Keep Learning! Keep Practicing! Keep Going!

I know you’re eager to learn and master Copperplate and/or Spencerian script — we all are!

The truth is: learning takes time.

This applies to anything worth learning — may it be a musical instrument, knitting, Jiu-Jitsu.  Learning a script is no different.  We have to put in the time and the effort.

BEGINNERS

If you’ve just started, don’t be too hard on yourself.  “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” as they say.  Script is one of those things.  It isn’t mastered in a day… or a week… or a month (well, unless you hideout in a cave for a month and do nothing but study and practice all day long!)

Learning a script takes hours of study and practice.  And even those who are proficient in the script are continuously learning and finding ways to improve their existing script.

KEEP GOING

I once heard someone give a speech about how you shouldn’t aim to be the “best.”  Instead, aim to keep getting “better.” The speaker went on to say that by being the “best” means you’ve stopped trying to be better — what a great insight!

I’ve been at it (Copperplate Script) for over a year-and-a-half and I’m constantly learning new things.  New things to improve.  New things to try.  So many things!

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My script at the beginning of my Copperplate journey (January 2015) and my script from a couple of months ago (June 2016). Still learning everyday!

My mentor and friend Ate Gail (@the_md_writes) always says, “The learning never stops.” She’s so right!

Though I feel like I’ve come a long way from January 2015, I know that I still have a ways to go and that’s ok.  I’m enjoying every bit of the process.

Even if you think you’ve got a handle on this script, don’t settle.  Keep at it.  Keep studying.  Keep practicing.  Keep learning.  Keep getting better.

Happy writing!

Your Pointed-Pen Companion,
Nina

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

 

3 Reasons Why You Should Do Drill Exercises

When I first picked up a pointed pen, I had never heard of drills.  In fact, I didn’t even know what copperplate calligraphy was!  All I knew was that I wanted to write pretty.  I figured that a little practice would make me better, but I didn’t know how to practice.

For the  first 2 months, I practiced by writing whole words and full sentences.  No matter how often and how frequent I practiced, I wasn’t seeing much improvement in my letterforms.  It wasn’t until I started doing drill exercises that I began to see drastic improvement in my script.  (Thanks, Ate Gail Madalag, for telling me about drills!)

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A comparison of my calligraphy before I knew about drills and how to study (top) and after months of studying and doing drill exercises (bottom).

In this blog, I’ll tell you why drills are important and why I highly recommend them.  In the upcoming posts, I’ll share tips on how to study and how to do drill exercises.

WHAT is a DRILL?

Learning copperplate requires patience, diligent study, and deliberate practice.

A drill is a deliberate practice of drawing the same stroke or sequence of strokes repeatedly to develop brain and muscle memory, and to practice drawing consistent strokes and letterforms.

In time, drill exercises will help you memorize how the stroke looks, how it feels when you draw them, when to apply pressure and when to release pressure, how much pressure to apply, etc.

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A drill exercise of compound curves.

Drills are integral to your copperplate calligraphy learning experience.

3 Reasons Why You Should Do Drills

1. Drills build a strong foundation

As beginners, we may have the urge to start writing  words and sentences immediately.  However, our success in learning this script really weighs heavily on the groundwork we create.

The deliberate practice of drill exercises will help you to slow down and build a strong foundation — which, in turn, will speed up your learning experience.

2. Drills help you Focus and Break it down

Copperplate script is drawn one stroke at a time and so it makes sense to learn it the same way: one stroke at a time.

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The lowercase A is composed of 3 strokes. This photo shows the series of drills that make up the letter ‘a’.

Drills help you to focus on each stroke — what it looks like, how it’s drawn, when and where pressure is applied and released, etc.  Once you learn the basic strokes, you’ll find it easy to compose the letterforms and words.

3. Drills Develop Brain and Muscle Memory

Learning copperplate requires both conscious and physical effort.  Drills are a great way to train our mind and our body to work together.

Whenever we do anything repetitive, we form habits — so make sure you practice your drills accurately and as true to the exemplar as you can.

Drills will help you memorize what a strokes and letterforms look like how it feels when you draw it.  Soon enough, you’ll be able to create identical and consistent strokes without much effort.

Notes:
  • Practice makes progress.
  • Your drills will improve over time along with your script.
  • Drills are a great way to warm up before writing.
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A comparison of one of my very first drill exercises (top) and a recent one (bottom).

Although drills may seem tedious at first, I urge you to do them and to stick with them.

Drill exercises are an essential part of learning copperplate script.  They’ll help you create a strong foundation for your script and will help you learn more quickly than if you skipped them — I’m speaking from experience here.

Over the next few posts, I’ll share tips on how to study and how to do drills.  Stay tuned!

Happy Writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,

Nina

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Three Ways to Prevent Ink Blobs

Ink blobs can make Copperplate practice a frustrating and messy experience.  I find that the best way to deal with them is to prevent them.

