Author Topic: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder  (Read 24270 times)

Offline Erica McPhee

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Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder
« on: January 12, 2014, 07:13:08 PM »
Check out this great video by Paul Antonio. I'm surprised he is not using an oblique holder (perhaps why he has to turn his paper more and gets the splat at the end?). But in any event, I would watch any video by Paul as he is so incredibly charming. Oh, and masterful at calligraphy, too! Thankfully, this is also a great subject matter!  ;D  This site has many more fabulous calligraphy videos, too.

How to Write Copperplate by Paul Antonio
« Last Edit: January 21, 2014, 08:18:30 PM by Erica McPhee »
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Offline Estefa

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2014, 04:24:26 AM »
February 11 2016: Please take everything I write here regarding Paul Antonio and his reasons to use an oblique or straight holder with a grain of salt this thread dates from January 2014 and I just assumed he uses a straight one for Copperplate because most European calligraphers do so (or did as I said, 2014 a lot has happended also here regarding writing of pointed pen styles ). What I want to say, I had no idea of his true reasons, as he explains later in videos and now Periscopes etc. :).

Thanks for sharing this, Erica! He truly has a unique personal style of Copperplate that still stays classic, I think.

I'm surprised he is not using an oblique holder (perhaps why he has to turn his paper more and gets the splat at the end?).

I guess that's because he's English ;)

No, joke aside, a lot of European calligraphers write Copperplate with a straight holder as it is the traditional way to write it some even seem to think the use of an oblique holder to be some kind of trickery or something for beginners before they can get it right.

About the splats at the end, I think he did this intentionally to demonstrate what happens if one is not careful in the upstrokes? Also he is using a L. Principal which is one of the sharpest nibs ever (but I don't have to tell you, haha!!).

Here's a feature about him that's quite interesting too:

http://www.theguardian.com/money/audioslideshow/2010/feb/18/work-and-careers

Regarding Copperplate, I noticed that a different weight seems also to be a difference between American an European versions of this hand (generally speaking of course) Europeans tend to write it less bold. Maybe that has to do with the Engrosser's or Engraver's Hand which is wholly American, as far as I see, and is much bolder than the historical Roundhands for example in the Universal Penman?

Check out Swiss calligrapher Andreas Schenk writing Copperplate miniscules:

« Last Edit: February 11, 2016, 02:58:07 AM by Estefa »
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Offline FrenchBlue Joy

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2014, 02:11:17 PM »
It's true that the oblique holder is an American invention.  IAMPETH has an article from the Penman's Art Journal someplace in the archives from waaaay back where some old writing masters are arguing about whether it makes things too easy!  Exactly.  How funny. 

Paul Antonio is getting the Spencerian facts a little bit wrong in this video.  He gives Spencer's year of death (1860) as the year the writing system was developed... but Spencer was developing this hand from about 1815.  I'm totally pro-oblique holder, because of the simple fact that the tines spread more evenly when writing on a slant-- no matter how much you turn your paper!  Edges are less raggedy.  It's an innovation that made slanted writing easier and quicker.   

BTW, I think Schin Loong made a video about this for youtube!  She demonstrating using a straight penholder and an oblique. 

I remember seeing another video of Paul Antonio talking about why he doesn't use an oblique, but I can't remember now what he felt the advantage of straight penholders to be...  I think it had something to do with flourishing.  In fact, I know that some calligraphers who write with oblique nibs still do choose to change to a straight holder when doing off-hand flourishing because there are some kinds of strokes that are easier to make with a straight holder... 


Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2014, 05:28:48 PM »
Fascinating on all fronts! I am not much of a historian when it comes to calligraphy. I just dig in. But I certainly appreciate learning it and you both sharing it! Anything which is helpful in my book. Funny on the oblique holder v. straight holder topic. Seems we can find anything to disagree on. I try not to ever take myself too seriously and I know there are many calligraphers who are very serious business. It's all just fascinating to me! Whatever works I say!  ;D
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Offline Estefa

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2014, 04:24:23 AM »
It's true that the oblique holder is an American invention.  IAMPETH has an article from the Penman's Art Journal someplace in the archives from waaaay back where some old writing masters are arguing about whether it makes things too easy!  Exactly.  How funny. 

Hi Joy, I read that too some time ago fascinating!

I'm totally pro-oblique holder, because of the simple fact that the tines spread more evenly when writing on a slant-- no matter how much you turn your paper!  Edges are less raggedy.  It's an innovation that made slanted writing easier and quicker.   

