Author Topic: A few basic questions:  (Read 1265 times)

Offline Stephen Starling

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A few basic questions:
« on: October 22, 2016, 11:44:51 AM »
Hello!  I joined recently thinking I'd pursue modern calligraphy, but decided to try Spencerian again.  Within my first hour I got stuck with some basic questions. Any answers and opinions appreciated!

I have PaperInkArts Spencerian Starter Kit.   http://www.paperinkarts.com/spnstart---col.html The book included is Michael Sullís Learning to Write Spencerian.  This book doesn't seem to address paper angle. My instinct is to have the paper slanted at 52 degrees so that the 52 slant guidelines are vertical in relation to the edge of the table. Is this correct?

On page 7 the authors recommend practicing with pencil. The idea is to first learn letterform before tackling the demands on an oblique pen and ink. Should I practice the whole alphabet, basically the whole book, with pencil first, and then begin again with the pointed pen?

The book comes with two guidesheets. Sheet A has a narrow x-height, sheet B is extra narrow! Are beginners really encouraged to start as narrow as the A sheet?

Final question is about the kits included "Bill Kempís Spencerian guidelines".  They seem to match Sull's.  They are a translucent plastic. By themselves, they are not dark enough to read the lines even with cheap copy paper.  I'm guessing they were meant to be used with a light table?


Offline Starlee

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Re: A few basic questions:
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2016, 08:34:38 PM »
Hi Stephen,

When it comes to paper angle, the approach I take is whatever works. The most important thing is to achieve the proper slant, but you want to achieve it with the least resistance. So focus on your arm instead of paper angle. This is where the pencil work comes in handy. When first learning calligraphy, part of the challenge is not only achieving proper letter forms, but also learning how to use a new tool. Using a pencil eliminates the latter and let's you focus on movement and letter forms. When you're practicing, focus on the slant and pay attention to the motion of your arm. The goal is to glide as effortlessly as possible across the paper. If you are too focused on the paper being at a 'proper angle', and that is not  comfortable for you, you might be actually hindering your progress. I say this because, as a lefty, I've had to adapt pretty much everything as much of what is written hasn't worked for me. That said, much of the instructions you read are for right-handers, and serves as good starting points. Just be prepared to adjust to what feels natural to you. Treat what you read as guidelines, not hard-fast rules. Everyone is different. When you do switch to pointed pen, the key is to have the pen always in-line with angle you wish to achieve, but again it is for the primary objective ease of motion so that the pen doesn't snag or catch on the paper. But that falls under learning to use the tool, which is a whole other set of challenges.

When practicing letter forms, bigger x-heights are better when learning as you will see what you are doing well, and what needs work.

Not sure about those translucent sheets, but your hypothesis about the light table is of sound logic.

Lastly, and I know it is never as much fun, but it is worth the investment. I cannot stress it enough. Never mind the alphabet. Instead, master the basic strokes and practice rhythm. Everything builds upon these things, and they should at least feel somewhat comfortable. If they don't, it will show in your work.

Hope this helps!
« Last Edit: October 22, 2016, 08:44:46 PM by Starlee »
Star

Offline Rednaxela

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Re: A few basic questions:
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2016, 01:14:33 AM »
Lastly, and I know it is never as much fun, but it is worth the investment. I cannot stress it enough. Never mind the alphabet. Instead, master the basic strokes and practice rhythm. Everything builds upon these things, and they should at least feel somewhat comfortable. If they don't, it will show in your work.

Top advice. Don't be that guy who fills pages and pages of n's that show that you skipped the part where they explain how the n is constructed from three principle strokes. Been there, done that, total waste of time.
-- Alexander --

Offline AndyT

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Re: A few basic questions:
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2016, 03:43:58 AM »
All excellent advice from Star.  With regard to using a pencil, it's worth a look at the Practice with a Ballpoint thread, which amounts to the same thing.

Just a quick word on sizes: whilst it makes sense to start out relatively large the eventual aim should be to write rather small.  You'll soon find out that Spencerian tends to spread out horizontally, and the only way to get a sensible number of words to a line is to reduce the size.  (This also allows for greater speed and efficiency of motion, and speed is an important consideration with this style).  5mm between the lines is huge and ideal for learning the forms; half that or smaller makes for a practical handwriting.

Offline Stephen Starling

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Re: A few basic questions:
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2016, 07:45:26 PM »
Thanks for the advice everyone! I'm  a bit of a pen and pencil nut, so you know I have to order a box of those BICs now. :D