Author Topic: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules  (Read 9241 times)

Offline Faeleia

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Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« on: June 24, 2014, 04:13:51 AM »
Spencerian gods, I've got a question on the large circular flourishes required to make elegant Spencerian uppercase, and I've been wondering how one should go about approaching it. I'm experiencing wrist and forearm fatigue faster than I expected, which is going to hinder practice.

I've been putting this problem aside for a while because I was focusing on the lower case, which aren't large to begin with, but if I were to only support my hand on the forearm above the elbow, it is not enough to create stable lines. If I rest it on the side of my hand with the little finger, then it kind of obstructs the flow of the line, when I need to go to the right, where my palm is and thus cramping the line and while I can form free circles, but when joining the circles to actual letter forms, it's not light enough, so the nib snags on up strokes in loops.

I still understand the main solution is practice, but I'm hoping for a more constructive practice, esp when it comes to posture, and support so I don't practice wrongly and compromise my foundation.

Are there any tips or tricks that can be used to ensure full arm movement and yet create delicate lines that are accurate?

Any help will be greatly appreciated!

Offline AndyT

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2014, 04:55:41 AM »
This is the thing I struggle with most, and in all honesty I've made no headway at all.  Undoubtedly the nub of the matter is practice, as you say, but how to go about it?  The following advice is from an email exchange with Brian Walker:

"I wouldn't be too concerned about whole arm movement at this stage. You need to get that finger movement out of the way first. Keep the fingers and thumb still on the pen holder and also the wrist still and straight in line with the arm. Finger movement is acceptable for making the looped strokes - stretch up, pull down sort of thing. Focus on the feel of the top knuckle of the little finger making the capital shapes on the paper. This also applies to whole arm movement. part of the hand still stays on the paper. If you want to try whole arm then have a go at writing large capitals about 2" high with whole arm with felt tipped pen on sheets of newspaper. [...] Making whole arm capitals is also a question of calm nervous control, mental perception of the letter form itself and then the confidence to simply 'go for it'.

On the question of producing those perfect ovals you really have to know the shape in your head before you do it. You must believe in yourself that you can do them right and to know the exact direction in which you wish the pen to travel. A lot of it is about directional angles/degrees. Try a few big anticlockwise ovals with pencil and whole arm (virtually drawing the oval at a fairly brisk, but smooth gliding speed) and then analyse what you've drawn to see where the weak or flat places are - a line might be too flat or too steep or too wobbly and so on. Make adjustments or mark over the point(s) and then try making the shape again. Keep doing this until you improve the shape and direction. It will improve gradually with some focus on the detail. Practising overlapping ovals along a horizontal line is another good way too. The more you do them, the better you get".

So, it's not as if I don't know exactly what needs doing.  Another excellent and memorable piece of advice came from Estefa here recently: cover everything with ovals (I'm paraphrasing).   ;)

One more thing.  It strikes me that desk height is quite an important consideration: ideally you want simply to be able to rock back a few inches to take your forearm off the table, then rock forward again for muscular movement.  Quite possibly this would be easier to achieve standing up.  At any rate, it's worth thinking about.

Offline Faeleia

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2014, 05:02:36 AM »
Thanks Andy! This is the kind of advice I need! I've got the knuckle thing already, but raising it tires my wrist. I'll have to read carefully and think about it again to figure what I need to work at. I keep forgetting these amazing penmen can be reached via email and will probably reply a newbie. :D

Thanks again! I welcome any other advice too, if anyone else has good tips, otherwise I'll dive into the old books! It's harder to learn Spencerian only because I think there are less examples I can find online, which is my primary go-to for almost everything in life. Most tutorials deal with copperplate..

EDIT: In fact, that is such important advice, I'm going to print it so I can read it again frequently. :D THANK YOUUUUUUUUUU
« Last Edit: June 24, 2014, 05:10:11 AM by Faeleia »

Offline tintenfuchs

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2014, 05:42:15 AM »
Thanks again! I welcome any other advice too, if anyone else has good tips, otherwise I'll dive into the old books! It's harder to learn Spencerian only because I think there are less examples I can find online, which is my primary go-to for almost everything in life. Most tutorials deal with copperplate..
I dare to disagree - check the old books section on IAMPETH, there are dozens of books on Spencerian! Check out the thread "Spencerian Ressources" (or something like that) for recommendations.
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Offline AndyT

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2014, 08:35:29 AM »
In a way, Spencerian - as distinct from the ornamental derivatives - is cast in stone.  So the key works are the various official books published by the Spencers, in particular "The Theory of Spencerian Penmanship".  It's well worth buying a hard copy, and the Mott Media reprint is hardly expensive.  High time I read that closely again, come to think of it.  There are some differences between the editions, mostly a matter of how baroque you like your capitals.

