Learning Spencerian Script, Week 3

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

Since I learned Copperplate script first, I mentally contrast the two scripts as I work with Spencerian and a major weak spot that’s presented itself is the notion that since Spencerian was designed with speed of hand in mind, 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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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 newness to the script. I have mostly 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 that form of capitals is called Ornamental and I feel I can really only 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.  In the exemplars, both miniscule and majuscule, the letterforms are broken up into groups based on how they are formed or the basic strokes used to write them. There are three main movements in Spencerian 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 give the student a reference point for the height and spacing of each letter and the spaces between letters and words. It’s been pretty easy for me to learn how to write each letter with reference to the guidlelines, so now I am working on making them all look alike. The recipe for that is to slow down, breathe, and study. Seeing a theme here?

I may have mentioned that I’m learning this script for a larger scale project, so just the other night I was doing a pencil sketch to see how much space it’ll take up and adjusting my x-height (how tall the letters are) from there. It took me maybe an hour and a half to rule up the page and fill it with part of the letter I’m recreating. I finished and a little bit later I noticed that I had no pain — no cramp in my hand from gripping the pen too hard, no pain in my shoulder from scrunching it up as I tried to keep it held there and articulate my arm at the same time, and no pain in 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 what I was doing. 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. Now that’s progress!

Thanks for following along so far. Any questions, feel free to ask!


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