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Learning Italic



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5 hours ago, Arrighi said:

F199F4F2-E58B-42CF-AF32-1F9D7EE02A9C.jpeg

 

Welcome! It looks like you are off to a good start.

 

When you are first learning italic handwriting or calligraphy, using a broader nib is an advantage. You generally do get better line differentiation, but you also see your errors more clearly. Some say you should use a nib at least 2.0 mm wide, but many find 1.5 mm adequate. 

 

I also find the Lamy 1.1mm nib poor for italic and the 1.5mm nib much better. Other relatively inexpensive but very acceptable options include the Kaweco calligraphy nibs.

 

For help with technique, I highly recommend viewing the series of videos made by Lloyd Reynolds for Oregon Public Broadcasting. There are 20 of them. Number 2 is missing. The videos have been digitized and can be found on youtube. 

 

Happy writing!

 

David

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Arrighi

Thank you.  I was going to write out a reply, but that could still be days away, so typing it is.

 

I did start to watch the first of the Lloyd Reynolds videos, but didn't get very far.  However, they are on my to-watch list.

 

After years of keeping notepads where I jotted ideas, worked through problems, brainstormed, etc. I tried to move to an all digital lifestyle.  Unfortunately I retrospectively noticed a huge gap between the way I used to think, and now, so I went back to actually writing and sketching and thinking by hand.  I purchased one of the new ReMarkable tablets and actually do a lot of my writing on that; it's a more pencil-to-paper feel than pen-to-paper, but great for moving back into writing.  Doesn't do an italic nib though.

 

Of course my handwriting also degraded over the years, so I'm working to improve it.  Started with the Briem site, reworked some of my handwriting to use italic letterforms (two-stroke e, especially) and more breaks between letters.  In the process I fell in love with the idea of what Italic writing *can* be, especially with Arrighi, Cataneo, Palatino, and actually just random manuscripts I've looked at.  I would love to have something like that as my normal writing hand.

 

I experimented with fountain pens years ago, and have a Lamy Al-Star and a Waterman Phileas, both in Medium, both too wide for my taste on cheap notepads, so they didn't get used that much.  I don't even remember what the much cheaper fountain pens I used were.  When I do write, my preference is actually the 0.7 Uniball Deluxe.  Maybe I'd like an F or even EF if I gave it a shot.

 

I'm happy learning with a Lamy 1.5 on printer paper, but it's too wide and feathery on cheap notepads, regardless of x-height.  (Tried both Waterman and Pelikan Black).  I feel like a perfect nib would have a significant line variation, and have a writing line of about .7 mm.  The Lamy 1.5 is actually 1.1mm when written.

 

One day I looked at a lot of writing samples, and I saw this example of a Jinhao with a Bock nib that looked really nice.  And a few TWSBI examples that look good, and others that don't.  I wish I could try out a bunch of nibs and find something I like, but no idea how to do that.  If I flip over the Lamy 1.1 and write upside down, the line variation is great, but it needs to be written far smaller than I want.

 

This is by far the best italic thread I've ever seen, but I do feel out of place saying "I just want a [very specific, maybe doesn't exist] italic nib that can write how I want at the size I want" and not really caring about the pen, or ink, or paper.

 

[I realize most of this could have gone into an introduction, but /shrug]

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dms525

@Arrighi  You have certainly chosen some wonderful models for learning italic handwriting. 

 

I gather that you would like to develop a good quality italic hand. Good for you! You realize this will take a lot of reflective practice. (My mentor, Lloyd Reynolds, called it "critical practice," but I prefer a less pejorative term.) Learning good letter forms is crucial. With practice they will get into your motor memory, and you can focus on letter and word spacing and, eventually, page design. That's the normal progression, and it can take a few years, unless you are fortunate in having more innate ability than I.  

 

Especially at the start, just writing without reflecting on your production and correcting the flaws you perceive is worse than a waste of time, because you could be developing bad habits you will eventually have to worker harder to correct.

 

Having good tools will reduce frustration. Both Kaweco and Pilot are selling some italic calligraphy sets that are reasonably well-made and of moderate cost. If your budget permits, there are better options at higher cost.

