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A different perspective

A different perspective

During my move from italic to gothic styles I picked up yet another book on calligraphy, this time Foundations of Calligraphy by Sheila Waters, which is probably now the most detailed book I have for basic technique, along with Margaret Shepherd’s book.

Actually though, the biggest breakthrough for me now came through seeing this video which is actually pretty bad (in my opinion!) except for the fact that the guy is left-handed and writes at 90 degrees to most people. So he writes the words vertically down the page towards him.

This gave me an idea because one of the biggest issues with left-handers is having to push the nib along the paper rather than pulling it. This can be a problem because the nib can catch on the paper, and spatter ink. For all this time I thought I was ok with this because I don’t get any of this, but in the video the guy says he couldn’t write calligraphy until his teacher recommended this new angle (!).

He’s an underwriter, which means that if he were writing right-side-up his hand would be below the line. I’m an overwriter on the other hand (!), curling my hand over the top of line. This gives me some advantage over underwriters with broad nibs because I can keep the same pen angle as a right-hander: the only difference is I push instead of pull. An underwriter could pull, but they’d need special nibs ground at an angle to accommodate the way their pen contacts the paper.

By rotating the paper 90 degrees and writing lines down the page towards him, forming the letters with a right-to-left motion, Klahr gets a good angle on the pen and pulls on the page, solving his problem. The only issue is getting used to the perspective, but that’s just practice. For me, the equivalent solution is a 180-degree turn: I already had the right pen angle, but I wanted to see what it was like to pull instead of push. This means writing right-to-left, bottom-to-top and all the letters are upside down.

It was glorious.

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Left: written right-side up, ink unevenly spread, uncomfortable shape. Right: written upside down, uniform ink

Except obviously now I have to write upside down like a chump, but along with Ms Waters’s book this turns out not to be so much a problem. The other thing I learned from Klahr here is it’s a good idea to save your practice sheet: like, the sheets you practice letter forms on. To me this means writing practice good enough to save, and this in turn means practising extra carefully. Practising carefully sounds obvious but if you know you’re going to save the work you’re doing it takes on a bigger significance.

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Ms Waters begins with the foundational script, which is a recent, early 20th-century script developed by the first modern master calligrapher, Edward Johnston, resembling lowercase roman. Here the letter forms tend to be based on circles rather than ovals, as in italic, and as Ms Waters develops it, it can lead naturally into gothic forms.

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Apart from more consistent practice, from here the way forward seems clear. My next project is definitely gothic, but I’ll try Ms Waters’ approach of going via narrowed, angular foundational to see how it works.

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Posted by on June 18, 2017 in Calligraphy

 

A (welcome) distraction appears

A (welcome) distraction appears

An impromptu adventure

So my friend Dustin is running/very recently ran a single-session DnD campaign titled “East of Enuillo” in a Wild-East-West-fantasy hybrid so crazy it just might work and sure to disrupt all worldbuilding efforts for DnD across the world hereon out.

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Man, I should’ve joined in on this one

Part of this campaign design involved construction of a pretty cool map. By his permission I got it here:

large old paper or parchment background texture

And yes, it features El Dorado. The map is adapted from Walter Raleigh’s actual map, which bizarrely is well-suited for a DnD campaign. So the map itself features two scripts: the cartographer’s script in the bottom left, and the map owner’s scrawl in the interior. The only trouble is the writing as is looks pretty clearly typeset (how about that Chiller font!), and it would be nice to have them look a bit more authentic. We thought, what if I practised a bit of calligraphy for it! Although I’ve recently been concentrating on Roman and italic lettering in the effort to learn technique properly, a bit of fun couldn’t go amiss.

The first point is that the two scripts should look distinct. The cartographer’s script might appear hand-written, but it should be clear, legible, and look at least somewhat official. So for the calligraphy here, there were a number of options:

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Top two: a kind of Gothic rotunda with Roman capitals, but it didn’t know what character to take.  Middle: Bloody uncial with those obnoxious all-caps. At least that O isn’t the problem child anymore, this time it’s the infuriatingly similar D. Bottom left: italic. Bottom right: Gothic textura, which I’ve not tried before. How about that munted ‘a’?

The map owner, on the other hand, is a foreign businessman whose script should look suitably different. At first I thought of trying some lowercase insular, with its dropped n’s and clublike ascenders, while looking reasonably suitable for a fantasy setting.

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It has its charms, but then I tried Gothic cursive, which nailed what we were trying to achieve.

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Bolded for emphasis!

