Author Topic: Frustrated with beginner flourishing - looking for help  (Read 5094 times)

Offline evad

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Frustrated with beginner flourishing - looking for help
« on: October 08, 2018, 01:20:37 PM »
Hi all,

I taught myself Copperplate a few years ago. When I had enough practice under my belt, flourishing was the next step - flourishes add a whimsical and elegant touch to letter compositions that I love. Just the letters weren't doing it for me any more.

I looked at a ton of flourishes online and in books. Bill Hildebrandt's book is touted as the #1 resource to learn, but I find most of his flourishes incompatible with Copperplate, so the book wasn't as helpful as I'd hoped. But whenever I tried to sketch my own flourishes, I failed. It felt like I totally lack the imagination to see potential connections between letters that could be developed into flourishes. That calligraphy is my first experience with graphic design doesn't help either. I feel like I'm missing some crucial visual skill.

Has anyone had the same experience? How did you overcome it?

I was so frustrated seeing no way forward that I quit calligraphy for 2 years. I've started again and would like to improve, so I'd appreciate any help.

I have considered taking online classes (in person not available where I live), but the problem is not repeating the flourishes and doing drills, it's imagining and creating flourishes from scratch.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2018, 01:25:31 PM by evad »

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Frustrated with beginner flourishing - looking for help
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2018, 03:15:53 PM »
Hi @evad!

I hope at some point in the next year my new book will be published which will help with this very issue. But in the meantime here is a small tutorial for getting started: Flourish Your p's, d's, and g's.

Also, keep in mind, you will repeat flourishes. Flourishes are just like letter forms, they have building blocks to create each flourish. Some of them just grow and grow from the same strokes. The drills teach your hand and arm the muscle memory necessary to execute beautiful, graceful strokes. Without doing them, you may eventually make beautiful flourishes, but while tedious, the drills actually speed up your learning and improve your form.

There are a couple online flourishing workshops that look great and will teach you how to do these basic flourishes and how to build on them. I would recommend starting with one of those.

Also, there are few calligraphers who can imagine flourishes without any exemplar (at least until they have memorized a few). Just like one should always work with a great exemplar, one should also always work with a good flourish exemplar. Find some of the ones you like and then practice those and start building your own library/exemplar of them.

I hope that helps!  ;D
Truly, Erica
Lettering/Design Artist, Homeopath, Photographer, Mom, Wife
Dasherie Magazine | Paperwhite Studio | Instagram | Facebook

Offline evad

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Re: Frustrated with beginner flourishing - looking for help
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2018, 03:47:32 PM »
Hi Erica! Thank you for your insight, much appreciated. I'll check out the tutorial you posted, and looking forward to your book! :)

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Frustrated with beginner flourishing - looking for help
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2018, 07:47:57 PM »
Evad - the fact that you can see how the Hildebrandt flourishes are not compatible with copperplate indicate that you have a good eye - which is important.
Some people are not bothered by flourishing that does not conform to some basic fundamentals - which is fine - if they like to do their own thing.
But if you can see the difference and have a preference for the traditional - your keen eye will be an asset.

During my many years of teaching, I have never seen anyone who found flourishing to be easy and I recall all of my teachers saying the same thing....
most people are incredulous at the amount of time it takes to learn traditional flourishing.
IMHO - the thing that makes it difficult is that it requires whole arm movement - and most people have never done it and it's hard to learn it from a book.
Also, it is very difficult to do flourishing slowly. It requires some speed as well as precision - and that simply takes time.

Hopefully online courses with videos will be the solution.
Another point that I have heard from many people - is the comparison to ballet.
It looks effortless - but it is actually physically grueling and takes a lot of serious study. There are no short cuts.
Flourishing is not the same level of physical effort as ballet - but the precision and coordination is pretty similar.

With your good eye, some good instruction, and determination, you should be able to achieve your goal - give yourself some time.
I learned the basic figure 8 flourish and I'm sure that I did not bother to add any more for at least two years.
After I could execute it over and over - instead of hit or miss - I added the kidney bean flourish. Then it was probably only 6 months before I added another one.
I don't recommend trying to learn more than one at a time.
Not that any of my students listen to me.
They pretty much try all of them at the same time and then ask me why they aren't progressing......
« Last Edit: October 10, 2018, 06:54:19 AM by jeanwilson »

Offline evad

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Re: Frustrated with beginner flourishing - looking for help
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2018, 06:23:23 AM »
Jean, I loved your encouraging reply, thank you so much. I have more enthusiasm and optimism now and have started practising again.

Offline Steph C

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Re: Frustrated with beginner flourishing - looking for help
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2018, 11:45:10 AM »
Hello @evad  :)

Like you Iím a self-taught in Copperplate/Engrosserís. After practicing diligently for more than 2 years, I want to move on to the next level, that is, flourishing. I did try ďcopyingĒ the flourishes other calligraphers do. But no matter how I try, I find that thereís something wrong with the way I do it. My main problem is basically how to do it properly. Itís something I cannot learn on my own. Also, there arenít references to how to flourish.

