Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February 2, 2015 - Sinai Temple Class #3 - Fraktur

Today DeAnn reviewed the homework and addressed letter spacing issues. Then she demonstrated writing the capital Fraktur letters.

DeAnn first reviewed some lowercase letters.

Lowercase e:  one pen-width below the waist-line, write a beak serif. Go back and fill in the space. Then the last stroke. Do the same beak serif when writing the “c”.

Alternate a, d, and o with the beak serif:

Another “a”:

Alternate “k”:

o :  should be symmetrical around the vertical axis. If you look at it upside down, it should look the same.

Don’t make the “u” too wide – it should be the same width as your “n”.

b, f, h, l :  start the vertical stroke with a tiny bit of curve at the ascender, to smooth the transition of the hairline.

The GOAL is to make the white spaces even.

Spacing Issues:  Highlight the white space in your writing to compare the volumes of the space between letters. You can always touch or overlap letters as needed to improve the spacing.

The word “freezing” is difficult because of the open spaces in e & z:
To  improve spacing, try this alternate “z” even if it isn’t historically accurate.

Increase letter spacing overall if you have an unavoidable gap, which often happens with a “z”. (prizes)

Exercise:  write your name in all lowercase letters with flourishing if you can. Try stacking your names for artistic effect.

Then DeAnn demonstrated the capital Fraktur letters. Capitals are 7 pen-widths in height, so they go from the base to the ascender. Even though they aren’t much taller than the lowercase letters, their width makes them standout. The pen angle is slightly flatter, at 40-degrees, so that the downstrokes are thicker. Study the exemplar and the ductus or stroke sequence. Some of the letters have strokes that can be written in 2 strokes or 1 (noted below).

TIP:  never use these capitals together for a word in all-capitals!

Notes on individual letters:

A:  DeAnn realizes that this capital doesn’t look like a current capital “A”, but she says “be cool and accept that this is the Fraktur A”. Start with a big oval. You can write the 2nd stroke separately, or as a continuation of the first.

Serif on the A:  add an s-shaped serif on the first stroke at the end.

Alternate A :  For those who can’t stand the Fraktur A, an alternate letterform is provided (see end of exemplar). Note that the alternate stroke 3 is diagonal, not straight up and down like the classic form.

Other capitals with similar beginning strokes to A that you can add the s-serif to: B, M, N, R, V, W

B :  make stroke 2 long enough that it can meet stroke 3 smoothly.

M :  in your mind, think of stroke 3 as fractures that have been rounded. The crossbar (stroke 5) is a decoration to break-up some of the inner whitespace. Both sides should have similar volume. Similar remarks for the W.

V :  make stroke 2 long enough to connect with stroke 3; if the letter looks like it’s falling over, then stroke 2 isn’t long enough.

O :  for the O-family of letters (O, C, G, Q, S), think in terms of the O-shape. Start 1 pen-width below the ascender, go down, then over. Notice that stroke 1 does not curve outward very much.

D :  start stroke 3 at least at the margin where stroke 2 starts; can start a little sooner.

F :  downstroke has a slight s-shape, not a straight downstroke. Stroke 3 should not overlap stroke 1, instead the edges meet.

H :  don’t make stroke 3 too wavy; it shouldn’t look like a flag waving in the wind.

I :  end the downstroke 1 pen-width (at 40-degrees) above the baseline so that it can meet the second stroke.

J :  like an “I” but end the downstroke slightly below the baseline. The crossbar is about halfway.

K :  stroke 4 should start slightly below the waist and end beyond the end of stroke 3.

L :  you can make the body of the “L” in 2 separate strokes where you pick up the pen, as on the exemplar (note the wedge shape), or all in one stroke.

Alternate L:  for a more edgy L, DeAnn exaggerates the s-curves.

T :  stroke 1 starts at the ascender, then make a hairline of 1 pen-width, then stroke down. Stroke 3 has a slight curve going in and going out, but it fairly straight in between.

