Author Topic: Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship  (Read 1987 times)

Offline Erica McPhee

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Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship
« on: October 28, 2023, 01:50:31 PM »
If you are at all interested in Spencerian Penmanship, you know the name Michael R. Sull, as the two are often spoken of hand-in-hand. The calligraphic community has just received the most incredible gift in Sull’s new book, Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship in which he does a deep dive into his 40 years of experience to share all he has learned. Chapters include American Cursive Handwriting, Ornamental Penmanship, Flourishing, and an extended appendix. What sets it apart from other calligraphy books is the depth and breadth of the experience Sull shares which so few in modern times have encountered.

Sull admits right in the preface that from the beginning of his career, he chose to write with combination muscular movement rather than whole arm movement. This may cause many a modern-day calligrapher to sigh in relief knowing they can openly embrace finger, wrist, and muscular movement. He further explains his reason for writing the advanced book was to preserve all he has learned and created over his extensive career that was not published in any existing text. This includes his Spencerian-styled monogram designs, Masterpiece Flourishing (a technique Sull created to emulate the lavish pen-work seen in The Universal Penman), signature writing, and the complex capital letters affectionately named super twisters. He also includes novelty penmanship styles such as connected, relay, cross, backwards, and puzzle writing.

In Chapter 2: Ornamental Penmanship, Sull explains the foundational elements of advanced penmanship such as curvature, negative space, line quality, shading, balance, and spontaneity & movement. These are the secrets to advanced lettering and composition that so few books address in detail. He further drills it down to ink qualities and condition of the pen point. Every question you’d hope to have answered by a master penman has been captured by the kind gentleman who has shared his knowledge with eager students all over the world.

Perhaps the most delicious part of the book includes tips for flourishing, how to manipulate shaded strokes, and extensive instruction on twister capitals. Included are several examples of ornamental capital variations. Beyond that, Sull explains in-depth how to lay out finished pieces, line breaks, negative space, flourish density, and composition. These are perhaps the most important insights we could hope to have shared with us to study, absorb, and apply in our own work. Very few of the many, many classes I have taken over the years discussed details such as shade control, understanding the use of curves, and the balancing of letters and flourishing in depth. Sull has left no detail out of this generous master class.

Last, but certainly not least, is the section on off-hand and title flourishing which includes instruction for bird flourishing, artistic line work, filigree, and banners. The final pages cover Sull’s self-titled Masterpiece Flourishing which simplifies what appears as complex - the flourishing seen in George Bickham’s The Universal Penman. This is the only instruction of its kind and Sull leaves no stone unturned in sharing his legacy.

Not to be missed is the awe-inspiring story of the Master’s Pen: a pen made from 40-million-year-old amber Sull sourced from Russia and 5,000-year-old bog oak. I’ll save the rest of the story for enticed readers. The manual finishes with handouts, exercises, guide sheets, historical and modern work from many of today’s accomplished calligraphers (all students of Michael R. Sull), and Sull’s “Secret of the Ovals” which I won’t reveal. But I highly recommend you purchase the book to find out!

Erica McPhee
P.S. The images are my practice from the book.
Warm Regards,
Erica
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Offline Mary_M

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Re: Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2023, 08:31:58 AM »
Thanks for your review. I was wondering if I’d like it since I already have his “Learning to Write Spencerian Script”.

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2023, 09:58:00 AM »
@Mary_M  - It’s a very different kind of book than that one. This one includes all of his “secrets” if you will, about how he does things. It is the narrative that really shines in this book. Often when reading some of the old journals, I’m left asking, “but how did they do that?” This book answers those questions.  ;)
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Erica
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Offline Zivio

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Re: Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2023, 06:47:28 PM »
Thanks @Erica McPhee for the detailed review! I'd recently seen Michael announce it on his FaceBook page and had debated whether to purchase it.

Like @Mary_M I have and continue to use Michael and Debra Sull's "Learning to Write Spencerian Script," which was a huge game-changer for me! Until then, I'd only had the Mott's Spencerian Theory and copybook reprints for my first year of practice and very, very little input from anyone to inform my practice. Michael had also sent along a personal nameplate in the manner of penman masters/teachers of old and what appearted to be a quickly jotted off note. I was in awe!

