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Topics - Zivio

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Inktober 2022 / Day 4 - 2022: SCALLOP
« on: October 04, 2022, 12:57:15 AM »
My Inktober challenge is to push myself to try the more ornamental style capitals. And it has been challenging! Especially that one on the "Scratchmore" Writing Paper.  It has some really different directional flows to the lines.  I look forward to studying and practicing these more after getting the general shapes and directions down.

Inktober 2022 / Day 3 - 2022: BAT
« on: October 03, 2022, 01:01:12 AM »
I like getting an early shot at these.  Mainly because I'm irrepressibly compulsive about having consistency in our subject naming conventions.

Played with a couple of different style B's for the bat.

Inktober 2022 / Day 2 - 2022: SCURRY
« on: October 02, 2022, 01:11:31 AM »
I'm going to get this thread started ... It's October 2 for @Lucie Y in any case!

My Sandserian yesterday was just done on a lark.  But I'm learning from it! The large letters are definitely challenging my sense of proportion. The sand is a changing medium based on the amount of moisture. Everything changes as I move to write the letters.  No guidelines.   Photographs foreshorten the letters both vertically and horizontally -- since I don't have a drone, I'm wondering how to distort the writing so the photos look more "correct."  I cannot find a source for the Gillott Willow 303.  Must be a vintage nib.

Continuing to press on in learning some of the ornamental style majuscules as part of my personal Inktober challenge.

+ Sandserian
+ Walnut ink on Claire Fontaine
+ Walnut ink on Strathmore Writing Paper.  Which I now refer to as "Scratchmore."

Spencerian Script / Spencerian punctuation?
« on: August 06, 2022, 12:18:15 AM »
I’m looking for some guidance with making attractive punctuation marks for Spencerian script.  I know, I know, how hard can periods, commas and quotation marks be?  But other than some examples in various letters and other documents I’ve seen, I haven’t encountered any instructions, per se, on writing them.  I’m curious if anyone has some tips or best practices on actually forming, shading and spacing them. 

Mine look the same as my third grade cursive.  Not. Good.

I’ve searched for specific information on Flourish Forum, IAMPETH and Google, but it hasn’t yielded much of value for me. 


Early on I discovered there seem to be two different basic forms for Spencerian capitals.  Sure, there’s a huge variation and alternatives, but I’m speaking to what I’ll call the more “angular” style versus “rounded.”  Angular has those straight lines in the A’s, M’s, N’s.  Many rounded style caps have large and “easy” leading ovals and other features.
I’m very curious about the provenance and history of what looks to me like two very different foundational styles or starting places, both called Spencerian if anyone may shed light on this.

And @K-2 please free to engage in pedantry and wax pedagogical should you have insight into this topic – I absolutely love many of your prior posts where you’ve shared very interesting information!


I’ve often encountered articles claiming one’s handwriting is a reflection of that writer’s personality, for better or worse.  How you write tells people who you are as much as what you write.  Makes me think of non-verbal communications compared to verbal.  And the impact of one’s SIGNATURE even more so.   I’ve seen this in the historical instructional books and Business Educator articles.

So I’m curious to hear your reactions to these two different styles of majuscules.  Feel free to answer any or none of the questions.  I really haven’t thought much about these myself but thought it might be fun to play.  I’ll answer the survey myself later, in any case:

++ For those who write Spencerian, which general style have you adopted?  Why?

++Does one or the other seem more Spencery to you?

++ Which style do you prefer aesthetically?  Love or hate anything about either? Why?

++ Does one or the other communicate any particular personality characteristics to you?  What is the first thing that comes to your mind – gut reaction?

++ What other characteristics come to mind if you more logically consider the writing? Not to prejudice your thoughts, but some ideas:  introvert/extrovert, artistic/scientific, openness/rigidity, warm/cool, conservative/liberal  …. gender (don’t want to start any fights with that one, but you may have a first thought, and I personally think Harry Styles “fluid” fashion sense is admirable.)

I’ve been using pointed pen and ink now for about eight months and struggle with “too many variables” – nibs, inks, paper, state of my digestion, etc.!   I’ve learned from this forum that it requires a lot of experimentation. 

The illustrious @jeanwilson had responded to my questions once, in part:

I taught for many years and Higgins is OK for beginners. Many students would already have it from previous classes. I would offer alternatives for them to try and most of the time, students would be thrilled with the progress they made after finding some more delicate inks. The easiest one is walnut ink …

This was so true for me -- I’d only been using Higgins Eternal but tried some different inks and, mirabile dictu, all of a sudden, my pen began to make letters!  But then later the magic inks stopped being magic.  I assumed, perhaps, evaporation and added water.  Varying degrees of water with varying, inconsistent results.  And sometimes the same ink would work well and other times not.  I chalked this up to my inexperience and other variables.