Alternate T :  stroke 1 is similar to the O-shape (see below). Don’t curve outward too much.

P :  stroke 2 and 3 are slightly above the baseline.

U :  make stroke 2 long enough to connect with stroke 3.

X :  an alternate stroke sequence is to continue stroke 1 beyond the baseline to form the descender stroke (stroke 2 on the exemplar). Then the strokes on the right branch off from the stem stroke.

Y :  the last letterform on the exemplar is a “Y” (not an “N”); this letterform appears in historical manuscripts.

Z:  DeAnn likes to make this more edgy by exaggerating the s-shapes.

Exercise:  write your name with initial capitals followed by lowercase letters. Again try stacking your names. Try to come up with a logo of your initials.

Turn your initals into a logo

HOMEWORK:  Practice lowercase and capital letters by writing alphabet words (e.g. Apple, Banana, Cherry…). Go to DeAnn’s website to get the alphabet flower names: (
Or Google “alphabetical list of” for other examples.

Practice writing your name and come up with your logo.

Then practice writing text, such as a poem, song lyrics, or sage words. Intermediates can go down to the next pen size of 3.8 mm.

Preview of Fraktur project:  using the 6.0 mm Parallel Pen, we’ll write the capitals decoratively on watercolor paper, then color in the white space with watercolors. DeAnn will demo this next week.

Monday, February 2, 2015

January 26, 2015 - Sinai Temple Class #2 - Fraktur

Today DeAnn reviewed the lower case Fraktur letters. She collected homework at the beginning of class. She highly recommends turning in homework so that she can correct and return it to you. If you haven’t done any at home, you can turn in the practice sheet you did in class.

DeAnn reviewed letters by student request.

TIP:  place your grid ruler over a letter to measure its width. Compare to the exemplar. If you’re having trouble with a letter, try tracing it.

Spacing words, plus alphabet sentence.

Then DeAnn demonstrated writing words and explained letter spacing for Fraktur.

You can use the alternate letter forms within the same text. Depending on the letter-order or spacing, one form may be a better fit.  Experiment!

Letter Spacing:  all the inner white spaces should be similar. If the letter form’s strokes are all straight (e.g. “minimum”), then the spaces between the strokes should be the same. The difficulty comes in judging the correct spacing between curved and straight strokes. If two curves are next to each other (e.g. “oo”), they can be very close together, even overlapping.

For letters that have a “hangover” like “c”, “e”, “r”, “t”, “f”, “k”, “x”, leave the square serif off of the next letter and overlap or tuck underneath to start the down-stroke. E.g. er, ru, ei, ci, ce.

General rule of thumb on spacing:  write out “minimum” with the correct spacing. The overall “color” of the text should match that of “minimum” – by “color”, DeAnn means how the text looks at a distance while squinting your eyes.

TIP:  Highlight the white spaces on the exemplar and compare it to your own letters.

Word-spacing:  leave enough space between words to show where the word ends, but not too much space. In other hands, an “n-space” (width of the letter “n”) separates words, but use less than that for Fraktur.

TIP:  after writing out text, hang it on the wall and take a break. Then come back and stand some distance from it and squint your eyes. Do any white spots stand out? Do you see any dark spots? Those are the areas that are spaced too far apart or too close together.

REMEMBER:  Spacing trumps spelling. It’s more important to get the spacing correct than each individual letterform being perfect. Even if some of your letters don’t look very good, your piece will still look good with the correct spacing. But even if you have beautiful individual letters, your piece will not look good if your spacing is not correct.

Next week:  capitals.

HOMEWORK:  Write alphabet sentences. Go to DeAnn’s website to get the alphabet sentences ( Or Google “alphabet sentences” for other examples.

To practice letter-spacing, see the list of “Words to Use for Spacing” at DeAnn’s website:
These are words that emphasize spacing issues between letters.

