Monday, May 4, 2009

Copperplate Capital Lesson

Class of Copperplate for May 4, 2009 at Beverly Hills. By Judy Shibata
Today we learned how to write the capitals.
First, some things to be aware of from reviewing the homework:
1.      You want a nice triangle space from the #7 stroke to the #8 stroke within a letter 
2.     The #8 should be more hotdog-shaped than hamburger-shaped; think Oval.
3.     Don’t overlap the #8 stroke and the #3 stroke, for example in the “a”. Even if the strokes don’t touch, our eye will make the connection.
4.     Tricky letter connections: “we”, “ve”, “ow”, “of”
5.     Remember to jog over for the #5 stroke; you want a definite white-space in the loop (e.g. “f”)
6.     #9 should be a definite dot; make a counter-clockwise oval.
7.      Each stroke in the “m” should be a complete #3 stroke; don’t intersect the next stroke from the top of the arch of the first #3 stroke. You want a complete white-space.
8.     Check that all your downstrokes are the same. You should be applying consistent pressure so that they’re all the same width.
9.     All your white spaces should be the same. The white space inside the #8 should be the same as those in the #2, #3, and #4 strokes.
10.   Remember that the #2 shape should be like a hairpin or paperclip. Don’t take the curve too soon.

One student asked what the ratio should be to write copperplate. Because the copperplate nib is not a chisel point, it doesn’t have a measurement (e.g. 1mm, etc.).  Instead, the ratio is between the x-height and the ascender/descender length.  The standard is 3-2-3, so if the x-height is 1/4”, then from waist to ascender would be 3/8” (also from base to descender).  I would use this for envelopes and ordinary writing in copperplate. For a more elegant look, the ratio is 2-1-2. So if the x-height is 1/4”, then from waist to ascender would be 1/2”. I would use this for writing invitations or poetry because it gives me more room for flourishing. The 1-1-1 ratio, like notebook paper, is very legible and fast to write. It would look like pretty regular handwriting.
The typical slant for copperplate is a 35° slant from the vertical, which is the same as 55° from the horizontal baseline.
99% of the work I do is the size of the small guideline sheet (x-height of 1/8”). I only use the large size (x-height of 1/4”) for titles, for example. So from today, use the medium guideline (x-height of 3/16”) for your practice.

The capital letters are really just a bunch of flourishes. But they are also letters with their own rhythm.
To warm up, we did an exercise:  Put your arm on the table. Use a pen/pencil and draw an oval on a piece of paper. In the air, wave your arm in an oval shape. Is it clockwise or counter-clockwise? On paper, draw an oval in the direction opposite from your “air-drawing.” Draw spiral shapes in both directions. Try drawing in vertical, horizontal, and diagonal axis directions. Try wide and narrow ovals.
Draw a figure-8 in the air – did you start from the left or the right? From the top or the bottom? Is it horizontal or vertical? Be aware that the direction you start from affects where the thicks and thins are. Try repeating figure-8s and altering the widths.
Draw circles in contrast to the ovals.
I recommend doodling in your spare time or when you’re on the phone – this improves the muscle memory in your hand. The goal is to get your hand to do what your brain is thinking. This improves the fluidity of your capitals. See the flourishing handout.
See the two Capitals handouts. Capitals will go all the way up to the ascender. The primary stem stroke starts at the ascender and goes down to the base. Start with no pressure, then full pressure, then no pressure, with a terminal dot. This is the thickest of all the strokes – think of it as the backbone. You decide how thick it should be. Try an oval starting at about 2 o’clock and going counter-clockwise. Practice some smaller ovals.
Tips for capitals: The flourish has to be BIG! It’s better if the flourish is way too big than too small. Connectable capitals are: A, H, J, K, M, R, U. Maybe connectable are: F, I, X, Z if it has a descender.

Homework for this week:  Practice capitals. If you’re having trouble, try tracing the capital by putting the exemplar underneath your sheet. Write list words, e.g. flower names. (Go to, pick “About” from the main menu, then go to “About Calligraphy” and download alphabet lists for flowers, gems, cities, etc.). NEVER write all capitals side-by-side in a word.

No comments:

Post a Comment