Author Topic: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works  (Read 12899 times)

Offline Ken Fraser

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Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« on: April 30, 2014, 04:33:21 AM »
I have a fairly comprehensive range of writing styles at my disposal, and I am frequently asked
(a) a method for learning a new hand and (b) how to avoid mixing them up in general usage.

It's possible to learn two different scripts at the same time, but it's best to avoid styles with some similarities, either in the lettering itself or in the tools used. For example, I would never advocate studying Copperplate and Spencerian, simultaneously. as the result could be unnecessarily confusing.

First of all, I should mention that I am entirely self-taught in all the scripts I use. I strongly believe in structured learning and in order to reach a reasonable standard, I had to devise a strict, self-learning method which works - so here goes.....

If I want to add a new script into my repertoire, I copy out the entire lowercase alphabet as closely as I can. I then study it in detail. Some of the letters may be fine straight off. I put them to one side, mentally, and write out the remainder again and again, each time missing out those which are OK. In this way, I may end up with a single letter which is still giving me trouble. I then spend however long it takes, writing only that letter over and over again, until it's right. If necessary, I enlarge individual letters by photocopying, to see where I'm going wrong. The end result is a new lowercase script at my disposal.....I then repeat the entire process with the uppercase letters. Once I have the whole alphabet down, I then move on to combinations of letters and finally, words. This can all take some time.

There is no point in repeatedly writing out only the easy bits - I concentrate on the hard bits until it all falls into place.

Avoid the strong temptation to move onto words until all the letters look right.

I knows that this may seem tedious, but very little that's worthwhile, comes easy!

It's better to keep the new style separate from the old ones, until it's fully formed in the mind, otherwise you can end up with a jumbled mess.

I firmly believe that self-taught, concentrated study in depth, works. I know that studying with a good teacher works well for most students, but it isn't always easy to recognize one - especially when starting out when everyone's 'calligraphy' looks great. As the quality of teaching seems to be very patchy, if possible, personal recommendation is safest. However, if a good teacher isn't available, well-structured, self-learning can be a perfectly adequate alternative. It's really just a matter of self-discipline.

I never have a tendency to mix styles inadvertently. This isn't because I'm particularly clever (which I'm not!) but because I've learned each script, individually in such depth, that they've lodged firmly and separately, in my memory. If I'm writing in a style which I don't often use, I sometimes have an exemplar at my side, just it case - but I rarely need it.

Adapting a style of lettering to suit your own personality is fine, but in my experience, it always works best if the groundwork has been done properly.

So there you have it. Nothing innovative and no 'magic wand' but an obvious system which works, with end results which can give great personal satisfaction.

Ken
« Last Edit: April 30, 2014, 06:20:27 PM by Ken Fraser »

Offline Estefa

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2014, 07:22:52 AM »
Thanks Ken, I will try that when I start my Textura next time!
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Offline Roseann

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2014, 11:39:38 PM »
Yes.  Thank you.  Excellent advice.
Roseann

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Offline joi

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2014, 08:07:23 AM »
excellent advice, thank you!

Offline elsa.d

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2014, 10:26:56 PM »
Thank you for your insight. It is very helpful advice.

Offline tintenfuchs

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2014, 09:36:24 AM »
Ken, that's how I always studied for uni :D going over and over the parts of the lecture scripts (haha, coincidence) I wouldn't remember until I had it all in my head.
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Offline ultraQuiche

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2014, 04:47:24 PM »
I intend to rebuild every style I write in from the bottom up, and this seems to be a good method to go about it. Many thanks, I can certainly appreciate this rigid and disciplined method. It will require quite a bit of time, which I think I will have over the coming few months.

Offline Moya

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2014, 07:43:48 PM »
I'm strapped for time at the moment, which means I appreciate this even more, Ken :)

I keep thinking of the saying, "Better thirty minutes of GOOD practice than three hours of scribble," and that gives me hope.  The next trick is finding out how to ensure my practice is good ... and that's where this thread comes in :)  Thank you!

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2014, 10:00:02 PM »
Fantastic advice Ken. And instruction I am so happy to hear coming from a master calligrapher.

I will have to beg to differ with one thing you said, however ... the part where you said you aren't particularly clever!  ;D  I would argue that you have  a particularly rare skill. Many people will study calligraphy for a lifetime and never achieve the mastery as you have - especially of so many hands.  ;)
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Offline Starlee

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2014, 08:16:42 AM »
Wow Ken.  :D I laugh happily because I thought my learning style, but you have shown me where I have room to grow. :) Thank you for sharing!
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Offline Denise R

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2014, 11:05:33 PM »
Excellent advice ~ very practical and thorough.

Two things that really grabbed me are "Avoid the strong temptation to move onto words until all the letters look right" and Moya's quote, "Better thirty minutes of GOOD practice than three hours of scribble."

These should both be framed and hanging over my desk!


Denise

Offline Cheri

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2014, 07:27:06 AM »
Quote
Avoid the strong temptation to move onto words until all the letters look right.

 :-[ And I did just that :'( I knew my miniscules were a bit wrong, but still ended up doing words anyway. I have to go back again then!
Thanks for the wonderful advice! And I thought that my self-teaching method is not going to get me anywhere.

