Author Topic: New to Spencerian and full of questions  (Read 3158 times)

Offline flomade

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New to Spencerian and full of questions
« on: May 13, 2016, 04:03:45 PM »
Hi! I started learning engrosser's script in late January. In March I discovered Spencerian, and was immediately drawn to it. All of the advice I read said to master one script before learning another, so I recently gave up engrossers! I'm learning with the pdf of the New Spencerian Compendium. It's a wonderful text, but a little frustrating because in order to see the drills, I need to navigate away from the accompanying text. Anyone have any advice on getting a copy? I can't seem to print it out. I am currently learning to hold my pen and get control of it. Here are some questions ..

*Is there another book or materials I should/could be learning from?
*What nibs are best? Many of the ones I have are rather flex and I wonder if I shouldn't be using something a bit more rigid?
*Would it be detrimental to me to write the letters before I have full command of the pen when held in the 'proper' position?
*Any general advice on learning spencerian?
*I've got many different guide sheets of different sizes, but none that look like the one my exemplar is written on, with 7 spaces. Is there one I should stick to?

I am eager to learn well, and see improvement. I'm really hoping to get to the nearest group to me, a little more than an hour away, which Elaina (Raayynuh) told me about. But until I get some real time guidance, I'm so grateful for any help or advice!

Flo
« Last Edit: May 13, 2016, 04:29:49 PM by flomade »

Offline AndyT

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Re: New to Spencerian and full of questions
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2016, 06:46:04 PM »
My thoughts, in brief:

All you really need to learn from is an exemplar, and you'll find one in any of the Spencers' publications.  They do vary, so best to have a look at a few.  Plate 2 ("Medium Hand", on page 74 of my pdf file) in the New Compendium would do nicely.  Thinking in terms of the seven principles does help - it's not essential but they can be used as building blocks for most of the letters and ought to make learning quicker.

Regarding guidelines, Spencerian is a practical hand and eventually you ought to be aiming to work from just a baseline.  What you decide to use in the first place is up to you, but bear in mind that the writing does tend to spread out horizontally, and for that reason it's best kept quite small.  An x-height of 3mm is large, but a good size to begin with ... 2mm is useful for everyday use.

Following from that, small writing needs a sharp pen.  My preference is for very fine and very flexible but for modestly shaded textbook Spencerian you don't really need much elasticity, so it's a matter of personal taste.  Nice thin ink is a must: iron gall, walnut, Chinese stick ink ... anything but acrylic!

I do not believe in a "proper" hand position, although there are plenty of improper ones.  If you can produce something resembling engrosser's script I'd humbly suggest that you don't worry about it.  If you insist on worrying, there are plenty of threads here about correct grips - and they're amongst the most argumentative and heated you'll find on this forum except for the ones about modern art.  Please excuse me if I don't go there again.  ;)

Finally, general advice.  If you're using the New Compendium, your aim is to write like Lyman Spencer.  This is no easy matter, but if he could do it, so can you.  Therefore, study the exemplars minutely; attempt to reproduce them exactly, and be intensely self-critical.  That may sound harsh, but it's actually the easiest way.

Offline flomade

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Re: New to Spencerian and full of questions
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2016, 07:13:23 AM »
Thank you so much, Andy! I have struggled with the hand position. Not the mechanics, which is awkward but improving, but with whether it is necessary. I certainly don't want to lead you back down a slippery slope of heated exchanges, or create a new one here, so I'll check out more posts on the subject before (likely) reverting to a hybrid grip that feels good.

Ah! Is it your link to the New Compendium I am using? Thank you for that! I'll check out that exemplar on page 74. I would like to print it out, I'll give that a try this morning.

I just ordered sum ink. Too thick? Can I add water if it is?

I have a couple of vintage Spencerian Pen Co School nibs that I tried last night that are lovely. I'll keep playing as I improve to see what I like best.

Thank you for the time you took to respond! I appreciate it. I struggle a little with self direction, tending to obsess over the 'right' way to learn, to practice, and this forum will help unstick me from those sticking points, I think.

Happy Saturday!

Offline AndyT

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Re: New to Spencerian and full of questions
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2016, 07:37:20 AM »
Hello Flo,

The hand position is very much up to you - I just worry that there are people who see pictures in early 19th century textbooks and cause themselves a great deal of unnecessary discomfort trying to emulate a grip which is intended for a quill.  I very much enjoy a good "but is it art?" argument (don't tell anyone!), but the business of how you hold a pen seems to polarise opinion and ne'er the twain shall meet.

I don't know about liquid sumi - sorry - but lots of people seem to swear by it.  If you can get a decently tight hairline it'll be fine, I'm sure.

Attached is an exemplar from my paper copy of the NSC: it's slightly distorted but pretty usable and probably better than you'll get from the pdf.  For the full sized uncompressed picture click here - if all has gone according to plan (and there's no reason to suppose that it has) you should be able to download and print the file without any bother.  Let me know if there's a problem and I'll try wrestling with the sharing options again.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2016, 07:39:30 AM by AndyT »

Offline flomade

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Re: New to Spencerian and full of questions
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2016, 07:57:21 AM »
That's lovely!! Thank you so much, I've got a copy in hand and am very excited to get to work this morning!

 ;D

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: New to Spencerian and full of questions
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2016, 10:20:09 AM »
This is the same two cents I keep throwing in. Be sure your chair is positioned so that your feet are comfortable on the floor and the desk is at the proper height. Hunching over a desk that is too low is bad. Even worse is a desk that is too high so that your shoulders are not relaxed and your arms don't move freely. Be sure to have a few sheets of paper or a blotter under your practice paper for a cushion. A single sheet of paper on a herd surface it dreadful.


Spend some time writing the skeleton letter shapes with pencil to develop your rhythm. Avoid writing too fast until your precision has made some progress. Remember to warm up each time you practice. After warm up you will have some good practice time. Then it will go downhill. Take a break and stretch. Look out the window. Then return to practice. Find the thread on ergonomics and being kind to your body.

Post samples on the forum. We have seen wonderful progress when people take time to post.

Sorry for any mistakes. Stuck with just phone.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2016, 11:20:54 AM by jeanwilson »

Offline pointedbroad

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Re: New to Spencerian and full of questions
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2016, 02:58:04 PM »
Caught Paul Antonio's scope the other day from his Spencerian class, and he recommended to them the Hunt 22B since it is a stiffer nib and requires more pressure for shading.

Offline flomade

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Re: New to Spencerian and full of questions
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2016, 06:33:30 PM »
Jean, I always find your advice so helpful! I appreciate it. And pointed broad, that is very helpful! I watched some of it, but missed that! Thank you!

Offline himasf

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Re: New to Spencerian and full of questions
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2016, 03:18:15 AM »
How's your Spencerian study going, flomade?

Offline flomade

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Re: New to Spencerian and full of questions
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2016, 09:49:58 AM »
Thanks so much for asking himasf! I just posted a few pics in Kind Critique. It's going pretty well. I was away from home for a week, but still managed to practice a little every day. Mostly I just looked at lovely spencerian on Instagram, though. Just tried words with a dip pen for the first time!

Offline himasf

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Re: New to Spencerian and full of questions
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2016, 09:52:54 PM »
That's great. I'll check it out. Instagram is awesome for inspiration. I don't have an account any longer but I check the Spencerian hashtag every now and then.