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Learning Copperplate...


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#1 smk

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 19:56

I am going to learn Copperplate. This is a hand that I previously thought was beyond my abilities but having purchased an oblique holder recently has given me hope that I too can learn this lovely hand.

I have decided to put my learning experience online for two reasons:

  • I hope that others will join in and we'll all learn in a collaborative manner - critiquing, advising and supporting each other.
  • I also hope to receive advice from members who are experienced in this hand from time to time.

My preparations thus far:

Nibs
I have decided to use Gillot 303 and 170 (I have only one of these). I write with a naturally light touch and find the 303 very nice to write with. I also have Nikko G nibs but they are too stiff for my liking.

Holders
I have acquired the thicker Century Oblique and the Hunt/Speedball Oblique Pen holders. With a little bit of adjustment per Dr. Vitolo's videos on iampeth.com the Century Oblique holder is wonderful to use.

Ink
I am using Walnut ink for practice although I switch to Pelikan Brown and Brilliant Black on occasion. I tried Higgins Eternal Black but found it a little too thick - that might just be the paper though as I find it an excellent ink for broad nib work.

Paper
I'm using Daler-Rowney Marker pad for practice. The paper takes ink beautifully and is thin enough for the guidelines to show through clearly. I have tried out regular inkjet paper and it works fine, the only limitation is that the guidelines have to be printed on the paper.

Examplars/Guidance
I have decided to use the videos on iampeth.com (here) for guidance. I am aware that this guidance is for the Engrosser's script but I suspect that the strokes are similar and learning from here will put Copperplate within reach.

I started out with a practice sheet today. I mostly played around drawing different letters and getting a feel for the things I need to learn/fix, which, understandably, is a lot right now. Proper practice will start tomorrow. I am using a guide sheet with an x-height of 6mm and main slant guides at 54 degrees from horizontal.

I am attaching a partial scan of the page from today and will follow up with more scans as my skills grow. Would you like to join me on this journey?

Here's day1-sheet1 (partial):

Practice-Day1-Page1-cut1.png

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#2 Signum1

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 20:10

Daler-Rowney paper, I'm not familiar with it. Can you express the paper quality in terms of pounds or grams per square meter? The package will indicate the information I'm asking for. See below link. Click zoom on the picture and you see the quality of the paper is expressed as 32lbs or 120grams per square meter.


HP 32 lb Paper

I have the equipments to do copperplate. but lack the time commitment. I join you but I'm moving at a slower pace.

Edited by Signum1, 06 February 2011 - 20:11.

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#3 inky

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 20:19

Fascinating, I am interested and following this thread. Let the fun begin.
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#4 smk

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 20:22

Daler-Rowney paper, I'm not familiar with it. Can you express the paper quality in terms of pounds or grams per square meter? The package will indicate the information I'm asking for. See below link. Click zoom on the picture and you see the quality of the paper is expressed as 32lbs or 120grams per square meter.


The paper is 70 g/m2 (30 lbs) bleedproof marker pad as shown here.

The HP paper would be excellent but I suspect you'll need to print the guidelines on the paper as it'll be too thick for them to show through clearly.

I'm using the pad simply because I have it and it works well with this nib and ink combination. I'll probably switch to printer paper when this runs out.

As for the speed - well I'm going to go slow too. I don't think I'll be able to practice every day, even though I want to. The idea is to learn from each other and have fun along the way. I may never become an expert but I'll be better at it than I am today :-)

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#5 Ken Fraser

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 23:29

I am going to learn Copperplate. This is a hand that I previously thought was beyond my abilities but having purchased an oblique holder recently has given me hope that I too can learn this lovely hand.


You've made an excellent and impressive start. :thumbup:

This Copperplate exercise routine from IAMPETH is a great way to develop an eye and feel for writing with the flexible nib.

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#6 Wickwack

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 17:49

I'm in!! I'll start practicing and share an example. I don't have a scanner so I have to photograph, upload and then resize in order to post a picture (if anyone has a better way please let me know-I have Windows Vista and go through the Manage Office Gallery to resize) Thanks also for posting the nibs you use -
How fun - sort of like a virtual classroom!
edit: :thumbup:

Edited by Wickwack, 07 February 2011 - 17:49.

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#7 smk

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 20:32

Welcome aboard Wickwack and inky - I'm sure it'll be fun learning this very elegant hand.

Ken - thank you for pitching in with the very helpful exercise. I started with this today and immediately realized how far I have to go.

Out of the texts available on iampeth.com I have selected two; Lessons in Engrosser's Script by E.L. Brown and Lessons in Engraver's script by W.A. Baird (they are the first two on the list). Do you feel that one of these is more suitable for our purposes than the other?

