Lessons in Engrosser's Script: Group II Lowercase

In this installment we will examine the lower case Group 2 letterforms shown in Figure 1. Let us begin with the Group 2A forms. The letters in this family are composed of the two basic shapes shown with their corresponding pen strokes illustrated in Figures 2A and 2B. Remember that letters are typically formed from left to right. Therefore, you should begin with the hairline upstroke (Figure 2A). Hopefully by this point your eye will be able to pickup the remarkable similarity between these three letters. The 'i' can be viewed as the fundamental stroke. I form the stem of the ‘i’ in one stroke as indicated by the arrows in Figure 2B. To finish the 'i' we must now consider the dot. As a general rule, the dot should be made by first drawing a small circle of equal width with respect to the vertical shade of the 'i' (Figure 1 Inset A). The dot should be located in the center of the first ascender space. Then simply fill in the circle with ink to complete the dot. Avoid making the dot wider than the width of the vertical shade of the 'i'. Such large dots will tend to distract the eye. Continuing on, the letter 'u' is formed by simply connecting two 'i' strokes, minus the dots of course. Finally, the letter 'w' is formed by fully extending the hairline exit stroke of the 'u' upwards. Finish with a small half dot as shown. To form this half dot first trace the shape and fill in with ink (Figure 1 Inset A). When time is a consideration, this half dot may be formed in one step by applying pressure to the nib on the down stroke of forming the connector hairline. Notice also that the curvature of the connector off the half dot is identical to the curvature at the base of the letter. Understanding these similarities will permit the scriptwriter to produce letters of wonderful grace and symmetry.

Next, we will examine the Group 2B letterforms in Figure 1. Letters in this family are created by combinations of the forms illustrated in Figures 2A, 2B, 2C and 2D. In my view of letterforms, I consider the ‘t’ as a transitional form between the ‘i’ and the ascender stem loop. Therefore, I consider the ‘t’ as sort of an ascending ‘i’ that starts with a pen stroke just below the top of the first ascender space and continues downwards towards the baseline exactly as the letter ‘i’. Finish the ‘t’ by carefully crossing the stem with a hairline in the middle of the first ascender space as shown. Be sure the ‘t-cross’ is parallel to the baseline. Next, we have two stem loop letters ‘j’ and ‘l’. The loop portions of these letters can be thought of as inverted mirror images. Please note that the strokes used to form the ascender and descender stem loops, indicated by the arrows in Figures 2C and 2D, represent my personal approach to forming stem loops. Let us consider Figure 2C, the descending stem loop of the letter ‘j’. I would first form the main wedge shaped shade with a down stroke, stop at the point indicated by the dotted line. I will then lift my pen off the paper. Next, I 'invert' the paper 180 degrees and finish the loop by going ‘up and over the top'. Notice that I place a slight shade on the forward portion of the loop. This is done by placing a slight amount of pressure to the down stroke. Remember, the paper has been turned upside down to finish this letter. This is a modification of one approach given in The Zanerian Manual. Try it my way at first but feel free to experiment to find what works best for you. The ‘j’ is finished with a dot in the same way as the letter ‘i’. I keep the dots of letters like ‘i’ and ‘j’ and the ‘t’-cross discussed above at the same relative height, i.e. at the mid point of the first ascender space. Be careful not to let the loop of the 'stem loop' get too wide or too narrow, consistency is the key. Allow me to refer you to a previous Letterform Analysis article of mine that delves into great detail on stem loops. In addition, my current Letterform Analysis article in this issue examines the baseline crossing of the descender stem loop.


The final letters we will discuss are the Group 2C letterforms in Figure 1. Letters in this family are formed by the combination of the strokes shown in Figures 2A and 2D. Before continuing, I would like to pose a question. Does anything strike you about the letters 'f' and 'k'? The answer should be, absolutely! Specifically, the stem loops are identical save for the descender portion of the 'f' stem. My approach to forming ascender stem loops is shown in Figure 2D. The wedge shaped shaded down stroke is formed first by starting at the point indicated by the dotted line and stopping at the baseline. The square cutoff is formed by a quick leftward flick of the pen. If done correctly, the base of the stroke should be squared off. Please refer to the Zanerian Manual for more on the ‘cutoff’. In the case of the 'f', continue the down stroke below the baseline through the first descender space as indicated. Care must be taken since the overall length of the 'f' makes it deceptively difficult to form this letter correctly. After lifting my pen, I start at the point indicated by the dotted line proceeding 'up and over the top’ to form the loop. Try to keep the loop smoothly curving until it intersects the main shade. As discussed above, I place a slight shade on the loop as indicated in the figure. The bottom front portion of the 'k' is formed last by starting just above the header line using sequential strokes as indicated by the arrows in Figure 2E. The first stroke indicated by arrow #1 is basically a short compound curve that enters into a loop structure and should be on the main slant angle of the letter. Keep the tiny loop open and horizontal to the baseline. The second stroke indicated by arrow #2 is akin to a squat ‘v’ shaped shade. This stroke should also be on the main slant angle and parallel to the main stem loop shade. I form both strokes and the loop without lifting my pen from the paper. Do not allow the letter get too wide at the base. A good rule of thumb is to keep the width of the lower half of the 'k' slightly narrower than that of the lower half of the letter 'h'. Figure 2F illustrates this concept by superimposing the forward portions of the ‘k’ and ‘h’. Note that the base of the ‘k’ is contained within the area of the base of the ‘h’. The Zanerian Manual contains a beautifully illustrated example of this concept on page 4.