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Topics - Matthew_R

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I was recently in Paper Source, and a saleswoman told me that the chain will be discontinuing the chocolate, fig, and persimmon colors.  I asked when this would take place, and she said they simply wouldn't be getting any more, and that the current stock was all that was available.  So, if you like those colors, you may want to stock up.

I find that my favorite pieces of calligraphy change over time.  Right now, my favorite piece is Madarasz' letter to Lupfer.  It's on page 37 of the physical copy of 'The Secret of the Skill of Madarasz,' and page 39 of the PDF version.  I like it because the hairlines seem especially delicate and flowing.  It looks like Madarasz took special care with this piece, perhaps because it was for Lupfer.

What are your favorite pieces of calligraphy right now?

Tools & Supplies / Hairlines: Rhodia vs. Conqueror
« on: September 05, 2015, 06:52:11 AM »
I would like to find the paper that gives the finest hairlines with a fine nib and a gall ink, and I've got a passel of questions.  Right now, I'm using Rhodia with a Gillott 303 and iron gall.  How does Conqueror compare?  I've read positive things about Conqueror high white wove.  Does the dye affect the texture, or are the other colors the same?  How about CX22?  Is there another paper that would beat these?

Thanks for any help along these lines (sorry).

I entered the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest once and had a blast crafting awful things.  I think that many calligraphers would love the creative silliness of it.

The contest's Web site describes it as 'a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.'

You can read the winning entries from 2014 here:

Even if you don't enter, it's very fun to write terrible sentences.


Tools & Supplies / Smooth note cards
« on: May 19, 2015, 09:54:44 AM »
I'm looking for smooth note cards.  I'd like some in different solid colors, without patterns or printed notes or designs.  I've tried some from Cards and Pockets (their own brand of paper) and some of the 'luxe' ones from Paper Source (I don't know the brand of paper).  All of them had a least a slight texture.  It wasn't horrible, but I'd like to find something smooth.  I'd be grateful for suggestions.

Tools & Supplies / Holbein special opaque drawing ink
« on: April 29, 2015, 03:00:50 PM »
My local art-supply store has Holbein special opaque drawing ink, and it looks interesting.  Supposedly, it's acrylic and waterproof.  Has anyone here tried it with pointed pen?

Tools & Supplies / Oblique holder with a replaceable flange
« on: March 26, 2015, 09:05:11 PM »
I'd like to try some of different flange angles to find something a bit more comfortable for my style of writing.  By that, I mean the degree to which the flange sticks out from the holder.  I've seen Christopher Yoke's YouTube video on making your own flanges, and it seems pretty straightforward (angled, actually).  So, rather than buying a bunch of holders, I want a single oblique holder that would let me replace the flange and experiment with it.  One of Dr. Joe Vitolo's videos had an old Zanerian holder that used a toothpick to keep the flange in place.  That's exactly what I'm looking for.  I want something basic, as I may make some modifications to the holder, too.

Some questions:

  • Do the current-production Zanerian holders let you replace the flange like the old ones did?
  • Are there other holders that do?
  • Would I be crazy to try this?

Thanks for any help.

I'm sure that everybody is always working on improving some part of their calligraphy.  We don't seem to talk about it much, though, which I think is a bit odd.  Maybe people are shy.  I know that as a beginner, I love to hear about things people are learning and what they're trying to improve.  It reminds me that I'm not the only one.

It can be a hassle to get photos or scans of your work, though—especially if it's not something you're extremely proud of.  So instead of show-and-tell, just tell us what you're working on improving (although you can post images if you'd like).  Bonus points for any professionals or advanced calligraphers who share.

I'll go first:

Ascenders and the letter 'a' in Spencerian.

Spencerian Script / Slant angles of famous work
« on: March 11, 2015, 02:50:59 PM »
In studying the work of the big names (Madarasz, Zaner, Bloser, etc.), I like to measure things such as the angle of the main slant, the angle of the connective slant, the ratio of x-height to semi-extended and extended letters, and the spacing.

Below are the slant angles of some of their work.  The angles can vary slightly within a piece, so I measure different points and find the average.  If somebody else measured, the angles could be slightly different, but these are pretty accurate.  I hope this will help other beginners understand that the old-timers didn't always use the prescribed slant angles.

