Learning Italic

I started learning calligraphy thinking it would be a cool thing to know how  to do, something that would be impressive and hopefully useful. Now I’ve decided to take a more disciplined approach. A couple of weeks ago I found these YouTube videos with Lloyd Reynolds teaching calligraphy. Lloyd Reynolds, from the Reed Library website:

was born in 1902 in Bemidji, Minnesota.  He came to Portland at the age of 12 and graduated from Franklin High School in 1920.  He first earned a bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University in botany and forestry and then in English from the University of Oregon.  He taught for two years at Roseburg High School before receiving a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Oregon.  Reed College hired Reynolds as an Instructor in 1929 to teach creative writing, English, and then art history and the graphic arts.  He retired as a full professor in Art in 1969, but continued to teach workshops and classes.

Reynolds learned calligraphy through personal research, and his informal calligraphy classes in the 1940s resulted in for-credit classes being offered by Reed starting in 1949.  Calligraphy stretched to include book design, typography, and printmaking with woodcuts.  Reynolds’ classes were always informative and effective but, more importantly, he taught a philosophy of life, a history of whatever subject was under study, and the movement and excitement of things; he pushed students to extend themselves and to see beneath the surface.  He inspired and generously shared his knowledge – a man in love with letters and literacy who left a legacy of beauty and passionately dedicated students, teachers, and friends.

Awarded a doctorate of humane letters by Reed in 1972 and many other honors and certificates, Reynolds received the unusual honor of being named Calligrapher Laureate of Oregon by Governor Tom McCall in 1972, the first such recognition of a calligrapher by a state.  Also a recipient of the Governor’s Award for the Arts in early 1978, Reynolds died in October of 1978, leaving his wife Judith, two sons, John and Richard, and several grandchildren.

Apparently he had been asked to make 20 half-hour TV programs on italic calligraphy and handwriting for the Oregon Education Television Service (later to become Oregon Public Broadcasting). As I watched the YouTube video I  saw that he was teaching out of a book, so I went to the library and found it: Italic Calligraphy and Handwriting: Exercises and Text, by Lloyd Reynolds. I have been slowly making my way through this book over the past few days. It is much better than what I had been doing, which was just finding the alphabet in a calligraphy book, or using the alphabet in the little booklet that came with my pen. Here are real lessons, with advice and very good examples, exercises to practice and encouraging words to get you through. Just what I needed! I haven’t gotten very far in the lessons, I’m only on number three so far, but I can see my italic improving already! Dedicating a little practice time each day really helps. Here is some of what I’ve done:


The first exercise: “i”s and “o”s The o is one of the most fundamental shapes in italic and many other hands. It appears in part in the letters a, b, c, d, e, g, o (obviously) p, and q.

The first exercise, as you can see, is to do a page of ioioioioioio etc. For the second exercise “Relate a, d, g, q, b, p, c, and to o.” and “write a page of linoa” So, after some ioioio‘s to warm up that’s what I did:

Here is my attempt at Lloyd Reynolds second lesson in “Italic calligraphy and handwriting” A page, or almost a page, of linoa. The red cartridge did run out so I had to switch to green.

The next lesson involves real words, using the letters a, b, c, d, e, g, i, l, o, p, and r. Here is my practice sheet:

Here, after quite a bit more linoa’s, is lesson three. Real words! Of course they are pretty random and don’t make a whole lot of sense when read together, but WORDS!

Well, I wasn’t satisfied with that attempt, so I did it again, with some more linoa’s and io‘s

Here is more of Reynolds lesson three, not sure how it got so beat up, but I think it was the cat. He likes to lie all over my stuff.

The last one is much better by far, I feel, although it still could use some work. I am probably going to stick to lesson three a bit more.

News on the Hobbit front: I have run out of ink. Because I didn’t have any bottles of ink I had been using the blue fountain pen cartridges that are for my brother’s fountain pen he uses for school, squeezing it out and dipping the quill in. Unfortunately I have run out. In looking for the same brand, but in bottle form, I found they would have to ship it all the way from England and it would be $13 just for an ounce of ink, a little too spendy for me, so I’m a little stuck there. But I’m going to continue with my italic practice and hopefully figure something out for the Hobbit soon.


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