When I say the ink works, I mean the nib seems to glide more smoothly without inconsistent “friction points.”  When it doesn’t’ work, I’m not talking, necessarily, about “scratchy” nibs, but a difficulty in maintaining a consistent movement on the page.   
I’ve seen threads on the forum about how to dilute or thicken inks, so my question is what does it feel like when an ink needs to be thinned … or thickened?  Can you describe the symptoms, either in how it feels or how it looks, when the ink should be adjusted?  And then, how do you approach the thinning or thickening to titrate it properly?

Spencerian Script / Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« on: May 29, 2022, 12:48:44 AM »
      I am a novice student of Spencerian script, my objective being to use this script for everyday handwriting and correspondence.  I have no illusions of being a Calligrapher (capital “C”), per se, but do hope to improve to the point of my writing to be more than presentable.

      Until now my daily practice has been focused on drills, individual letters and single words.  I’m at the place where I’ve begun moving forward to “free-writing” (brain to paper) full sentences to begin gaining some fluency in writing. In doing so, I’ve discovered a few things that seem to help if and when I’m able to be conscious of them while writing.  Coordinating them all at the same time has been a big challenge, so I decided to write them out as a list of reminders to review before, and periodically while practicing.

      I’d love to know if anyone could share feedback on my list and any other thoughts about the kinds of things that have helped achieve greater fluency in your writing.  It’s interesting to me how sometimes different descriptions of a complex physical movement can be just what’s needed to learn something helpful! 

      Here are my reminders:

  • Relax. Always.
  • Apply a conscious lightening of the forearm on all upstrokes to remove weight from the pen.
  • Slow down when producing looped ascenders – take time to make them well - speed can come later.
  • Keep wrist straight, slide hand on “finger rest” and use rhythmic push-pull motion to form miniscules, faster on upstrokes.  (I am learning solely muscular, whole arm writing movements.)
  • Sight a split second ahead of each letter stroke while imagining where it will fall on the page.  This is similar to what musicians do when sight-reading music – they constantly look ahead of the notes currently being played.

Michael Sull, in the tradition of Spencerian instructors, had sent me a personal nameplate and “jotted off” a beautifully flourished handwritten note when I’d purchased some materials from him last year.  I’d noticed a faint baseline in the nameplate, but now noticed baselines in the note only after taking a picture, they were so invisible to my naked eye!

I’m eager to begin addressing the stash of postcards I’ve accumulated once I’ve come to the place of feeling more confident in my writing.
Questions about those baselines:
  • What do people use to make those fine and inconspicuous lines?
  • Do many calligraphers/penhumans make use of such in “finished products?”
  • Is it cheating?  Haha, crow forbid I’d accuse a master penman of this, but I’m curious about the practice. Postcards and other greeting cards don’t lend themselves to use of a lightbox, but should I be working towards nice horizontal baselines without use of a crutch?  My goal is to effect beautiful handwriting for regular correspondence, and it appears that historical examples of such do not make use of these guides.


Spencerian Script / Operating pointed pen and ink - tips?
« on: December 06, 2021, 08:34:35 PM »
As some may know from previous of my posts, I'm brand new to using pointed pen and ink.  I'm grateful to the Flourish Forum members who have responded to my various questions -- I can go for weeks plumbing the depths of the most rudimentary of instructions!

My questions today: 

I understand that ink evaporates during use. I have recently started using Dinky Dips which have been very helpful and lessen evaporation because of the small surface area.  Do people like to add a few drops of water as you go, or do you just add more ink from the jar when the Dinky gets low?   

Also, during practice I'll notice that the nib sometimes starts getting a thickening layer of ink on it. Do you clean the nib regularly during practice, or just dip in clear water and wipe off every once in a while? 

I'm guessing both questions will depend upon the ink and possibly also nib in use but I really don't have a good idea on when ink needs to be diluted -- what to look for or how to know.

TIA for any replies!

Spencerian Script / Next ink to try ...
« on: November 07, 2021, 06:13:59 PM »
I've just begun using pointed pen having practiced for a year with a fountain pen. I've learned from this forum that choice of nib will depend upon paper, personal preference and practice, so I'm rotating a variety of nibs through daily practice. 

Today's question is ink.  My first bottle is Higgins Eternal Black ink as recommended in Michael & Debra Sull's Learning to Write Spencerian Script. I'm needing to order more ink soon, so thought this might be an opportunity to try something different, just to learn. I've searched the forum for ideas but feel a bit at an impasse in even knowing where to start.

What might be a good starting place for a beginner? Should I perhaps just stick with the Higgins for now? Will it make all that much difference at this stage of learning? I've seen posts about diluting or thickening ink and now wonder if it's worth experimenting with that.   

Thanks for ideas and recommendations!

Spencerian Script / Pointed pen nibs – Hints for angle/speed/movement
« on: October 18, 2021, 03:25:32 PM »
Hi all!  Having exclusively used fountain pen for my first year of learning Spencerian script, I am just now starting to use an oblique holder with nibs. I recently purchased a “variety pack” of twelve different nibs and have done some experimentation, but I’d like some hints on how best to use the dip pens.