The best contrast to this was probably the uncial or textura for the cartographer’s script, so Dustin and I went for that. There was one last step though: the writing on the map was much smaller! So I practised going to smaller nibs and smaller sizes:

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That was not overly easy, and of course there’s a limit to how much you can shrink the text, but I’m pretty happy with it. Finally, all that was left was applying it to the map!

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Now with new lettering!

I had a real blast doing this, experimenting with these scripts I’d barely touched before reminded me of why I started learning calligraphy. Sometimes it’s good to get away from the slow, careful practice and just do something different. Props again to Dustin for the work he put into designing this map. (Those moon symbols are particularly mysterious.)

And italics

One of the cool things about calligraphy is while it can be discouraging how bad your efforts are, a bit of practice can provide noticeable improvements, or least improved confidence. In the case of italics, I found out last week (despite actually being told this by my Margaret Shepherd book and then ignoring it) that italics can be practised every day with a regular pen. A broad nib is, it turns out, not necessary to learn the correct counter shapes and forms to write the text. Also, italics are best practised at small sizes because getting the shapes right is a matter of fine hand movements, not broad arm control. These two together mean that I’ve been able to practise during my day while writing on other things. I can prioritize the letter forms I need to learn (usually a’s, e’s, o’s, n’s and b’s, since most other forms are just variations on these) according to what I’m doing.

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This helps me tackle quotes with a bit more confidence.

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Dune’s Litany Against Fear, smudge notwithstanding

The aim is not perfection in itself but getting my hand used to the spirit of the letters. I do think I have a fair way still to go before I’ll be able to write really good italics repeatably, but I feel happy enough with all this that I can move onto (regular!) gothic to expand my basic repertoire a bit more.

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Calligraphy

 

Lowercase italics

Lowercase italics

Continuing in the theme begun by Roman capitals in my last post, I’ve been continuing to practise with italics. In typography these are very often implemented in word processors as simply oblique versions of upright styles, but in cases like this on they are genuine italics – you can tell because the a’s are different. In handwriting, italic script, or chancery cursive, is where italic typeface came from, as you’d expect. It seems that you don’t need to know any roman (properly “humanist” I guess) scripts to learn italic, but I did start with Roman capitals last time because it seems that at least to begin with, italic capitals are just oblique forms of the Romans. The fancy swashes seem to come later.

Practice, practice, practice…

Margaret Shepherd’s book Learn Calligraphy has by far the most exercises for italics compared to the other scripts. These begin with squiggles and swirls, straight lines, very slightly oblique straight lines (5 degrees!), which are amazingly hard to get consistently right by the way, and then onto basic versions of the letter forms themselves.

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I’m taking Ms Shepherd very seriously when she says “rhythm is more important than consistency” for those squiggles

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A variety of exercises from Ms Shepherd’s book. You’re supposed to do two lines of each. The o’s are, of course, not very well done here!

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I feel like I’m going through primary school

At some point you get sick of just doing the straight exercises and do just a small bit of writing. Obviously this should be done in moderation so I’ve got to just keep working at this. Unfortunately over the last few weeks my workload spiked and I’ve not had as much time to give to this but I hope this’ll change soon.

Another thing I like about Margaret Shepherd’s exercises is how they approach the letter forms themselves. The a’s and b’s are really good examples of this:

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The top line is an angular, simplified version of the bottom part of the b. The idea is it teaches the shape of the counter, the space inside the look. The bottom line is the proper version, with the corners softened and the shape smoothed out. The ‘a’ minuscule is just this shape upside down. These forms show up in g’s and p’s and q’s and d’s.

As always, there’s always more work to be done. Here’s me trying desperately to get used to consistently writing at 5 degrees. Being a left-handed overwriter I naturally slant really strongly to the right, and rotating my arm and the paper and learning to write with just the right amount of slant takes a lot of concentration.

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“Dessert”

To treat myself I tried doing an actual bit of writing.

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Dune’s opening line, because why would I pass up an opportunity to quote it?

It’s not lost on me that it looks like the entire purpose of my last post was to prepare for writing the capital “A” in this and nothing else. It did also occur to me to move the ironically misaligned “correct” to hide the fact that my guidelines slipped at the critical last moment without me noticing, but it’s better not to start down that road!

Lastly, since italic is really a cursive script I also should practise my letter joins. Might as well try a swash on the capital while I’m at it…

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I hope in my next post I’ll have some prettier examples. Once you get past the initial hump it’s really fun to see the amount of progress you can make, even though there’s clearly still a long way to go. I’m going to stick with italics for a while, maybe try and write smaller letters. It’d be really nice to incorporate these lessons into my regular handwriting, which is barely legible even to me!

