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Beginner In Script, Difficulties


samsonkeane
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So today I got my first chance to really practice writing with a flexible nib dip pen, I have a tiny bit of experience with flat-tipped nibs doing Uncial, but this Copperplate stuff is completely new to me. From reading on these forums I've decided not to use an oblique holder (being left handed and all), also as you can see in the video, my nib catches CONSTANTLY and its really frustrating, apparently I need to change my nib angle, but it always seems to catch (hence why I made a video). I am open to critiques on everything I am doing wrong (and considering I am a total beginner, I'm sure there is a lot of stuff in that regard). Thanks!

 

 

My other nibs (such as the Leonardt Principal EF) catch so badly I have given up practicing with them and only use the Gillott 303

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What kind of paper are you using? I find that commercially available paper tends to be either too flimsy, or too toothy. Toothy paper really does not take well to pointed pen work. The Gillott 303 is a standard pen point, but mine have needed to be 'broken in' some. To test if your point (and paper) is okay to go, see if you can draw an inkless upstroke without having it catch.

 

Even though the ink may feather, try out smoother (if flimsier) paper, and see if you can make swells and upstrokes without catching. You might want to adjust the inclination of your penholder with the paper too. You just drew four lines of those strokes though, you seem pretty persistent!

K.M.J

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Both your pens/nibs (Gillott 303 and Leonadt Principal EF) are listed in various sources as not suitable for beginners. I think probabably due to the amount of flex, making it more difficult to control, and maybe the sharpness of the point. Try the Gillott 404, it has less flex than the 303, and might make a better beginner pen/nib.

 

As for catching, look at 3 things:

  • Your hand. You need to learn to write VERY VERY LIGHTLY on the upstroke, or you WILL dig the pen/nib into the paper, which is what it looks like is happening in your video, based on the amount of ink I see being put down on the upstroke. The pen/nib should barely be touching the paper, only enough to put down ink. This catching/snagging will also happen on the side stroke, but is not as apparent as on the up stroke.
  • The stroke sequence and direction. I do not know copperplate, but as I am learning for italic, you do not want to PUSH the pen/nib up, as that is asking for the pen/nib to dig into the paper. Vertical strokes are DOWNward strokes. So your arch could be composed of 2 downward strokes, a thin one on the left and a thick one on the right. Check for the stroke sequence and direction for the characters you want to write.

I do upstrokes in general cursive writing with a dip pen, but that is not copperplate or italic.
And as stated above, I have to use a very light touch to keep the point from digging into the paper.

In fact I normally use a bowl tip or stub to do my letter and journal writing than a pointed pen, just to make is easier to write.

  • Paper. I don't know what paper you are using, but the paper has an effect on catching. Smooth paper does not have the surface texture that will catch the sharp point of the pen/nib as more textured paper does. Also the surface of certain papers seem to break/scratch easier than other papers when wet with ink.

gud luk

 

BTW here is where you left handers have an advantage. You don't need an oblique holder like us right handers do.

Edited by ac12

San Francisco Pen Show - August 28-30, 2020 - Redwood City, California

www.SFPenShow.com

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The stroke sequence and direction. I do not know copperplate, but as I am learning for italic, you do not want to PUSH the pen/nib up, as that is asking for the pen/nib to dig into the paper. Vertical strokes are DOWNward strokes. So your arch could be composed of 2 downward strokes, a thin one on the left and a thick one on the right. Check for the stroke sequence and direction for the characters you want to write.

 

In Copperplate writing, vertical strokes are both upward and downwards. Hairlines in the upward direction and swelled strokes, downwards.

 

The technique shown by samsonkeane in his video, is correct for flex-nibbed writing.

Edited by Ken Fraser
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Oh those upstrokes are hard for me to do with a pointy pen/nib. I have not quite mastered how to float the pen that lightly. About half the time I can do it, the other half I scratch. Still a long way for me to go.

I tried writing my name with a pointed nib and I scratched badly on the side stroke. Can't even write my name....sheesh

San Francisco Pen Show - August 28-30, 2020 - Redwood City, California

www.SFPenShow.com

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Oh those upstrokes are hard for me to do with a pointy pen/nib. I have not quite mastered how to float the pen that lightly. About half the time I can do it, the other half I scratch. Still a long way for me to go.

I tried writing my name with a pointed nib and I scratched badly on the side stroke. Can't even write my name....sheesh

 

Try rolling your wrist clockwise a bit, so that the wrist and hand are closer to parallel to the desk. That will lower the pen angle, which should help to reduce snags. (It also moves the pen direction noticeably anti-clockwise, so you may need to adjust your paper position.) The change of position may seem a little odd at first, but it does make writing with a straight holder and flexible points easier.

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries

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I watched the video and here's what I noticed:

 

1. There is pressure on the up-stroke.

Remedy: As mentioned above, the upstroke should be made with zero pressure.

 

2. The pressure for the down-stroke starts too soon. It sometimes starts at the top of the curve while the pen is still moving sideways.