WHAT IS AN INK BLOB?

An ink blob is a small pool or bead of ink that collects within or on top of  shaded strokes.

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Red arrows indicate ink blobs. It’s hard to see the globule on the right ‘a’, but trust me, it’s a tiny blob of ink.

WHAT CAUSES INK TO BLOB?

To prevent these globules form occurring, let’s identify what causes them.

From my experience, ink blobs happen when:

  1. The nib has not been properly prepared.
  2. There isn’t enough ink on the nib.
  3. There’s too much ink on the nib.

 

HOW TO PREVENT INK BLOBS

Preventing ink blobs is easy.  If you keep these things in mind, you’ll minimize your ink blob experience.

1. PREPARE YOUR NIB

Unprepared nibs tend to cause ink to form globules.

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See the ink collecting on the tines of the nib?  When the ink unevenly adheres to the nib like this, they sometimes transfer on to the paper in globs.

Preparing your nib before you use it is very important.  During manufacturing, nibs are coated with a clear protective varnish that keeps them from rusting while in storage.  Removing this coating will help the ink adhere to the nib evenly.

Protective coating may be removed with dish washing detergent or toothpaste

Removing the varnish using toothpaste.

To learn how to prepare your nibs, click here.

2. LOAD ENOUGH INK ONTO YOUR NIB

Dip your pen in your ink well just past the vent hole.

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Dip your nib in your ink well past the vent hole.

If your nib doesn’t have enough ink, the ink may pool at the very top of your stroke due to the cohesion properties of liquid.

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Left: Nib not dipped deep enough. Right: Nib dipped past the vent hole.

3. REMOVE EXCESS INK FROM YOUR NIB
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Overloaded nibs will look like this. The ink will swell on the top and underside of the nib.

If your nib is overloaded with ink, the excess ink may drip, gush out of the nib upon contact with the paper or when you open your tines, causing a mess and possibly ruining your project.

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Remove excess ink from your nib.

To get rid of excess ink, carefully run the side of your nib (shoulder to tip) along the inner rim of your ink well once or twice.  The excess ink from your nib will run down the side of the jar.

This is especially helpful when using thin inks like Higgins Eternal black ink, Yasutomo sumi ink, and Daiso sumi ink.

 

Easy fixes, right?

Ink blobs don’t need to be a part of your practice sheets or final projects.  These 3 simple tips should help keep your Copperplate experience to a minimum.

Happy Writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,

Nina

 

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Check out my Instagram for regular tips and tutorials as well.

My Favorite Nibs

I’m often asked about the tools I use and which ones I would recommend to someone who is just starting to practice Copperplate.  In a previous post, I wrote about what every beginner needs to get started.  Today, I’m going to share with you a list of my favorite nibs.

Now, I haven’t tried too many nibs.  But what I’ve listed below are the ones I love and use regularly.  Each one is unique in size, color, shape, flexibility, and sharpness.  As rule of thumb when determining the characteristics of a nib: the sharper the tip, the finer the hairlines; and the more flexible the tines, the thicker the shades.

 

My Favorite nibs

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Left to right: Spencerian no. 1, Hunt 101, Zebra G, Nikko G, Tachikawa G, and Brause Steno 361

I’ve been a big fan of the medium flex G nibs for quite some time, but I’m warming up to the more flexible ones like the Hunt 101.  One of the requirements I have for choosing a nib involves how smooth it glides on the upstrokes because I seem to have rather heavy hands.  Hence, as of July 29, 2015, the nibs featured in this post are a little bit on the dull side, with the exception of the Hunt 101.

Top to bottom: Nikko G, Tachikawa G, Zebra G, Brause Steno 361, Hunt 101, Spencerian no. 1.

Top to bottom: Nikko G, Tachikawa G, Zebra G, Brause Steno 361, Hunt 101, Spencerian no. 1.

1.  Nikko G, Tachikawa G, and Zebra G

By default, the G nibs are my go-to pens.  The Nikko G, Tachikawa G, and Zebra G are medium flex and are stiffer than most of the nibs that I’ve tried.  However, I’ve found that with regular use, they become more flexible.  What I love about these nibs is their longevity and the smooth upstrokes.

The Zebra G is the sharpest and most flexible of the three.  I can see it becoming the go-to G nib.

2.  Brause Steno 361

The Brause Steno 361, aka “Blue Pumpkin”, is a beginner-friendly nib.  It’s more flexible than the G nibs, but it isn’t quite as sharp — which makes those upstrokes really smooth.  For this reason, it’s a great nib for those who are picking up a pointed pen for the first time.  Don’t count on this for fine hairlines though.

