Calligraphy Funny?

hrant's picture

This piece was done in 1975. Does anybody see anything strange about it?

And Eben, don't ask me to spill the beans, OK? :-)
The beans will spill when it's time to make the burrito.

hhp

hrant's picture

Michael, that Arthur Baker example is amazing.

> There are not enough visual clues in this
> piece to indicate it was done by a southpaw!

Here are the top three opinions in this thread that make me doubt that:
-"You’d have to rotate your pen anti-clockwise for the ’A’ swirl with quite
a difficult manoevre, and even more so for the clockwise one on the ’h’
(unless your wrist joints are disjointed)."
-"it might have been originally written at an angle and then skewed upright."
-"the pen angle is all wrong from the start and is not correct at any point."
There are a few more, although less focused.

Not to mention that Timo figured it out, and apparently Jonathan (jselig) as well. Unless you think that their being left-handed (Timo too?) makes them jump to conclusions (not impossible I admit). I would be interested to hear specifically what made Timo -and especially Jonathan, since he says he had the idea immediately- think it was made by a left-hander.

Another useful avenue might be to look at the Mike Sull video that David linked to, and (while pondering the relevance of that crabby nib...) see if a right-hander could produce the same results with equal effort - contortions are grounds for disqualification!

> So you read it was written by a southpaw and backseat drove from there?

Hey, I've been driving this jalopy for years!

Basically I have ideas concerning the fact that ~15% of the population has to go to a "worker retraining facility" so to speak to do calligraphy "correctly". And this ties in to type very poignantly: if there's something Righteously Right about basing fonts on right-handed calligraphy, doesn't that mean there's something Wrong about left-handers? Furthermore, it is a fact that some people have been forced (sometimes by their teachers) to drop calligraphy because they are left-handed. What I have to ask is: what are we missing out on as a result?

This thread was an attempt to extract people's insights in
spite of themselves, and I'm pretty happy with the results.

> Was it done by Larry Brady?

You're good! The example is from Nemoy's book. He has a whole chapter about how southpaws should do calligraphy - as do many other calligraphy books. I even own a 64-page book titled "Left-Handed Calligraphy". And let's not go into how Noordzij suggests they should write...

> How do you get left handed?

It has to do with the orientation of certain body parts during conception.

hhp

typerror's picture

Tripe, pure tripe. I should have said 20/20 hindsight.

I talked with Bob Boyajian today and Larry took his class on left handed calligraphy in the 70's. Bob laughed at your speculation! "You cannot tell." Those "backward finishes" were basically made famous by James Hayes, Arthur Davies, Arthur Baker and Byron MacDonald - ALL RIGHTIES as far as I know.

Manipulation, whether you want to disqualify it or not, is pretty standard. Not to mention almost natural!

The contortions in Sull's videos are also pretty standard. I turn the paper, turn the pen, add pressure to expand the stroke. You are delving into a field you have no clue about. Stick to your pencils.

As to the two who guessed leftie, pure grasping at straws.

Michael

typerror's picture

and I’m pretty happy with the results.

This is what is wrong with the polls in this country's media. They see what they want to see.

You can bulldoze others on this site in the typographic realm but you have stepped into the calligraphic quagmire on this one and you are in over your head.

Michael

hrant's picture

> “You cannot tell.”

True, I cannot; the one calligraphy class I've taken gave me minimal insight. But that's the main reason I started this thread. The thing is, others here -including Graham- think they can, or at least have some niggling feeling. Maybe they're wrong too. And like I said myself maybe the two who guessed it right were unduly motivated, or just lucky. But for yourself, how can you be sure all those people are way off?

> Not to mention almost natural!

Why "almost"?
Would you say the diagonal of a standard typographic "Z" is Unnatural?

> Stick to your pencils.

For making type, indeed.

hhp

typerror's picture

And as to the "retraining" give me a break. My first student was a southpaw. I reoriented MY perspective to accommodate her. Southpaws can compensate by hooking (back off perverts), working upside down and backwards (that I assume is Betsy's book you have) or learning not to smear the ink and working with a canted pen!

Michael

hrant's picture

> “You cannot tell.”

And there's something else: if that's in fact true, might it not be because the left-hander is using a "special" nib, or perhaps a contorted posture? Contortion is good if it's necessary, but can conforming to third-party expectations lead to a full fruition of a person's creativity? I would love to see a left-hander expertly render something "naturally" - then we might see either something very outlandish, or something very normal. Maybe Bob Boyajian can whip up an example?

> Southpaws can compensate by ...

Compensate for what?...
And why do that to them?

hhp

typerror's picture

Pardon me, NATURAL, no almost. As a practitioner for thirty years (and you have how manys years?) I should have a clue!

You have wasted my time... and I WAS intrigued at the beginning to be quite honest.

Go lecture to someone you can dupe!

Michael

blank's picture

What I love about this is the used-bookstore-bargain-bin feel it has. I expect to see it right in-between The Joy of Sex and The Time Life Guide to Black and White Photography, volume 3. But as wonky as it feels, I would love to be able to give up coffee and write like that.

shawkash's picture

very impressive result, however Allow me to ask In case I can write it with my right hand, how would I be 100% sure it is done by a left hand? It is how exactly I refused my idea at that time when I thought it may be done by a left hand.

Also I am not sure what exactly was funny in that? :)

A.

typerror's picture

I used canted nibs for different effects... the same ones lefties use ! What is your point? The Art of the Scribe could have been done by either hand!!!!!!!!!! Bob is in his 80's! I would not bother him again to satisfy your need to be king of the hill.

