Learning Spencerian, Continued

Day 2 

Day 2 of learning Spencerian had me still slumping my hand over toward the right, wrist finding the table. As I worked, I began taking notes. I wrote down what I was trying to concentrate on with the different drills I was practicing. It’s kind of like trying to learn a new yoga pose for me. I hear directions and I try to follow them with one part of my body, but other parts of my body start to unexpectedly rebel.

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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Notes toward the top of the page: “Trying to make the right curve a curve and make the turn tighter. Wrist not on the table :) Hand still trying to drift over to the heel. Also trying less pen lifts.”

More drills, more notes: “Focus on tight turns and moving the forms forward. Curves are killing me :( Forgetting to go slowly so arms remember correct movements. Lightening grip too.”

That was only about a 20-minute session. I started taking notes while working because there’s a lot of activity upstairs when learning something new. I find it helpful to observe my actions and the notes also give me a point to pick up from the next time I go to practice. Kind of review my growth.

Day 3 

Day 3 I reviewed videos and decided to write in ink with a nib. My guidesheets printed crooked and I thought my forms would be shaky anyway. Last year when I was starting with this script, I used an oblique holder and I may go back to it. But the book I have for reference never mentions an oblique and as far as I can tell in the illustrations, it’s a straight holder. I’ll have to see what works and do a little research and asking around. I will say that this time around, I’m paying far more attention to the letterforms. I tend to get excited when I learn letters and I “practice” the forms that way — by writing words rather than the same letter over again and analyzing it.

Two problems with that are that I assume I have a grasp on the letters if I can crudely perform them and perhaps do work with a script that I shouldn’t necessarily do. Another problem when I practice like that is that I am looking at the strokes in the setting of a letter rather than as a shape. The brain is going to read the letter as a letter and not assess the uniformity of the strokes. That said, the study of this script will inform all the others.

That aside, I was happy with the letters I made and posted a photo to Instagram:

Walnut ink on printer paper. Nikko G nib in a Speedball straight holder.

I called it quits after that. For the night! To clarify.

Day 4 

Each day I’m getting jazzed up to sit and practice because I’m seeing progress. I don’t have to remind myself much to get my wrist off the table. Relying on those nails of the third and fourth fingers for steadiness has replaced reliance on the wrist. I was thinking about trying to learn this script with my left hand since it is so foreign . . . You may see a post about it! I don’t even think I wrote any letters today. Nina shared a few Spencerian drills with me for ovals used in capital letters, so I did a couple of pages of practice with those.

Drills are great for showing you strengths and weaknesses in your form and how to work toward what you want. Again today, I was writing too fast, reminding myself time and again to work with my breath and pay attention to what my pencil was actually doing as opposed to what I thought it was doing. I also noticed how much tension I hold in my jaw and shoulder as I practice. I heard two separate teachers from previous lessons reminding me: “Drop the shoulder” from Paul Antonio for calligraphy, and from Darren Rhodes in yoga teacher training: “Why are you tensing up the jaw? Can you soften in the face?” Sure can, as soon as I stop worrying about this damn wrist!! I need a lot of work with the indirect ovals. Haven’t even touched the third stroke used in capital letters, and I think that’s okay for now.

Last year, I learned the lower-case letters, or minuscules as they’re formally called, but I didn’t study them. I will devote time to that because they are the bulk of what the eye sees when it observes a body of work. I am anxious and excited about getting into the capitals and deepening my understanding of the script, and my ability to write it! I’ve been wanting to pick it up for a while because I want to be able to use it for live events. All in good time, I suppose.

Until next practice, thanks for reading.

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