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Messages - andy277

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Your example demonstrates exactly what I mean. The hairlines are ludicrously fine - to the point of virtually disappearing whilst the shades are disproportionately thick. The combined result is quite ugly IMO.

To each their own. To me, it has a delicacy and life to it that your exemplar lacks (and that was present in the original Universal Penman, as shown by Brush My Fennec).

As I write professionally, in all styles, I taught myself Spencerian in the interest of completeness, and I wrote out a few examples, as below, to be able to demonstrate the style, if required. I never wrote a video clip because I dislike the style and would only write it if I had to.

Well, that's not true. You have a video clip of you writing Spencerian on Youtube, but it's pretty beginner level and shows no hairlines. Regardless, I was asking you to demonstrate your professed skill and back up your assertion that no skill is required to produce true hairlines (in the process demonstrating that Higgins is capable of producing hairlines), not whether you had already produced a video clip. I would have thought you would have seized the opportunity to back up your assertions if you can, but no matter.

As far as I'm concerned, hairlines are hairlines regardless of the style of writing. If you care to look at #14 on this thread, you will see my hairlines (written with Higgins Eternal). This is as far as I'm prepared to go, regarding thinness of line. Any finer and legibility would be impaired and producing them thinner until they are virtually invisible isn't difficult, just pointless, in my view.

Yes, you've made your view on the pointlessness of hairlines abundantly clear. I'm just glad that your view was not shared by the master penmen of the Spencerian age or the penmen reflected in the Universal Penman and we have their examples of what levels the writing can reach. As for your video in post 14, I do not consider those hairlines Ė hairlines are not simply the thinnest lines in a work, such that any line could be a hairline as long as nothing else is thinner, they are very fine lines.

To return to the original subject matter, nothing I have read or seen in this thread has changed my opinion of the awfulness of Higgins Eternal one bit. If anyone is willing to take up the challenge and post a video showing them writing hairlines with it, please do. I'd love to see it.

Not in my experience.

Given that this to you is not a matter of skill (and thus presumably easy), could you please post a video of you writing your Spencerian with the finest lines you can? It would be most instructive and I know I'm not the only one who wants to see a video of you writing this style. It would also give us an opportunity to see just what it is about Higgins Eternal that you find so appealing.

It is true that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to what one likes, but  is also the case that the master penmen of the late 1800s and early 1900s placed a lot of emphasis on obtaining as fine hairlines as they could. This is witnessed in their writings about the best ink to use, the advertisements in the penmanship magazines for the finest nibs and ink, and in their own specimens. As Brush My Fennec has pointed out, the printing processes and differing edition can give an inaccurate impression of how fine the actual written lines were, and in the case of the US penmen, Indian ink was often recommended for work that was to be reproduced, so that what you see by a penman on the pages of the Zanerian Exponent (for example) is not necessarily a good indication of what you would have seen had you received an actual letter from that same penman. I love that spirit of competition that they used to have where they would seek to better each other in producing the most beautiful combinations, hairlines, and shades, and that is why I go back to originals wherever possible to gain my inspiration from.

I'm not sure how the specimen below will show up in this post but the hairlines in it I find more attractive and pleasing to the eye than the heavier lines in your preferred exemplar.

I guess it depends on your goal, I could see how starting off with a G nib would discourage someone who is aiming to create works with whisper thin hairlines and expressive shades, but I disagree that using a G nib will create difficult to break habits of heavy handedness. Additionally I've seen some incredible works done by Michael Sull with a Nikko G.

I don't think anyone has said that using a G nib will "create difficult to break habits of heavy handedness". For my part, I don't see how they can encourage users to develop a light hand, because you can't get shades with a G nib without using a relatively heavy hand, but that's not the same as saying they will develop difficult to break habits. If someone wants to get serious about pointed pen, however, I do believe that they will have to learn how to use a more flexible nib, so I think they may as well start learning with one straight away, and save time.

I'm probably in the minority here, but while I think that Michael Sull has done a tremendous amount to promote Spencerian script and is probably an excellent historian of the hand, I've never been that impressed by his actual script. His use of G nibs seems to me to rob his writing of the delicacy that I find so vital to the beauty of Spencerian, and his reliance on finger movement over arm movement makes his curves less smooth and even.

Contrary to popular misconception, this requires absolutely no skill ... The skill emerges with the transition of hairline into shaded stroke and the reverse.

I disagree. Even if we're just talking about straight lines, there is still a lot of skill involved in holding the nib just close enough to the paper to draw out the ink without exerting any force on the paper. If this were not the case, why then do we only see such hairlines being created by people who are skilled penmen and women? If there's no skill involved, everyone should be able to produce these exceedingly thin hairlines, but I see no evidence to back that up.

In any case, I'm not just talking about short upward lines, I'm talking about curves and letters being formed with wonderfully thin hairlines.

The finest of hairlines aren't the holy Grail. Not only are they difficult to see "in the flesh", they are almost impossible to successfully reproduce.

I never claimed they were the Holy Grail, but for me they are very important and from the writings and specimens of the old masters they were very important to them too. Indeed, they form a large part of why I find Spencerian so beautiful. I love looking at specimens showing extremely delicate lines contrasted with wide black shades Ė I'll take those any day over a piece with heavier thin lines and modest shades, where the script moves more towards a monoline with a few heavy shades (another reason I don't like G nibs). Unlike you, I don't have any trouble seeing hairlines in the flesh and reproduction is just not an issue for me. I guess if one is a professional who derives a substantial income from selling prints of their work (biblical quotations and the like seem a staple), you may have to consider not having true hairlines, but that's not the point of calligraphy for me and not an aspect I like. For me, it's all about the hand-produced document Ė the original letter or piece of writing Ė that's what I value and what I practise for. Seeing a work reproduced online or in hard copy is always just a pale imitation for me and never the point of the exercise, so I don't tailor my work to how it might best be reproduced.