Offline Ken Fraser

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2014, 07:48:23 AM »
Thank you all, very much, for your reactions and comments.

I am well aware that most of this method may seem Draconian and severe, but without the support of a good teacher who can keep the learner on the right course,  I feel that it is necessary to be really strict with oneself, to avoid going 'off the rails.'

Ken


Offline Faeleia

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2014, 10:22:14 AM »
If I want to add a new script into my repertoire, I copy out the entire lowercase alphabet as closely as I can. I then study it in detail. Some of the letters may be fine straight off. I put them to one side, mentally, and write out the remainder again and again, each time missing out those which are OK. In this way, I may end up with a single letter which is still giving me trouble. I then spend however long it takes, writing only that letter over and over again, until it's right. If necessary, I enlarge individual letters by photocopying, to see where I'm going wrong. The end result is a new lowercase script at my disposal.....I then repeat the entire process with the uppercase letters. Once I have the whole alphabet down, I then move on to combinations of letters and finally, words. This can all take some time.

There is no point in repeatedly writing out only the easy bits - I concentrate on the hard bits until it all falls into place.

Avoid the strong temptation to move onto words until all the letters look right.

I knows that this may seem tedious, but very little that's worthwhile, comes easy!

Thanks for the advice, Ken! It's not severe at all, and I am guilty of owning several exemplars at different sizes so I can stare at them all the time. I'm glad to say I'm following rather closely to what you mentioned, perhaps though I progressed to words a little earlier than recommended. I'm doing Spencerian currently, but I find that some letterforms I don't encounter a problem by itself UNTIL I try to string them together. Things like connecting 'r' to 'i' (regular 30deg), the connector would be at a different angle to 'r' to 'e' (lower). Also, I find spacing a little tough. My natural writing is crowded, so I find that I have to consciously push my letters out horizontally more than what I'm usually comfortable with. It then hinders my flow when I reach the end and my letters look squeezed.

What would you suggest is better for a right hander, then? I'm debating between writing a few words and moving the paper (and possibly affecting my slant angle unconsciously, or try to find something smooth to allow my hand to slide across the work desk. This concerns me because my nib is finicky and won't work at most angles, and when it's going smooth, either my ink flow becomes too liberal and loses the hairline quality, or I can only work for a few letters before I have to move my hand. (Should I tilt paper angle when doing Majuscules too? I practice the loops with a pencil, but obviously with an oblique, this angle is compromised again, which makes my loops awkward, or I could force it and have my nib stab the paper and catch fibres  :-\

Any advice from any one will be appreciated!
« Last Edit: June 17, 2014, 10:28:23 AM by Faeleia »

Offline Ken Fraser

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Re: Self-Learning a new script - a method that works
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2014, 02:59:27 AM »
Thanks for the advice, Ken! It's not severe at all, and I am guilty of owning several exemplars at different sizes so I can stare at them all the time. I'm glad to say I'm following rather closely to what you mentioned, perhaps though I progressed to words a little earlier than recommended. I'm doing Spencerian currently, but I find that some letterforms I don't encounter a problem by itself UNTIL I try to string them together. Things like connecting 'r' to 'i' (regular 30deg), the connector would be at a different angle to 'r' to 'e' (lower). Also, I find spacing a little tough. My natural writing is crowded, so I find that I have to consciously push my letters out horizontally more than what I'm usually comfortable with. It then hinders my flow when I reach the end and my letters look squeezed.

What would you suggest is better for a right hander, then? I'm debating between writing a few words and moving the paper (and possibly affecting my slant angle unconsciously, or try to find something smooth to allow my hand to slide across the work desk. This concerns me because my nib is finicky and won't work at most angles, and when it's going smooth, either my ink flow becomes too liberal and loses the hairline quality, or I can only work for a few letters before I have to move my hand. (Should I tilt paper angle when doing Majuscules too? I practice the loops with a pencil, but obviously with an oblique, this angle is compromised again, which makes my loops awkward, or I could force it and have my nib stab the paper and catch fibres  :-\

Any advice from any one will be appreciated!

It's generally considered best practice to keep the hand more or less where it is, and move the paper from left to right to accommodate, In this way, the slope line is consistent. However, Spencerian Script is a handwritten form, and as such, should be as uninterrupted as possible to facilitate the flow. Some kind of compromise would appear to be the best route. Spencerian is not a British hand and I learned it comparatively late. Perhaps native writers of the script can give better advice.

Spencerian is probably the most flexible of all hands, and variations, particularly in inter-letter spacing, are considered acceptable. Look at the following four examples from actual handwriting.



Believe it or not, the x height is about the same in all four examples. Note that although the spacing is very different, it is absolutely consistent throughout each example. As the spacing increases, the lettering extends correspondingly and the slope of writing increases.

This little exercise is invaluable in developing a good sense of Spencerian inter-letter spacing.
Start slowly, paying attention to the spacing and slope, gradually increasing speed rhythmically across the page.
 
Note particularly, the subtlety of the turn at the foot and the upward-sloping stroke. In my opinion, learning how to execute this beautiful stroke properly, is absolutely vital; it's quite different to the corresponding stroke in Copperplate, for example and, as far as I know, is unique to Spencerian.



Ken

« Last Edit: June 18, 2014, 04:41:26 AM by Ken Fraser »