Up strokes obviously present more drag on the nib path than downstrokes.  Is there a particular pen-to-paper angle that works better to prevent catching on the paper?  I’ve seen some beautiful video examples where I can definitely hear the scratching sound of the upstroke movements, but some nibs are so sharp they just catch.  I’m trying extremely light pressure … do you just “push through” the drag?  How to prevent “skittering” on the paper?  I’ve also been using Claire Fontaine paper which feels extremely smooth with the fountain pen, but certainly not as much so with various nibs. 

Mostly I’ve just been experimenting with various pressure and angles and speed.  I’d very much like to hear descriptions from the experienced forum users on how to use these new (to me) writing instruments.

Peace and joy to all!

Spencerian Script / Time for an oblique dip pen? Opinions?
« on: September 06, 2021, 06:33:28 PM »
I'm pleased to report that I'm nearly at a one-year point in my journey of daily practice to learn Spencerian script! I don't hesitate to add that I am no natural in the art of handwriting, having suffered with a "caveman grip," as my brother once described it, all my writing life.  My regular writing, indeed, looks like perhaps a caveman articulated it with a lump of coal in his fist.  To train out those many years of muscle memory I've endeavored to learn Spencerian using whole arm writing almost exclusively.  I have also been using a fountain pen exclusively up until now.

In this first year, I've finally learned all the letter shapes for both lower case and majuscules.  Although my writing quality has improved measurably from where I've begun, I find that it pales in comparison to many online examples I've found from purported "beginners."  My wife cautions me that "comparison is the thief of joy," but I mention this to help give some context for the question I'm posing to this forum. 

I'm asking for opinions at this stage if it would be more effective to continue with fountain pen practice until I achieve a better consistency and flow in my writing, or might it make sense to move on to oblique dip pen now to begin developing what I expect will be a very new feel and skill?  I can argue it either way: get better with writing before changing things up too much, or, since I hope to move on to dip pen and shading somewhere down the road anyway, start sooner since I'll be wanting those skills to develop and I can continue work on consistency and flow as much with a dip pen as I can with the fountain. Starting sooner would mean more experience and practice with the new tools than starting later.

I appreciate any and all thoughts on this!   Thanks!


Introductions / Greetings from the Pacific Northwest!
« on: June 13, 2021, 06:47:32 PM »
Greetings from the Pacific Northwest! I was very pleased to find this online forum and already have found it to be very interesting and informative. Please allow me to share with you why I am here:

My particular interest is in learning Spencerian handwriting, and I've been on the journey for about nine months now, practicing on average an hour per day. My natural cursive writing is execrable, and I had what my brother called a "caveman's grip."  As a younger man, I loved to correspond by snail mail (the *only* mail of the day) with my sisters who had moved from our hometown. Among other things, I got into computer programming in the very early '80s at which time coding was typically done in printing, so I had completely lost the skill of cursive writing because of that and just never used it. I've always admired calligraphy and writing of all sorts and hoped one day to work on my own.  An erstwhile coworker's handwriting was especially inspirational – it was simple Zaner-Bloser but executed very neatly.  He explained that the sisters at his parochial school insisted on accuracy and mastery.  It left me with the hope that with time, patience and practice I might one day improve my own writing. About thirty years ago I picked up a copy of "Better Handwriting in 30 Days" by Paula Sassi at a used bookstore and held onto it all this time, eventually deciding that I might avail myself of it "when I retire."  Well, I retired on 1/1/2020 and eventually kept my personal promise to look into it.

Some of the samples of various people's handwriting in that book made me want to find a unique "masculine" style of writing that I could adopt and adapt to express my own personal style, but soon after beginning the exercises in the book I realized that it didn't seem possible I'd be able to do this … I felt I really had no particular aptitude for emulating any writing but then stumbled upon the Spencerian style and then the Platt Rogers Spencer reprints of Spencerian Penmanship Theory and copybooks. Besides loving what I saw, having a methodical way of learning was a great match for my personal learning style, so I got started. Since then, I've also used Michael and Debra Sull's "Learning to Write Spencerian Script" and 1873 edition of "The Payson, Dunton & Scribner Manual of Penmanship" downloaded from as well as many other resources found on the web. In particular, I have been fascinated by the explicit instruction given in some of the older texts on the proper handgrip and using arm motions almost exclusively for writing. I understand there are various opinions about this, but after a lifetime of horrible writing habits and techniques, I felt I'd have the best chance of learning by starting over completely with any of my muscle memory ideas about how to form letters. 

My learning so far has had moments of frustration, elation, plateaus, fascination, and questioning, but I have been committed to experiencing it as a journey without too much looking ahead to a final destination.  My hopes are to soon replace my rote daily practice with actual handwritten snail mail letters to my loved ones and acquaintances and to help keep alive the art and beauty of expressing oneself in this way.

So happy to be here, and wishing all many happy life moments!

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