TIP:  Try to practice 15 minutes a day, rather than an hour Sunday night before class. A little more often is better practice than a longer session just once a week.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January 12, 2015 - Sinai Temple Class #1 - Fraktur

DeAnn will be teaching the hands Gothic Fraktur and Rotunda this semester using Parallel Pens.

Fraktur originated in the Middle Ages after Gothic Textura developed. Gothic Fraktur was used mostly in Northern Italy, France, England,  and Germany. “Fraktur” means “fracture”, as in fractured letters made up of both straight and curved lines, unlike Textura which only has straight strokes. Fraktur is very decorative.

Today’s handouts were:  Gothic Fraktur lowercase and capitals exemplars, 4 guideline sheets for the 4 sizes of Parallel Pen – 6.0 mm, 3.8 mm, 2.4 mm, 1.5 mm.

parallel pen

We’ll start with the 6.0 mm pen, writing on bond paper using the 6.0 mm guidelines. For practice, use any 11” x 17” copy paper that won’t bleed. Most should be thin enough to see the guidelines underneath. You can also use marker layout paper, which is more expensive, but is more translucent and suited to ink.

DeAnn suggests using a drawing board to write on instead of writing flat on the table. Sit so that the angle of the board in your lap isn’t too high. The ideal writing area of the board is slightly above table level where it’s the most stable. So adjust your chair accordingly. If you’re right-handed, the clips of the board should be on the left so they don’t interfere with the movement of your arm as you write. Remember to use your left-hand as an anchor. Clip several sheets of paper to the board or use a blotter sheet for some padding. The sheet you’re writing on should NOT be taped down or clipped; instead, you should move it as needed so that you’re always writing in the same area of the board and not stretching or hunched over.

Use a document holder  (like a PageUp) so that it’s easy to see your exemplar or whatever sheet you’re looking at. Place it so that you don’t have to move your board to see it.

Pen angle:  The Parallel Pen is a chisel-point fountain pen, able to create thicks & thins within one stroke, based on the angle of the pen. Using a protractor as the reference, a pen angle of 0-degrees equates to holding the pen so that the nib is parallel to the horizontal lines of the grid paper.  A vertical stroke at this pen angle is the thickest; a horizontal stroke is the thinnest. If the pen angle is 90-degrees, then a vertical stroke is the thinnest and a horizontal stroke is the thickest. For a 45-degree pen angle, use a box as a reference and place the pen so that you’re placing it on the diagonal of the box. At this angle, both a vertical stroke and a horizontal stroke should be the same thickness.

x-height: is the height of a letter with no ascenders or descenders, like x or n. Each hand has a specific x-height measured in pen-widths. At a pen angle of 90-degrees, draw short horizontal strokes to measure by pen widths.

Gothic Fraktur has a pen angle of 45-degrees and an x-height of 5 pen widths (for the 6 mm pen, this is 30 mm which is equal to 1 3/16 inches). The ascender and descender are 2-pen widths (about ½ inch). A 45-degree pen angle goes from corner-to-corner (see exemplar for a diagram).

Explanation of the guidelines sheet:
The line you write on is marked by an “x” and is 5 pen-widths high (the x-height), which is the space between the base and the waist.  2 pen-widths above the waist is the ascender line. 2 pen-widths below the base is the descender line.

DeAnn went over the Gothic Fraktur lowercase letters.

Fraktur strokes

DeAnn’s TIP: Once you start writing (practicing), go to the end – don’t cross-out, crumple-up, stop & start elsewhere. Even if you feel like you’ve made a bad mistake, continue writing and don’t dwell on it. Don’t waste paper and don’t throw out your practice sheets. You’ll see improvement when you compare your older practice sheets to your newer ones.

