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Messages - jeanwilson

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Every single one of my rock star teachers admonished their students to be PRECISE - and leave perfection out of the conversation.

There is a good example of this in the invitation to the coronation in England. I remember when the invitation to William and Kate's wedding came out - it was a font - and either here on FF or on CyberScribes - there was conversation about how sad it was that they used a font -- at the time, I didn't care one way or the other. People are free to do what they please.

So, when the invitation to the coronation popped up -- I was interested to see if they had chosen a more calligraphic font or if is was actual calligraphy. On first glance it looked to me like it was definitely hand written - but to be sure, I had to find examples where it is precise - but not perfect. There are several examples - but a very obvious one is the bb in Abbey at the bottom. The left b is so much smaller than the one on the right. Personally - I think it looks better to have these kinds of variations.

Another example - the letter spacing on Westminster is soooo wide compared to other words -- but if it was tight - then those two lines at the bottom would be too close to the same in length. The whole composition looks better with that last line being a little longer. Someone who just aimed for the *perfection* of a font - would make the letters and spacing *perfect* - but the composition would be IMHO be soul-less.

Here is a link that shows the invitation and also gives all kinds of details:

To be clear -- this is just where I am on the bell curve -- Some of my best friends are perfectionists -- and they are happy where they are -- and we all get along just fine. Students should be aware that they can choose between perfection and precision. Most of us who teach like to offer alternatives to the perfectionism that can rob people of the joy of puttering about.

Broad Edge Pen Calligraphy / Re: Cleaning up mistakes
« on: April 01, 2023, 07:35:01 AM »
The drips and blobs usually diminish over time. Maintaining a very tidy work space helps a lot. It sets the tone for order and precision.

As you get to buying papers for finished projects - part of the process is finding papers that let the ink *sit on top* of the paper and instead of soaking in. Learning how to write with gouache is also a good idea because it is paint and does not soak in as much as ink so it is easier to scrape. I can't remember the names of the papers I used to use that had a very hard finish that was very easy to scrape. It might have been diploma parchment -- maybe someone else can give names of those hard surface papers that are easy to scrape.

My favorite paper is Arches Text Wove - and it is not easy to scrape.

If the mistake you make is writing the wrong letter - one option is to write the correct letter right over the top. Then keep going with your piece. After the ink has dried - you can go back and where the two letters overlap - you only have to remove the portions of the wrong letter that are showing. After you have scraped - if there is still a bit of shadow from the ink - and if you have gouache and Bleedproof White - and a tiny brush -- you can mix a color that matches the paper (exactly) and do some careful retouching. This takes a lot of practice, too - but it's time well spent.

It takes many years to be able to execute a piece of art without a single correction - so - it's a good idea to work on some correction skills as you are also working on the *mistake-free* skills. The single best prevention technique for mistakes is to pencil everything. It makes the spelling errors evaporate. I've never understood why people just dive in and hope they don't make a mistake when they could have chosen an insurance policy. By having the letters in pencil - you have freed up all your focus for making each stroke exactly how it should be.

The hot press surfaced papers are a very good starting point. And gouache. Black ink on white paper is IMHO rather severe. It's appropriate for certain kinds of work - but often times a colored paper and colored ink or gouache with less contrast makes for a more elegant piece -- and more forgiving corrections.

Even if you end up doing a piece twice - it's not a bad use of your time. I often did pieces 2 or 3 times - just because I looked at the first one and saw places to improve it. If you don't take the time to see if you can improve something - you rob yourself of some valuable lessons in *how-to-improve.* After 20 years - I was comfortable doing work where I could *do my best* on the first try.

Spencerian Script / Re: Spacing of Spencerian letters
« on: March 26, 2023, 03:54:53 PM »
Thank you, @AnasaziWrites soooo much. It is so much fun to see how people can put all those details into words -- and I agree with everything they say -- even though some of the details can be so *detailed* that it's hard to follow -- they balance the copious details with common sense.

