like to compact the letters - maybe compact would have been a better word.

Thanks for pointing this out --
Oh, I see what you're saying. My misunderstanding.
It's interesting how the sprawl, as you say increased, over the years from P. R. Spencer's original, which was somewhat compact, to almost a running hand, a la Madarasz.
 

Offline Lyric

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2020, 12:57:58 PM »
In my years of teaching, there have been plenty of people who just want to improve their everyday penmanship. There are also numerous calligraphers who insist that they *can't* improve their penmanship and some insist it has gotten worse since they became a calligrapher.

The two years spent on Spencerian will never be a waste. You will never know if italics are going to help unless you try them. For me -- the combination of learning both was what tipped my everyday penmanship into something I really liked, that I can do at top speed (with warm up.)

@InkyFingers suggested I look into Italic.  Not sure exactly what she meant and too embarrassed to ask I came searching here this morning.   ;D  Boy, have I stumbled upon a wealth of information or what? 

Thank you Ms. Jean Wilson for all that you shared.  I have yet to actually see a sample of "Italic"; I am still scrolling and reading (when I should be cleaning house, going to the post office, and myriad of "stuff", LOL.
Scribbalicously yours, Lyric
Calligraphy Journey began 01.06.2020
Penwomanship began 10/2020 :-)

Offline Lyric

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2020, 01:01:27 PM »
Funny - I find Palmer very similar to Business writing which is more or less the same as monoline Spencerian. I will have to some day take a closer look at the differences.

I say give it a try. You can always go back to Spencerian. I have tried many throughout the years but my regular every-day handwriting is still awful.  ;D

Oh my, Ms. Erica,  :o, that is not encouraging at all (picturing my current handwriting).  Wooo chile, my writing is hideous.
Scribbalicously yours, Lyric
Calligraphy Journey began 01.06.2020
Penwomanship began 10/2020 :-)

Offline Lyric

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2020, 01:03:18 PM »
Thanks, Erica. Maybe I will look into the book that you recommend... it seems to be a popular one from what little investigating I've done into Italic.

To give an idea, here is where I am currently at when writing carefully:


And here is at a normal writing speed:


One issue is that even when I think I've written somewhat reasonably (i.e., closer to the former than the latter), no one under 30 can read it!

I would be ecstatic with the top handwriting sample!   ;D ;D
Scribbalicously yours, Lyric
Calligraphy Journey began 01.06.2020
Penwomanship began 10/2020 :-)

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2020, 04:00:44 PM »
@lyric

Here is a quick sample to show you the difference. I tried to do it quickly like handwriting so it isn’t perfect. But will give you the general idea. the top is Broad Edge Italic aka Calligraphy. The second is the “basic italic” taught in the book referenced above. The third is the “cursive italic” also taught in the book. Both of these are monoline handwriting styles based on the broad edge calligraphy Italic. The last one is a quick - Spencerian Penmanship written with a pencil and therefore no thicks.

Hope that is helpful!  ;D


Truly, Erica
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Offline Lyric

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Re: Should I switch from Spencerian to Italic?
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2020, 05:58:48 PM »
@lyric

Here is a quick sample to show you the difference. I tried to do it quickly like handwriting so it isn’t perfect. But will give you the general idea. the top is Broad Edge Italic aka Calligraphy. The second is the “basic italic” taught in the book referenced above. The third is the “cursive italic” also taught in the book. Both of these are monoline handwriting styles based on the broad edge calligraphy Italic. The last one is a quick - Spencerian Penmanship written with a pencil and therefore no thicks.

Hope that is helpful!  ;D

INVALUABLE!!!!  Thank you, Erica.

While I do NOT want to be one of those people who can not be advised . . . . but eeeeeuuuuu, I do NOT like that italic.  Inky Fingers suggested I go that route.   Oh my Lord, I would so dislike investing time practicing that. 

Thank you SO MUCH for that pictorial.   :o  You should see the face I am making as I type this.  I can feel the contortion, LOL.  Wooo chile, I don't like that italic stuff.  Now, the monoline Spencerian . . .  8) thumbs up!!!!
« Last Edit: September 21, 2020, 06:10:24 PM by lyric »
Scribbalicously yours, Lyric
Calligraphy Journey began 01.06.2020
Penwomanship began 10/2020 :-)