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Calligraphy

 

“戏”说人生之《唐婉》—— 将你从前与我心,付与他人可?

 

我不知道该怎样评价陆游这个男人。男人,诗人,良人,想说他好,便能说出一大堆的好处来,然而若说他不好,也不是无迹可寻。他一生扮演的所有角色,都或多或少有些差强人意。

陆游,字务观,号放翁,南宋文学家、史学家、爱国诗人。这是史书对他正式的评价。他存世的作品,有“无意苦争春,一任群芳妒,零落成泥碾作尘,只有香如故”的傲然与坚贞;有“此生谁料,心在天山,身老沧州”的落寞与悲伤;有“夜阑卧听风吹雨,铁马冰河入梦来”的大气与抱负;还有“溪柴火暖棉粘软,我与狸奴不出门”的俏皮与安然。他是个多面的、立体的人物,因而后人对他评价起来,少了几分猜测,也少了几分浪漫。

越剧似乎特别偏爱陆游,确切的说,是偏爱陆游与唐婉的爱情故事,前前后后搬上舞台的有《陆游与唐婉》《唐婉》《钗头凤》等等,不厌其烦的叙述着这千古爱情。是啊,陆游这样一个才子,怎能缺少一段刻骨铭心的爱情?

陆游与唐婉的八卦从南宋传到如今,一直为人们津津乐道,大抵是因为传世《钗头凤》两首。相传陆游与唐婉少年夫妻、恩爱非常,导致陆游沉迷于闺房之中,不思进取。陆母望子成龙,岂能容忍,因此强迫陆游休妻。据说这陆母是北宋宰相唐介的孙女,说出来也是当时数得上的大家闺秀了,难道没有读过前人所写《孔雀东南飞》,年少时没有痛骂过棒打鸳鸯的焦仲卿之母么?怎的自己后来也扮演了这令人生厌的角色?亦或是为母则强,只要是为了儿子好,背上千古骂名也在所不惜呢?总之陆母强势,陆游懦弱,唐婉则成了炮灰。而后,陆游与唐婉各自嫁娶,时过境迁,二人在沈园不期而遇。在毫无心理准备时遇上少年时最浓烈的一抹色彩和一块伤疤,陆游久久心意难平,挥笔在沈园墙上题《钗头凤》一首:“红酥手,黄藤酒,满城春色宫墙柳。东风恶,欢情薄,一怀愁绪,几年离索,错!错!错!春如旧,人空瘦,泪痕红浥鲛绡透。桃花落,闲池阁,山盟虽在,锦书难托。莫!莫!莫!”才气、伤心与情谊,展露的淋漓尽致,一览无余。

后来唐婉再次来到沈园,看到题词,想起少女时代火热托出的一颗真心所落得的下场,不禁伤心欲绝,遂和诗一首:“世情薄,人情恶,雨送黄昏花易落。晓风干,泪痕残,欲笺心事,独语斜阑。难!难!难!人成各,今非昨,病魂常似秋千索。角声寒,夜阑珊。怕人询问,噎泪装欢。瞒!瞒!瞒!”也有相传此诗并非唐婉亲作,乃后人模仿唐婉语气所和。无论如何,我想这首诗写出了唐婉当时真实的处境与心情,因为此后不久,她便郁郁而终,永远的香消玉殒了。

陆游与唐婉

八卦传至此,听众不禁目瞪口呆。鲁迅曾说,“悲剧就是把美好的东西毁灭给人看。”那陆游与唐婉,实在是一出凄凉的悲剧了。他们虽是才子佳人,却也是置身于当时社会背景下身不由己的伤心人罢了,令人同情与惋惜。我一直不敢苟同“可怜之人必有可恨之处”的说法,因为沧海沉浮、世事难料,太多可怜是无可奈何。但面对陆游与唐婉这千古悲剧,我却不得不说一句,这对可怜之人,果真是有可恨之处了。

戏曲舞台上对陆游与唐婉故事的处理,我最不喜的是《唐婉》中《洞房》一折。陆游与唐婉和离后,在母亲的主持下,再娶妻子王氏。而唐婉似是为了赌气,在同一天(戏曲虚构)再嫁宗室子赵士程(史实)。洞房花烛夜,唐婉面对物是人非,唱:“身在赵家这洞房,难禁我心在陆家那洞房。一样的红烛一样的妆,一样的喜气闹洋洋……当时花烛洞房夜,斯情斯景到眼前。亦曾是红纱头上盖,亦曾是红烛映羞颜。亦曾是相依相偎入罗帐,亦曾是地久天长立誓言。谁知晓,山盟存,海誓在,天地未变人心变……我是无端被休弃,无奈另结缘。”她唱到陆务观,一脸喜色,唱到另结缘,难展愁颜。回想那一天,喧闹的喜宴,耳边响起的,究竟是序曲,还是完结篇……

