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Foundations of Calligraphy by Shiela Waters

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This book was recommended to me as someone who is only interested in dip pen broad edge calligraphy. And it delivers on much that is helping me understand what to do and refine my technique. Here are some of the highlights for me:

* Chapters 1 Basics and Beyond, 10 Analysis and Practice, 11 Design and Layout, 12 From Conception to Completion, and 13 Applying Design Principles. Went through these ideas in a very useful ways. The latter chapters giving examples that clarify things that 'feel' wrong, but I could not articulate why before. The utility may stem from these ideas being covered elsewhere for those trained in art and design, but as someone who has little training it was very useful.
* Extensive examples for Foundational and Roman Capitals that has examples of common problems and goes through letter spacing and what to look for.
* Loads of examples of Italic variations to better understand how the variations in pen angle and slant and sizing effect the feel.
In my limited experience this seems to be the book to get for broad edge calligraphy, dip pen discussions in the intro are a bonus. I am surprised this has not been listed yet.

Erica McPhee:
Great book! A must for any broad pen enthusiast. Thanks so much for posting!  :)

@brose Thank you for the summary of your highlights!  I had read very good things about this book … “a must,” for one, for anyone interested in the calligraphic arts.  Personally, my interest is pointed pen, Spencerian to be specific, and handwriting, not calligraphy, per se, so I haven’t availed myself of this book’s content.  Should this ever change for me, though, I’ll definitely be looking for it!

It's a wonderful book and has a huge amount of useful information, but there is one thing I will say as a new calligrapher just learning broad-pen (6 months experience). 

Don't get too attached to Sheila's 'way of doing things'.  She was a great calligrapher, but she frequently presents her method as the method.  There are many methods, there are many 'right' ways to do calligraphy.  While much of what she says is extremely useful, you're going to want to figure out what method works for you.  I've found a practice method of attempting to write a sentence, then improve that sentence in the space below worked well for me, doing that over and over.

You WILL develop bad habits.  You don't need to take someone as good as Sheila as the last word on calligraphy.  There will be days where all you want to do is take a piece of trashy Warhammer 40k lore or a bit of scripture and write a few sentences in some real pretty script. 

There is no failure state for calligraphy other than stopping.  Even if you are continuing day on day, every day you're still doing calligraphy, you are a calligrapher. 

Oh - regarding Sheila's bit on spacing - this is FRUUUSTRATING.  While she's extremely right about the importance of spacing, the rules she adds for it are fussy and very precise.  I found them discouragingly complex.  To that end, I wouldn't even worry about spacing as a concept until you've got at least one hand worth of miniscules and majiscules to the point you don't need an exemplar to pen them consistently.

@Chessie  You’ve raised some interesting points and good advice to learners of any kind not to take one person’s ways and methods as the only truth — regardless how skilled they may be! I’ve sometimes found in adepts of all kinds they may have forgotten the pathways their life and brains took to arrive at their particular level of skill.

As for my learning style, I always love to “triangulate” — study three sources, at a minimum — on any new topic of interest. I find this approach builds the schema required for assessing whether anything new I find is in support of, or departs from the majority thinking. Confirmation of things already encountered helps my memory by reinforcing. But hearing minority, or even conflicting, information gives my brain a bit of a surprise jolt that causes me to pause and consider what I just heard. I enjoy this process!


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