As for Ornamental Penmanship (which is what most people seem to mean when they say Spencerian), all the master penmen had their own variations, and most made part of their living by teaching.  It's hardly surprising that there were a lot of trade secrets!  The most helpful of the old books in my opinion are P Z Bloser's  and C P Zaner, both called "Lessons in Ornamental Penmanship": they both contain some guidance about movement, posture and so forth as well as the examples.  Nonetheless, a course at the Zanerian College would certainly have filled in an awful lot of gaps.  I rather enjoy the detective work, really - mostly a matter of rummaging around in dusty corners of various internet archives on those rare occasions when IAMPETH doesn't come up trumps.

Of course, one of the best online resources is this forum because it provides an introduction to some seriously accomplished writers who can expand on the bits which are hazy in the old textbooks.  :)

Offline schin

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2014, 02:28:45 PM »
Here is my two cents..
First.. loosen up! Sounds like you're tense and nervous and trying to do things 'right'.. Don't worry, there is no calligraphy god looking over your shoulder taking away points for every incorrect posture/movement. If you want to use your whole arm, sure.. if you wanna use your finger, okay.. as long as the final product looks good. Of course the instructions they give is the best and tried and true method.. but overall you know your body best, you know how to hold a pen in your own way.. so don't take it all TOO seriously. The ends (final artwork) justify the means!

Make sure your grip is light.. if you are tensing up it will hurt after a while. You should be holding the pen lightly like a fairy feather. It should just barely be in place in your hand. If you need to tense up for shades.. then tense up.. otherwise it should be light and airy. If you tense up, it is difficult to do good ovals. Write with your whole body.. position your arm, shoulder, entire body to the task. The whole body should feel comfortable and relaxed.. and then your arm will be relaxed too.

Make sure your table is smooth and clear of clutter. This sounds obvious but if there is a pencil or eraser or something in the vicinity of my writing arm, subconciously I try to avoid it and that affects my writing. Before doing large capitals I make sure that space is clear, and my arm can move fearlessly without wondering if I will knock over something. Also make sure your table is smooth and your arm can glide on it easily.. I know Singapore is humid so make sure your arm is not 'sticking' to the table. You can try smoothing the table with some baby powder to help with the glide.

You can also try changing the nib or set it at a lower angle if it sticks. Some nibs stick more than others, and the stress of splattering can really discourage free flowing capitals. So make sure the nib is cooperative!

Good luck!!!
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Offline AndyT

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2014, 03:56:48 PM »
You should be holding the pen lightly like a fairy feather.

You seem to be saying that white knuckles are a bad sign, is that right?  Oh dear ...   ;)

Offline AmyNeub

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2014, 04:42:09 PM »
Stefanie showed this on IG to practice and help with arm movement http://instagram.com/p/pa-lXkyg_1/

I did a lot yesterday and I saw some improvement. I hope the link works.

Offline AmyNeub

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2014, 04:43:38 PM »
She explains on this one too http://instagram.com/p/pa97gOyg_Y/

Offline Estefa

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2014, 05:57:01 PM »
Thank you, Amy, for linking to these!! I think it is a lot like Schin said … it is important to feel comfortable. If you have to force yourself to do something in a special way, if often will get cramped and not graceful … I read a lot of these historical instructions, and they are sometimes so severe that I was feeling bad for doing it in another way, which worked better for me. Something is also simply confusing: some instructions say, to write fast and not to care that the letters don't look good in the beginning, others that one shouldn't sacrifice good letterforms for speed! For me, at least at the moment, speed doesn't work at all – I fall back in my normal handwriting then. But it took me some time to find out that I learn better, also a "fast" script like Spencerian, by starting slow!

Andy, thanks a lot for that quote from Brian Walker!

Schin, how you write about writing is always a joy to read :)! And I second you about the clutter. Another thing … I don't know if that bothers you – I can't write well on a pad. Also all teachers I met and some stuff I read recommend writing on one sheet of paper (with a bit of a cushion), not on a pad, because this can also make the arm / hand hinder to make fluid moments. That's also why I don't like sketch books very much for writing.
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Offline schin

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2014, 06:06:47 PM »
Another thing … I don't know if that bothers you – I can't write well on a pad. Also all teachers I met and some stuff I read recommend writing on one sheet of paper (with a bit of a cushion), not on a pad, because this can also make the arm / hand hinder to make fluid moments. That's also why I don't like sketch books very much for writing.