唐婉在我心目中是个聪慧的女子,由她被陆家休弃后能嫁得名望家室都高于陆家的赵家来看,她的聪慧温婉不仅是后人的浪漫主义幻想,亦是被当时的世人所认可的。这样一个聪明的女孩子,经历过一次婚姻的失败,又怎会把第二次婚姻当做赌气与无可奈何?人,总归是要为自己负责的。《洞房》一折,赵士程还要配合着唐婉的回想在舞台上舞着,作为观众都有些尴尬的不忍直视。她是曾经沧海难为水了,那以大礼迎娶她的赵士程,又算什么?

感情真的很难琢磨,情不知其所起,一往而深。唐婉终身念着陆游,大家也不忍心指责,历史长河中,再嫁之人,又岂止她唐氏蕙仙!相比于唐婉,真正的可怜之人,是春秋时期息国的夫人息妫。她本是息侯的妻子,却被蔡哀侯强占,息侯一怒之下,攻打蔡国。蔡哀侯灭国难抑心头之恨,向楚文王极力描述息妫之美艳不可方物。楚文王闻之心动,灭掉息国,将息妫带回并封为王后。楚文王也是竭力疼惜息妫的,还与她育有两个儿子。然而息妫念着息侯的情谊,虽然在楚国享受恩宠,却始终不愿意开口与楚文王说话。唐代诗人王维怜惜息夫人的为难与尴尬,曾作诗《息夫人》:“莫以今时宠,难忘旧日恩。看花两眼泪,不共楚王言。”

王维以他特有的风光霁月与细腻,体会到了息妫的两难处境:前夫因自己亡国为奴,后夫对自己宠爱有加,还是两个孩子的父亲,不能爱,不能恨,进退维谷,实在尴尬。

息妫几十年如一日的坚持“不共楚王言”,这其中的心酸与坚韧,不足为外人道也!然而即便如此,还是有人称她亡国的祸水,也还是有人说风凉话,这风凉话从春秋一直说到唐朝。诗人杜牧曾作诗嘲讽:“细腰宫里露新桃,脉脉无言几度春。至今息亡缘底事,可怜金谷坠楼人。”杜牧以西晋宠臣石崇的爱妾绿珠反讽息夫人。绿珠为石崇招来杀身之祸,不惜跳楼殉情,而息侯因息夫人灭国,她却苟活世上,可耻可恨!可杜牧这货,自己却是“十年一觉扬州梦”的青楼薄幸人。呵呵。

我一直很同情息夫人。息侯是个真正的男人,因为蔡哀侯欺负息妫,不惜以举国之力攻打。息夫人为他一生默默无言,也是值得了。至于楚文王,实在很难评价。传说,息夫人在某次楚文王出宫时,偷偷潜出,与息侯相会,后来二人双双殉情而亡。而她殉情时,正值桃花盛开,因此民间又称她为桃花夫人。

周作人在评价息夫人时说,“她以倾国倾城的容貌,做了两任王后,她替楚王生了两个儿子,可是没有对楚王说一句话。喜欢和死了的古代美人吊膀子的中国文人,于是大作特作其诗,有的说她好,有的说她坏,各自发挥他们的臭美,然而息夫人的名声也就因此大起来了。老实说,这实在是妇女生活的一场悲剧,不但是一时一地一人的事情,差不多就可以说是妇女全体命运的象征。”是啊 ,“千古艰难惟一死,伤心岂独息夫人!”再嫁,是个难题,却并不是无解。

《陆游与唐婉》以及《钗头凤》中都回避了唐婉与赵士程的婚后生活,或许因为这破坏了陆游与唐婉故事的美好吧,但其实,赵士程与唐婉才是值得大书特书的。赵士程对唐婉的爱,没有陆游来的浓烈,不着色彩,却是润物细无声的。虽然南宋时期礼教还不算吃人,但赵士程娶被休弃的妇人,也是顶着很大的世俗压力的。然而作为一个男人,他默默顶起来了,把唐婉护在他的羽翼之下,在她被世人议论尝尽世态炎凉时,给了她栖身避世的别有洞天。相比陆游,当母亲的不满来临时,他很少为唐婉遮挡什么,让她一个女子,孤身暴露在婆母的狂轰乱炸之下。尤其可笑的是,陆母以唐婉耽误陆游功名为由将其休弃,陆游休妻后果然高中。这其中固然有造化弄人,但是陆游此举,无异于一个耳光打在唐婉的脸面上,印证了陆母出妻的正确性。他其实,很少为唐婉考虑过什么。