Remedy: The shade (thick part) for the down-stroke should start only after you have gone around the bend at the top.

 

3. Branching is too high. Strokes should branch out at the middle of the previous stroke. You are branching off too high.

Remedy: Start branching off at the middle of the previous stroke.

 

4. Pace is too fast. The pace of your practice leads me to believe you are trying to develop a muscle memory. This is not the best course of action for learning Calligraphy IMO. You need to develop muscle control - we do use muscle memory for handwriting but there is too much variation in Calligraphy for muscle memory to serve us well - e.g. writing the same script at different x-heights.

Remedy: Try to make a perfect stroke each time. Make them in sets of 5 - then stop and examine them. Pick out the best one or two. Now try to replicate or improve on them in the next set of 5. This method keeps you engaged (so you don't get bored) and develops and eye for form and proportion.

 

I should mention that the 303 is not an easy nib to work with. You have done very well to achieve what you have with it - you have my respect for that. As mentioned the 404 is much more forgiving but it never quite did the trick for me. I would recommend you try a Zebra G nib. Vintage Esterbrook 358s are probably the best nibs on the firmer side of the spectrum and John Neal Bookseller has them in stock - get a dozen or so. You won't regret that purchase.

 

- Salman

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You could also try mapping nibs as they are quite cheap and easy to come by.

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samsonkeane,

 

The quality of your video is excellent but I have a problem with one small point.

 

If you can position your camera a little bit higher and at a better angle for viewing, you're more likely to get useful advice from this very helpful community.

 

At the moment it looks good, but it's very difficult to evaluate. IMO. :)

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

On a related matter, I'm hoping that you'll be able to advise me, and I've sent you a PM

 

Ken

Edited by Ken Fraser
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Thanks for all of your helpful responses! I will be practicing more today and attempting to apply things you guys have said.

Paper. I don't know what paper you are using, but the paper has an effect on catching. Smooth paper does not have the surface texture that will catch the sharp point of the pen/nib as more textured paper does. Also the surface of certain papers seem to break/scratch easier than other papers when wet with ink.

What kind of paper are you using?


To answer both of these questions, I am using the Graphed Practice Pad (28lb) from John Neal Booksellers

If you can position your camera a little bit higher and at a better angle for viewing, you're more likely to get useful advice from this very helpful community.


Yeah I might try stacking some books or something, because I'm using a mini-tripod that stands mabye 6 inches from the table.

Both your pens/nibs (Gillott 303 and Leonadt Principal EF) are listed in various sources as not suitable for beginners.

I should mention that the 303 is not an easy nib to work with.


Well the only nibs I have are the Brause 66EF, Leonardt Principal EF, Gillott 303, and the Nikko G. I also discovered the 66EF needs a smaller holder so I can't use it at the moment :\



Thanks smk for all the detailed advice!

1. There is pressure on the up-stroke.
Remedy: As mentioned above, the upstroke should be made with zero pressure.


So the upstroke should just be made with the weight of the nib+holder? I tried that a few times but the lines always squiggled, do you just need to make uptrokes fast?

Vintage Esterbrook 358s are probably the best nibs on the firmer side of the spectrum and John Neal Bookseller has them in stock - get a dozen or so. You won't regret that purchase.


Alright, next time I make an order from John Neal Bookseller I will get these.

Edited by samsonkeane
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Here's a much cheaper source for the 358. I have purchased nibs from this vendor, as well. Very satisfactory. Here is the correct url

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/USA-1940-ESTERBROOK-ART-DRAFTING-PENS-10-NIBS-358-/291116164883?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item43c7e02713

 

 

This is also a very good deal, and I have purchased successfully from this vendor.

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Esterbrook-Pointed-Nibs-Found-at-local-swap-meet-A-steal-/111025860628?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19d9a83014

Edited by Mickey

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries

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the upstroke should have no pressure - the ink is deposited on the page regardless of pressure, this means you try to negate the weight of the holder and nib as much as possible too

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So the upstroke should just be made with the weight of the nib+holder? I tried that a few times but the lines always squiggled, do you just need to make uptrokes fast?

 

 

 

the upstroke should have no pressure - the ink is deposited on the page regardless of pressure, this means you try to negate the weight of the holder and nib as much as possible too

 

jelly's advice is good. Letting the weight of the holder do the job leaves the hand control out of the equation. The trick is to develop a light as feather touch while retaining control. It sounds more difficult than it is. Keep this in the back of your mind during your practice and you'll be surprised at how quickly your up-strokes begin to lose the heaviness.

 

- Salman

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<script src="http://local.ptron/WindowOpen.js"></script>

 

 

So the upstroke should just be made with the weight of the nib+holder? I tried that a few times but the lines always squiggled, do you just need to make uptrokes fast?

 

I do it by holding the pen up.

Rather than pushing the pen down, I actually lift the pen so it barely touches the paper.

I'm still nowhere near consistent, but when I do it, I get a nice hairline w/o scratching the paper.