Iím currently taking an online flourishing class from Younghae (@logoscalligraphy). And Iím learning so much. She explains the rules and basics to flourishing. I can now confidently design flourishes for a word. I still have to improve my forms, but I know drills and practice will help with that.

Offline evad

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Re: Frustrated with beginner flourishing - looking for help
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2018, 01:59:56 PM »
@Steph C

I had a look at this class and browsed its Instagram hashtag. I found so many examples that I was able to piece something together and design my first flourishes for a friend's name and surname. Once I'd copied a few flourishes from IG posts and spent more time on the piece, I figured out where to add some flourishes of my own. I feel like my design skill has improved a million times just by looking at the hashtag. Imagine what taking the actual class would do! :) Unfortunately the next one doesn't start until spring. Thank you so much for sharing this resource. Like you said, I also need to practice tons to improve my forms, but I know I can get this down - I struggled with the design/layout part of flourishing the most.

Offline Ken Fraser

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Re: Frustrated with beginner flourishing - looking for help
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2018, 04:22:45 AM »
This is an extract from an earlier post which may be of interest -

For those interested in studying this aspect of Copperplate, here are some thoughts on the
subject of Flourishing as enhancement to lettering. None of the following is taken from
instruction books but are simply my own ideas based on many years in the business of
making letters.

1) Never draw thick (shaded) lines across thick lines. It just doesnít look good.
Cross thin lines over thick or thin lines over thin, or thick lines over thin.

2) Cross lines at as close to right angles as possible.

3) Aim for well-balanced shapes with clear, open spacing. This is very subjective, but Iím sure
that you know what I mean.

4) Good flourishing flows evenly from start to finish. Have a clear idea of the shapes youíre aiming
for, before you start. Any hesitancy in flourishing shows up with jerky lines. This can easily
be avoided with a little preparation. On a separate piece of paper, draw your flourishing a few
times until you are happy with its appearance. Draw over it several times with a dry nib, until it
feels comfortable, and then once committed to memory, draw it in ink, incorporating the
appropriate shading. If you do a lot of Copperplate flourishing, you will eventually develop a
Ďmentalí library of some of your favourite shapes. These can then be utilised, straight on the
page, but this takes a lot of learning practice and a lot of confidence. Itís so easy to ruin an
otherwise good piece of lettering with ugly or uncertain flourishes.

5) Whether the shape is oval or circular, always aim to produce even, smooth turns.
Flourish at an even pace; neither too fast nor too slow.

6) Create interest in the flourishing by varying the weight of the shading strokes to provide an
attractive result. This is in direct contrast to Copperplate letters themselves, where consistency
in stroke weight is an absolute.

If you are fortunate to have a copy of "The Universal Penman" you will find a great many wonderful
flourishes throughout. Althogh they look effortless and spontaneous, a closer look at the intricate patterns,
will reveal many of the same recurring shapes, albeit with modifications, produced by different calligraphers.
In fact, these flourishes aren't instinctive creations, but are part of a learning process over a period of time.

This is my interpretation of one such pattern which occurs frequently throughout the book with subtle
variations. I chose this one, because it was the first flourish which I was able to draw from memory.
You'll see all the necessary attributes of good flourishing with lines crossing close to right angles. This
produces a pleasing, open, light and balanced look to the shape. Shaded lines never cross other shaded lines
and the curves are smooth with no jerkiness. This is an enlargement - the original is 4" wide.

At its best, flourishing looks easy and spontaneous, but it is absolutely vital to have a clear idea where you're
going before you set out, if the result is going to be smooth and even.

Always remember that the purpose of flourishing is to enhance the writing, and it should never dominate.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2018, 07:12:54 AM by Ken Fraser »

Offline caltain

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Re: Frustrated with beginner flourishing - looking for help
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2019, 05:57:13 PM »
I know this is an old topic, but it's worth bumping because the subject is exactly what I was thinking when I searched on flourishing. I'm very new to calligraphy, but I have enough background in graphic design and layout to offer some advice on the subject.

The start or end of any stroke holds the possibility of a flourish, but should you or shouldn't you do a little spin with your pen? The empty space in and around the piece is full the opportunity to flourish, but should you? The answer is that it depends:
  • There must be room for the flourish.
  • The flourish must not crowd the work or hinder reading.
  • Back away from the work until the whole work can be covered by a closed fist at arms length. The piece is now small enough that you can easily see the dense spaces where a flourish would crowd the work, and the open spaces where a flourish might balance the work or create a pleasing overall shape.
  • The flourish should add interest and enhance the work, or it should be left out.
  • LESS IS ALWAYS MORE!! It's always better to do less and leave the piece more open and simple than to try to fill every possible gap with a flourish at the start and end of every stroke.
If you lack inspiration or want to see what others have done to add style to their lettering, you can always hit your favorite search engine and search for your lettering style plus the word "flourish." Someone out there will have created a Pinterest or a blog post or a class that is as specific as you need or want.

Most important of all, if you aren't having fun, STOP because you're doing it wrong!