A Deeper Analysis of Calligraphy – The Alphabet


On February 24, 2013 I wrote a post titled,”Ladders, Angles and Drills Oh My!”  Where I covered some basic terms, ladders, pen angles and some basic drills.  I included a picture that had the uncial alphabet written with 2 different pen angles.The other two posts are on doing pen ladders; and on drills, warm-ups and analyzing them.

Today, we will get more in depth with the picture and how to analyze calligraphy.  I will be making three posts so that each part can be looked at by itself and thereby won’t run the risk of being information overload.  The end goal being that you will be able to start analyzing your own (and perhaps other’s’) work so that you can see what you are doing well at, and what you can improve upon.  I cut up the picture I took and we will be using that familiar picture as we move forward.

Any picture you see you can click on and get a larger image of it.  You will probably want to take advantage of doing that.  I can only make the pictures so large on this page before they become distorted.

I’m pretty sure some of you already found some of the errors and problems from that picture.  Good for you!  Now I’m going to expose those errors to everyone.  Many of these errors were on purpose, some were not.

Analyzing the Alphabet:

Now we’re going to take what we learned in the “Drills and Warm-ups” post and put it to us analyzing how I did with the alphabet.

Analyizing the Alphabet

This is the Uncial script.  It is a majuscule script meaning that it has no minuscule letter forms.  Or for those not familiar with the term, no “lower case,” letter.  “Lower case,” is typing term where mechanical means are used to put a letter in place not a calligraphy term.  Uncial is generally done with a 30 degree pen angle and the x height is between three and five nib widths high.

Click on the thumbnail of the picture to get the larger picture.

Letter a:  The upper a is just fine.  The lower a however has a rounded top to it.  In uncial it should not be rounded.  It should be square.  The solution is to take one’s time to make the stroke(s) correctly.  In this case I hurried the process and “cut the corner” creating a curve.

Letter b: Both the top and bottom line “b”s have the same problem. The connection to the bottom stroke is off just a little bit.  This will actually show up pretty well, so make sure you end your connection strokes where they should be.

Letter c: The top letter has a connection problem.

Letter d: Both are good.  Take the time to look at how the pen angle makes each letter look different.

Letter e: Both are good.  Take the time to look at how the pen angle makes each letter look different.

Letter f: The top f is leaning forward.  What is the solution to this?

Letter g:  Yes, that is an uncial letter g.  Both are good.  Take the time to look at how the pen angle makes each letter look different.

Letter h: The bottom letter h leans forward ever so slightly, but compared to the letter h above it, its is noticeable. And it will be to others as well.

Letter i: Both are leaning forward.

Letter j: The bottom one is leaning forward.

Letter k: The bottom one is leaning forward.

Letter l: The bottom one is leaning forward.

Letter m: Take a look.  Those are the strokes of a a curve to the left and the curve to the right and they are not making the letter “o”.  I wanted to point this out to you.  Both are good.  Take the time to look at how the pen angle makes each letter look different.

Letter n: The bottom one has a missed connection stroke on the last stroke.

Letter o: The bottom one has a flat spot on it. This comes from not rounding the stroke properly.  Take your time to get to where you need to be.

Letter p: In Uncial the letter p does not close at the bottom.  The bottom p leans forward.

Letter q: Yes that is an uncial q.  Both are good.  Take the time to look at how the pen angle makes each letter look different.

Letter r: Bottom letter r leans forward slightly

Letter s: Both are good.  Take the time to look at how the pen angle makes each letter look different.

Letter t: The bottom letter t leans backwards.  Same solution as if it was leaning forward.

Letter u: Both are good.  Take the time to look at how the pen angle makes each letter look different.

Letter x: Both are good.  Take the time to look at how the pen angle makes each letter look different.

Letter y: Both are good.  Take the time to look at how the pen angle makes each letter look different.

I hope this quick look through has helped you to see common mistakes and that this series of posts has helped you to see mistakes and more important what you might need to do to fix them.

7 responses to “A Deeper Analysis of Calligraphy – The Alphabet

  1. Pingback: The Humanist Script – Manuscript Analysis – basic | scribescribbling·

  2. Very nice, detail.🙂 Have you tried other nibs? I found Speedball to be stiff and scratchy on paper. I use Brause Nibs. I’d be happy to loan you some if you don’t have them. Paper also makes a difference. Very Nice article, thank you for sharing.🙂

    • I use brause, speedball and mitchell nibs.

      For paper my default is Bristol Vellum. Of course I prefer Arches Hot press when it comes to paper but my checkbook prefers I don’t. I can use Arches cold press but only the smooth side. I have other papers I use as well. I prefer to use Pergamenata but again my checkbook disagrees. And then there is of course parchment and well I don’t even talk to my checkbook about that!

  3. The analysis of the exercise is a most useful tool. It can be difficult for new calligraphers to recognize what it is that’s “off” though. This is what makes working with a live teacher so useful in the beginning (though by no means 100% critical). Thanks for sharing your process and tools.

  4. Pingback: Ladders, Angles, and Drills Oh My! | scribescribbling·

  5. Pingback: A Deeper Analysis of Calligraphy – Drills and Warm-ups | scribescribbling·

  6. Pingback: A Deeper Analysis of Calligraphy – Pen Ladders | scribescribbling·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s