I hope you did not understand me wrong here I do love oblique pen holders very much, I think they are great - I even write German Kurrent with it (not that I am very good at it), that is an old script style that was also originally written with a straight holder and has a similar slant like Copperplate. I just wanted to make a guess about the fact that Paul Antonio doesn't use one, is all ;)

I assume it has to do also with tradition, very simply. As calligraphy per se is maybe not the most revolutionary craft I hope it is understandable what I want to say. For me in the end what counts is how the script looks, not how it was written (although that is interesting of course!)

Whatever works I say!  ;D

Yes to that, Erica!!
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Offline FrenchBlue Joy

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2014, 07:48:29 AM »
No Estefa, I didn't misunderstand you about anything.  This is a conversation about the history of calligraphy and the advent of the oblique, and the different traditions in Europe and the States. 

In the part of the message where you quote me, I'm simply giving my personal opinion on the historical debate of for/against the oblique holder!   :)

FWIW, I don't think Paul Antonio intentionally makes his nib catch the paper-- I think it just happened.  He's super skilled, but sh** happens, even to the masters!  ;) 

Brian Walker is the IAMPETH master penman from England who worked with the manufacturer to bring out the EF Principal nib that Paul Antonio is writing with in this video.  It's so true what you said...  it's an incredibly sharp nib.  I'm part of Mr. Walker's study group for Spencerian, and I'm trying my best with his nib, but it is challenging!  He's English, but he writes with an oblique holder. 
« Last Edit: January 15, 2014, 07:50:13 AM by FrenchBlue Joy »

Offline Estefa

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2014, 04:20:20 AM »
Thank you very much for your answer, Joy! I stumbled across the L. Principal also some time ago when searching the IAMPETH site it's definitely nothing for me (being a beginner in Spencerian). Maybe later!

It would be interesting to know why Paul Antonio thinks a straight holder is better suited for flourishing though
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Offline FrenchBlue Joy

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2014, 04:31:13 AM »
I think because you have to turn your hand to a hook position to "throw" strokes away from your body, when you are off-hand flourishing.  When doing things like bird flourishing. 

For the script, Paul Antonio thinks it's better to just turn the paper at a really extreme angle away from the body, and to turn the wrist and get used to writing that way, rather than to switch back and forth between an oblique and a straight penholder. 

(By the way, there is a left-handed script calligrapher named John DeCollibus who uses a right-handers' oblique holder, and practically writes upside-down, "throwing" all the strokes away from his body in the most amazing way.  I think I'll find the video and post it somewhere else for the lefties to see!)

Anyway, about Mr Antonio--  There's quite a long video on Vimeo of him explaining all the ways he picks up, turns, and twists his hands around while writing Copperplate with a straight holder, in order to put the shaded stroke in places where you can't really do it with an oblique pen.  His main point is that oblique pens really make it difficult to shade anything but the down strokes.  It's usually the downstrokes which do have shade, so usually this isn't a problem, but for some versions of the capital T and Q from the Universal Penman, the heaviest strokes are in unusual places.  They were made by twisting the wrist or turning the paper. 

Offline Perfectsettings

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2014, 10:54:11 AM »
I saw this video some months ago!  I thought then that he was pretty darn charming. 
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2014, 02:33:27 PM »
  I thought then that he was pretty darn charming.

Glad I'm not the only one.  ;) I would watch him doing a demonstration on how to cook spaghetti ... or take out the trash .... or change the cat litter box. I'm 100% certain they would all sound just as lovely. As long as he throws in one of those smiles somewhere!  :D

Sorry, sorry -- back on topic!

I haven't seen that video Joy. I will have to check it out. I think sometimes we get hung up right or wrong holder, or method. However, what Alan Ariail says is true, "From my POV, it makes no difference if lettering is made with a stick, spray can, piece of chalk, brush, marker, fountain pen, crayon or a Wacom pen. It takes more than a writing instrument to make lettering as heart, soul and personality are the real ingredients."

With that said, I also believe it is important if you are going to teach, demonstrate, or otherwise share learning calligraphy to the masses, try to use the easiest method. In other words, calligraphy is hard enough to learn without taking the most difficult route. So if using an oblique holder allows someone to learn more easily (which I think it does), then start as you mean to go on. If you can form letters with an oblique without twisting your wrist or the paper all over the place, then why not do it?!
« Last Edit: January 16, 2014, 02:43:21 PM by Erica McPhee »
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Offline FrenchBlue Joy

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2014, 02:54:15 PM »
Totally. I'm not advocating for his method, only describing it.  ;) 

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2014, 03:08:06 PM »
Totally. I'm not advocating for his method, only describing it.  ;)

I know! I can't advocate or critique it either as I haven't seen the video. I'm just talking generally with your description as a jumping off point.

