RENDERING SWASHED ITALIC MAJUSCULE LETTERFORMS

Last updated: 10 July 2016


Exemplar showing a cornucopia of swash Majuscule variants and textual devices


Made-up double line writing devices are very useful in analyzing letterform construction

I make these up using pencils or ball pointed pen refill cartridges taped together as illustrated in the following photograph:


Twin point pens

I tape them together with masking tape. I sometimes do a similar thing with pencils, shaving away the wood until the desired line spacing is achieved. Writing is very easy using these devices -- as long as you let "the pen rule the hand" and maintain the points consistently at the desired angle to the line of writing and keep them in contact with the paper throughout the letter formation. This method of letterform construction provides ready detection of errors and deficiencies.


The first few exemplars below represent typical Swash Majuscule letters rendered in essential (skeleton) form using twin point pens in order to illustrate the importance of maintaining the full width of the pen nib in contact with the writing surface and the desired angle to the base line throughout each letter stroke rendition. I used color to indicate stroke order of formation for the first four exemplars -- First stroke: Black, Second stroke: Red Third stroke: Blue -- but I found the blue was difficult to distinguish from the black, so I switched to using just black and numbering the stroke order. The start points, direction of stroke formation and end of stroke (pen lifts) are indicated on each Swash letter depiction.

These letter renditions illustrate some of the underlying principles of Italic Swash letter rendition that I think are very important: They require courage -- there are some big sweeping curves that often start "out in space" using push strokes -- not for the weak of heart. They require "spatial awareness" -- and that relates back to courage (above). Some letters require starting a stroke some distance from where the preceding one ended. You often end up like a golfer lining up a putt. They require concentration in maintaining the full width of the pen nib in contact with the writing surface and at the desired angle to the base line throughout each letter stroke rendition (twin pen practice enhances this). Each swash letter stroke must (as Edward Johnston put it) "Crack like a whip" No noodling here! But, not to hurry the descender swashes -- slow down as you approach the bottom just like applying the brakes in a car. The sweeps and descender drops should be grand and exude panache! Let the pen rule the hand -- do lots of double line letter rendition practice -- form the letter strokes using the forearm and shoulder -- not the wrist.

It is important to experiment in forming your own Swash Majuscules using twin pointed writing devices to determine which stroke order, stroke direction and pen lifts are most comfortable for you and produce the best results.


Twin point pen rendition of the letter R -- three letter strokes -- three pen lifts.


Twin point pen rendition of the letter S -- three letter strokes -- three pen lifts.


Twin point pen rendition of the letter -- L -- two letter strokes -- two pen lifts.


Twin point pen rendition of the letter -- N -- squat form -- three letter strokes -- three pen lifts.


Twin point pen rendition of the letter -- N -- tall form -- three letter strokes -- three pen lifts.


Twin point pen rendition of the letter -- A -- four letter strokes -- four pen lifts.


~~~~~ Additional Exemplars to be included here ~~~~~


Chart depicting various Swash Majuscule letterform constructs
L to R: Primary letterform - number of strokes - order of strokes - alternates


Exemplar showing use of color and swash Majuscule variants


Exemplar showing various swash Majuscule letterforms


Exemplar showing my current everyday writing including swash Majuscules


For some great (and sometimes wild) Swash Italic Majuscules see: Masters of the Italic Letter Twenty-Two Exemplars from the Sixteenth Century by Kathryn A. Atkins, David R. Godine, Publisher Inc., Boston, Massachusetts


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