January 11, 2010
Beverly Hills Adult School Class #1: Gothic Textura will be the "style" taught this semester. It originated in the Middle Ages (1200-1500 CE) DeAnn will teach the 14th-15th century style as it was originally written; then she’ll teach us the modifications that make it easier to read. Gothic Textura was used throughout Germany and also in England, but never adopted in Italy or Spain.
The term “Gothic” has nothing to do with the actual Goths; it was meant to be derogatory at the time and coined in the 16th Century. “Textura” refers to all the sides being straight with very even spacing that keeps a definite black and white texture, reminiscent of textile arts . It’s interesting to note the relationship between the letter-forms and the architecture from their time. Gothic architecture is tall and straight and the letters match this style. The invention of flying buttresses as a weight-bearing method enabled the buildings to be taller than ever (Salisbury Cathedral in England, Chartres Cathedral in France) and the style of writing becomes tall and thin. In contrast, Roman buildings were based on the Roman arch and couldn’t be very high since the arch was so heavy. Carolingian (the hand taught last semester) is based on the Roman arch and has rounded, “shorter” letters.
DeAnn distributed basic supplies. For this week, students will need ink (Higgins Eternal or Walnut ink), pen-holder, Brause 5mm or Speedball C-0 nib, grid paper, inkwell, and a board. We’re starting with the 5mm Brause nib. DeAnn will have all supplies available for purchase at the next class (1/25/10). See the Materials list handout if you want to buy supplies before then.
Today’s handouts were: Materials list, Gothic Class Sequence, Gothic Textura exemplar, Gothic Textura worksheet.
Set up your tools and workspace correctly so that it will be easier to write without any back or wrist pain. Remember to tape down your dinky dip on the right (or left, if you’re a left-hander) to avoid spills and for ease of dipping your pen. 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. 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; 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.
Be sure to line your paper before starting. Even if lining the paper seems like a chore, guidelines are necessary for good writing. Think of it as meditation.
Preparing (lining) the grid paper: 8 boxes on the grid paper equal an inch, with the darker blue lines indicating the inch-marks. Leave a 1 1/2-inch margin on top & bottom, 2-inch margin at the left & right. Label the top line “A” for ascender, the next line “W” for waist, then “B” for base, and the 4th line is “D” for descender.
Pen angle: The Brause & Speedball C nib is a chisel-point 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 between the waist and base. 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 Textura has a pen angle of 30º and an x-height of 5 pen widths (equal to an inch or 8 boxes on the grid paper). The ascender and descender are 2-pen widths (about 3 boxes). A 30º pen angle is flatter than 45º; instead of corner-to-corner, it’s corner to about ¼ from the blue-line (see exemplar for a diagram).
In class we practiced writing downstrokes & cross-strokes at 0º, 90º, 45º, and 30º, both an inch & 2-inches in height. Using walnut ink in the nib, dip the pen so the reservoir is 3/4 full. Wipe the nib on the edge of the ink well to take off any excess. We need to get fully familiar with this chisel point nib. Practice making straight lines with the nib. You need even pressure on both sides of the nib. Not a lot of pressure, just even pressure. The ink will flow better to begin with if you give a little side-to-side "rub" (like an ice-skate) with the nib. Or touch the tip to some wet ink on a previous stroke. As you draw the stroke down the page, EXHALE. This helps give a more controlled stroke. Also, set your opposite hand near the work so you can give slight pressure as you start down. These tips will help you have success quicker. At this large size, ink will puddle at the end of the downstrokes; don’t worry about it now, it’s natural & expected.
Optical spacing: Gothic textura has picket-fence spacing where the white-space (space between the downstrokes) is equal to the black-space (i.e. the downstrokes of a letter). At all pen-angles, we practiced writing lines that were equally spaced apart. Initially, it may be helpful to place your nib next to the downstroke written to see where to start the next downstroke so that it’s a “nib-width” away. It’s important to learn optical spacing since we won’t always be writing on grid paper and nib size will also change.
Since next week is a holiday (no class on 1/18/10) and we won’t meet again until 1/25/10, DeAnn went over the different strokes of Gothic Textura (vertical, square, rectangle, horizontal, dot) that make up the letter-forms and some of the more difficult letters. Until this period, “i”s weren’t dotted. The dot is also called a jot or tittle.
For letters with the square serif, the square should slightly pierce the waist & baselines. Be careful of making the rectangle too steep – this will make the letter start to go “downhill” (e.g. the “m”).
o, q: start the downstroke slightly below the waist so that the rectangle-stroke will pierce the waist slightly. The rectangle-stroke should also pierce the base-line slightly.
a, s: picture these letters on top of an “o”. First write an “o” – then write the “a” or “s” over the top of it to see how the strokes fit together.
Walnut ink isn’t corrosive at all, so not washing your nib immediately won’t hurt it. You can wipe the excess ink out of your nib but you don’t have to clean it each time. When practicing, wipe your nib every 20 minutes or so to remove any paper residue, etc.
DeAnn’s tips for practicing your writing: Place your exemplar (example of the alphabet) in front of you (use something like a “page-up” document holder to hold the sheet). Write the letter, then really look at the exemplar to compare. Try it again. Only write a letter 3 times in a row; then move on. Don’t cross anything out; if the letter looks bad to you, just move on. Try again later.
Only practice on 1-side of the paper. Once written on, the sheet will pucker and the writing will be visible from the other side too.
DeAnn says: Practice is rehearsal! Set up your tools and yourself correctly so you can write in an organized fashion and learn good writing habits.
HOMEWORK: Practice the different strokes to get used to the chisel-point nib. Practice the Gothic Textura letterforms; use Satomi’s worksheet to learn how to write the letters.
Reminder: No class next week (1/18/10). Class #2 on 1/25/10.