 

Again, the nib that is most suited to everyday italic handwriting may write a line 0.6 to 1.3 mm wide, depending on how tall your letters are and the density you prefer. But a wider nib is strongly recommended for learning and developing good letter forms.

 

Please do feel free to ask questions as they arise.

 

Happy writing!

 

David

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  • 2 weeks later...
Arrighi
Posted (edited)

image.thumb.jpeg.ec46e34b347f72619ee1e4b7f666c77a.jpegimage.thumb.jpeg.ca0e8e37804a9ee6c73252e334309b1a.jpeg
 

What surprises when doing this is perception vs reality.  I know I've made significant improvements from before.  And as I'm doing it, I'm actually pretty happy with the results.  But then I go back and look at it again and I realize how much further there is to go.  The inconsistencies stand out like a sore thumb to me now.

 

(I still haven't officially learned or practiced capitals, and that shows, but it's not something I'm critiquing yet.)

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dms525
1 hour ago, Arrighi said:

image.thumb.jpeg.ec46e34b347f72619ee1e4b7f666c77a.jpegimage.thumb.jpeg.ca0e8e37804a9ee6c73252e334309b1a.jpeg
 

What surprises when doing this is perception vs reality.  I know I've made significant improvements from before.  And as I'm doing it, I'm actually pretty happy with the results.  But then I go back and look at it again and I realize how much further there is to go.  The inconsistencies stand out like a sore thumb to me now.

 

(I still haven't officially learned or practiced capitals, and that shows, but it's not something I'm critiquing yet.)

 

Very nice! 

 

Regarding majuscule letters: My recommendation is to start with classic Roman monumental capitals. Learning the basic letter forms and width groups will help you in the long run. The flourished capitals you see in the Renaissance writing masters' books was meant to show off. They were demonstrating their virtuosity in the hopes of attracting paying customers. Of course, if you want to show off ... Still, mastering the underlying forms is a good idea before getting fancy. My opinion (but widely shared by contemporary calligraphy instructors).

 

Happy writing!

 

David

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dms525
1 hour ago, Arrighi said:

A35D8746-0A59-4DEF-B4A1-DDE105EEBD02.jpeg

 

@dms525

 

The wider nib, producing larger letters, makes errors easier to perceive. The translation of movements from large to small seems automatic, although I cannot claim expertise on the neuroscience behind this. In fact, experience suggests that warming up with a broader nib results in better letter forms in a piece of work using smaller letters.

 

And, yes. I graduated from Reed in 1965.

 

David

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  • 4 weeks later...

@ Arrighi - When I resumed italic handwriting, I had awful inconsistency in letter slope and spacing. It took about 2 or 3 years of reflective practice, hours every day, for this to improve substantially. Now, there are those unusual individuals who seem to have a natural talent for calligraphy, and not everyone is as inept as I am. But, most do need lots of practice to get good, and that needs to be what Lloyd Reynolds called "critical practice."

 

Take your time. Don't go for speed until you have accuracy. Writing poorly at speed does not develop the motor memory you need for good writing at speed. While learning, don't write faster than you can write well. And, if you are having a problem with any specific letter. Stop. Give it a rest. Write something else, and come back to it later. There are other 'tricks," but those are basic.

 

Bottom line though, is your writing looks pretty good now, and it will get better.

 

David

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  • 1 month later...
Arrighi

It's been a bit, but I do keep practicing.  I've become far more consistent and objectively like how things are coming along, but at the same time I'm less impressed subjectively.  I suppose these are just normal problems as one develops an increasingly critical eye.

 

One of the more useful exercises has been to take a page from a book and copy a sentence or two every day.  The mind can focus on the writing and not the content, and it's enough practice to work on things, but not so much as to be a hard time commitment.

 

As far as the "subjective dislike", I'm starting to get a better grasp of the technical elements that makes me like one particular Italic hand versus another; I'm just not yet executing on the things I've learned.  All of the details like letter spacing, counter height, counter shape, ascender/descender shapes, they all add up.

