DeAnn distributed handouts for the semester. She had us do dexterity exercises, then demonstrated the Pointed Pen Fraktur strokes and also went over the lowercase letters.
Organizing your supplies: Find a container to carry your supplies. Study your handout and put it in a folder or binder that will help you find the appropriate page quickly. A lot of information is in the handouts, so even if you miss something DeAnn says in class, reading the handout later will be very helpful.
Preparing your supplies for ease of transportation: pour ink from their containers into the dropper bottles. The dropper bottles are leak-proof so bring those to class; it’s OK to leave the original containers of ink at home. From the dropper bottles, fill one of the ink wells (or “dinky dip”) to at least the ridge-line. You want to be able to dip your pen and cover the nib’s reservoir area (“eye of the needle”) completely.
Learn Your Nibs: Unlike calligraphy written with a chisel-point nib, Copperplate nibs create thicks & thins by pressing & releasing. The more pressure you apply when pressing on a down stroke, the wider the stroke. So unlike chisel-point nibs that come in different set widths (e.g. 5mm, 1mm), Copperplate nibs come in a wide variety of sharpness and flexibility. This is another important area to explore & learn. By the end of this semester, you will have filled out your nib chart with notes on each of the nibs, paying particular attention to each nib’s sharpness and flexibility.
Preparing the Pen: Put the nib into the oblique pen holder so that the “eye of the needle” (the opening in the nib) points directly upward. The fit may feel tight, but push the nib in at least halfway for a secure hold. Hold the oblique holder as you would normally hold your pen, with the angled nib to the left side. If you have a brand new nib, you’ll need to prepare it by rubbing gum Arabic all around so that the ink will adhere to the nib and not just bead-up and slide off. New nibs usually have a waxy coating and you may have to rub with gum Arabic several times until the ink will stay in the reservoir. NOTE: Vermillion ink will rust your nib, so wash it off with water after you’re done practicing.
Pointed Pen Fraktur has a 90-degree “slant” line, i.e. no slant. It’s written vertically up & down. So you have the option of using a regular pen holder with the pointed pen nib. Try it both ways and see which way is more comfortable for you.
Preparing the paper: Make a crease in the cover of the cotton comp paper pad about an inch down from the top. Fold this back so that you’ll have a flat writing surface without the cover bunching up to the left. Place the guideline sheet underneath the first sheet.
Guideline sheet: The lines are ¼-inch apart; this space refers to the x-height, the space between the waist and the base. These lines are indicated hilighting. The line above the waist is the ascender, the line below the base is the descender. The vertical slant lines are there as guides for the angle of writing, not for spacing.
TIP: DeAnn suggests highlighting the waist to base space so that it’s easier to distinguish as the line to write on underneath the cotton comp sheet. Skip the first space, hi-light, then skip 3 lines, then hi-light, etc.
Prepare your work space: The key to being able to write correctly is to set up your work space correctly and sit in the right position in relation to your paper. You need to position yourself so that your elbow (of your writing hand) rests completely on the tabletop, which means you’ll probably have to sit at an angle to the table edge so you’re not twisting your torso.
Use your left arm to take the weight off your body by placing your left hand above the area where you’re writing. Try to learn NOT to have a heavy writing hand, but practice having a light touch. Putting the pressure on your left hand helps with this. REMEMBER to breathe! If you’re having trouble writing the strokes, exhale.
Dexterity exercises: to loosen up your hand and get used to the pointed pen nib. Don’t move just your wrist – practice moving your arm to make the circles.
Preparatory exercises (using 2 lines on the guideline sheet): Write straight lines with pen in the direction of the “slant” lines. To create the square top & bottom edges, set – press – pull – stop – release. If the nib is sticking into the paper, adjust the angle of how you’re holding the nib. Lowering the angle may help.
Then write strokes with full pressure to no pressure. Next write strokes from no pressure to full pressure. Work on making them look similar in size. Write strokes with less pressure in the middle – but not a hairline. Then write this stroke but at the base, create a diagonal by pulling straight down on the right side as you release pressure.
Then write a stroke with even pressure but curving slightly in the middle, along with the diagonal ending. It should be an even stroke.
Next write a stroke starting with no pressure at the top that curves into a hook; increase pressure to full by the time you reach the base.
Then a smaller version of the hooked curve but after the diagonal ending, make a serif on the upstroke. Then try a curved short stroke.
Writing the basic strokes: Refer to the Handout with an “H” in the corner, that says “basic strokes – Pointed Pen Blackletter” along the left side. You apply pressure on the down stroke (thick), no pressure on the up stroke (thin). This is how you create thicks & thins. ]
NOTE: Strokes #3, #4, and #9 have a diagonal serif at the top of the stroke, but DeAnn doesn’t really like it, so ignore it for now and start the stroke “normally” with set-press-pull.
Notes on individual strokes:
1. #7 – is only slightly diagonal, then the serif.
2. #8 – more slanted than #7 and serif goes up to the waist.
3. #9 – has a slight s-curve in it; if you can put in this subtle curve, try it.
Lowercase letters: See handout with “I” in the corner and “the lowercase – pointed pen blackletter” along the left side.
HOMEWORK: Practice all the strokes. Try the different nibs. Study the exemplar carefully – it is more important to be accurate than to write a stroke many times. Memorize the basic stroke numbers – DeAnn will test you next week. Then practice the lowercase letters. Try practicing them in families (for example, i-l-t, or a-d-g-q).