As I've (often) mentioned on the forum my interest in Spencerian is its use for everyday handwriting and correspondence, with some definite OP flair but perhaps only conservatively flourished. "Learning to Write ..." definitely fit the bill for me as a most practical guide and manual.

While this new publication seems way too advanced for my own aspirations and current level of skill, I've always been one to be on the alert for, and open to, anything that appears on my radar when learning new things. I also very much like to support the arts and artists and anyone who works to advance the art and craft of handwriting ... SO I ORDERED IT!  ;D

I'm certain that if nothing it will be a great source of inspiration and interest. 
« Last Edit: November 11, 2023, 11:17:52 PM by Zivio »
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2023, 01:52:36 AM »
Yay! You won’t regret it! Such a wealth of information!  :)
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Erica
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Offline JanisTX

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Re: Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2023, 09:19:24 PM »
I bought the book and have started to work through it!  It’s very, very good, although a bit overwhelming!

Janis

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2023, 01:46:37 PM »
I agree @JanisTX - it can be a bit overwhelming because there is so much information in it. Best to work through it slowly and bit by bit as you are doing to be able to take it all in. I usually dive right into a book full force and try out things here and there but with this one, I am reading it through like a novel first and will then start practicing each technique.
Warm Regards,
Erica
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Offline Zivio

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Re: Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2023, 08:31:20 PM »

… I usually dive right into a book full force and try out things here and there but with this one, I am reading it through like a novel first and will then start practicing each technique…

@Erica McPhee This comment above made me smile … I am a person who will first read guidebooks as novels to kind of set the learning stage, then get into technique. Well, and not just books, but user manuals for any new products I’ve purchased! My wife finds it amusing that I take almost more joy in the “reading materials” that come than with the products themselves.  ;D But like you, she’s a “dive right in” kinda person.

Just had to post that I’ve received my copy of the book, and what a gem! I’d seen the very negative Amazon review that I’d felt you may have gently challenged in your own review, and I agree with your comments. I think the reviewer was somehow put out by what they’d seen as some sort of quality deficits, but I totally disagree. OK, maybe the black and white imagery is not as beautiful as some other “coffee table books”on calligraphy, but the CONTENT! Even my cursory flip through has left me with anticipatory excitement! I’d also personally benefitted so much from Sull’s “Learning Spencerian Script” which may appear similarly, well humble, that the images the negative reviewer posted just didn’t bother me at all.  Did I mention CONTENT?   ;D

Along the same lines, c’mon, this book was only about $25 USD. When I consider the author’s efforts and expertise, if I’m able to glean only one good idea from this work, the return on investment is fabulous. From what I’ve seen, there will be many, many more, and this guide has the potential to inform my practice way beyond my current abilities and likely through the end of my remaining lifetime.

Another beautiful surprise was that the Amazon description said “spiralbound.” The “Learning Spencerian …” is also of this format, which has been great for study. But unlike that very small volume, I had little expectation that this new volume would’ve come with a very nice binder style hardcover. I probably could’ve figured based on the size and number of pages it would pack a wallop, but once again I feel like it is a true bargain! I remember decades ago telling my daughter about the huge value of a used book we’d once purchased when I described it in terms of entertainment hours per dollar! Likewise, when I think of the hours of a master penman’s attention per dollar for this work?  Priceless. 

For anyone with an interest in Spencerian script, you just can’t lose with this purchase.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2023, 10:27:31 AM by Zivio »
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Offline JanisTX

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Re: Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2023, 10:11:26 PM »
Very well said, my friend!  The book is brilliant and I hope that I may someday master the techniques from the book!!

Janis

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Sull’s Manual of Advanced Penmanship
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2023, 11:41:21 PM »
Oh great review @Zivio ! I am very glad you are finding it worthwhile. I too was quite surprised at the price and the hardcover binder. I priced those for my book and the price was outrageous! More than I paid for my first house! So it really is quite a bargain.

Funny - I’m also a user manual reader. My husband said I am probably the only person to have ever read my car manual cover to cover. Haha! But you learn so much!

And yes, I was saddened by that other review. They even said they didn’t bother to look through the book after the first couple of pages. So they are clearly missing out.

Thanks for sharing your perspective!  :)
Warm Regards,
Erica
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