I see a lot of the "beginner calligraphy kits" with straight holders and I do feel this is steering beginners in the wrong direction. Yup, I said it.  :)
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Offline FrenchBlue Joy

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2014, 04:17:47 PM »
I agree with you-- it's sooo hard to get the times to open evenly with a straight holder. Why make life harder?  You know, in the UK there's much more concentration on broad pen than pointed (at least on terms of what's up on the Internet). Maybe pointed pen scripts would be more popular there if obliques were more common. 

Offline Estefa

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2014, 05:33:19 AM »
Hi Joy and Erica, wow, thanks for all the info!

Yes, I  have seen this straight holder-away-from-the-body position you describe in old books On the other hand I also saw the example with John DeCollibus (stunning ;)) - and Barabara Calzolari does her bird-and-feather flourishing also with an oblique holder.

Do you know the earlier artwork with off-hand flourishing like from van den Velde or here from Balderick van den Horick from around 1630:

http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.de/2009/03/quill-and-flourish.html

?

These dutch penmen for sure were flourishing with a straight, very pointed, but still broad edged quill. So my impression is that there is not THE perfect tool for one thing.

And all these beautiful artworks, from past or present, are all the more reason for me to believe that the motivation to use or not to use an oblique holder is more a question of personal taste and / or tradition then that there are really "rational" reasons. In the sense that what a writing person gains from the one holder she loses when using the other (ease of shading downstrokes vs. other shaded strokes), and so it comes down to just what somehow appeals more to someone, in her / his personal style or workflow.

I feel what I want to say is a bit complicated and so I hope it is not totally obscure ;)

Anyway, I will look for the other video - sound interesting! (What I find somehow frustrating with these videos is that they often don't really focus on the actual writing I am aware that it is not easy to film this though.)

Erica, you anticipated some of the things I wanted to say ;) - I like that quote from Alan Ariail very much!

I also think that an oblique holder makes learning scripts like Spencerian or Copperplate, easIER, like you said, Joy - it is hard enough to get all the rest right.

For me it was a revelation when I tried an elbow nib for the first time! I had tried around before with a straight holder (and nib), and of course the problems to get started are even bigger.

Erica, I think in Europe many, many people simply don't know that something like the oblique holder exists. I think there is only the simple plastic Speedball to buy here. I don't know about these starter ses, but maybe it has also to do with profit ? I mean, even the most inexpensive oblique holder costs more than a simple straight one.

Also a lot of modern / contemporary calligraphy I see on the internet is quite upright, so maybe ok-ish to make with a straight holder. I use one simple pointed pen script that I developed out of my handwriting (before I started with formal scripts) that I still like to write with a straight holder because it is not so slanted, + in this case I like the irregular lines.

As you can see, I very much like to dive in the history of something I am trying to learn so what I also found interesting is what Joy said about England and the broad edge tradition. It is similar in Germany. The books by Edward Johnston (who was not overly fond of pointed pen scripts) were translated to German in the early 20th century and are still a heavy influence, as far as I can tell. In my german calligraphy books pointed pen scripts are more treated like "Oh yes, there are pointed pen scripts, but they are difficult to learn and overly ornate!" (I exaggerate maybe a little. Great books otherwise!).

But I am totally with you - I am also absolutely pro oblique holder. I just find the history of the use of different writing instruments fascinating and like to learn more. What I find a bit sad is that this seems to get a bit ideological with some I mean nobody is forced to use an oblique holder
« Last Edit: January 21, 2014, 05:35:24 AM by Estefa »
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Offline FrenchBlue Joy

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2014, 06:09:07 AM »
I just find the history of the use of different writing instruments fascinating and like to learn more. What I find a bit sad is that this seems to get a bit ideological with some I mean nobody is forced to use an oblique holder

Me too!  I really do find all of the history soooo interesting, but I can't see why it could be ideological.  But many people imbue tradition with a *lot* of meaning and significance.  Personally I like it, and I do think there's no substitute for sweat and elbow grease... but I'm also happy to check out innovations when they arise. 

We didn't mention it in this conversation, but of course "copperplate" and roundhand really were developed for engraving-- that was the printing method-- which had a right-handed person writing with a straight tool, *backwards* from right to left.  The 55 slant was very natural, going in that direction.  Which is why I think the oblique is such a genius invention-- it sort of re-creates the appropriate angle when writing left-to-right!  It's funny how long it took for someone to invent it!   ;D