Author Topic: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting  (Read 5307 times)

Offline Erica McPhee

  • Administrator
  • Super Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7295
  • Karma: 334
  • Be brave. Love life!
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2023, 12:20:48 PM »
@Vintage_BE - this is very insightful. Thank you for sharing. Beautiful Spencerian!

@jeanwilson - thank you for this clarification. It seems we are talking about the same phenomenon. And your “new cursive” could really be considered another calligraphic style. I like that way of thinking about it and I am going to try it!


My decision to learn beautiful, everyday cursive was 100% intentional - and whenever I write something, I have to *turn on* the skills that I have learned. Symmetry, slant, rhythm, etc. Beautiful everyday penmanship is something that I *will* myself to do.

My suggestion that a skilled calligrapher can choose to have beautiful everyday penmanship is based on their history of studying a style and honing that new skill. Palmer penmanship has a lot in common with copperplate, Spencerian or any of the script styles.

A new cursive style will not over-ride any of the decades old habits. IMHO - that original penmanship from our earliest years is *etched in stone* and can be layered with new issues.
Warm Regards,
Erica
Lettering & Design Artist
Flourish Forum Shop
Instagram

Offline Cyril Jayant

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 279
  • Karma: 35
    • View Profile
    • https://twitter.com/jaycyril
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2023, 02:54:10 PM »
Hello dear friends,

It's been a long time since I posted here, but I'm glad to be back with a question!

I'm currently working on a dissertation that will help me graduate and officially become a "graphotherapist".
In France and Belgium, it's the name given to occupational therapists that specialise in problems related to handwriting. We mostly help children and teenagers who have illegible / painful / slow handwriting.

My dissertation is about using the calligrapher's approach of studying and practising a writing style (from the beginning to developing personal variations) to support the rehabilitation process.

So my question to you is: how, as calligraphers, do you approach a new writing style? What are the different steps that you take? And do you think these steps can help learn new handwriting habits?

My own steps are :
- Finding an appropriate model
- Studying the proportions and making guidelines that will support my practice
- Studying and practising the fundamental strokes
- Practice drills to loosen up and acquire a good general movement and rhythm
- Studying the letterforms by groups: this includes the correct letterforms and their variations, but also finding out the limits of what can be done with them, often made mistakes.
- Joined letters (minums and words by groups of letters then mix it up)
- Hard to join groups of letters
- practice at different sizes (with handwriting the goal is to ultimately write with a 2-3mm x-height max)
- practice as much as possible, with various mediums (project ideas?)

For handwriting, speed is very important. From my experience, it comes from regular practice and drills. So I start slow and gradually become more comfortable and I can write a bit faster. Do any of you have any tips to introduce more speed ?

Has your experience with calligraphy helped you in any way with handwriting?

I guess that's more than just one question... But I'd love to know what you think!

@sybillevz  congrats!!!
For me calligraphy is is a long process of another journey.
Whatever way you got into this  It is a long way to go up into writing into many levels and depending on how you do it or what you do with that  it brings you more please or frustrations one might say.
Some people  try it in many ways but fails to achieve what they want to see in their writing. I am one of them. I tried to learn calligraphy during  1985 - 1990. I can remember I bought inks and several Calligraphy broad pen set ( in fountain pens)  I was only interested in gothic /old eEnglish writing. I had a small Manuel in that style. So that Idea faded and died away and I got into photography and became a photographer. I always had a great liking into Typography and layout and stuffs. I love papers  and photo printing too.
Recently I had fallen into Lettering and pen and ink. And again I had those calligraphy pen sets I bought several decades ago safely and on goo conditions. This made me to think about calligraphy once again. Then I go into pens and ink and vintage letters. 
This opened up me to "War time old style writing " ( That is how someone talked about Old Spencerian cursive or American Cursive writing) I was onto the historic writing and this bug got me harder. There on I started to lean about those older tools and how and what they can do. Before I was a writer and my preferred way was printing. Now I am learning lettering and out of many ( hundred  or several hundred forms of calligraphy my favourites ones is Copperplate and spencerian/ business penmanship ) I can see up to what level my writing is changed and transformed. I have a good progress in what I do to learn a different hand in lettering.  So it is all depending on all the commitments. The more you focus and give the more you get in lettering.
Calligraphy is an art. As Manuel writing is a dead art which everyone  do not do today. So if you can do it today into a higher level  you might be able to make a living  out of that tomorrow.  ;D That is what I believe and I am doing it and so far so good.
Is it  expensive???? Yes there's a price for everything  and so that apply to this art as well. Time has a big value and it is the main cost.   

