October 27, 2014 – Pointed Pen Styles Class #1 at Sinai Temple

DeAnn introduced herself and distributed supplies and handouts. The first pointed pen style she will be teaching is Spencerian. The handouts were the Spencerian exemplar and large guideline sheet that DeAnn created.

Spencerian script was created by Platt Rogers Spencer in the early 20th century as more people became literate. Spencerian gradually became a standard across the United States until it was gradually replaced by the Palmer method of writing, which was then replaced by the Zaner-Bloser method. The Coca Cola logo is an example of Spencerian script.

Preparing your supplies for ease of transportation: Dropper bottles of gum Arabic, Best (black Sumi) Ink, and Vermillion (Sumi) ink were distributed. The dropper bottles are leak-proof so bring those to class; if you have ink in the original containers, it’s OK to leave those 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 a half-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.

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 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 it 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.

We started out using the Gillot 404 nib and Vermillion ink, using the Spencerian basic strokes handout as a guide. Place this sheet underneath the first sheet of the cotton comp pad. The cotton comp sheets should be transparent enough to see the worksheet underneath.

Explanation of Guideline sheet: We’ll be starting with the large ¼ – inch guideline sheet. ¼-inch refers to the x-height, the space between the waist and the base. These lines are indicated by the black box on the left margin. The line above the waist is the ascender, the line below the base is the descender. 3:2:3 at the bottom of the guideline sheet refers to the ratio of the spaces between the horizontal lines. 3:2:3 is the same as 1:1.5:1. If the x-height (base to waist space) is considered 2 units of space, then the ascender & descender lengths are 3 units of space. The 35-degree slant lines are there as guides for the angle of writing, not for spacing.

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.

Writing the basic strokes: Unlike traditional Copperplate, apply very little pressure on the down stroke, no pressure on the up stroke, for most letters. Spencerian doesn’t have contrasting thicks & thins in the letter-forms like Copperplate. The goal is to develop the Spencerian rhythm so that the white-spaces are all the same. White space is the space between the down strokes & the up strokes. Look carefully at the handouts, then trace the strokes, paying attention to the angle of the strokes and their width and height.

Basic Spencerian strokes:
Straight lines are parallel to the slant lines. Apply as little pressure as possible on the downstroke.

The undercurve starts at the base line and curves upward toward the waist line.

The overcurve also starts at the baseline, but travels upward close and almost parallel to the slant line, then curves toward the waist line.

The ascending loop and the descending loop should have similar white space.

The almond shape starts at the waist line and travels along it before curving downward and looping back to the start.

Pen exercises:  try gradually increasing and decreasing the pressure on the downstroke to thicken and thin the stroke. Thin – thick – thin = no pressure, increase pressure, then decrease to no pressure. Thin – thick = start with no pressure and gradually increase pressure and set-press-lift to end.

Notes on individual lowercase letters:

i-u-w:  the downstroke of the I is parallel to the slant line, while the undercurves leading into and out of the stroke are more slanted. Similarly with u and w, the downstrokes are parallel to the slant lines, while the upstrokes are parallel to each others. The while space between the strokes should be similar.

n-m-x:  n and m should be similar to an upside-down u and w. The white space should be similar. Once again, the downstrokes are parallel to the slant lines, the upstrokes are more slanted. The cross-stroke of the x can be an upstroke or a downstroke.

Note the triangle shape where the upstroke curves away from the downstroke.

v-o-a: when making the exit-loop out of the v, pressurize slightly to fill in the loop with ink. For the o, overcurve to the almond shape, and exit out. The a has the same almond shape as your o. Then lift your pen to make the downstroke.

e-c: the e is a loop. For the c, hook the initial overcurve slightly, then continue as if making an almond shape, but don’t join at the end.

r-s: Both r and s are slightly taller than the waist line. Be careful of the radius of the curve when exiting out of the r. It should have the have same radius as the other letters. For the s, start out more slanted than the parallel line.

Try to make the almond space of o, a, d, p, and q similar. The ascending loops of b, f, h, k, and l should be similar in size to the descending loops of g, j, y, and z.

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

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 and lower-case letters with both Vermillion and Best ink and all your nibs. 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. Don’t write the same stroke or letter more than 3 times. Write it once, compare it to the exemplar. Pay careful attention and really compare the two. Then write it once or twice more and move on to the next letter.

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

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