据说陆游一辈子都不喜再娶之妻王氏,因为他传世的“六十年间万首诗”中,竟没有一首是写给王氏的,在历史中,王氏也只不过是一个没有名字的、陆游与唐婉爱情的点缀罢了。然而她却为陆游生了七子二女,上敬父母、下抚子女,一生也可谓任劳任怨,却得陆游如此对待,王氏何辜!陆游懦弱无法对抗母亲,难道就该把怨气撒在生儿育女的妻子身上么?王氏亦是这场悲剧的受害者。

陆游与王氏的孩子一个个呱呱坠地,唐婉与赵士程却未育有子女,此时唐婉的处境亦是尴尬万分。又是一年春天桃花盛开,赵士程为开解唐婉,带着她沈园游玩。《唐婉——春》一折,赵士程携爱妻,唱:“十年未改沈园春,我看你是旧景赏来满眼新。这正是天若有情天亦老,何必雪泥鸿爪痕。”唐婉和:“人不能老是沉湎于过去,唐婉自蒙不弃,八年来伉俪情深,好似一梦”。聪明的唐婉,在赵士程的呵护下,已是十年踪迹十年心,终于重沐爱情。据说,一份出土于敦煌莫高窟的唐朝和离书上写着:“愿娘子相离之后,重梳婵鬓,美扫峨眉,巧呈窈窕之姿,选聘高官之主。解冤释结,更莫相憎。一别两宽,更生欢喜。” 唐婉虽然再嫁,与息妫却是不同。息侯并未背叛过息夫人,楚文王属于强夺人妻。而陆游无所作为,赵士程却默默呵护。因而唐婉有了新的爱情也无不可告人之处,大路朝天,各走一边。我断不思量,你莫思量我!

谁知天意弄人,竟在这其乐融融的沈园,又遇陆游。赵士程是个谦谦君子如兰,他对妻子满心的敬重,得遇故人,他还爽快的让唐婉去敬陆游一杯酒,自己贴心的回避。十年一梦,陆游与唐婉也该对有缘无分的曾经做一了断了。桃之夭夭,灼灼其华,之子于归,宜室宜家。如今在这绚烂的桃花下,他们也终该明白,唐婉的良人,是赵士程。

《陆游与唐婉》中,陆游其实并没有与唐婉过多的说些什么,只是看到了昔日比翼之人,与他人伉俪情深,刺激之下,挥笔写下《钗头凤》。而越剧《钗头凤》中,陆游向唐婉抱怨了怀才不遇以及奸臣当朝,唐婉则开口鼓励他建功立业,“往日已矣莫后悔,来日方长尚可追。十年一遇又别去,表兄你舒展愁眉再一杯。”这略显官方的对话,抹去了陆游唐婉特殊的关系与性格。在我的想象中,唐婉应该高举酒杯,潇洒劝陆游:“还将旧时意,怜取眼前人……”我宁愿她,是真的放下了。“我的故事,已另写一章。你的作品,是否也有新的开头?我们碰杯的时候,再没有像从前那样,碰出火花。却把记忆,碰缺了口。”钗头凤

陆游永远是那个长不大的孩子,怨天尤人。十年了,沧海桑田,他依然没有成长起来。更可笑的是,他一时兴起,将对他人妻子的爱慕写在人人可观瞻游玩的沈园墙壁上,已经平息十年的流言又平地一声风波起。与其说唐婉是被勾起旧情郁郁而死,不如说她是被陆游的一首《钗头凤》逼死的。赵士程君子般回避,陆游却公示世人,让大家随意猜测与幻想他们在沈园的桃色故事。礼教再松散,人格与体面也是不容流言蜚语猜疑的。唐婉枯萎而死,赵士程终身不娶。而陆游活到85岁,临终一首《示儿》写给最小的儿子。二人情深情浅,高下立判。

呜呼哀哉,唐婉与陆游,其实本该各自幸福。

海誓山盟是一段感情的必然结果。没有人逼迫恋人互许誓言,誓言却是情到深处的自然流露。因此一对信誓旦旦的有情人,在许诺的当下,都是无比真挚的。可世事难料,或天灾、或人祸、或等闲变却故人心,种种原因导致相爱之人不能相守。既是如此,人生漫长,风景各处,与君同舟渡,达岸各自归。放过他,重新给自己一次幸福的机会。

双桨浪花平,夹岸青山锁。你自归家我自归,说着如何过?我断不思量,你莫思量我。将你从前与我心,付与他人可!

