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Topics - sybillevz

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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!

Flourishing / The Rules of flourishing, according to John Clark, 1714
« on: April 02, 2019, 11:46:53 AM »
Hey everyone,

I just wrapped up my latest post and thought it may be a good idea to tell you about it here.
While I was researching old copybooks, I found some great advice on flourishing, written by John Clark - one of the founding fathers of the English round Hand. Some of his "hints" have been often repeated in this forum, but the post also contains some things that aren't so well known about flourishing.

Here's the link

I'd be happy to discuss this with you here too  ;)

The Library / PENNAVOLANS - Awesome online resource!
« on: January 28, 2019, 10:32:34 AM »
Hello dear friends !

I've already shared this in another post, but I think this info deserves its own post too ;)

I just launched a new website where I'm sharing lots of information on traditional pointed pen styles, it's

There, you'll find a huge list of copybooks and writing manuals published between 1525 and 1930, organized by century and country (it's in the bibliography section).

I also started a blog where I'm sharing the things I found out about the history of copperplate, a couple of posts are already up and I've got a few ideas for future posts... Tell me if you've got questions about this subject, maybe I can answer them in future posts ;)

Finally, I also started building a whole collection of letter variations found in several copybooks that I hope will help other calligraphers in their own practice. Right now, only the collection of A variations is available, but the other letters will soon follow.

Selling these "catalogues" will allow me to devote more time to the website and to create more free resources for the community.

Thank you for your support !

Tools & Supplies / Chair / stool recomendations ?
« on: August 09, 2016, 04:53:54 AM »
Hi everyone,

I just got back from a long vacation and being away from my comfy chair and desk got me thinking... especially knowing that I will probably get hired for a week long event in october where I will do do calligraphy for 8h/day for 5 days (yay!).
Do any of you have a comfortable / ergonomic adjustable stool that you can recommend ?

I have an eye on the Varier Move, but it is quite expensive and I'd like to know if it is suitable for pointed pen calligraphy... Has anyone tried it ?

The idea is to get something that I can easily take with me for events, and it's even better if it can preserve my back when I work at home...

The Library / The New Spencerian Compendium of Penmanship
« on: May 04, 2016, 04:20:22 AM »
Hi everyone,

I'm looking for a hi-res scan of this awesome resource for spencerian letterforms / variations.
The copy that can be downloaded from IAMPETH (a google seach will take you there  ;) ) isn't good enough for me to analyse the letterforms properly... I'd love to be able to print them at a bigger size but it's so pixellated it's a bit annoying  ;D...
Does anyone know where I could find that ?
Or does anyone have the book and would be willing to scan a few pages for me ?

Thank you !!

Tools & Supplies / The ultimate guideline tool for dark envelopes !
« on: February 27, 2016, 04:50:11 PM »
Hello everyone !

The people who follow my Instagram have seen that I have begun to use a projector to get guidelines on dark envelopes (if you haven't seen the picture go there : )

At first, I wanted to buy a laser to serve as guideline, as many calligraphers already do, but I discovered that I really do a better work when I have the X-height line too... so when I asked my husband if his laser would be able to project 2 parallel lines, he just decided a projector would be a better idea. So we tried, and he was of course right.

The one I have is the Asus P2E, which is a small led projector.
The key features you need to look for in a projector to use for calligraphy :
1- Adjustable keystone : auto and manual adjustment (vertical and - if possible horizontal, I don't have it)
2 - Short focus distance : for me Asus specifies 50cm, it is actually even shorter (approx. 35 cm)
3 - A nice resolution : I have 1280 x 800 and I can see the small pixels on my table (1mm squares).

After that, you may need a projector with a SD slot or USB entry so you don't have to plug it to a computer. The Asus P2B offers that feature and is not much more expensive.

Set up :
I used a gorilla pod  with a ballhead to attach the projector to my computer screen, which is in the left corner of my table. The projector faces down to the table, and I can rotate my screen horizontally to get the perfect angle for the page. The image I am projecting is a guideline generated with the shipbrook webpage.
Set up the projector position first (in the projector's software), in order to have the image rotated like it should be.
Then I put a graph paper page on the table to set up the keystone. The keystone is what will allow you to project straight lines. Auto Keystone does not help me for this, as the angle is not a usual angle for this machine. The lines on the graph paper let me see if the lines I project are straight.
Unfortunately, the machine does not remember the keystone set up from one session to the next, so I have to change it every time.

