Day One of Spencerian Hand

. . . Rebooted. The first time I started learning Spencerian script, 8 months ago, I got swamped with client work and safely put my pages away in a folder for later study.

It’s almost been a year.

Get our posts sent to your inbox! Click here to sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter, Tuesday Tines!

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. And sometimes we get so comfortable at being good at one thing or another that we forget to have patience and compassion with and for someone who’s new.

What the Heck is “Spencerian”?

Spencerian is an angular cursive script written with a pointed flexible nib. This allows for variation in line weight. The miniscules, or lower case letters, are light and delicate, made up of just three lines: a straight line, a slanted line that curves to the left (left curve), and a slanted line that curves to the right (right curve). The majuscules, or upper case letters, are composed of large ovals, or loops, and a line called the capital stem. I will leave it at that because I haven’t gotten that far yet at all.

Hand Position

Since the letters are so simple to form, the script lends itself to speed of writing, which means that the arm and hand have to be in such a position 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. Like this, the fingers do most of the manipulation of the pen, making many pauses, the arm moving over as need be. The instructions I’m working with stress resting the large muscle in front of the elbow on the table, the wrist not touching the table at all, and the pen held overhand with only the nails of the third and fourth fingers grazing the surface of the paper as I work. Which equals Total Noviceville.

I’m pretty comfortable with trying things I’ve never tried and being okay with where I am in my challenges from practicing yoga, so I knew my first few practice pages would look ridiculous because I was teaching my body something new. Feet flat on the floor, back straight, even rolling on that supple muscle, combining that movement with finger movement as best I could. But damn did my hand keep sneaking to plop over toward its heel and 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. One thing I remember from the worskshop I attended with Sir Paul Antonio was his emphasis on posture and hand position and how 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 so as to use the strength of my muscles rather than balancing items using my attachments.  All because I began to have pain from the strain. The pain is now gone 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, for as frustrating as it’s been, the more crappy practices I put behind me, the stronger my muscle memory becomes and the fewer crappy practices I have to look forward too! Plus there;s all those little golden moments of accomplishment ahead.

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