PRSpencer says: ...the character of the design depends entirely upon the taste of the writer.

Payson includes something that I see all the time -- It is a very common fault to place the words too far apart.

Zaner had the most to say about how spacing is a matter of taste -- and I love that he included - to write twice as large -- and then write half the size. Excellent advice --

Spencerian Script / Re: Spacing of Spencerian letters
« on: March 26, 2023, 07:21:15 AM »
Spacing doesn't fit into neat measurements - with any style of writing.
The exemplars give a general idea - that works for the letters that conform -
but joining the non-conforming letters hinges on what letter comes next.
oo is probably different from on

Spacing skill evolves. It doesn't follow a recipe - it's a trust-your-eye (after training your eye) skill.

One of the highlights of my scribe-life was hosting Sheila Waters when came to Iowa to teach workshops because I was the hostess and got to spend some valuable one-on-one time with her. I've met (and hosted) so many of the rock stars of calligraphy and they are all warm and generous and kind people who are not shy about stating their personal preferences - but they are all gracious and respectful about the different opinions.

When Sheila inscribed her books, she wrote: In mutual love of lettering (I'm pretty sure those are the words - my copy is out on loan.) But the point I would like to make about Sheila is that she was very gracious about skill levels and preferences and alternatives within exemplars. If someone puts in the hours and studies various exemplars and comes up with a set of letters that pleases their eye - that's the joy of lettering.

If someone prefers to do Johnstonian letters and loves the original -- they should do so with confidence - and apologize to no-one. On the other hand, they should not bother trying to convert me to Johnstonian. To me - there have been improvements and refinements.

When people get into a lively debate about which x is best -- to me -- it is all in good fun. I have personally witnessed people like Sheila and Peter Thornton - arrive in a class and meet someone whose only exemplar is the little leaflet that came with their Sheaffer cartridge pen. They were always very kind and gentle about steering students towards exemplars and tools that had a little more finesse. They did not/do not expect everyone to be devoted to just one person's exemplars. That's the coolest part of calligraphy - you CAN make it very personal. Even if you go crazy and start spray painting foundational on railroad cars -- if it's a cool design - they'd be impressed.

Enjoy your journey -- sponge up as much as you can - and at some point you might do some editing and refining. If someone comes after you with a strong opinion suggesting you are not doing something *right* - smile and thank them for their input. They probably mean well - they have just been on a different path.

In mutual love of lettering --- I hesitate to use her line - but, dang, it's a good one.

Here is another opportunity to study Romans - and there will probably be a number of people there who would have a lot to contribute to a book on Romans. IMHO - the person who has taken over for John Neal would be the logical publisher for book on Romans. I know Romans and built-up capitals are not the same thing - but they relate in many ways.

This was posted on CyberScribes back in February:

The 2024 Calligraphy Conference is ON and IN-PERSON! SAVE THESE DATES!!!

Pack your bags and calligraphy's time to go on a ROMAN HOLIDAY! The first in-person calligraphy conference in FIVE years! Join us June 22-29, 2024 at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa to celebrate the gift of Fr. Edward Catich's lettering legacy. Follow the Calligraphy Conference Facebook page for the most current details!

Introductions / Re: New Member in Northwest Arkansas
« on: March 08, 2023, 11:39:53 AM »
Modifying your current penmanship
Learning a new style of penmanship
Learning how to use new writing tools
are 3 entirely different things.

Putting your nibs and ink away while you focus on penmanship will not give you any advantages when you go back to the nibs and ink.
There is no shortcut for learning how nibs and ink work.

My experience has been that people need to experiment and try a variety of things - and not be so focused on a specific result.
Enjoy taking some new paths - other people (including me) can tell you what worked for them -- but none of us can predict what will work for you.

If you posted some samples of your penmanship - those of us who have taught can offer suggestions.