Louis Madarasz's 'Washington' piece (including 'Rome perched Nero...')
Main slant: 42 degrees
Connective slant: 17 degrees

Louis Madarasz's 'Study as much as you practice' piece
Main slant: 45 degrees
Connective slant: 20 degrees

Louis Madarasz's practice sheet
Main slant: 42 degrees
Connective slant: 18 degrees

C. P. Zaner's sample certificate from the Zanerian College
Main slant: 48 degrees
Connective slant: 23.5 degrees

E. W. Bloser's Madarasz letter
The copy that I have has low resolution, which makes it hard to measure the main slant of the minimum letters ('m,' 'n,' 'u,' etc.).  So, I measured the main slant of the extended letters.
Main slant of extended letters: 46.5 degrees
Connective slant: 22 degrees

E. W. Bloser's 'Penmanship is a fascinating art...'
Main slant: 40 degrees
Connective slant: 18 degrees

My grandmother, Gerry, had unusual handwriting.  It wasn't smooth and flowing.  She printed, and the choppy, disparate lines of her letterforms created a rhythm that I haven't seen in anybody else's writing.  When I was a kid, she would mail things to my family, and we all would love to see her handwriting on the notes she would enclose.  I consider it calligraphy, so here are some samples of it and some information on her and her fountain pen so you can see what kind of personality created such distinctive writing.

Below is something she wrote inside the cover of an address book (apparently, she later crossed it out with a pencil).  The cover is heavily textured, and I think that affects the lines a bit, but her style is still evident.

She was capricious, and when she was young she loved to dress up and go out on the town.  During World War II, the U.S. Army took over much of Miami Beach and used it as a 'welcome home' and recuperation center for soldiers returning from battle.  She worked there as a secretary for a high-ranking officer.  After work, there was a lot of partying, and she saw famous singers and entertainers perform in the hotels.  It was pretty much the opposite of what was happening in the rest of the world.  One day, she looked out the window and saw an unknown man in uniform entering the building.  She turned to her friend, pointed out the window, and said, "I'm going to marry that man."  She did.  That man became my grandfather, Barney.

My parents know that I've become interested in calligraphy, and recently they found her fountain pen and showed it to me.  It was a dull green Sheaffer, and it wouldn't write because it had been sitting in a box since she'd died.  Still, I enjoyed seeing seeing the pen she'd used.

This was her father's name:

Apparently, she was sick when she wrote the card below, but I think you can see her spur-of-the-moment nature in her handwriting.

I think the "slashing" descenders and the length of some of the horizontal strokes are unusual.  I love the creative minimalism of her 'D' in the first two lines.

A couple of days ago, my parents gave me a beautifully-wrapped gift box.  I removed the ribbon, opened the box, and found Grandma Gerry's pen, only it looked new.  The body was shiny, and the nib looked pristine.  Also inside the box was a letter written with the pen (in green ink--like the color of the pen), and a small Clairefontaine notebook (also green).  They were from Linda and Mike, of Indy-Pen-Dance, who had restored the pen.  Linda told me in the letter that the pen was a Sheaffer Balance model, made between 1937 and 1942, and that she could tell from the nib that Grandma Gerry was either left-handed or wrote right-handed with the nib rotated away from her.  Linda also noted that she had adjusted the nib so that I would enjoy writing with the pen.  My parents told me that Indy-Pen-Dance usually has a significant queue for restoration work, but that Linda and Mike had made Grandma Gerry's pen a priority because they like to encourage interest among beginning writers.  I'm very grateful for the kindness they showed and the care they took with the pen.

Grandma Gerry's pen:

I'm thrilled.  I used the pen today while I was practicing Spencerian, and it was a joy to write with.  The ink flows very smoothly and the nib can produce very fine lines.  The balance, as the model name suggests, is superb--when posted, the pen feels very light, yet contacts the paper easily.

I'd like to know what people think of her handwriting.  I think it's very different from most people's writing, and I love it, but I'm biased.  What are your thoughts?

Introductions / Hello from Florida
« on: February 06, 2015, 03:44:25 AM »
Hi.  I'm Matthew, from St. Petersburg, Florida.  I'm just getting into calligraphy, and am studying Spencerian using the theory book and copybooks.  I'm having a great time with it, making all sorts of mistakes.

One of my favorite mistakes happened after I downloaded a Madarasz guide sheet from the IAMPETH site.  I liked the flowing quality of his writing, and figured that a guide sheet based on it couldn't hurt.  Then, I used that guide sheet together with the copybooks, not realizing that the slant angles on the sheet were very different from the slant angles in the books.  I read the instructions in the books, then tried to follow them exactly with the guide sheet.  It didn't work.  My letterforms just didn't match the ones in the book.  I felt frustrated, but I tried some more.  They still didn't match.  I thought, "I must not be making them precisely enough."  So, I went back and made them very carefully.  They still didn't match!  AAARGH!  Finally, I thought, "Something's wrong.  I'm doing everything exactly as it is in the books."  So, I got a protractor and measured the guide sheet.  A-HA!  Vindicated!  That mistake taught me a lot about what made Madarasz's writing attractive to me (there were many other aspects of it, too, but that was a big one).  Later, I read something he'd written about how immensely important the slant was.  I thought, "I know!  I've seen how you do it!"

I'm looking forward to learning from people here.  Thank you for being so supportive.

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