Modern Calligraphy: A transition


Hello everyone! It's Rachel, your friendly neighborhood nugget, here!

Pardon me, while my writing engine sputters to life after years of disuse. Fetus Rachel was the proud owner of a blog circa 2014, but between life, work, and other commitments, I've since fallen off the bandwagon into the black hole of academic literature, P-values, z-tables and rejecting null hypotheses. It's been a long climb back to the surface, but I'm finally back and ready to have some quality calligraphy banter. 

I'm not skilled in the more traditional scripts of calligraphy by any means, so I thought I'd kick this off with a little bit of the modern hand. Specifically - breaking down the transition of a more traditional script like Copperplate or English Roundhand (ERH), into the flowy, whimsical modern that you most probably associate with me. 

I'll be using the word 'eternal' as an example. Let's first take a look at a more traditional form of this word. (Disclaimer: I'm actually like a headless chicken when it comes to traditional hands, so please excuse mistakes. I've just copied what I've observed so far... and I'm working on it!) Traditional scripts like Copperplate make use of numerous pen lifts, strict baselines, and a fixed X-height. Each letter requires you lift your pen at least two or three times. Regularity is the pinnacle of beauty; God forbid your overturns and underturns don't match.  Even worse: non squared-off tops and bottoms? *gasp* 

But anyway - regularity is not what we're here for today. Time to give the traditionalists a mild aneurysm.  

The first change I'm going to be making is creating variation in the baseline. The modern hand is completely unstructured in terms of baseline, which makes it a good option if you're lettering in curves or along an uneven border. Go crazy. Make the letters fly! 

The next defining characteristic of my modern style is the elongated letters. I use this on my ascenders and descenders such as the D, L, T, G, Q, Y etc. Make them longer than you usually would. I think the exaggerated length makes the letters quite elegant and whimsical. Here we've not added variation in X-height yet, but generally you want your exaggerated letters to be about 30 to 50 percent longer than they'd usually be.

In the next change we continue to do everything humanly possible to mess up the regularity, by making variations in the X-height and reducing the pen lifts to increase fluidity in the script. Note how the X-height for the letter R is almost the same as the entire letter T, while I've shrunk the E to nearly half of the original X-height. 

With letters that have multiple curves, such as N, M and W, it is possible to vary the X-height even within the letter. In this example, the X-height for the beginning stem for the N, is different from its subsequent curve. Similarly with letters M and W, you can change the X-height for all the different components that make up the letter. 

I also lift my pen a lot less. Here you can see that I did not lift my pen when transitioning from E to T. I also wrote the letters E, R and N all in one go. I believe that the way you write is completely reflected in your script. Hence, for a fluid, seamless hand, you will also need to let your pen 'dance' along the paper, finding its own rhythm, instead of routinely lifting between each stroke or letter. 

For the final touches, we go in with some flourishing and to give the letters what I like to call a 'personal space makeover'. The latter is arguably the key to giving your writing a fluid, whimsical vibe. Calligraphy, regardless of traditional or modern hand, is all about the effortless transitions between thin and pressured lines. Placing a tad more space between each letter gives your script breathing room to appropriately showcase its beautiful variations.

As we bring this post to a close, I'd just like to thank you all for sticking around to the end! Hopefully this was a little helpful in understanding the dynamics of the modern hand. If you have any questions, or suggestions on what you'd like to see next, please leave them in the comments below, or slide into my Instagram DMs. I'd be happy to answer and help you out.

Now please excuse me, while I give John, Nic and Aubrey, the Scribblers' resident traditional script professionals, a cool drink to calm themselves.

- Rachel