A place for Drachenwald's scribes to hang out, learn, discuss and critique each others work.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I hate Ks.

One of the main reasons that I like writing scroll texts in Latin is because then I can spell king 'rex'. Why is this important? Because I hate Ks. I hate them with a passion, both majiscules and miniscules. I have yet to find a hand where I can see how to make the angles of the arms come out right, or how to make the upper loop (if it has one), look right, or how to orient the two arms with the leg they stand on.

This is the only letter that I have such widespread difficulties with, and it's gotten to the point where I cringe as soon as I realize I have a text which includes, somewhere, the phrase "king and queen of Drachenwald". Because...*shudder*...it has a K.

So, I'm asking for help. Here are 72 Ks that I have done over the last 6 years. They are roughly in chronological order, though I don't think this shows any progression or pattern of change over time:

They are capitals, they are miniscules, they are carolingian, gothic, secretary, etc.

What am I doing wrong? How can I make my Ks better?


Merlyn/fiona/Bridget said...

I have no advice except to sit down and do rows and rows of K's. I have the same issue with Ws.

Sara L. Uckelman said...

I'm reluctant to follow that advice because I'm worried that I'll just end up copying lots and lots of wrong Ks and cement the wrong version in my fingers! But maybe I should just bite the bullet.

Merlyn/fiona/Bridget said...

Then I guess I am unsure what it is you are asking for here because every hand has different styles and every scribe does each hand slightly different every time.

If a scribe wants to perfect a single hand with a single look the only way I know to do that is repetition until it's not work but fluid. And even with that every text book on how to has slight variations in how each hand looks, so do the manuscripts we look at and try to emmulate.

With me and the ws I picked one from a hand I liked and a style I liked and I worked at it doggedly until I got the look I was aiming for ( still working on this by the way) then I went and tried to reverse engineer how others did their in the manuscripts I was looking at.

But I don't really see what the issue with the Ks is and it's really hard to tell with just Ks and not in the context of the whole script as well as the fact they are from a variety of hands. Which hand don't you like?

Gothic Ks won't look the same as batard Ks and they don't look much like uncial so really the best way to get the look you are going for is to pick 1 hand from 1 source and practice it until you are comfortable then move on to the others.

Calligraphy is hand writing done with precision. While we like to think it's art really it's still hand writing and no two scrolls done will ever look exactly same just as two hand written letters from the same person won't be exactly the same.

The only way I know to get really good at a single hand and a single letter is to do drills and to focus on that one hand then after you are comfortable with that move on to the next.

This was how I learned but I don't have a talent for calligraphy, it's been a struggle since day 1 so I have had to really work at it and still do work at it. I have only met 1 person who picked it up almost right away and made it look easy.

Merlyn/fiona/Bridget said...

and then i also have to wonder what is a wrong K? Are you working from original source material or the Drogin book, or the Harris? Are any of those wrong? Define wrong. Using a celtic K in a gothic hand would be wrong but I don't think you'd do that.

Sara L. Uckelman said...

I am working from Drogin, Harris, and original texts; when I have picked an exemplar that has enough readable text on it that I can develop an alphabet from it, I try to copy it as closely as I can. My issues with my Ks come in all hands, from carolingian to gothic to humanist to all forms of secretary. I can never get my Ks to look like whatever I am using for my exemplar, and it has to do with how the arms are connected to the leg.

I guess I'm looking at physical advice: angles between the arms, angles to hold the pen, order of strokes, how to make Ks that have the curled upper arm not look like Rs, etc.

Merlyn/fiona/Bridget said...

I only see a couple that could look like Rs and to be honest. The rest seem quite K like to me.

In this case, for what you want, I would use the david harris book and follow how he shows to use the pen. This book is really good for pen strokes, trace it if you have to to get the shape and strokes right.

If the problem is technique it may very well be that your pen nib is wrong for the job, too thick, too inflexible to get just the right angle and curves. I know it took me a while to find a good pen nib brand that did what I needed it to do, unless you cut your own quills.

Again my suggestion is to pick 1 hand at first, use a book that shows you the progression of pen strokes and work with that over and over until you get it to where you want it to be. Since David harris is very good about showing how to hold the pen and curve it to get the right shapes as well as the progression of pen strokes in order I would start there, in fact I do start there- over and over. :)

It is really hard to give advice across this medium for something like this and I feel a bit bad that I don't quite know how to help visually.

Genevieve la flechiere said...

I too find Ks tough going, along with long F/S, but don't have an answer other than practice. They're a funny combination of straight lines (upright ascender) and curve (top loop, sometimes lower leg). There's not a lot of them in Latin texts to model on.
One of the attractions of batarde hand for me is that it's used to write in English and French. So I can actually read and (mostly) understand them - helps w/ contextual guesses at mystery letters.

Merlyn/fiona/Bridget said...

Ss drive me crazy as well but Ys are fun.

Sara L. Uckelman said...

I learned the trick (for me) with the long Ss about a year and a half ago, and that is that I need to draw the top stroke nearly vertical; if I try to make it a curve, then it curves too much. I'm not always able to implement the trick, but when I do, they suddenly look right.

Melisende Fitzwalter said...

Another vote for the general problematic nature of Ks!!

I also sometimes have a love/hate relationship with the gothic c