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Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules

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Spencerian gods, I've got a question on the large circular flourishes required to make elegant Spencerian uppercase, and I've been wondering how one should go about approaching it. I'm experiencing wrist and forearm fatigue faster than I expected, which is going to hinder practice.

I've been putting this problem aside for a while because I was focusing on the lower case, which aren't large to begin with, but if I were to only support my hand on the forearm above the elbow, it is not enough to create stable lines. If I rest it on the side of my hand with the little finger, then it kind of obstructs the flow of the line, when I need to go to the right, where my palm is and thus cramping the line and while I can form free circles, but when joining the circles to actual letter forms, it's not light enough, so the nib snags on up strokes in loops.

I still understand the main solution is practice, but I'm hoping for a more constructive practice, esp when it comes to posture, and support so I don't practice wrongly and compromise my foundation.

Are there any tips or tricks that can be used to ensure full arm movement and yet create delicate lines that are accurate?

Any help will be greatly appreciated!

This is the thing I struggle with most, and in all honesty I've made no headway at all.  Undoubtedly the nub of the matter is practice, as you say, but how to go about it?  The following advice is from an email exchange with Brian Walker:

"I wouldn't be too concerned about whole arm movement at this stage. You need to get that finger movement out of the way first. Keep the fingers and thumb still on the pen holder and also the wrist still and straight in line with the arm. Finger movement is acceptable for making the looped strokes - stretch up, pull down sort of thing. Focus on the feel of the top knuckle of the little finger making the capital shapes on the paper. This also applies to whole arm movement. part of the hand still stays on the paper. If you want to try whole arm then have a go at writing large capitals about 2" high with whole arm with felt tipped pen on sheets of newspaper. [...] Making whole arm capitals is also a question of calm nervous control, mental perception of the letter form itself and then the confidence to simply 'go for it'.

On the question of producing those perfect ovals you really have to know the shape in your head before you do it. You must believe in yourself that you can do them right and to know the exact direction in which you wish the pen to travel. A lot of it is about directional angles/degrees. Try a few big anticlockwise ovals with pencil and whole arm (virtually drawing the oval at a fairly brisk, but smooth gliding speed) and then analyse what you've drawn to see where the weak or flat places are - a line might be too flat or too steep or too wobbly and so on. Make adjustments or mark over the point(s) and then try making the shape again. Keep doing this until you improve the shape and direction. It will improve gradually with some focus on the detail. Practising overlapping ovals along a horizontal line is another good way too. The more you do them, the better you get".

So, it's not as if I don't know exactly what needs doing.  Another excellent and memorable piece of advice came from Estefa here recently: cover everything with ovals (I'm paraphrasing).   ;)

One more thing.  It strikes me that desk height is quite an important consideration: ideally you want simply to be able to rock back a few inches to take your forearm off the table, then rock forward again for muscular movement.  Quite possibly this would be easier to achieve standing up.  At any rate, it's worth thinking about.

Thanks Andy! This is the kind of advice I need! I've got the knuckle thing already, but raising it tires my wrist. I'll have to read carefully and think about it again to figure what I need to work at. I keep forgetting these amazing penmen can be reached via email and will probably reply a newbie. :D

Thanks again! I welcome any other advice too, if anyone else has good tips, otherwise I'll dive into the old books! It's harder to learn Spencerian only because I think there are less examples I can find online, which is my primary go-to for almost everything in life. Most tutorials deal with copperplate..

EDIT: In fact, that is such important advice, I'm going to print it so I can read it again frequently. :D THANK YOUUUUUUUUUU


--- Quote from: Faeleia on June 24, 2014, 05:02:36 AM ---Thanks again! I welcome any other advice too, if anyone else has good tips, otherwise I'll dive into the old books! It's harder to learn Spencerian only because I think there are less examples I can find online, which is my primary go-to for almost everything in life. Most tutorials deal with copperplate..

--- End quote ---
I dare to disagree - check the old books section on IAMPETH, there are dozens of books on Spencerian! Check out the thread "Spencerian Ressources" (or something like that) for recommendations.

In a way, Spencerian - as distinct from the ornamental derivatives - is cast in stone.  So the key works are the various official books published by the Spencers, in particular "The Theory of Spencerian Penmanship".  It's well worth buying a hard copy, and the Mott Media reprint is hardly expensive.  High time I read that closely again, come to think of it.  There are some differences between the editions, mostly a matter of how baroque you like your capitals.

As for Ornamental Penmanship (which is what most people seem to mean when they say Spencerian), all the master penmen had their own variations, and most made part of their living by teaching.  It's hardly surprising that there were a lot of trade secrets!  The most helpful of the old books in my opinion are P Z Bloser's  and C P Zaner, both called "Lessons in Ornamental Penmanship": they both contain some guidance about movement, posture and so forth as well as the examples.  Nonetheless, a course at the Zanerian College would certainly have filled in an awful lot of gaps.  I rather enjoy the detective work, really - mostly a matter of rummaging around in dusty corners of various internet archives on those rare occasions when IAMPETH doesn't come up trumps.

Of course, one of the best online resources is this forum because it provides an introduction to some seriously accomplished writers who can expand on the bits which are hazy in the old textbooks.  :)


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