You will have to play with the machine a little in order to get the image to be projected in a way that you can actually use it. Also, you won't be able to rotate your paper and guidelines together while you write, which can be troublesome for some people. I use the graph paper page to know where my envelope / paper has to be.

This is of course not a cheap tool to get, but it has allowed me to gain a lot of time (I do 3 more envelopes per hour than when I have to draw the guidelines, plus there is no erasing). And you can also use it to set up a home cinema when you don't need it for calligraphy  ;)

I am sure my explanations are not easy to follow, so if you have any question, just ask and I will do my best to answer.

Contemporary and Modern Calligraphy / Pointed pen variations
« on: November 01, 2015, 04:54:12 AM »

I am currently trying to learn Mike Kecseg's pointed pen variations (from the speedbal textbook) and I'm stuck with one movement I can't seem to achieve. How do you get that pointy flick at the bottom of the letters ? I can do a pointy end leaning to the left, but not to the right... It looks very, very wrong !
I know some of you can do this wonderfully well, and I was hoping you'd have some advice to give me  ;)

Thanks !

Tools & Supplies / Gold foil ink !!
« on: October 17, 2015, 09:01:33 AM »
Hello !

I've been doing some experiments with gold foil lately, and found a way to mix toner into ink that you can foil !

So I got a bottle of toner powder (quite cheap and easy to find) and mixed it like this :
- Mix 1 small spoon of toner and a few drops of Isopropyl alcohol (or rubbing alcohol). The alcohol is not very easy to handle, so be careful not to add too much of it. You should get a consistency similar to gouache (out of the tube).
- If you have gum arabic in powder, I'd add it to the toner before mixing with alcohol. I used liquid GA, added a small spoon to the first mix. This changes the consistancy, but you can add a bit more alcohol if you think you get a paste the is too compact.
- Then add water until you have the right consitancy for writing.

When I used it, it was quite a runny ink, so it gave very fine hairlines and I was afraid the foil would not stick to it, but it worked out quite nicely in the end. The ink might bleed a little on some papers, you can then add a bit more GA... But, be careful that the ink is not too thick : I used honey for my first attempts and the ink stayed on top of the paper. It stuck to the foil very well but it was squeezed by the laminator and left a big blot when foiled...

To foil the ink, you need to have foil (any toner reactive foil will do), and a laminator (or minc machine). The paper you use this on seems to be of importance too : you'll probably get better results on a smooth paper.

For my tests I used conqueror connoisseur 300gsm paper and it worked wonderfully well ! The paper absorbed the ink (no bleeding) and there was enough toner to get the foil to stick nicely.

All this is not very precise, but I hope it will be of interest to gold & glitter lovers in here !

General How To's & Projects / Stamp making
« on: September 16, 2015, 04:25:34 AM »
Hello dear friends !

I've got clients who asked me to make them an address stamp (yay !) but, they have very long names (1 first name and 2 last names each) and want both names to appear on the stamp... + 3 lines for the address : that is going to be one big stamp !

I was wondering if anyone could give me any advice on the minimum size of the calligraphy imprinted on the stamp...
The style they chose is a shaded spencerian : At 1/8 inch x-height, I already have a total size of 3,5 x 6 inches. I don't really know up to which approx x-height I can reduce the writing so that it still looks nice when the stamp is applied ?

The stamp maker told me they don't recommend going under 7pt for a font... Maybe some of you have made some experiments that can be helpful ?

Thanks a lot !

Tools & Supplies / How to make wavy guidelines
« on: September 11, 2015, 10:45:08 AM »
I'm really bad when it comes to writing without guidelines ! I don't need the slant lines anymore but I'm lost without a x-height...
The trouble is, it's easy to get straight guidelines, but when I need to write in a wavy shape...   ???