That's a good point! It is impossible to do flowing lines on a sketchbook or pad, as the palm will keep knocking on the side of the pages. I always always write on one flat sheet of paper, and a few sheets of loose paper underneath as cushion (John deCollibus says to use 6 sheets of newspaper). Therefore it is always handy to have some sheets of used practice sheets lying around to serve as a cushion. The downside is that it creates a mess to have papers everywhere for this purpose :)

Have you tried using those leather desk pads? I used one for awhile nad it's not too bad.. eliminates the need for cushion sheets.
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Offline AndyT

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2014, 06:14:45 PM »
I thought it was just me with the pad thing - thank you both for mentioning it.  Will start putting those practice sheets to good use forthwith.

Offline Faeleia

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2014, 11:07:59 PM »
In a way, Spencerian - as distinct from the ornamental derivatives - is cast in stone.  So the key works are the various official books published by the Spencers, in particular "The Theory of Spencerian Penmanship".  It's well worth buying a hard copy, and the Mott Media reprint is hardly expensive.  High time I read that closely again, come to think of it.  There are some differences between the editions, mostly a matter of how baroque you like your capitals.

As for Ornamental Penmanship (which is what most people seem to mean when they say Spencerian), all the master penmen had their own variations, and most made part of their living by teaching.  It's hardly surprising that there were a lot of trade secrets!  The most helpful of the old books in my opinion are P Z Bloser's  and C P Zaner, both called "Lessons in Ornamental Penmanship": they both contain some guidance about movement, posture and so forth as well as the examples.  Nonetheless, a course at the Zanerian College would certainly have filled in an awful lot of gaps.  I rather enjoy the detective work, really - mostly a matter of rummaging around in dusty corners of various internet archives on those rare occasions when IAMPETH doesn't come up trumps.

Of course, one of the best online resources is this forum because it provides an introduction to some seriously accomplished writers who can expand on the bits which are hazy in the old textbooks.  :)

I have both the book by Bloser and Zaner as well as the Spencer brother's. The first has great exemplars, but don't help me with how to achieve them esp with the arm support, the Spencerian theorybook is nice but it's a bit big. I would call it ornamental penmanship but there isn't a forum here for it (besides flourishing). I'm wondering more about large, free form loops.

@Schin Thanks for all your tips! Gonna be sure to hold my holder light as I can.. and my arm does stick to the desk! It's either very sweaty hot or rainy here now, and I keep trying to place comfortable things under my arm so they glide better..

@Stefanie Thanks for reminding me it's still about what makes me feel comfortable! I woke up feeling dejected , checked your IG (felt even more newbie than ever) and they were the same loop practices I saw linked in this thread! I'll do those loops. I can't write on a pad either. The elevation and when my hand reaches the edge, it forces me to cramp my letters and my hand gets all weird. I do put a few pieces of paper underneath..

@Amy Thanks amy! I'll try them later!

@Natascha I was referring to those IAMPETH books when I meant old books haha. It's hard to read 100 pages PDFs on a screen.. my eyes are screaming and I can't print them all out at work :P

Does anyone know how to make good shades? I dont' know if I'm too gentle with my nib or something, but even flicking actions don't open the LP EF very much for me. I don't want to snap it obviously since I only have 2, but do i need maybe a Brause Rose or something? Why are my shades so tiny?

(Please excuse the writing, that's a 1 mth Spencerian and my first attempt to copy an exemplar and I killed most of my letters (Sorry Lupfer). I didn't take any pictures of newer practices, but the upper cases are still like that. Some I go in to fill another stroke to make up for the shade, and even though it looks better with touchups, but I don't think colouring in huge chunks are really the right practice..
« Last Edit: June 24, 2014, 11:35:07 PM by Faeleia »

Offline schin

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2014, 01:22:12 AM »
That's a beautiful copy :) The original is proudly displayed by my stairwell. Try holding your principal at a lower angle, I find that it swells better that way, and don't be afraid to really press and flick for the shades.
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Offline Faeleia

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Re: Arm support in doing Spencerian Majuscules
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2014, 02:11:39 AM »
@Schin It was because I saw the originals and the photo that you took and put on your blog that got me drooling like crazy and turned me to Spencerian. That's my favourite piece of all! <3 (Sorry Maddy)