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Spencerian with fountain pen - looking for feedback

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evad:
Hi all,

I recently started practicing Spencerian with the goal to improve my handwriting. My background is in Copperplate.

I'd like to ask you for feedback - what can I improve? And how?

As the goal is everyday handwriting, I'm using a Pelikan Souveran fountain pen with EF nib and not shading, so I'm not looking for feedback on that or majuscules (haven't practiced them yet).

X height is 3 mm.

Do you think learning whole arm movements would make a big difference in my situation? As a "finger writer" I tried following posture directions in the original Spencerian book (knuckles gliding on the paper) and completely lost control of the pen. I don't see how this could ever work, despite watching tons of videos.

I'm confused by conflicting directions I've read online. Some people say that you're supposed to write lowercase/smaller letters with fingers and use whole arm movement for uppercase and flourishes. Is this accurate?

Big thanks to our member who created these guidelines with double slant.

jeanwilson:
How well people do when they choose a new style depends on a few different components to the process.
1
The older you are before you start something new, the more solidified your muscle memory will be at your normal penmanship.
Forcing yourself out of patterns that are decades old can be challenging - but not impossible.
2
How many different styles have you previously mastered? Once you discipline yourself to master one style, there is a lot of carry-over when you begin with other styles. By learning many different styles, you learn *how-to-learn.*
3
Rhythm and white space.
If you do not understand the importance of the spaces around the letters -and- if you do not understand the importance of rhythm, you will be at a disadvantage
4
Willingness to try everything and find the techniques that work for you. Anyone who tells you there is one optimal way to learn a new style is telling you what works for them - but it might not be the path that will be right for you. Embrace the meandering path that you must take to find what works for you.
Finger-wrist-whole arm movement-muscular movement -- you might keep trying all four -- and eventually you'll find what works for you. It is hard to switch gears - but unless you try all of them, you won't know which one works best for you. If you give all of them a try - eventually, they will all feel more natural.

There is a lot in your sample that looks beautiful. If your goal is to have pretty penmanship, you could be satisfied with what you have accomplished.
Practicing without shades is a good plan. You can always add them later after you have the skeleton shapes imbedded in your hand/eyes - along with the rhythm.
If you want your penmanship to look like the *masters* - disciplined practice and attention to consistency will get you there.
Self-critique is important.
An oft repeated suggestion on the forum is to choose specific areas (or letters) to focus on and improve them one at a time.
It's hard to pay attention to all 26 letters at the same time when you are just starting.
That's why practicing in groups of letters can be so helpful.

Estefa:
@evad As always, @jeanwilson’s advise is spot-on and I want to add that you have something beautiful going there already! I also distrust advice that claims to have the one and only way to learn or do something.

One thing that she also mentioned is the muscle memory if you are already writing many years. I started calligraphy well over forty and have always written lots of normal cursive. Spencerian took me so long to learn to a somehow satisfying degree, because I practiced much too fast in the beginning. The fact that some people can write it very fast doesn’t mean it has to be learned like that. If I wrote it as fast as a lot of advice out there said, my normal handwriting pattern took over.

So, one thing to consider – just slow down a bit and always compare your writing with a good exemplar ;).

evad:
@jeanwilson and @Estefa , thank you for your kind and thoughtful replies. It's a relief to have encouragement to find the writing position that works for me, as practically all other advice has been touting arm movements. I remember that I was able to do arm movements naturally when I was doing big flourishes in Copperplate. But for small letters these movements just don't come naturally.

Erica McPhee:
Excellent advice from Jean and Stefanie!

I have researched so many old texts and you are right - they waffle between finger movement, muscular, whole arm, etc. It's about finding what works for you. I found once I started consciously paying attention to it and practicing regularly the whole arm movement comes into play naturally.

Remember your drills. They help with muscular and whole arm movement so much. I also find once I practice regularly (daily) for some time - I feel a "shift" in the way I am writing. I can feel my hand lighten and the energy shift from my hand to the point of the nib which allows my arm and hand to lighten and arm movement to become much more natural. When I just practice here or there, my muscles don't have the control necessary to do what I want them to do it and it feels largely uncomfortable. (A bit like writing with your non-dominant hand but not that drastic.)  ;D

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