I have included below my practice sheet for today. I didn't get as much time as I would have liked to spend on practice but half a sheet is better than nothing :-)

Here goes - warts and all:

Posted Image

What did I learn today? First off, I have noticed that I tend to write more upright than is required for this script. I had to keep adjusting the angle multiple times in a line. I also have a tendency to write too fast, the results are much better at a slower, more controlled pace.

The squared tops and bottoms in the flat ending are not easy to make, I thought I'll start the stroke with a tiny triangle by moving the point slightly left in a diagonal direction but it turns out to be quite hard to control - ditto for the lift at the end. For now I'm going to retouch these and learn this technique when I can consistently draw even shades and maintain the slant.

Goals for next lesson: Repeat this exercise, paying attention to the points noted above (and others if anyone cares to add to it)

Edit: Inserted links to lessons and edited for clarity.

Edited by smk, 07 February 2011 - 21:33.

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#8 Ghost Plane

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 20:37

I'm lurking. Post on! :thumbup:

#9 mholve

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 20:54

I wish I had a pen/nib that would let me partake, I'd be game for sure.

#10 Ken Fraser

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 21:56

Salman,

You've made a great start. The basic principles are few, and easy to learn.
Try to maintain the same stroke weight throughout a piece of writing. The classic angle for Copperplate writing is 55 degrees from the horizontal. Try to maintain this angle throughout. In the exercises, try to keep the inter-stroke spacing even.

For squared tops and bottoms of the diagonal strokes in the first exercise, try this. Place the nib at the top of the stroke and press to open the tines then start the downstroke. At the foot, stop and lift the nib straight off the page so that the tines snap shut and give a clean edge to the stroke. To produce perfect squared-off terminals, often requires a little retouching after the letter has been completed.

As with every discipline, a little practice every day is better than a lot once a week.

You've made some very sound observations and you're already producing nice results with even stroke weight, consistent angle and good spacing - you're well on the way!

Ken

Edited by caliken, 07 February 2011 - 21:58.

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#11 Achim

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 22:06

Here's some doodling with my new Zebra G nibs done last weekend - these nibs are quite sturdy in comparison to e.g. the Principal EF or the Esterbrook 356 and I had quite some difficulty using them.
This is one of my first pages exercising Copperplate, using Ken's DVD and the Dick Jackson book to learn - highly recommended, because the examples show that they are written by hand, not perfect as in the Universal penman, which defeats frustration :rolleyes: . X-height is 7 mm, using a cheap plastic oblique holder with the Zebra G comic nib and Higgins Eternal on mondi IQ selection (100g/m2) - kudos to Ken for suggesting this paper which is much more affordable than the Conqueror smooth/satin that I used before.

exercisesheet_zebra_g.png

vielendank.png

Best, Achim.

#12 Ken Fraser

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 22:22

Out of the texts available on iampeth.com I have selected two; Lessons in Engrosser's Script by E.L. Brown and Lessons in Engraver's script by W.A. Baird (they are the first two on the list). Do you feel that one of these is more suitable for our purposes than the other?


Although they are both excellent in their own way, I think that the lessons by W.A. Baird are closer to the ideal.

Of course, every serious student of this style of writing should have a copy of "The Universal Penman" by George Bickham. This inexpensive book, first published in the 1700s, has been the starting point for every attempt to produce Copperplate; Engrossers; Engravers handwriting/lettering.

This is where it all started and the copper-engraved examples, are staggeringly beautiful and are surely the exemplars to end all exemplars.

If you don't have it - get a copy. It will blow your mind! :yikes:

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#13 Dueller

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 23:04

I too am using a 303 in a century 3/8ths oblique. I have tried many of the usual nibs but much prefer the feel of the 303. I use a 170 for smaller x heights. I have also found the Brause 66 ef to be vevy good for larger x heights and flourishing, they have an awesome tine spread.

Have a look at this



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#14 mholve

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 23:17

^ Wow, Lee. Most impressive.

#15 Dueller

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 23:27

^ Wow, Lee. Most impressive.


Occasionally when i want some inspiration i watch a couple of his vids on you tube, they are very inspiring. There are many more.
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#16 Ken Fraser

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 07:40

Thanks for the endorsement, Achim!

If you use "The Universal Penman" by George Bickham for inspiration and "Copperplate Calligraphy" by Dick Jackson for instruction, you won't go far wrong.

Your work is most impressive. You have a very steady hand and your long evenly-weighted downstrokes are excellent.
Also your slope angle is very consistent at 55 degrees. Thanks for posting.

Ken

Edited by caliken, 08 February 2011 - 07:41.

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#17 Achim

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 11:09

Your work is most impressive. You have a very steady hand and your long evenly-weighted downstrokes are excellent.
Also your slope angle is very consistent at 55 degrees. Thanks for posting.


Thank you for the heads up! Makes me really proud hearing that from a master like you.

