Day One of Spencerian Hand

. . . Rebooted. The first time I learned Spencerian script, I got caught up in client work. I put my pages away in a folder for later study.

It’s almost been a year!

Note: I don’t intend this to be an educational post, just a log of my experience with the script. I learned the basics from Nina Tran and I highly recommend her as a teacher of any calligraphy script she teaches.

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Why I Am Writing this Post

As I worked today, I felt frustrated and stuck, and as if I’d never picked up a pen in my entire life. And so, while it’s still fresh, I thought I’d log today’s experience for you. We often forget the value in being a novice at something. We forget the journey and we don’t always get the gratification of overcoming new obstacles and making progress. Sometimes we get so comfortable at being good at something that we forget to have patience and compassion with and for someone who’s new.

What the Heck is “Spencerian”?

Spencerian is a lightweight and angular cursive script. We write at a 52-degree forward slant (see our glossary) with a pointed flexible nib. The minuscules, or lower-case letters, are light and delicate. We use 3 strokes to write it: a straight line, and slightly curved lines (left and right curves). Majuscules, or upper-case letters, are composed of large ovals and a line called the capital stem.

Hand Position

Since the letters are so simple to write, you can write this script pretty fast. This means that the arm and hand have to be able to guide across the page rapidly. Long story short, I am learning an entirely new way to hold the writing utensil. We traditionally hold a pen with the outer edge of the forearm, part of the wrist, the heel of the hand, and the last three fingers resting on the table.

When we hold a pen like this, the fingers move the pen most of the time, making many pauses. The instructions I’m working with stress resting the large muscle on the inside of the forearm on the table. I’m supposed to hold the pen with my palm facing down. Only the nails of the third and fourth fingers should graze the surface of the paper as I work.

I’m pretty comfortable with trying new things and working through challenges. I knew my first few practice pages wouldn’t look great because I was teaching my body something new. Feet flat on the floor, back straight, rolling on that supple arm muscle, combining that with writing as best I could.

But damn did my hand keep sneaking to plop over toward its heel! I kept noticing my wrist on the table! Correct it, keep trying. Pay attention to the script. Remember to check for errors in grip, correct them, back to the script. I finally didn’t have to make corrections in hand position and by then I was happy with my progress and put up my practice for the day. We’ll see what I get to tomorrow with it.

Final Thoughts

As far as my attitude . . . I think that my work with this script will really help me with Copperplate script as well (view different calligraphy scripts). One thing I remember from the workshop I attended with Paul Antonio was his emphasis on posture and hand position. He shared with us that the hands and arms can become injured over time from strain. I wait tables as my day job and about 2 years ago changed the way I carry things. Now, I use the strength of my muscles rather than balancing items and straining my attachments. I have less pain and I don’t want to lose my capacity for calligraphy and artwork for years to come. Putting in the work with this hand position feels good. As frustrating as it’s been, the more practices I put behind me, the stronger my muscle memory becomes. Plus, there’s all those little golden moments of accomplishment ahead.

Looking forward to sharing more with you! . . . Pictures next time.