HOMEWORK:  Practice the lowercase letters. Start at the top left of the paper and fill the sheet. Write your name and date in the lower right hand corner. Turn in a sheet or two at the next class for DeAnn to review and correct.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

November 10, 2014 - Pointed Pen Styles Class #3 at Sinai Temple

DeAnn reviewed the Spencerian capital letters, then demonstrated writing words with an initial capital by having the students write along with her. The handouts were 2 more Spencerian guildelines, one with an x-height of 1/8-inch in a vertical format and a ratio of 2:1:2, and another with an x-height of 3/32-inch in the usual horizontal format.

For warmup, we wrote the capital letters.

Then DeAnn had a write-along with the students. We would write along with her as she demonstrated a word in alphabetical order. The words the afternoon class wrote are:  America, Business, Cupcake, Dessert, Eggsalad, Fuscia, Ginger, Heather, Iris, Jack, Kathy, Little, Mother, Neil, Oliver, Puppies, Queen, Rose, Singing, Tinsman, Ursula, Vera, Winter, Xena, Young, Zebra.

For those with experience writing Copperplate, the differences between Copperplate and Spencerian:
The curves are more round in Copperplate, more angular in Spencerian.
The upstrokes and downstrokes are parallel in Copperplate. In Spencerian, the upstrokes are more slanted than the slant guidelines and the downstrokes are parallel to the slant guidelines.

HOMEWORK:  Write text, such as a poem or song lyrics, on the vertical format guideline with the x-height of 1/8-inch. Go down to the 3/32-inch x-height guidelines.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 3, 2014 - Pointed Pen Styles Class #2 at Sinai Temple

DeAnn reviewed the lowercase letters, demonstrated connecting letters into words, and demonstrated Spencerian numbers and capitals. The handouts were the materials list and nib identification chart (for new students) and 2 more Spencerian guildelines, with x-heights of 1/8-inch and 1/16-inch

For warmup, we wrote the basic strokes and lowercase letters. DeAnn reminded us not to press on downstrokes.

Question from Jaime:  How long do nibs last?
DeAnn’s answer:  it depends on both the type of nib and type of paper you’re writing on. Writing on smooth paper makes the nib last longer. Dull and rigid nibs last the longest (e.g. Brause Steno), sharp and flexible nibs last the shortest (e.g. Gillot 303).

Nib identifier sheet from Satomi:  Satomi has created a nib identifier sheet by cutting out actual-size pictures of the nibs and putting it into a sheet protector so that you can tape the nib to the plastic without harming the identifier sheet.  There are blank boxes to add more nibs as you get them. There's also room in each box to write your nib notes (e.g. sharp, flexible, dull, rigid). Thank You, Satomi!

Sharp and flexible nibs make the thinnest hairlines. These nibs are:
Brause EF66

Gillot 303

Hunt 101

Other nibs good for Spencerian:
Gillot 1068 (Rigid)

Hiro 40 (blue pumpkin)

Because Spencerian is written at such small x-heights, sharp nibs are desired.

Writing words:  DeAnn demonstrated connecting the lowercase letters into words with several spacing words. Spacing words show how letters should be spaced and/or challenging letter-connections. Between words, you only want enough space to separate the words. Too much space between words results in “rivers” (of white space) down the page.

minimum:  all the white space between the strokes should be the same.

Goal:  develop a rhythm to your writing.

Numbers:  based on numbers by Michael Sull, who is considered the “godfather of Spencerian”. Non-ranging numbers are numbers that all sit on the base line. Ranging numbers are up and down on the base line.

Capitals:  DeAnn first demonstrated the different strokes used in writing capitals. Letters such as F and T are based on the Spencerian Primary Stem Stroke, which looks like a swan. Start with no pressure – thick pressure – slide to the left.

HOMEWORK:  Use the medium guidelines (x-height = 1/8-inch, highlighted in pink). Practice all of the capitals and numbers learned in class. Write alphabet words and alphabet sentences. Use all your nibs and both the black and vermillion inks. Intermediates should try the blue guidelines (x-height = 1/16 inch)