 

But mostly what I actually wanted to say was that when you originally said it would take a few years, I was skeptical and wanted to prove otherwise -- intensive focused practice *should* have been able to beat that estimate -- but it seems you're right and I just need to stick with it.

 

What I'm running into now is that all my practice with an edged pen on paper has barely translated to my monoline pen writing.  The two-stroke 'e' has been probably the most significant element that's improved [later] readability, but the rest hasn't really transferred.

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59 minutes ago, Arrighi said:

What I'm running into now is that all my practice with an edged pen on paper has barely translated to my monoline pen writing.  The two-stroke 'e' has been probably the most significant element that's improved [later] readability, but the rest hasn't really transferred.

 

Thanks for the update!

 

It sounds like your progress is following the "normal" pattern. Your description certainly suggests you are learning to see much more when you look at handwriting.

 

My school-learned cursive is not beautiful, and it has not improved with italic practice. However, if I write my old cursive after practicing italic for a few hours, the cursive does look better. On reflection, I suspect the cursive is ugly when I write too fast - the habit acquired in medical school - and is nicer when I slow down.

 

Happy writing!

 

David

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  • 1 month later...

I've slowed down on how much practice I'm doing, but my letter consistency has become significantly better -- at least when I'm writing with an edged pen.

 

My monoline writing hasn't gotten any better.  I think I might just start working through the same practice materials with a stylus, to see if I can drive in some of those habits there too. That said, I wonder if italic is really the best choice for monoline writing, since the edge of an edged pen does constrain itself to the movements of italic better.

 

I did actually dip into writing some Arrighi by copying a page from Operina.  It was far more difficult than I expected.  The bowl shape of the 'a' and 'd' is hard to reproduce, and the pen angle is sharper than 45 degrees especially on pairings like 'ai' or 'mi'.  There's a slight swing/curve to all of the vertical shapes; the 'i' and 't' and the ascenders.  Also the tails of many letters are sharp rather than curved.  A lot of the challenge was fighting my own habits.  Cataneo has been notably easier for me.

IMG_7747.jpg

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24 minutes ago, Arrighi said:

I've slowed down on how much practice I'm doing, but my letter consistency has become significantly better -- at least when I'm writing with an edged pen.

 

My monoline writing hasn't gotten any better.  I think I might just start working through the same practice materials with a stylus, to see if I can drive in some of those habits there too. That said, I wonder if italic is really the best choice for monoline writing, since the edge of an edged pen does constrain itself to the movements of italic better.

 

I did actually dip into writing some Arrighi by copying a page from Operina.  It was far more difficult than I expected.  The bowl shape of the 'a' and 'd' is hard to reproduce, and the pen angle is sharper than 45 degrees especially on pairings like 'ai' or 'mi'.  There's a slight swing/curve to all of the vertical shapes; the 'i' and 't' and the ascenders.  Also the tails of many letters are sharp rather than curved.  A lot of the challenge was fighting my own habits.  Cataneo has been notably easier for me.

IMG_7747.jpg

 

You continue to make progress! Your copy of Arrighi may not be perfect, but you have definitely captured the "feel" of his hand.

 

One thing to keep in mind, although it's kind of a nerdy point (no pun intended): Arrighi's Operina was printed from wooden plates in which the letters were incised. Therefore, one suspects that elements like changes in line direction, e.g., serifs, may be distorted from the quill-written original.

 

Some like the very angular serifs; I was taught they are a failing. When I write quickly, the letter slope increases and the serifs become more angular. IMO, this is a matter of taste, which varies notoriously.

 

BTW, the third edition of Jaqi Svaren's "33 Letters" has been released! I received my copy yesterday, but haven't unwrapped it yet. Stay tuned!

 

Happy writing!

 

David

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I posted somewhere else here on FPN a link to a digitized copy of Petrarca's Poems hand written by one Ludovico Arrighi 😉

 

Found it:

 

So, one can see how Arrighi's hand looked actually when hand written.

 

As for uniformity... I also struggle with it, but find that keeping a rhythm greatly helps achieving uniformity.

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