3.  Hunt 101

Unlike the G nibs and the Brause Steno 361, the Hunt 101 is sharp and has a softer flex, which can achieve fine hairlines and thick shades.  Because of its sharp tip, it is likely to snag on the paper fibers on upstrokes.

4.  Spencerian No. 1

The Spencerian No. 1 is an awesome vintage nib.  If I were Goldilocks, then this nib would probably belong to Baby Bear – it’s “just right”.  It’s incredibly smooth on the upstrokes and has the right level of flexibility — which, for me, would be between the G nibs and a Hunt 101.  Oh, how I love this nib!

 

Which nibs should you choose?

The nibs you choose will be the ones that achieve your style of copperplate script.  You may choose the ones that can draw the finest hairlines and thickest shades.  Or you may have an affinity for the medium-flex G nibs, or the sharper and more flexible Hunt nibs because you’ve had good experiences with them.  Maybe you have a deep love for the vintage nibs and prefer those over any other.  Only you know what nib you like and enjoy using.

The only way to find out which nibs are “right” for you is to test some out.  My review of these nibs may be completely different from yours.  So test out a few and get a feel for what characteristics you like in a nib.  You’ll naturally gravitate toward the ones that suit your skill level and your copperplate style.

Happy writing!

Your Copperplate Companion,
Nina

 

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What is a Nib?

In my previous post, I mentioned that nibs are one of the basic tools you need.  There are two main types of nibs: 1) broad, square-cut nibs; and 2) pointed nibs.  For Copperplate script, we use pointed nibs that vary in shape, size, and flexibility.

Pointed Nibs

WHAT IS A NIB?

A nib is the removable, sharp-pointed steel part of a dip pen.  Nibs, sometimes also referred to as pens, vary in shape, size, color, and flexibility.

Nib Anatomy

Anatomy of a Hunt 22 Nib

Tip – The sharpest part of the nib is the tip.  This is the point that comes in contact with the paper.

Slit – The slit divides the two tines in half from the vent hole to the tip.  The slit allows for ink to flow down to the paper via capillary action.

Tines – Tines are the two prongs that split open (flex) when pressure is applied to the tip of the nib.  When relaxed, the points of the tines make up the tip of the nib.  The flexibility of the tines and the amount of pressure you apply to the tip of your nib will determine the thickness of your shades.

Shoulder – The shape and characteristic of the shoulders affect the flexibility of the tines.  You may have noticed the slits on some of the the shoulders of your nibs.  Sometimes it’s a thin, barely-visible slit and other times it’s an obvious cut; these add to the flexibility factor of the nibs.  The width of the shoulders may also be something to not (or not).  Wide shoulders may be indicative of a stiff nibs (e.g. Tachikawa Manuscript nib).  Some of the more flexible nibs may be quite narrow (e.g. Brause EF66).

Vent Hole – The vent hole is a small hole that terminates the slit, which help prolong the life of the nib by acting as a sort of shock-absorber to the tension created when tines are flexed.  Without it, nibs would have a higher probability of splitting in half lengthwise.  Here’s more good news about the vent hole: it also acts as a reservoir for ink.

Body – The stiff body is inserted securely into the penholder.  This is the main support of the nib — supporting the tines as they flex and relax.

Nib ID – These imprinted words and numbers on the body of the nib help you to identify which nib is which.  In time, you’ll come to recognize and identify the nibs by their shape, color, and size; however, if you’re new to the world of nibs or if you own nibs that look identical (e.g. Nikko G and Tachikawa G, Hunt 22 and Hunt 99, etc.), this bit of information comes in handy.

Base – I’ve got nothin’ on the base except for it’s the end of the nib that’s inserted into the penholder ;).

WHICH NIBS SHOULD I USE?

Different Kinds of Nibs

You may be wondering why there are so many different kinds of nibs.  Not all nibs are created equal.  Different nibs accomplish different tasks.  For instance, more flexible nibs can create thicker shades and the sharper ones can achieve finer hairlines.  What nib you use solely depends on your script style and what you’re trying to achieve.

If you’re new to Copperplate or don’t know much about nibs, try out a few different kinds. A couple of nibs that I recommend to my students are the Nikko G and the Brause Steno 361 – which are medium in sharpness and flexibility.  They also seem to glide across the paper on the upstrokes.  I also like the Hunt 22 and the Hunt 101 – which are sharper, more flexible, and create thinner hairlines.  If you’re looking for super sharp and super flexible, the Brause EF66* is your nib.  Perhaps the Gillot 303 is the sharpest and most flexible of them all.

*The Brause EF66 does not fit into the plastic Speedball penholders because its size.

In time, you’ll develop your own Copperplate style.  You’ll have your own preference in slant angle, thickness of the shades, letterform ratios, etc.  You’ll naturally start to gravitate toward specific nibs that can accomplish your script style.

Thanks for reading.  Happy writing!

 

Your Copperplate Companion,
Nina