" Quote". ---Finding an appropriate model
- Studying the proportions and making guidelines that will support my practice
- Studying and practising the fundamental strokes
- Practice drills to loosen up and acquire a good general movement and rhythm
- Studying the letterforms by groups: this includes the correct letterforms and their variations, but also finding out the limits of what can be done with them, often made mistakes.
- Joined letters (minums and words by groups of letters then mix it up)
- Hard to join groups of letters
- practice at different sizes (with handwriting the goal is to ultimately write with a 2-3mm x-height max)
- practice as much as possible, with various mediums (project ideas?)"

As above exactly as you added ... I am doing this  as a ritual and this my second religion next to photography.
* Only thing that is missing is SELF CRITICISM . Lack of this will lead your enthusism  of getting  to a high level of the learning curve that is what I am working now. 

This method is the modelling/ imitating  of something already available to get into a style you may call a style. I am seeing several possibilities to of my lettering transmuting into a pleasant form.
Thank you for this lovey conversation and the thread you have started here.  :D   
« Last Edit: February 26, 2023, 03:15:40 PM by Cyril Jayant »

Offline sybillevz

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 400
  • Karma: 35
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2023, 09:46:20 AM »
Thank you for sharing @Vintage_BE !
For strange cultural reasons the school model in French speaking Belgium is not exactly the same as the one in the Flemish part of Belgium.
One is inspired by the example of French schools and the other by the Netherlands I think (or germanic culture countries), which has the semi-angular turns that we also find in Spencerian.

I really appreciate your comment bout speed. I'm guessing it is the way handwriting will be seen in the future: only those who want to take the time will benefit from it.
May I ask how you use handwriting everyday? What do you write, if not personal notes and shopping lists?



Offline sybillevz

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 400
  • Karma: 35
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2023, 09:56:23 AM »
I understand what you mean @jeanwilson although I have a different experience with changing my handwriting.
When I was 18 or 19, I decided to change my "schoolgirl cursive" hand and include new elements from the handwriting of someone I admired. That person uses print script, so I developed a semi-cursive hand, but it still has a few things in common with my original hand. I was able to adopt this hand very quickly, and now I can't do the cursive I had automated before.
The trouble with a continuous cursive is that it's really tiring. You also need to slow down when you make rounded turns, so it involves a lot of changes in the velocity, which is difficult to automate.

The process of making handwriting movement automatic comes partially through speed. So you'd need to consciously speed up and repeat the movements until they're right to make sure your brain and muscles do it right. It's a long process.

Offline sybillevz

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 400
  • Karma: 35
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2023, 10:01:16 AM »
Thanks for your reply @Cyril Jayant it's interesting to have your point of view.
I wonder, though, isn't a bit of self-critique necessary in order to approach the model, making sure your letters are legible and things like that? It's not about pointing out the things that are not good looking, but pointing out the things that aren't working.

Offline jeanwilson

  • Super Hero Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 1094
  • Karma: 167
    • View Profile
    • Pushing the Envelopes
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2023, 11:20:10 AM »
@sybillevz - who said "When I was 18 or 19, I decided to change my "schoolgirl cursive" hand and include new elements from the handwriting of someone I admired."
I did the exact same thing at the same age. I made Joanne Olson write some pages for me to use for exemplars. I think she thought I was a little odd.

