October 10, 2011 – Pointed Pen Variations Class #1 at Sinai Temple

DeAnn introduced herself and distributed supplies and handouts. The handouts are by Jane Shibata, noted calligrapher and artist. They are based on the informal pen hand created by Michael Kecseg. We will be starting out using the Gillot 404 nib and Vermillion ink.

Preparing your supplies for ease of transportation: pour ink from the container into the dropper bottle. The dropper bottles are leak-proof so bring those to class; it’s OK to leave the original containers of ink at home. From the dropper bottles, fill one of the ink wells (or “dinky dip”) to at least the ridge-line. You want to be able to dip your pen and cover the nib’s reservoir area (“eye of the needle”) completely.

Preparing the Pen: Put the nib into the oblique pen holder so that the “eye of the needle” (the opening in the nib) points directly upward. The fit may feel tight, but push the nib in at least halfway for a secure hold. Hold the oblique holder as you would normally hold your pen, with the angled nib to the left side. If you have a brand new nib, you’ll need to prepare it by rubbing gum Arabic all around so that the ink will adhere to the nib and not just bead-up and slide off. New nibs usually have a waxy coating and you may have to rub with gum Arabic several times until the ink will stay in the reservoir. NOTE: Vermillion ink will rust your nib, so wash it off with water after you’re done practicing.

Preparing the paper: Make a crease in the cover of the cotton comp paper pad about an inch down from the top. Fold this back so that you’ll have a flat writing surface without the cover bunching up to the left. Place the guideline sheet underneath the first sheet.

Guideline sheet: DeAnn has highlighted in red the lines where we’ll be writing. This area is the x-height, defined by the waist (top edge) and base (bottom edge). The line above the waist is the ascender, the line below the base is the descender. When practicing, we will be writing on the “red” lines.

Prepare your work space: The key to being able to write correctly is to set up your work space correctly and sit in the right position in relation to your paper. Position the paper so that the slant lines are pointing toward your stomach. This angle may seem extreme, with the paper pad almost at right angles to the table’s edge, so you need to position yourself so that your elbow rests completely on the tabletop, which means you’ll probably have to sit at an angle to the table edge so you’re not twisting your torso. Place the ink well above the paper pad and tape down to avoid accidental spills. Place your exemplar in front of you, preferably in a stand like a Page-Up, so it’s easy to refer to.

If your shoulder is hunching up, then the table is too high; sit on a cushion so that your shoulder stays down. Stretch regularly if you start getting stiff.

Use your left arm to take the weight off your body by placing your left hand above the area where you’re writing. Try to learn NOT to have a heavy writing hand, but practice having a light touch. Putting the pressure on your left hand helps with this. This will help your writing hand from getting sore. REMEMBER to breathe! If you’re having trouble writing the strokes, exhale.

Writing with the nib:
1. Write straight lines (with slant)
2. Pen should be in the direction of the slant lines
3. To create the square top & bottom edges, set – press – pull – stop – release
4. If the nib is sticking into the paper, adjust the angle of how you’re holding the nib. Lowering the angle may help. Also make sure that your nib is pointing in the direction of the slant line.

Writing the basic strokes: You apply pressure on the down stroke (thick), no pressure on the up stroke (thin). This is how you create thicks & thins. The goal is for all the down strokes to have the same width (i.e. consistent pressure). Look carefully at the exemplar handout, it has a lot of important information on it.

NOTE:  If your pen nib is not aligned in the correct direction (along the slant line), it will become tweaked over time.

DeAnn began with having us practice writing straight lines in the direction of the slant line. From now on, everything will be written with this slant.

Notes on individual strokes (study the exemplar – lots of great notes by Jane):
1. Start at 1:00 and think “cucumber” – not too round. Start with no pressure, then pressure, then no pressure. This should be more slanted than the slant line.
2. #2 is like #1, but with longer upstroke.
3. The curve should be like a paperclip.

4. For right now, it’s OK to make this stroke straight. DeAnn will go over the slight taper when you’re more comfortable with writing with a pointed pen.
5. Make this stroke slightly bowed. For now it’s OK that you write it with the same pressure all the way down; DeAnn will go over making the pressure changes to make the stroke taper when you’re more comfortable with writing with a pointed pen.
6. Don’t worry about the top for now; OK to pull the stroke straight down.

7. Once you make the first arch, pick up the pen and put the point at the right side of the base of the downstroke to start your upstroke. Branching from this point makes a nice triangle space.

8. This is like an upside-down version of stroke #1 – start at 8:00.

REMEMBER:  Don’t get overwhelmed! If you get really anxious, go back to the last step you were comfortable with and practice that.

DeAnn says:  in pointed pen, you really have to become the master of your materials.

HOMEWORK: Continue practicing the strokes with the Vermillion ink and Gillot 404 nib. Memorize the basic stroke numbers – DeAnn will test you next week. Your practice will be more effective if you go slowly and carefully. Study the exemplar; if you’re having trouble with a stroke, try tracing it.

NOTE:  On your practice sheets, write the nib, ink type, and date in the lower right corner.

Homework for intermediates: After practicing the strokes, you can go ahead and try the letters.

If you turn in homework, DeAnn will then give a thorough critique.