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Roman Capitals and The Odious O’s

Roman Capitals and The Odious O’s

Practice

Since my last entry I’ve had a bit of a change in direction with learning calligraphy – specifically, it’s going to take some pretty disciplined practice to get my lettering consistent. I think this is really the core of my issue with uncial and why I’ve had such little success with it, as well as why my Gothic is inconsistent.

So I decided to work on getting very comfortable with italic, and do it consistently, and then move on to regular Gothic scripts, before I tackle Batarde again, or indeed move onto any insular scripts. To help with this I followed The Calligraphy Pen’s general advice and got a book by Margaret Shepherd titled Learning Calligraphy on Kindle. This is a very readable book and in a lot of ways less obscure than Julien Chazal’s book, which I’ve been using up till now. For one thing, she pretty clearly addresses the issue fingers vs arm: keep everything free, but for small motions use your fingers, and for large motions use your arm. This seems blindingly obvious when you say it out loud and I’m a bit embarrassed for having been confused on the issue before, but there you go.

To learn the capitals of italic, it looks like one should first learn the Roman capitals. Once again I’m a bit annoyed with Mr Chazal, who was all “you’d better not start learning Roman capitals until you’re super good with everything else!” while it’s the first thing Margaret Shepherd talks about. To be sure, I’ve made the mistake of taking an author too closely at their word before, namely with Mr Chazal, and there is a thing or two about Margaret Shepherd’s that I think I’d rather get a second opinion on. But her style of teaching is very similar to Vance Studley’s book, and since the script styles she teaches are not particularly exotic (although, painfully, they do include uncial) I’ll go with her for the time being.

In the interest of obtaining consistency, why not begin with the dreaded O’s? For this I decided to undertake the boring but clearly necessary task of just writing whole pages of the bloody things. Here’s one:

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A page of Roman capital O’s

I did this with a 2mm Brause nib at a module of 8 nib widths, and a pen angle of 20 degrees (I drew a 20 degree line in the top right to keep checking I wasn’t unconsciously changing my angle). As you can see it’s hardly perfectly consistent. When I complained about this to Sophie and wondered aloud if I’d be practising O’s my whole life she came as close to scoffing as I’ve ever heard her get, and told me I’d only done this for like, one night so stop complaining. In any case I feel a bit better about the inconsistency since even in Ms Shepherd’s book the O’s she presents are not exactly consistent.

Hopefully I won’t have to do pages and pages of every letter in the alphabet for every script I ever learn, but something tells me it will indeed come to that, and that it’s the cost of learning an art. Well, so be it!

Ms Shepherd wants the reader to be able to write S’s smoothly varying the pen from a 20 degree to a 45 degree angle, which I’ve not seen either Messrs Chazal or Studley say, so I’ll take it under further advisement for the time being but if it’s true I’ll probably have to practise those even more than the O’s (excuse the rhyme!). In the meantime it’s probably ok to reward myself with writing a few words in all-caps.

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Roman capitals. I still have consistency issues but I feel better equipped to diagnose and deal with them them.

New ink

I recently got my hands on some Speedball Super Black India ink, and it’s definitely super black. It’s a lot thicker than the Higgins Eternal, and although Mr Chazal says “never to use it in pens” because it’ll congeal, I simply don’t believe him and went ahead anyway, especially since india inks like this appear to be commonly used in dip pens (definitely not fountain pens though). The Calligraphy Pen does suggest staying away from india inks with shellac (a binding agent) in them, probably for the same reason Mr Chazal recommends against them actually, but there’s no indication to me that Speedball’s formulation has any. To be safe I clean the pen immediately after using it anyway.

This ink really lasts, and it’s really black, which is just what I want. Although Higgins Eternal flows easily and is easy to clean, it shows clear lightness gradients especially in the larger modules along with a tendency to pool at the bottom of each stroke; I figure the Higgins is good for practice and the Indian ink for finished work. Since I’m doing pretty heavy practice now I don’t have much occasion to use the Indian (although the sample above is in Indian), but I look forward to being able to letter with it once I’m a bit more competent. Here is a small comparison of the two inks in some Batarde I did a while ago:

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Batarde Gothic with the top written in Higgins Eternal and the bottom with Speedball India ink. Letter consistency aside, I think the tendency for the ink to pool at the bottoms of strokes is really obvious in the top one and while it’s still there in the bottom, the strokes are much more evenly inked.