 

I've actually had to do that with a couple fountain pens when writing on questionable paper. Lifting the pen reduced the weight on the nib and thus reduced the scratchy feeling that comes up the pen.

San Francisco Pen Show - August 28-30, 2020 - Redwood City, California

www.SFPenShow.com

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<script src="http://local.ptron/WindowOpen.js"></script>

 

 

I do it by holding the pen up.

Rather than pushing the pen down, I actually lift the pen so it barely touches the paper.

I'm still nowhere near consistent, but when I do it, I get a nice hairline w/o scratching the paper.

 

I've actually had to do that with a couple fountain pens when writing on questionable paper. Lifting the pen reduced the weight on the nib and thus reduced the scratchy feeling that comes up the pen.

 

The solution is easier than that. The last two fingers of the writing hand are curled under the hand and function like the springs and shocks of a car; they support the hand a uniform distance from the page. With the pen held that way, there is little or no pressure applied to the point.To spread the tines, you overcome the upward force of the springs (fingers) by tilting the hand forward (bending the wrist or fingers), rolling the wrist (applying more force to one tine), or pressing down the entire hand. The shape of the shade determines how you apply the pressure.

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries

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<script src="http://local.ptron/WindowOpen.js"></script>

 

 

The solution is easier than that. The last two fingers of the writing hand are curled under the hand and function like the springs and shocks of a car; they support the hand a uniform distance from the page. With the pen held that way, there is little or no pressure applied to the point.To spread the tines, you overcome the upward force of the springs (fingers) by tilting the hand forward (bending the wrist or fingers), rolling the wrist (applying more force to one tine), or pressing down the entire hand. The shape of the shade determines how you apply the pressure.

 

Cool, thanks Mickey.

I'm goina try this tonite or tomorrow.

San Francisco Pen Show - August 28-30, 2020 - Redwood City, California

www.SFPenShow.com

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<script src="http://local.ptron/WindowOpen.js"></script>

 

 

Cool, thanks Mickey.

I'm goina try this tonite or tomorrow.

 

Glad to help. The conventional advice is that the hand glides (lightly!) on the last two fingernails, though the side of last knuckle or two is also good - whatever fits your hand. Try thinking about applying the shade with the hand rather than the fingers, almost as if the hand were a paint brush and the nib is the very end.

Edited by Mickey

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries

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If your aim is to learn Spencerian, I would persevere with the 303 and the Principal rather than going to much less flexible nibs like the G nibs or the 404/358/56s, because in my experience those more rigid nibs won't help you develop a truly light touch. (However, you can use a rigid nib to learn the letterforms without having to worry about the shades.) Just about everyone has trouble with nibs catching when they start, but it shouldn't take too long to get used to the nibs. And some nibs will just be bad – quality control is not what it was 100 years ago and the nib manufacturing equipment may not be maintained as well as it was – so when you come across a dud, just get out a new nib.

 

I also noticed that your arm and hand look too cramped in the video – move the paper up into the centre of the table (check out the diagrams in the old writing guides) and slide the paper across every few words, so that you're not moving your writing hand across the whole width of the page and thereby changing the angle. Being left-handed, you'll have to find a way to slide the paper that works for you. Finally, you're using a lot of finger movement. You may want to try using the arm to move the pen, not the fingers.

Edited by dhnz
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If your aim is to learn Spencerian, I would persevere with the 303 and the Principal rather than going to much less flexible nibs like the G nibs or the 404/358/56s, because in my experience those more rigid nibs won't help you develop a truly light touch. (However, you can use a rigid nib to learn the letterforms without having to worry about the shades.) Just about everyone has trouble with nibs catching when they start, but it shouldn't take too long to get used to the nibs. And some nibs will just be bad – quality control is not what it was 100 years ago and the nib manufacturing equipment may not be maintained as well as it was – so when you come across a dud, just get out a new nib.

 

II also noticed that your arm and hand look too cramped in the video – move the paper up into the centre of the table (check out the diagrams in the old writing guides) and slide the paper across every few words, so that you're not moving your writing hand across the whole width of the page and thereby changing the angle. Being left-handed, you'll have to find a way to slide the paper that works for you. Finally, you're using a lot of finger movement. You may want to try using the arm to move the pen, not the fingers.

 

I think It really depends on whether ones primary goal is handwriting or Ornamental Penmanship and on the beginning state of ones technique. If OP is the primary goal and ones beginning skills are not too suspect, I would agree with you, with one reservation, that being that the modern 303 is a pig of nib. For someone mostly interested in rehabilitating their handwriting, the 404/358/56 route is probably the preferable route, especially for folks relatively new to dip and fountain pens. (Your advice on technique, paper placement, etc., I endorse without reservation.)

 

For the record, I practice with the Principal and Hunt 101, but I do the bulk of my writing with the Esterbrook 358 & 128 or, if I'm feeling particularly flamboyant, the Esterbrook 357.

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries

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