IMHO - those changes we made as teenagers -or maybe even in the early 20s- happened before our penmanship was set in stone. We had the luxury -as youngsters- to think about things and take time to make changes. As adults - most people tend to be occupied with things beyond penmanship. Many people *blame* taking notes in college for *ruining* their penmanship. Other people *blame* their study of calligraphy. I like to look at the bigger picture and not place any *blame* anywhere. What matters is entertaining the idea that change is possible. If a person thinks it is impossible - they are free to take that route.

It just makes me sad when people say, "I hate my penmanship. It's so ugly. It used to be nice. Now it is awful." The cause of the poor penmanship is not the issue (for me). There are no *easy fixes* - but motivated people tend to make progress - once they find how many different components there are to penmanship.

Yes @sybillevz - for you - a continuous cursive is tiring. For me, continuous cursive flows better than printing - but only to a certain point - I do like to stop and take a beat every once in a while. Individuals need to discover their preferences and comfort zones.

Here is something else that makes a difference (for me). My penmanship suffers when I am composing my thoughts. When I write a thank you note and I want it to be pretty - I compose it on notebook paper to see where the line breaks will occur - and make sure that the wording flows. Obviously - it takes more time to write it twice - but,  that is how I choose to use my time - out here on the end of the penmanship bell curve.


Offline Vintage_BE

  • Freshman Member
  • *
  • Posts: 46
  • Karma: 3
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2023, 02:35:54 PM »
@sybillevz I am not entirely sure that the Flemish school template is/was close to what was taught in the Netherlands and Germany. I discovered Duch and German cursive styles when I started traveling in the 1980s. I am enclosing a note that we recently found at an AirBnb that we rented with the family in the Netherlands. This (to me) is the style taught in Dutch schools. My wife is German and her handwriting (learned in the 1960’s, too) is closer to the “printed/square” Dutch style than to the somewhat more rounded and ‘running’ D’Haese style that I was taught in Flanders.
Posting on this forum is, of course, preaching to the converted. I would like other people (such as my kids, all three well into their twenties) to take (more of) an interest in handwriting, but it’s really irrelevant to them. Like learning Esperanto, using linnen handkerchiefs, or sending a telegram.
Those who do take an interest in handwriting today are mostly the “artsy” types, they like lettering, flourishing, drawing. Writing a letter? To impress its addressee? No ma’m. My kids AFAIK never sent or received love letters (I suspect they did send and receive mails or WhatsApp to/from that special person, presumably with lots of those corny pinkish love emoticons). 
I spent rather countless hours on “reconstructing” my handwriting and have (to my disbelief) reached a stage where I enjoy looking at the product. So yes, I do write letters. I have a number of pen pals, and my mom (now 92 and 98% deaf) regularly finds a letter from me in the mail. Any excuse to write.
Lastly, bravo for all of your phenomenal efforts in support of writing and calligraphy. You are a blessing to this world. 

Offline sybillevz

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 400
  • Karma: 35
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #22 on: February 28, 2023, 02:29:03 AM »
What I gather from your comments is that maintaining beautiful penmanship is a choice.
Whether you decide to teach it to yourself as an adult or whether you decide to take care of the handwriting you were taught...

@jeanwilson in another post you mention seeing beautiful penmanship taught by nuns all over the world, and the fact that some of the people who learned these styles resent the way they were taught. Well, graphologically speaking these handwritings often convey a lot of suffering. But they also look like what good handwriting was perceived to be at a point in time.
There are generational "fashionable" handwriting trends that we can find all over the world and it even crosses the writing system barrier: for example in the 90's a researcher explained how japanese girl teenagers had a tendency to produce very round characters, and a British researcher reported the same thing at the same time... Then everyone noticed it in almost every school.

Anyway, I think it all comes down to speed:
- speed erodes form
- but it is needed, especially in early adulthood (when going to university for example)
- speed has been proven to be participating in the process of automating penmanship
- so if you let speed mess up your letterforms, it's likely that these "bad habits" will stick
- on the other hand, if you train yourself to find the right balance between speed and form, you're likely to automate nice penmanship
BUT
Handwriting is also a very personal thing, and our personalities evolve through life. So it's normal to decide or happen to make some changes over time. That is especially true for teenagers (or early 20's, whenever one wants to become their own, independent person).
After that, I guess it's about what you accept as your handwriting: it has to be satisfying by being either effective or beautiful or sometimes both.