That’s it for now – in my next post I’ll talk about lowercase italics.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Calligraphy

 

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《Honey&娘子》九:取名

《Honey&娘子》九:取名

虽然离为人父母这件事情还有一定的距离,但是这从不妨碍我和W闲暇之时讨论孩子的名字。这一讨论不要紧,一下就暴露了我们在取名这件事情南辕北辙的三观以及不可调和的文化差异。

我们中国人的姓氏不外乎百家姓中的几个,想要名字响亮而独特,就必要在这“名”上下功夫。这个世界上让我第一个为之惊艳的名字是外婆的。外婆姓“叶”,听说这是满族姓氏“叶赫那拉”转换而来的。要说都是百家姓,有些姓氏却自带气质,比如萧(大侠),比如段(帅哥),“叶”是自带萧索与沧桑的姓氏,一叶落知天下秋。外婆闺名“秋月”,前面冠以“叶”姓,野旷天低树,江清月近人,一个人就是一首诗。相比之下祖母以花为名,似是略俗气了些,然而这花也不是凡花,是被李易安称赞为“梅定妒,菊应羞,画栏开处冠中秋”的花中一流。每次两位老人同框,我脑海里都忍不住飘过“花容月貌”等成语。“春花秋月”四个意象,她俩就占去三个。

对于给下一代赐名这件事情,我总是在诗情画意与搞笑逗比之间摇摆。和W异地的日子里,我想给爱的寄托起一个能诉说无尽相思的名字。

“青青子衿,悠悠我心。纵我不往,子宁不嗣音?青青子佩,悠悠我思。纵我不往,子宁不来?”我对W说,以后有了儿子,就叫子衿,有了女儿,就叫子佩。W问,子衿是什么意思?我犹豫半天,不得不据实以告,“子衿嘛……就是你的衣领。”

W:

250px-nicky

既然寓意对他来说有点复杂,我随即表示退让,大名可以再考虑,但不论男娃女娃,小名都可以叫红豆,此物最相思呵。

然而我眼中的红豆:

hongdou

W眼中的红豆:

e735d3d929ce1ab4572bb048cd0c4cc2

他深表疑惑,“那不是一种酱么?”

我:

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不过相思虽说难熬,但它的奇特之处就在于一旦团圆,往日的伤痛就随风而散了。欲将离恨寻郎说,待得郎归恨却休。有时候我也想,说不定待到有娃,我这文艺女青年的病也好了,也不需要取如此文艺腔的名字了。

我给孩子取名的另一条思路其实是有些乡土气息的,因为我对农业社会的团团圆圆、以及一切象征团圆的事物有着特殊的执念。因此“饭团儿”“汤圆儿”以及皮薄陷大、白里透红的“饺子”“馄饨”都在我的考虑范围之内。我想象中的孩子一定是白白胖胖的。W对此类名字一概否决,不过大方表示了以后允许我养两条狗,这名字给狗用。我告知他,狗的名字我中学时期就想好了,要叫“卢瑟福”,英文名Rutherford。这是我在某堂物理课上迸发的灵感: 卢瑟福是成功证实原子中心有原子核并提出“行星模型”的继法拉第之后最伟大的实验物理学家。我当时就决定以后要养一条聪明的狗,就叫卢瑟福。至于为什么不叫法拉第,是因为这名字被我同桌先一步抢走了,况且,有一只小名叫“阿福”的狗,也确实挠到了我心里的痒处。

W不解极了,“你的狗叫卢瑟福,你的儿子叫馄饨?!”

5628dd6ecd9fa100f371_size30_w521_h534

W给孩子起名的原则是:不能在学校中被其他同学嘲笑。天知道年幼的他曾经经历了什么。因此他取的名字都非常平庸,如Brian。我表示,允许他养一只叫Brian的猫。当然,作为家族的传承,在W家,长子嫡孙是要继承爷爷的名字,人伦代际之间传递着一个家族的兴旺与发展。可是!W的爸爸叫Albertus Bernandus Mostert. 真的不会被同学嘲笑么?况且对着儿子直呼长辈的名字,想想也非常别扭。然而嫁鸡随鸡,既然这是家族传统,我也从善如流。不过还是费了很多口舌跟W讲“为尊者讳”以及中国人取名避讳跟长辈重字的规矩。

W觉得甚是不可思议,上下五千年那么多代祖宗,可不是把字儿都用完了么?为了不重名还得自己造字?

