Learning Spencerian Script, Week 3

Falling, falling, falling for beautiful Spencerian script! I adore its simplicity and its quiet grace.

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.

Since I learned Copperplate script first (see other scripts here), I mentally contrast the two scripts as I work with Spencerian. I’ve noticed that since Spencerian was designed as a fast script, I think I have to write fast. I have sacrificed so much form in that endeavor and am constantly reminding myself to slow down and breathe.

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Spencerian Script Majuscules

I finally got to uppercase letters in my study and they were much more accessible than I thought they would be. I admit that I was intimidated by the lovely work I see on Instagram compared to my practice. I’ve seen the wizard-like arm movements of experienced calligraphers magically craft fantastic flowing capital letters out of endless loops and turns. One line becomes a dozen lines and I can’t watch the videos enough times to even try to remember how they got from beginning to end. It’s important to note here that the capitals I’m describing are Ornamental Penmanship. I know I can only really delve into it when I have the consistency of the forms down. Without a strong foundation, the letters can look good, but I want them to look gooooooood.

I feel like a lot of my students will feel — lost in a sea of strokes. But . . . I am not lost, I am beginning. I returned to my trusty drills, reviewing the movement with my body, my teacher Paul’s voice reminding me that I need to see the strokes on the page before I write them, feel where they are going to go.  

There are three main movements in Spencerian script capitals: direct ovals, indirect ovals, and the capital stem. These combined with the curves of the lower-case letters make up the capitals. Each letter takes up a certain amount of spaces in the guidesheet I’m working with. Guidesheets are instrumental as they provide a reference point for the height and spacing of the letters. You can read more about guidelines here. It’s been pretty easy for me to learn how to write each letter using the guidelines, so now I am working on making the letters look alike. The recipe for that is to slow down, breathe, and study. Seeing a theme here?

Using the Script

I may have mentioned that I’m learning Spencerian script for a client project. The other night, I did a pencil draft to test and adjust my x-height (how tall the letters are). It took me maybe an hour and a half to rule up the page and fill it with part of the text. I noticed that I had no pain — no cramp in my hand from gripping the pen too hard. No pain in my shoulder, my back or my knees from curling my legs up underneath me to sit taller. No pain in my neck from curving it around my hand to see my writing. All that freedom from taking the time to adjust my seat and keep my feet flat on the floor. I moved the paper so that I was working in a place on the page that I could both see and reach. Learn more about posture with my post, “Cultivating Better Posture Habits“.


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