I'm just trying to make sense of my love for penmanship and calligraphy: it's unpractical and frustrating and it demands a lot of work... but it's fascinating and so satisfying!
Now I just have to figure out how to transmit that love to younger generations  ;D

Offline Vintage_BE

  • Freshman Member
  • *
  • Posts: 46
  • Karma: 3
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2023, 07:45:11 AM »
@sybillevz One more comment about speed if I may.

Many of the “American” cursive manuals (especially those on business penmanship, but also Payson Dunton & Scribner, 1872, which I found thanks to your website) posit that the 52° slant is the “most convenient compromise between legibility and rapidity of execution” (i.e., speed). That thesis always struck me as if it came from another planet The 52° slant for me has been the most challenging part in learning business/Spencerian script. And it is, I think, the main factor explaining my lack of speed in executing that script. Also, I do not see how the (or: my) loss in speed is compensated by an increase in legibility. See the enclosed sample of my writing in (almost) vertical mode and at a 52° slant. I do not see a difference in legibility, perhaps because “vertical” writing has been the norm in European schools since more than a century, at least according to this source https://expattutor.wordpress.com/tag/is-slanted-or-vertical-writing-better/ . Indeed I do not know any person (other than those who practice Copperplate, Spencerian, etc.) who have a handwriting with a 52° or 55° slant. 

I agree that the gracefulness of Copperplate and Spencerian is at least in part attributable to the 55/52° slant. But writing at such a slant does, at least for me, exclude attaining any level of speed.

Arm writing does allow for faster execution, but it also comes with a loss of quality. David diGiovanni (https://consistentcursive.com/) illustrates that: he writes excellent “business” penmanship, at speed, but when he attempts to move up to the elegant script of the “masters” of BP, he inevitably has to slow down. A lot, I think (see https://consistentcursive.com/the-book/).

Offline Erica McPhee

  • Administrator
  • Super Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7295
  • Karma: 334
  • Be brave. Love life!
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #24 on: February 28, 2023, 07:56:35 AM »
@Vintage_BE My daughter, now 25, learned cursive from me. When she was 15, she and her friends were applying for their first job at a new restaurant opening in our town. When she signed her name on the application, the other two girls commented, “I wish I could sign my name.” It was so sad to me! But yet, they still had no desire to actually learn!

Additionally, she had a boyfriend her senior year of high school (ages 17 & 18) who would write her letters every day. I thought it was the sweetest thing (being fond of doing such myself). Sadly, it is the only time I have seen such from her generation (or my younger two - now ages 21 and 17). And despite all three of mine having learned cursive, all three print when they write! And even more sad (to me) - despite all three enjoying art, not one has shown any interest in calligraphy!  :'(

@sybillevz Regarding the nuns, I worked with an executive in my previous corporate life who had beautiful cursive. Whenever anyone would comment on it, he would say, “Well you would have good handwriting too if you were hit by the nuns in Catholic school when learning to write.” What a tragedy that such a beautiful hand held such feelings.

Warm Regards,
Erica
Lettering & Design Artist
Flourish Forum Shop
Instagram

Offline Erica McPhee

  • Administrator
  • Super Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7295
  • Karma: 334
  • Be brave. Love life!
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #25 on: February 28, 2023, 08:01:30 AM »
@Vintage_BE Interesting observation. They used to practice their speed with a metronome. I can see where the slant would assist speed when using whole arm movement. However, I also have to slow down and still use stops at the baseline if I want my Spencerian to look decent.
Warm Regards,
Erica
Lettering & Design Artist
Flourish Forum Shop
Instagram

Offline sybillevz

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 400
  • Karma: 35
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #26 on: February 28, 2023, 09:05:47 AM »
@Vintage_BE the slant of writing is actually meaningless for speed, it has more to do with the angle of the paper relative to your arm and/or the table (flat or not). If 55° or 52° is difficult for you, try turning your paper until the slant line is alined with your forearm when you write. If you bend your wrist, then adjust the paper so that when you pull your writing tool towards the baseline it is aligned with the slantline.