Fortunately the specimen is reduced to 50%, else you would see that my hand is quite shaky sometimes, especially when doing the long upstrokes on "h", "k", "l" etc.

Now if all the downstrokes were not only consistent in themselves but also across different letters - I tend to make them fatter when I know I have to do a longer stroke (e.g. in the "p", "y", "q", "f"). Letter spacing also needs improvement, and sticking to the given base line and x-height (there's a tendency to make letters too small). Time will show if I'll take all those hurdles.

I agree wholeheartedly that the examples in the Universal Penman are the ideal that we should try to get to as near as possible.

Achim.

#18 bigstick

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 13:45

Salman, if you like the Gillot 303 you will absolutely adore the 404.
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#19 smk

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 18:56

Ken - thanks for the detailed feedback and the recommendations in exemplars. I'll try to get my hands on the The Universal Penman. I've downloaded whatever scans I could find on the internet. You are right, the examples are pretty awesome.

I think it'll get very boring very fast for everyone if I post each and every exercise sheet. I will post each lesson the first time I do it and then when I think I've got it right to a fair degree. This will show progress as well get me some feedback off the first attempt.

Achim - now thats some nice Copperplate. How long did it take you to get to this level?

mholve - the nibs and holders used for Copperplate aren't expensive. It'll be great to have you onboard if you can source some when you get a chance.

bigstick - I hear you on the 404. I have one of these but I find it a tad stiff for my liking - but these are early days. I'll be sure to give it another try when I know what I'm doing :-)


Wickwack - we'll be looking forward to the results of your practice.

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#20 Wickwack

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 19:45

Ok, here we go.... this is my first practice lesson. I'm using a great book I found on Amazon. Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy, A Step by Step Manual by Eleanor Winters. This is not the best paper so there is some feathering. I'm loving seeing everyone's writing, they're inspiring! I used my Noodler's Ivory Darkness Piston Fill flex nib filled with Diamine Steele Blue first then switched to Esterbook SJ with Caran D'Ache Storm at the end because I ran out of ink!! I guess I'll just HAVE to change inks.... :puddle:
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#21 smk

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 20:01

Nice writing wickwack. Its great that you have FPs to practice with. Your first practice session is impressive indeed. The shades on the 'o's seem a bit off to me, its supposed to be on the left side and taper out to a hairline before the bottom of the curve.

I'm not sure if writing vertical is 'allowed' in copperplate but it does look nice.

I'll be looking forward to more samples.

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#22 Achim

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 22:06

Achim - now thats some nice Copperplate. How long did it take you to get to this level?

Salman


I only tried Copperplate in about 12-15 sessions, each of about 1-2 hours, so I'm still a "noob". Usually I do exercises in Spencerian and I started Copperplate just to test some nibs and when I was bored by lines over lines of eeeeeees and oooooooos in monoline Spencerian (I didn't arrive at the more interesting shaded capitals in my copybooks yet). But I think any concentrated exercises, independent of script, help to get the dexterity and the scrutinizing eye needed for calligraphy.

And to answer a recent question from Ken: my usual handwriting didn't improve in the least when I write at speed, it looks like a doctor's. Only when I slow down a lot it starts to resemble business script to an extent.

Best, Achim.

#23 Wickwack

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 23:29


Out of the texts available on iampeth.com I have selected two; Lessons in Engrosser's Script by E.L. Brown and Lessons in Engraver's script by W.A. Baird (they are the first two on the list). Do you feel that one of these is more suitable for our purposes than the other?


Although they are both excellent in their own way, I think that the lessons by W.A. Baird are closer to the ideal.

Of course, every serious student of this style of writing should have a copy of "The Universal Penman" by George Bickham. This inexpensive book, first published in the 1700s, has been the starting point for every attempt to produce Copperplate; Engrossers; Engravers handwriting/lettering.

This is where it all started and the copper-engraved examples, are staggeringly beautiful and are surely the exemplars to end all exemplars.

If you don't have it - get a copy. It will blow your mind! :yikes:

Ken


I agree totally~! I have that book (edit: The Universal Penman) also and it's breathtaking! It's full of examples for ideas & practicing!
Rhea

Edited by Wickwack, 08 February 2011 - 23:29.

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#24 Wickwack

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 23:31

Nice writing wickwack. Its great that you have FPs to practice with. Your first practice session is impressive indeed. The shades on the 'o's seem a bit off to me, its supposed to be on the left side and taper out to a hairline before the bottom of the curve.

I'm not sure if writing vertical is 'allowed' in copperplate but it does look nice.

I'll be looking forward to more samples.

Salman

You are right, I'm putting pressure naturally on all downward strokes. I appreciate your critique - that's why this is such a great topic.
Be kind to strangers as you may be entertaining angels unawares.
Forgiveness is the scent of the violet on the heel that crushed it.

