Lessons in Engrosser's Script: Group I Lowercase

In lesson three we will begin with the Group I lower case letterforms. It was my desire to make these lessons visually oriented. I designed the exemplars with this idea in mind. In addition, I would strongly recommend you continue to use The Zanerian Manual (ZM). Lupfer’s instructional pages remain the finest instruction ever given on the subject.

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Let us begin with the Group A letterforms (Figure 1). The common denominators for letters in this group are the hairline lead in stroke and the oval. The simple oval is a challenging form especially when trying to keep the long axis of the oval on the main slant angle. The reference image for the actual pen strokes can be found in Figures 2A and 2B. As a general rule all lower case letters are formed from left to right. Therefore, the first stroke will always be the hairline connector (Figure 2A). I this connector concave, having a slight under curve that approaches the main slant angle of the letter. If we focus in on the 'c', 'e' and 'o' you should note that the left ‘shade’ side of the letters are identical. My preference for shading is to keep the weight of the shade just below the center of the oval as per The ZM. The finishing dot on the 'c' should be added last. For fine work it is best to form the dot by making a small circle then fill it in. The letter 'e' is formed in a similar way to the oval indicated in Figure 2B. This means the loop of the ‘e’ is formed last by a downward stroke indicated by the arrow marked 2* in Figure 2B. I place a very slight shade on the forward portion of the loop. This is accomplished by applying the slightest downward pressure as the loop is made. In the case of the ‘o’ I use a slight shade, rather than a half-dot on the right side of the letter. I took this idea from WA Baird’s work. If you prefer using a half-dot as per The ZM then do so. The lower case 's' may seem out of place in this group but it is simply an extended hairline connector and an oval. We are accustomed to seeing shades on the left side of the oval rather than on the right side. Keep the entry hairline stroke on a similar angle as the previous letters just extend it upwards and slightly over the header line forming a small loop before heading back down to form the shade. I keep the weight of the shade below center. The finishing dot is formed in the same manner as described for the 'c'. The loop atop the header line is filled in last.

Next we will examine the Group B letterforms (Figure 1). The common denominators for letters in this group are the hairline lead in stroke, the oval and the vertical stem illustrated with their respective pen strokes in Figures 2A, 2B and 2C. A point of clarification regarding Figure 2B and the stroke indicated by the arrow labeled 2*. I use a slight shade only for the letter 'o'. The oval used for 'a', 'd' and similar letters would simply have a hairline in place of the slight shade. Please pay particular attention to how the 'a' looks like a truncated 'd'. This uniform symmetry lends grace and elegance to high-level script. My preference is to keep the height of the vertical stem of the 'd' just short of the top of the first ascender space. You should also notice how both sides of the ‘a’ are nearly identical at the base of the letter. The same is true for the ‘d’. I would like to mention that some script writers use a slightly narrower oval form for letters like ‘a’, ‘d’, etc. than the width of the oval used for the letter ‘o’. My preference is to keep it simple. Therefore, I prefer to keep the ovals the same size. In my opinion, this increases the uniformity and symmetry of the script.

Finally, we will examine the Group C letterforms (Figure 1). The common denominators for letters in this group are the hairline lead in stroke, the oval and the descender stem loop illustrated with their respective pen strokes in Figures 2A, 2B and 2D. To save space I will not detail the stem loop since I go into great detail on it elsewhere in this issue. (Please refer to my Letterform Analysis article in this issue for a detailed analysis of the stem loop.) Both letters, ‘g’ and ‘q’ start off the same way as the ‘a’ but have stem loops (Figure 2D) in place of the vertical stem stroke (Figure 2C). My preference with the ‘g’ is to place a slight shade on the left side of the loop. This is possible because I form the stem loop in two separate strokes (Figure 2D) instead of a single continuous stroke as is commonly done. The second stroke is made with the paper inverted up side down. Therefore, I am actually making the stroke up and over the top. Remember, you cannot produce a shade on an upstroke because the nib tines would dig into the paper. The slight shade on the loop is not essential but can also be added secondarily after the loop is formed. Lastly, the stem loop of the 'q' must be addressed. Due to the ‘reverse’ nature of the loop, I make this stem loop in one stroke. Unlike the 'g' stem loop illustrated in Figure 2D that I make using the two pen strokes indicated.

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