I also don't think that the quality of the results in Michael Sull's book are simply attributable to an attempt to show the hairlines; the poor quality of the originals after so many years likely played a much bigger part in how they turned out.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Anyone heard Walnut Hull Oak Gall Ink?
« on: October 30, 2015, 01:36:01 AM »
See the other thread on iron gall inks, where I list where you can easily and cheaply acquire the ingredients.

For a beginner, definitely a Nikko G. If you give a beginner a Leonardt Principal, they'll most likely get nothing but frustration, and the student may give up calligraphy altogether.

I think you give beginners too little credit. I started learning pointed-pen calligraphy using Gillott 303s and similar EF flexible nibs and I wasnít discouraged, nor did I ever destroy a nib. Instead, I simply developed a lighter touch because I wanted to learn how to write like the master penmen of old. However, I would have found it discouraging if I had used any of the G nibs, because even with a very heavy hand they are just not capable of producing the lightness of line or heaviness of shade seen in those old works. Periodically, Iíve gone back to those nibs to see if my opinion of them has improved, but it hasnít.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Anyone heard Walnut Hull Oak Gall Ink?
« on: October 29, 2015, 01:09:54 AM »
Yes. thatís the one, but Iíve used several different formulae for making iron gall ink and Iíve honestly found no real practical difference between them. The advantage of using tannic acid instead of galls is that you know exactly how much youíre using.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Walnut ink vs Higging Eternal black ink
« on: October 28, 2015, 09:04:58 PM »
I think it gives perfectly satisfactory hairlines.

It wasnít until I saw firsthand an early 1900s piece of writing by a master penman that I truly understood what they were meaning when they wrote about hairlines. Having seen the amazing fineness and delicacy of those lines, Iíve never since been satisfied with the lines from Higgins or any other commercial India ink Iíve tried.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Anyone heard Walnut Hull Oak Gall Ink?
« on: October 28, 2015, 08:56:55 PM »
Oh interesting, could it be a combo of an iron gall [and] walnut ink?

Pretty much. Walnut husks contain tannins (the active ingredient in oak galls), so when you mix it with iron you end up with soluble ferrous tannate, which oxidises to the non-soluble (and black) ferric tannate. just as in oak gall ink. But the husks also contain another compound, juglone, which becomes dark brown as it oxidises.

The grittiness of the ink is likely due to a build-up of ferric tennate, which youíll see in iron gall ink too. You can leave it to settle, then decant the ink. Arnoldís Japan Ink, which was a favourite of the old pen masters, was apparently a heavily oxidised iron gall ink.

Iíve used Walkerís and McCaffreyís iron gall inks, but for many years now I just make up my own ink using the US Government formula.  It's easy and simple, and it's cheap too.

Tools & Supplies / Re: DIY - Gall Nut Ink Set
« on: October 28, 2015, 08:51:12 PM »
For the record, most of the ingredients to make iron gall ink are easily and cheaply available in most cities: homebrew shops will sell tannic acid (which you can use in place of gallic acid, or with gallic acid, if you have the latter); gardening shops will sell iron sulphate; art supplies shops will sell gum arabic; and hardware shops and pool supplies shops will sell hydrochloric (muriatic) acid. Logwood and indigo are harder to come by, but dying supplies shops should have them, but you can just use food colouring instead. If you want to add a fungicide, clove oil is available from chemist shops (maybe also salicyclic acid) or you can use cloves.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Quality control with Gillott 303s and 404s
« on: October 28, 2015, 08:32:07 PM »
I don't know exactly, but sometime over the last two or three years they made a slight change to the shape of the front of the nib (the tines).

Tools & Supplies / Re: Quality control with Gillott 303s and 404s
« on: October 28, 2015, 06:54:12 PM »
The Hunt 101 is my reliable go-to for this type of nib, and I have loads of those on-hand, always!

I've always liked the 101, but since its redesign I love it!

Tools & Supplies / Re: Walnut ink vs Higging Eternal black ink
« on: October 28, 2015, 02:07:18 AM »
In my experience, the danger of iron gall ink to nibs is far overstated. I've always found that my nibs wear out from stressing the tines by simply using them long before any damage from the ink becomes apparent. And I am terrible at cleaning my nibs. If you clean your nibs in a basic solution (like a solution of baking soda), you will have even less cause to worry. And the results are well worth it. I rate it far above any carbon-based ink Iíve used. Iíve seen work done with the fabled Madarasz stick ink and I even prefer iron gall ink above that.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Quality control with Gillott 303s and 404s
« on: October 28, 2015, 01:28:09 AM »
Because of their cost, John Neal undertook to replace any defective Principal nibs them when they first came out. I don't know if thatís still their policy, but I would expect it to be the case. The only way the manufacturers are going to lift their game when it comes to quality control is if us buyers refuse to accept it and send bad nibs back.

I still have a few hundred Principals from the initial year of release left, but like you Iíve moved away from them. I now use the Gillott 303 and the Hunt 101.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Walnut ink vs Higging Eternal black ink
« on: October 28, 2015, 01:02:41 AM »
Put me down as another who doesnít like Higgins. I bought one bottle about 10 years ago, never finished it, and never bought another. It just doesn't produce true hairlines. Iíve not used walnut ink, being a fan of iron gall ink instead, but Iíve heard good things about it.

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