我笑他,小哥儿你也太低估我中华文字了。

W锲而不舍,“就算不是把所有的字用完了,那寓意好的字总用的差不多了。难道子孙要叫‘病’、‘灾’这些不好的字么?”

小哥儿脑子又不拐弯了,“为什么不可以?前面再加一个字就可以啦,霍去病,辛弃疾,这都是无比大气的名字啊!”被他这么一搅合,又打开了我新的思路。苏轼曾与46岁时写诗《洗儿》:人皆养子望聪明,我被聪明误一生。惟愿孩儿愚且鲁,无灾无难到公卿。”我虽不觉得自己是聪明之人,更谈不上被聪明耽误,但是却是没有多少望子成龙的心态的。有时我甚至有些相信情深不寿、慧极必伤这些话,想养一个郭靖一样的老实孩子。无灾、无难,这便是我的殷殷期望,也可入名。W心累的表示,你高兴就好。

虽然就这个话题很难达成一致,我们却总是不自觉地回到这个话题,见到好听好看的名字都会记下来,又在激烈的讨论中被枪毙。我一直有一种不祥的预感,待到真的需要名字的那一天,我们会因为无法决定而随口诹一个名字,却要伴随孩子一生。有点同情我们将来的娃!

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

“Taking up arms” and Batarde Gothic

“Taking up arms” and Batarde Gothic

The hardest part of learning calligraphy has definitely been getting the right posture, because I tend to slouch when I write. Also, like pretty much everyone I know I write only by moving my fingers. But apparently you’re supposed to at least free your wrist, elbow, and shoulder (??). One site I found seems to imply you shouldn’t move your fingers at all, and write from the shoulder!

It’s not clear how seriously to take this. There’s at least one thread on the Fountain Fen Network about it, and people there are a bit incredulous about the idea of not moving your fingers at all. But it does look like you can get a happy medium where your whole arm is free to move, and your fingers do the fine control. So my biggest task, other than learning the scripts in calligraphy, is to consciously try to get used to this kind of motion.

Actually, it’s great for every script I’ve tried except for bloody uncial, which continues to be the bane of my calligraphic existence. In the sample below you can see that by the end my hand was pretty much giving up. It could be because the script isn’t clear if it wants to be rounded or straight, and so the hand has to work extra hard to be precise. If I try to reduce the action of my fingers and increase the role of my arm, my circles turns into triangles. Triangles!

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Uncial: the Voldemort to my Lily Potter. Look at those awful Os!

Batarde gothic

I’m not willing to give up on uncial or derivatives of it, and I’d love to get going on some insular scripts at some point. But first I’ve been trying to get really nice and comfortable with Batarde gothic. I really like this script because it has an elegant logic to it, and as Julien Chazal puts it, a certain “whimsy”. It’s not as awfully regular as the more well-known gothic scripts like Textura, and I can see why Mr Chazal recommends it over the other scripts: I guess maybe it kind of forces you to be aware of the forms and how they fit together rather than following a strict ductus that doesn’t allow enough imagination to understand the script.

Anyway, I have a lot of fun with it. In the course of writing this I also found out firsthand why it’s important to “follow the module” – that is, to write the right letter size for the nib width.

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Heraclitus. 2mm nib with the right module

The above picture is the right module: four nib widths to an x, and reasonable (though I didn’t measure them precisely) ascenders and descenders. The text looks reasonable dense but not overpowering, but as you’d expect the left-to-right spacing contributes as well. However:

IMG_7176

Also Heraclitus, obviously. 2mm nib but with module too large

According to Sophie, this looks “comical”, which may also just be a reflection of my general skill level at this point. Here the module was something like six or maybe seven nib-widths to the x, and the letters look far more… anaemic. Higgins Eternal ink not coming through with a nice black finish isn’t helping either. But this is how you learn I guess!

The other thing I love about Batarde gothic, and I guess this is really true for any calligraphic script, is how it really looks better at a distance in a block of text. Again, this may just be because distance obscures errors, but I think this gothic in particular has a sense of mystique around it.

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Gothic batarde, somewhere in the middle of John 1

So that’s it for now! I’ll keep practising this guy, return a bit to uncial whenever I can sum up the courage, and think about learning lowercase insular. On that path, my goal is eventually Irish half-uncial. In the far distance I see gothic cursive, that illegible but sexy monolith of scripts…

 

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Calligraphy

 

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