So I found this trick, that may be useful for other purposes too, and thought I'd share:

1 - Generate a guide on the shipbrook website ( I asked for no angled lines.
2 - Click on the download button and choose to open in illustrator (if you have it, of course)
3 - In AI, select the lines, then Effect > Distort and Transform > Zig Zag, check "smooth points" and preview, then play with the size and ridges cursors.
When you have the kind of wave you want, delete the items you don't want, then just save as pdf and print !

That's it, enjoy !

Tools & Supplies / Metallic foil at home
« on: March 22, 2015, 11:53:34 AM »
Hi everyone !

I wanted to share something I found last week, as I was astonished by the cost of foil stamping... This method makes sense if you have a small amount of 'foiling' to do (in this case, it is 50 invitations), but it can be a bit frustrating.

For this you just need a laser printer and some toner reactive foil from Pulsar ProfessionalFx.  I'm just going to post a link to this blog that explains the whole process :

Of course, I needed to try this, so I ordered some foil from the german online store listed here :
and I borrowed my dad's old laser printer. Some tweaking is needed in the printer's preferences in order to have as much toner as possible on the areas that you want foiled but the result is quite ok if you're not too picky.

I can't access the pics I took right now but I'll post them on my IG (pebbleinthesky) for now and edit this post later.
I got this result with the method explained in the blog post (only laser printer) but I'm guessing I could get better results with a good laminator (pulsar Pro suggests one on their website), my old one does definitely not do the trick.

There are a lot of foil colors available and I'm really loving the possibilities this offers.

Tools & Supplies / When the nib is unwilling...
« on: March 07, 2015, 11:51:54 AM »
Hi everyone.

Yesterday  I posted a cry for help on instagram because the last few Leonardt Principals that I used were not working properly.
I prepped them as usual with saliva and windex and they would work ok for about an hour the ink would be beading on the nib... I even wrote with iron gall for a while, and it usually does the trick, but it didn't.  After a short time the ink would not flow properly and it was very very frustrating.  It seemed to me that the nib was not prepped properly, so I would clean it again and again with windex and it would work again for a few minutes...

So I got a few advice from nice calligraphy peeps, I thought this could be useful to everyone, just in case:
- Stick it in a potato for a few seconds
- Prep with fire
- Keep it clean : clean it with water every 20 minutes. When the ink dries on the nib, double dip (dip in water, then in ink).
- Warm nib with fire before use
- Use iron gall or mix ink with a little bit of iron gall
- Not use windex as glass cleaner might have some kind of ingredient repelling water. Replace with diluted ammonia.
- Wipe gum arabic on the nib

I tried all those tricks but none worked... So in despair I just stuck the nib in a potato before going to put the kids to bed. It took about 15 minutes and when I got back, the ink was covering the nib the way it should and flowing perfectly...

Thanks to all the great people who took the time to help me!

Hope this can help some of you too!

Spencerian Script / Spencerian online class
« on: July 21, 2014, 05:25:54 AM »
Just to let you all know, Harvest Crittenden is holding an online class starting in september.
I don't know about you, but I am very tempted !
All the info is here :

Hello !

I found this book of exemplars written by a french calligrapher in 1670.  I did not take the time to read all of it yet, but it seems that the author, Nicolas Duval, was one of the king's calligraphers.  He was known for his  skills in business writing and especially italian bastarde.  There are some intersting off hand flourishings  (lions, horses, griffins, faces, and lots of birds).
I did not take pictures of the pages where he explains how to mix inks, but if you are intersted I could take the time to translate them.
I hope this will be of interest to some of you !
Here's the link  :

Introductions / Hello from Belgium
« on: May 05, 2014, 03:01:07 PM »
Hello everyone !

First, I wanted to thank all of you for all the great advice I could find on the forum so far...

My name  is Sybille, I live in Belgium and I have always been fascinated by letters but just recently fell in love with pointed pen calligraphy.  I have been practicing non stop for almost 2 months.  Up until now, I thought calligraphy was just writing with a square nib.  That's a shame as I am an historian !

I am currently a stay at home mum, looking for a new way to earn money while still being there for the kids... My youngest is only 8 months and I want to figure that out before he goes to school in 2 years.  Who knows where this newly found passion will lead me ?

I am really glad to have found this great forum to talk about it !

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