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#25 bigstick

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 00:52

it's good you have a 404 Salman. What I found is that when I started with large letters as the books suggest, the 303 was great. Then I shrank to less than half the size I learned at, and the 303 was too soft. Now it is the 404, and I'm leaning towards finding a stiffer nib, as I want to write smaller still (current x-height is 4 mm.) You will make your own choices as you progress (rapidly, I assume, as you are already an accomplished calligrapher. It is hubris to give you advice!)
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#26 smk

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 07:10

it's good you have a 404 Salman. What I found is that when I started with large letters as the books suggest, the 303 was great. Then I shrank to less than half the size I learned at, and the 303 was too soft. Now it is the 404, and I'm leaning towards finding a stiffer nib, as I want to write smaller still (current x-height is 4 mm.) You will make your own choices as you progress (rapidly, I assume, as you are already an accomplished calligrapher. It is hubris to give you advice!)


Ah - now it makes perfect sense. I did try to write smaller once or twice and found that the shading was excessive. I put it down to a lack of practice at the time - now I know! I'll be sure to break out that 404 and give it another go at a smaller sized letters.

And please, be free with your advice. I not only welcome it but am counting on it. I'm merely a student of calligraphy and far from where I would consider myself accomplished. I don't think I'll ever get to a point where I won't need help and direction :-)

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#27 smk

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Posted 09 February 2011 - 07:18

I only tried Copperplate in about 12-15 sessions, each of about 1-2 hours, so I'm still a "noob". Usually I do exercises in Spencerian and I started Copperplate just to test some nibs and when I was bored by lines over lines of eeeeeees and oooooooos in monoline Spencerian (I didn't arrive at the more interesting shaded capitals in my copybooks yet). But I think any concentrated exercises, independent of script, help to get the dexterity and the scrutinizing eye needed for calligraphy.

And to answer a recent question from Ken: my usual handwriting didn't improve in the least when I write at speed, it looks like a doctor's. Only when I slow down a lot it starts to resemble business script to an extent.

Best, Achim.


Thats good to know. Now I have a benchmark of what to expect - and thats always good. I agree that any concentrated exercise help develop control and eye - I found that my Arabic calligraphy practice helped a lot with learning the version of Batarde I was taught in manipulating the pen for some of the strokes - something that others found slightly difficult.

My experience with calligraphy and handwriting is slightly different than yours. Practicing italic has given me another 'option' in handwriting. I had a fairly personalized cursive hand that I would change slightly on occasion. While practicing italic I found that one of the changes was a cursive italic - that was a very happy side-effect and completely unexpected.

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#28 smk

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 12:11

Ok - here's my update for lesson 1. I can reliably draw the figures *if* I pay close attention but as soon as my concentration wavers, the slant shifts towards the vertical! I think its at a point that I can move to lesson 2 even though the exercise is not done perfectly. Since some of the movements are repeated in lesson 2 I think I'll be able to catch up.

Here goes:
Posted Image


I am writing this at 6mm x-height. Is that ok? I did try a few strokes at double this x-height and they were much easier to make. Is there a recommended starting size for Copperplate?

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#29 Ken Fraser

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 13:38

I am writing this at 6mm x-height. Is that ok? I did try a few strokes at double this x-height and they were much easier to make. Is there a recommended starting size for Copperplate?


I don't think that you'll find the definitive answer to your question. IMO 6mm is perfect - not too large and not too small.

I'd just like to say that I think that your approach to practice and learning, is admirable. You're making great progress and are certainly ready to move on. There are too many half-baked attempts at Copperplate out there, with a Shakespeare Sonnet, or the equivalent, being written out after a couple of days "practice". These efforts are often accompanied by statements like "I learned Copperplate writing last night. I think that I'll move on to something else, today".

This is a difficult style to execute properly and if one is serious about learning it, there are no shortcuts. It's imperative that the basic strokes are understood and written properly, stage by stage, before attempting to write words and sentences.
Because you're doing it properly, your progress has been rapid and your understanding and control of the basic elements is already established.

As Tom Gourdie famously said with regards to Calligraphy -
"Nobody ever won a prize for being first".

Please keep posting.

caliken

Edited by caliken, 10 February 2011 - 13:41.

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#30 Signum1

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 16:29

Here's my 20 minutes practice today.

Posted Image



These are the challenges I notice.

1. Long strokes require more steady hands at 12mm. The shorter strokes at 4 mm are easier to make.

2. The third and fourth lines are difficult to make that swelling. I found it challenging when to apply pressure and when to release pressure on the nib to show the "gradual" swelling part of the stroke after the hairline stroke.

3. Another observation is for the loops on the fourth line. I notice I don't follow through with a long hairline upstroke for the next loop.

That's the first 20 minutes of copperplate.
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