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Common Errors In Calligraphy

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7 replies to this topic

#1 David0966


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Posted 27 January 2019 - 13:57

Hello all,


An totally new to all of this....and practicing most days.


My hands of choice right now are Foundational, Uncial, and want to start Carolinian soon (the slant has me worried).


Am using a Pilot Parallel.


So, I saw a book on the John Neal site-Foundations of Calligraphy by Sheila Waters; what interested me so much was that one of the sample pages had letters written, and pointed out several common errors such as weak join, seriph overdone, etc....that intrigued me.....but the book is not available until the new edition arrives in March.


I thought someone here could direct me to a source to help me critique my practice so that it will improve.....




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#2 Bobje


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Posted 27 January 2019 - 16:25

While you're waiting for the Sheila Waters book, you could try Ann Camp's "Pen Lettering" or Marie Angel's "The Art of Calligraphy." Both are available in used paperback form for $5 or so with shipping, either Amazon or AbeBooks.

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#3 galem


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Posted 27 January 2019 - 18:21

Hi David,
There are many good calligraphy books out there, but I have wasted too much money buying books sight unseen and ended up being disappointed. I recommend that you review calligraphy books at your local library first. I have also saved a lot of good materials and guidelines on my Pinterest page. As for the slant, I have found that making my own printed guidelines and duplicating them is preferable. I use a GOOD quality, 32 lb. printer paper (500 pages about $16) because neither Pilot Pen or pointed pen calligraphy bleeds on it. I don't like the Pilot black because it is too watery, so I buy a good ink compatible with Pilot Pens (Noodlers is a favorite) and fill the handle of my pen. It lasts a lot longer, and when empty, I just take the pen apart and wash it in soapy water. You can find pre-made guidelines to print, but I like a LOT of the slanted angle lines on the page, so I use a protractor and ruler to make those and duplicate the finished copy. The scripts you are learning are good ones to start with! After taking calligraphy classes for 4 years now, these are just suggestions from my experience. Good luck!

Edited by galem, 27 January 2019 - 18:22.

#4 inkstainedruth


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Posted 28 January 2019 - 07:06

One thing I remember from when I took calligraphy in college and afterwards is that the spacing between letters is critical -- and not uniform.  You will have more space -- called "kerning" in typography -- between a two straight letters (say, a couple of lower-case Ls) than you will between two letters which have curves (such as following an uncial B with an E) and the spacing between a straight letter and an curved one (e.g., a P followed by and L) will be somewhere in between.  And that when first learning the letterforms in my college calligraphy class we would practice by putting a lower-case O between every letter, because that helped train the hand to do those circles evenly.

And of course the x-height will vary considerably from script to script (some hands are taller and more narrow that others, for instance).  and you'll want your x-height (and ascender/descender) rule lines to ALSO vary depending on the nib width you're using: mark a stack of pen widths on a piece of scrap paper (it's easier to see if you alternate them thusly (I'm using Xs because I don't know if I can format "boxes" here):


X___  (ascender)



  X         (x height)



X          (descender)


and that will give you the correct X height (not counting ascenders or descenders, of course) for that particular nib.  [NB: I never learned stuff like Copperplate/Spenserian, so I don't know how much of a difference a flex pen will make to your x height.]. If you know what the "standard should be for them, add markings to show where the ascenders and descenders should hit on a line of writing.  Use those ticks to mark where the rule lines should go for each line of writing (in pencil, or on a backing sheet if you're using a light box -- they'll get erased later).  You likely want to be using a t-square to mark the complete set of rule lines -- it's just easier to get the rule lines both straight and parallel....

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth


edited for typos

Edited by inkstainedruth, 28 January 2019 - 07:12.

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#5 Ryan5


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Posted 29 January 2019 - 15:47

First keep in mind that when learning your first hand, you are learning not just the hand, but calligraphy. Study the letters carefully, and always copy from your exemplar. Also don't over do it. Take breaks and work on your posture, use a loose grip etc.

#6 amk



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Posted 30 January 2019 - 14:10

So, my advice for what it's worth: while you're waiting for your books to arrive


- get your writing arm and hand relaxed by doing lots of scoopy wavy rhythms with a pencil on scrap paper. Just concentrate on feeling relaxed, and moving your whole arm, and as my calligraphy teacher says, "don't do fingerwriting! fingerwriting is banned!"


- go on archive.org, go to the British Library, gallica.fr and the Pierpont Morgan library website, and look at some of the calligraphy books and lovely manuscripts to get some inspiration. If you find a page you particularly like, look at the writing and work out what attracts you - is it the white space around the letters, the rhythm, the variation of line, the ornament? Then plan yourself a little exercise just around that one factor.


Some links to whet your appetite:





There's a nice page at http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/n/nal-modern-calligraphy/ you might find interesting, too.

Too many pens, too little time!


#7 sidthecat


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Posted 24 March 2019 - 20:04

I’ve become rather a fan of Edward Johnston, the creator of Foundational Hand and the wellspring of twentieth-century English calligraphy. You might look at “Writing and Illuminating and Lettering” and “Lessons In Formal Writing”. His approach was more about the shapes of letters than the subtleties of line, and his analysis of styles is very useful.
My current writing style is derived from his late letters, which use a semi-formal script that’s never been examined or formalized, but I really like it. Anyway, it’s great material; worth looking into.

#8 Chmara



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Posted 28 May 2019 - 01:30

I have sworn off. calligraphy "how to" books. -- as most do not truly address the problems of left handedness.  I started looking at the books in the library and found a paucity of materials --- until I opened the new computerized card files and found every book with great examples and technique had been moved to the Art Museum's library downtown.


A wonderful member here gifted me a set of  script practice manuals sending them through Amazon -- and some specially ruled paper which has helped immensely. He has encouraged me on line and through correspondence (I am jealous of his fluid script in correspondence and remain too embarrassed over my own writing to answer via post.  But, the time will come when I will but stamps and send a better thank you note to him in my own hand than my on-line gratitude.


SO, if you have a pen club nearby, or calligraphy class/group with real people and a few examples of what you think you need to do -- the next step, to me, is to dive in with pen (inked) in hand and get started, analyze what you do not like when started, look at your examples, and figure out how YOU will make the pen move the way that lets you emulate when you want to he the best writing you will achieve.


Or, if you are of a mind, some of the basic cursive manuals purchased or on-line have exercises for using with up and down strokes, spring -link circles and similar exercises that will aid in making real consistent letters.  I have not had the patience to use these, but they may help.


I ave found that books from the 1800s and early last century have some good ideas -- but are pretty wordy and even stodgy in making their spefic systems work.

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