Riddle Me This…

I’ve always enjoyed riddles, probably since I read The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. There’s a key section in the fourth book where a psychotic monorail forces the protagonists to answer riddles in order to save their own lives. Classic evil AI strategy, really.

When I was teaching EFL I would sometimes use riddles on higher-level students to show creative uses of the language. It was good fun, really – for me at least.

So it should be no surprise that I would use riddles as calligraphy practice. Enjoy these!

#calligraphy #riddles #copperplate

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#riddles #calligraphy #Uncial

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Calligraphy Bootcamp

Over on Instagram, the calligrapher Judy G has started hosting the Calligraphy Boot Camp – a chance to go back to basics and revisit the fundamentals of Copperplate. It stretches over a week and is a really nice way to make sure you know what you’re doing.

Day 1 – m. n. i. u

Calligraphy Bootcamp - u Calligraphy Bootcamp - i Calligraphy Bootcamp - m Calligraphy Bootcamp - n

These are the letters you need for that magic calligraphy word, minimum. Fairly simple, to the point. These aren’t bad, although the cutoffs could be squarer.

Day 2 – w, v, r, x

Calligraphy Bootcamp - r Calligraphy Bootcamp - v Calligraphy Bootcamp - w Calligraphy Bootcamp - x 1 Calligraphy Bootcamp - x 2

I did x a couple of times, as there are a couple of ways to do it. The Copperplate version (the one that looks like two cs stuck back to back) versus the Spencerian version is a tough choice do make.

Day 3 – c, e, o, a, s

Calligraphy Bootcamp - s Calligraphy Bootcamp - a Calligraphy Bootcamp - c Calligraphy Bootcamp - e Calligraphy Bootcamp - o

Oh, the ovals – the ovals! Ovals are so very important, and I’ll need to do more practice with them.

Day 4 – d, t, p

Calligraphy Bootcamp - t Calligraphy Bootcamp - d Calligraphy Bootcamp - p

This was not my best day. The t was too low and the d was too high. The p seemed okay, though.

Day 5 – l, b, h, k, f

Calligraphy Bootcamp - h Calligraphy Bootcamp - k Calligraphy Bootcamp - l Calligraphy Bootcamp - b Calligraphy Bootcamp - f

Oh, those upper loops – those upper loops! The light touch on the upstroke is tough to maintain, as is the long stroke downwards. Everything, basically.

Day 6 – j, y, g, q, z

Calligraphy Bootcamp - y Calligraphy Bootcamp - z Calligraphy Bootcamp - g Calligraphy Bootcamp - j Calligraphy Bootcamp - q

Finally, on the last day, I think I’m getting the hang of it. It might have helped that I was using a Zebra G nib, which is a little more forgiving of my heavy-handed ways, than a Leonardt EF Principle, which, well, isn’t.

Anyway, that was the Copperplate Calligraphy Boot Camp, illustrating one of the fundamental truths of any creative hobby: sometimes you have to go back to basics, just so you remember how it’s all done. Next up will probably be Copperplate Capitals, which will be an interesting adventure all in itself. See you then!

The Great Nib Test 2015

Yes, every test has to be Great. Why do you ask?

Inspired by an exchange I had over on Reddit about improvements I could make on my Copperplate, I thought it was high time to do a pointed nib test. The purpose of this was severalfold:

  1. To see if I could make those square cutoffs that are so important to making pretty Copperplate.
  2. To see how far I could take a loaded-up nib.
  3. To practice using my whole arm to pull the nib back, rather than just my hand.
  4. To give me something to entertain myself on a Sunday afternoon.

Each test was done on a small Rhodia pad, with walnut ink reconstituted from crystals, and each line came from a fully-loaded nib. The oblique penholder is from Unique Obliques. Terribly scientific, I know.

Let’s get to the results!

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Pointed Pen Predicaments

Well, “predicament” sounds a bit much, but I wanted the alliteration.

In any case, I’m gingerly branching out into pointed pen after having spend a year behind the broad-edge. There are a lot of reasons for this, but mainly because I’ve seen such beautiful work done with that instrument that I’d like to one day be able to do it myself.

From Iampeth.com

My first target was Spencerian script. This is the kind of writing you would have been likely to see in business correspondence back in the early 20th century, and I like it for its spidery precision.  It’s meant to be written quickly, with a minimum of flourishing (except perhaps in the capitals). I wanted to get to know it mainly because it straddles that line between handwriting and calligraphy.

Unfortunately, it’s a real pain in the ass.

My Spencerian so far is rough and doesn’t look nearly as effortless as the various exemplars I’m seeing. Mind you, I’m a beginner – it should look awful. That doesn’t keep it from being a bit disheartening every time I look at what I want it to look like versus what it should look like. And, to be fair, I ran into this with broad-edge calligraphy as well. My italic was just a mess for a good while until I finally figured out how to make it look good. Perhaps the same will happen with Spencerian.

Spot the differences!
Spot the differences!

In the meantime, I’m going to start tinkering with Copperplate, mainly because where Spencerian is meant to be written quickly, Copperplate is slow and deliberate, and I think I have a better chance with slow and deliberate than I do with quick and dashy.

To that end, I bought Eleanor Winter’s Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy, which breaks it down into bite-sized pieces. We’ll see how that works.