@Zivio is soooo right -- you have to find a nib-ink-paper combination - and that will be a very personal choice.
While some people enjoy printer paper -- some of us prefer Rhodia and Clairfontaine.
While some people like Higgins Infernal - some of us prefer walnut ink and McCaffrey's
Nibs -- Nikko G's are not popular with the experienced scribes - but, they work well for beginners.

I'd encourage you to spend 20 minutes a day on improving your current penmanship with your fountain pen
and another 20 minutes with nibs and ink - just getting the feel for the basic shapes. Stems, bowls, curves, compound curves, etc
and - if you have time - choose a brand new style - and start practicing that one with a pencil.

My 2-cents.

If I find time - I will go back and search for some of the before and after penmanship of people who took time to post images to the forum.
There are at least 4 that I can think of who made remarkable progress -- by posting their work.

Here is a PDF of Peter Thornton's Built-up or Compound letters.

There is a ton of information packed into the directions.
 - p.a. - is his abbreviation for - pen angle -
All those little dash marks indicate the change of pen angle --

As you look at the stems for I - H - etc - the strokes are open - so you have to imagine that you made two strokes that create a solid line.

We worked on these letters for 2 days -- they look so simple and elegant - but they are not simple.
As with many styles - it's best to start rather large.

I have an exemplar of built-up Romans from Peter Thornton that has a symbol that indicates he is happy for people to share the exemplar. I am currently out of town - when I get home, I will post the exemplar.

Everyday Handwriting | Penmanship / Re: The Belgian connection?
« on: February 27, 2023, 12:06:50 PM »
A while ago, I met a woman who was from South America - although I do not remember which country. She said that there were many styles of penmanship and that you could tell which school a person attended by their penmanship. As I recall, she said that the schools were run by nuns. I have always wondered about this - and was curious to see examples.

I've always enjoyed meeting random people who have beautiful penmanship and asking them how they happened to have such pretty penmanship. Often times they had a one word answer - "NUNS!" It seemed funny that some of them still sounded resentful about the style of teaching - and that they were not appreciative of their rare skill.

@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.

Hopefully I can clarify the difference between the *life-long* penmanship/handwriting that has been evolving since we were children -and- the choice to adopt a new style of cursive for everyday use. My everyday penmanship is seriously unpleasant unless I make a conscious effort to use my *pretty cursive.* My calligraphic studies (for 30 years) have done absolutely nothing to erase the bad habits from the first 30 years.

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. My brain injury has messed up my eye sight as well as my calligraphy and penmanship. Itís challenging, but, the whole point of rehab was to educate me about the variety of things that I can utilize to promote improvement - neuroplasticity.

Perhaps the damage is permanent - but, if I do not even try to improve - it is unlikely that there will be any spontaneous improvement.

 What we consume (or practice) can have an effect on everything else - so, Iíd take it a step further from homeopathic remedies and say that what you consume or practice on a daily basis influences all kinds of things - including your success at maneuvering your pen or pencil across a piece of paper. If I ate a deep dish pizza with a lot of mushrooms and washed it down with a soda - my ability to do anything that required attention to detail or fine motor skills would be seriously diminished for several hours.

If I declare that progress is beyond my control - itís likely that I will make that prediction come true. I had a student with Parkinsonís one time who was really struggling - but he was highly motivated. I had a brainstorm to introduce him to much larger writing - and voila - he had much greater success. His fine motor skills were deteriorating - but his whole arm movement was still doing very well. He let me know that he was painting large signs at home. I always wondered what they said. *Better living through penmanship" ?? probably not....

I did not have time to respond yesterday - and was pleased to see that all the points I would have made have been made.
My teaching career started with substituting in kid's art classes and expanded to both kids and adults - art as well as penmanship/calligraphy/lettering.

IMHO - with any age and any subject - the teacher needs to understand the motivation of the individual student and find out if they have any expectation - and if that expectation is realistic. If the student's motivation is to just put up with the class until they can escape - then the lessons need to be more creative. For example - when you dovetail handmaking books with the penmanship or calligraphy the whole project can become more interesting.