The width of letters has more impact on speed : rounder turns are made slower and make it more difficult to link letters. I have a vertical handwriting (with oval letterforms) but I much prefer to do slanted calligraphy than vertical because turns are easier that way.
Angled turns are faster, as long as they're not pointed (because a sudden change of direction is harder than slowing down just a bit to turn). You need lots of precision for that.

I've read all sorts of things in old copybooks... the masters after 1800 invented a lot of BS to sell their methods.  ::)

Contrary to what is believed, cursive is not the most efficient way to write : mixing script and cursive is. It make connecting letters from below and above easier. Which is why many people eventually turn to a mixed handwriting, regardless of the style they learned in the first place.

Offline Vintage_BE

  • Freshman Member
  • *
  • Posts: 46
  • Karma: 3
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #27 on: February 28, 2023, 03:51:09 PM »
JJ Bailey according to IAMPETH https://www.iampeth.com/artist/jj-bailey is the autor of a handwriting manual that “was used in the high schools throughout Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan for over 40 years”. His “business penmanship” style brought handwriting to within inches of calligraphy (monoline Spencerian without flourishes). This is the “continuous cursive” with lots of turns of the type that @sybillevz considers unsuited for today’s generation. She’s probably right. But - given the subject of this thread - what better text to copy than (the first paragraph of) his “Mile Stones on the Penmanship Highway”?
(P.S. I messed up the last phrase after getting bored with his hyperbole.)

Offline Erica McPhee

  • Administrator
  • Super Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7295
  • Karma: 334
  • Be brave. Love life!
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #28 on: February 28, 2023, 04:07:47 PM »
Beautiful penmanship!!  :-*
Warm Regards,
Erica
Lettering & Design Artist
Flourish Forum Shop
Instagram

Offline Zivio

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 337
  • Karma: 45
  • Foment Compassion, Practice Peace
    • View Profile
Re: Calligraphy and the practice of handwriting
« Reply #29 on: March 01, 2023, 01:09:51 AM »
…  posit that the 52° slant is the “most convenient compromise between legibility and rapidity of execution” (i.e., speed). That thesis always struck me as if it came from another planet …

@Vintage_BE  Interesting you should mention David DiGiovanni, because it was only several weeks ago when viewing his https://writewithyourarm.com/ site and videos I think I finally figured out the “magic” behind that 52° slant.  There appears to be a mechanical advantage to that particular angle, especially for those who use arm movement.

When I slant my writing paper to a 52° angle and pivot my forearm at the elbow, I can draw an arc just about across the width of the page without and up-down movement of the forearm on the muscle of the arm.  As David illustrates in his writing with the arm, there are two vectors involved in writing every letter: a vertical vector by moving the forearm on the muscle of the forearm, and a horizontal vector by pivoting on the elbow. Every letter has a particular combination of these two movements.

In the picture, the first arc was drawn with paper tilted at the 52° angle. It is fairly balanced across the full width of the page, and there is a good “sweet spot” in the middle of the page. The second and third arcs are with paper tilted at greater than, and less than the 52° angle. The arcs no longer fall as evenly with respect to a straight horizontal line. The first angle helps balance the vertical and horizontal vector/movements across the page. Also, using a perfectly vertical movement of the arm will result in a 52-degree slant to the letters, so that slant will occur naturally.

Certainly, I’m guessing the length of a person’s forearm might change things a tiny bit, but on average 52° might be the magic angle. I’m also thinking that positioning the paper so that an individual’s “naturally drawn arc” follows a horizontal line more perfectly would result in a slant angle for writing that would be least fatiguing. 

For those using finger movement, there may still be some value in determining paper slant in this way to not favor the left or right side of the “writing window” or sweet spot.


PS: Splendid job on that Penmanship Highway hyperbole! My goodness, they could write some long sentences!!
« Last Edit: March 01, 2023, 01:23:40 AM by Zivio »
Foment Compassion, Practice Peace