Kids as young as 5 and 6 are familiar with quills so weaving some history into the lessons can engage students on a different level.

I spent 3 months doing a variety of brain therapies after my brain injury and at the end, I said to the occupational therapist as well as the speech therapist - that the entire process seemed like more of an art than a science. Both of them said, "YES!" Then I said - "But as *medical* people, you would not tell patients that you are practicing an art, would you?" They smiled and said, "Nope."

Many brain rehab rooms have the word *neuroplasticity* posted - very large. It seems to me that the hardest part of their job is convincing people that the brain can rehabilitate - and the patient needs to be *patient* but also determined. It's the same thing in penmanship. People who have some reason for why their penmanship is poor are not going to change their mind - unless they generate some kind of personal motivation.

At any age - forcing every student/patient down the same path is probably not going to get everyone to make the same amount of progress. Allowing the student/patient to participate in the process (and providing alternatives) can help them with motivation. I could tell that the brain rehab therapists would start and end each session with conversation that included my perspective. That was something that reminded me of the way I ran my penmanship and calligraphy classes - individualized.

Skilled calligraphers who insist that they are unable to have pretty daily penmanship are not unable - they are unwilling. Younger students are more open to the possibilities.

While italic penmanship is somewhat more angular than copperplate - Spencerian is more of a hybrid - and was meant to be written quickly. If you combine italic and Spencerian motions - you can create a hybrid that is fast as well as legible. One of the joys of penmanship is that it can be personalized. IMHO  penmanship teachers who insist that everyone conform to a certain set of shapes rob students of any enjoyment they might have had.

My 2-cents -- on one of my very favorite topics.

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: Illumination with PVA
« on: February 16, 2023, 06:14:17 AM »
Thanks for the update Matthew -- it is entirely possible that I mis-remembered when the more expensive PVAs worked better -- they might be better on flat guilding. I have a friend who has been trying to perfect his flat guilding for about 20 years and is not figuring it out. It occurred to me that the Lineco - which I use - does have a thinner feel. Elmer's Glue is thicker - and then there is Aileen's Tacky glue which is even thicker - so maybe you want to try some Elmer's or Aileens. Maybe try using Lineco on the first layer and the others for the building up layers.

It's probably fine to take a break from time to time and get other things done. As Erica mentioned - Instacol works very well for some people. I've used it and had good results.

Yes - if you use a T-square to rule lines, it is virtually impossible to keep all the lines parallel and evenly spaced - if you have only one set of *tic-marks* guiding you.

The only way I could ever keep things *true* was to use the pin-prick method - make a pinprick at both ends of the lines.
Using pin-pricks - you are forced to maintain the precision.

I used large sheets of graph paper to make the pin-pricks -- which works very well.
The thickness of a ruler can make it hard to transfer your marks accurately.
That's why those triangular rulers that architects use are so much better - although - I bet that architects are not doing anything by hand anymore.

There are two more issues that will cause things to be a little *off*

The width of the line - especially with pencil - can make things a little off - mechanical pencils help with that.

It can be very difficult to keep the pen or pencil exactly on the edge of the straight edge - and at the same angle.
As you draw your hand from left to right - there will be some variation in the angle of your hand - which can affect the line.

While this sounds incredibly picky -- it always amazed me how hard it was to draw simple guidelines - and make them come out *perfectly*
After 20 years of trying -- I finally just gave up -- bifocals became a whole new layer of difficulty.

An Ames Lettering Guide is the perfect solution to the last two issues -- and it would have made sense for me to use one -- so if you really want to draw guidelines by hand -- don't be like me-- get an Ames Lettering Guide -- and pin-prick both ends of your lines.

If people are interested in copyrighting -- we should start a new thread. If there is nothing about it in the archive - it might be a good idea to start the topic.

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