So now compensating is a chance to create victimhood. Start a government program!

Now I am getting pissed.

Michael

BlueStreak's picture

FWIW, I'm a lefty and was going to make that guess because some of the terminal ends of some individual letters have upward arching curves. (That cup tends to hold water for the righties, but lefties tend to let the water pour out.)

hrant's picture

Please:
> Southpaws can compensate by ...

Compensate for what, exactly? Being born incapable of smoothly controlling things with the right hand? Does this really sound like an Original Sin or something? And if it isn't, what does that say about the role of right-handed calligraphy in type?

> very impressive result

Do you mean this discussion, or the calligraphy? Assuming it's the latter: is it impressive because it was done a left-hander? If so, what does that imply?

> Allow me to ask ...

I'm not sure I understand you. Do you mean that you think it was not actually done by a left-hander, because a right-hander like you can duplicate it and/or it's too good? Well, I think it's unlikely that the Nemoy book is incorrect about the scribe and Michael's source is confused as well. On the other hand, if a right-hander AND a left-hander can indeed create this without "going out of their way"*, then my stance has lost a big chunk of its foundation.

* Whatever that might mean, I'm open to discussion on the validity of that.

BTW, "funny" = peculiar, in this case.

hhp

hrant's picture

Excuse me, what "king of the hill"?! I'm just trying to find
things out, either to reinforce or strike down my thoughts.
If you feel manipulated, I'm sorry. But maybe try to use this
opportunity to contemplate different perspectives.

And no government program. Just a school of type design.

> (That cup tends to hold water for the righties,
> but lefties tend to let the water pour out.)

Interesting.
Michael, what do you think?

hhp

hrant's picture

BTW, was Bob Boyajian at TypeCon-2004 (SF)? Because I actually met an octogenarian left-handed calligrapher there! Jill Bell introduced me. Assuming it's the same person, Jill didn't mention his last name, otherwise I would have remembered him better. Anyway, he's a very friendly gentleman, with obviously great experience. I wish he could participate.

hhp

shawkash's picture

>Do you mean this discussion, or the calligraphy? ( only 2 choices? )

It just really means it is an impressive result.

I think You agree about that too, You wrote:
" This thread was an attempt to extract people’s insights in
spite of themselves, and I’m pretty happy with the results."

>I’m not sure I understand you

I trust You and I am sure Your resource is correct, but I am speaking about the way You have asked us earlier before You tell the result.. or let's put it that way.. if You were in my place and someone asked You if You see anything funny in this art piece, oh and You didn't yet read Nemoy book, how can You guess and be sure 100% it is done by a left handed? I am really interested to know. :)

>The Art of the Scribe could have been done by either hand!!!!!!!!!!
Mr.Michael, Are You talking to me?

A.

typerror's picture

"Compensate for what, exactly? Being born incapable of smoothly controlling things with the right hand"
How bigoted and ignorant is that?

"Assuming it’s the latter: is it impressive because it was done a left-hander?"

It never occurred to me that it could not be done by a left hander which bolsters my initial reaction to the piece. Guess I just know a little more about calligraphy and its practitioners than you do and am not biased!

“going out of their way”

You have no clue about what is standard or not so don't even go there! Manipulation has been going on since the third century bc. If you want to argue this pick up a pen and call me in ten years.

"But maybe try to use this opportunity to contemplate different perspectives."

My perspective is fine as a result of 3 decades of practice and really looking. Real scrutiny as opposed to searching for far afield theories.

Done!

Michael

hrant's picture

> I just know a little more about calligraphy
> and its practitioners than you do

Of course, you know way more.
But what about others in this thread?
You're not addressing their observations.

I'm sorry, but nobody's perfect, about anything. At least leave a teensy bit of room to change you mind. You're certainly young enough (if you're the same person I took a photo of at TypeCon '98, doing some great spontaneous lettering, using a chair like a table). Even Bob could change his mind. After I gave my talk at ATypI-Leipzig (about blackletter), Colin Banks came up to me and said, point blank: "You changed my mind." Hey, I change my mind all the time.

> am not biased!

I don't agree.

Not that I have no biases. But this thread serves to tame them.
Otherwise I would have put up that image and said "look, I was right!"

Even after this thread I don't know if I'm right.
But your stonewalling doesn't help anybody.
Please, help.

> Manipulation has been going on since the third century bc.

Well, so has highway robbery.

The question is: can right-handed and left-handed calligraphers produce the same results with the same effort?

Is it really far-fetched to think that left-handers are more comfortable (more "natural") at making different shapes than right-handers?

hhp

typerror's picture

"I’m sorry, but nobody’s perfect, about anything. At least leave a teensy bit of room to change you mind."

I did not say, nor do I believe I am perfect. Far from it, but I am not going to air out my weaknesses. How dare you question, in such a way, ones commitment and fervor to his chosen field. I constantly question every stroke I make with the pen. I just know forced thought when I see it, especially when it is posited by someone with limited experience in a field that I adore. At 56 I am up at 5 to get down to my studio and get my fingers wet! Most of the time I lay down at 1 in the morning. I am serious about what I do. Reading, practicing, experimenting.

Nobody has brought forth any inkling of proof about the difference of l vs. r. Ultimately the goal is the same, to emulate age old forms! However you achieve it.

Not stonewalling. Just giving you what I know and feel in my bones.

"The question is: can right-handed and left-handed calligraphers produce the same results with the same effort?"

Absolutely, unequivocally and without reservation!

And as to highway robbery, you are stealing my energy. If you want to do this off line just e-mail me via my contact. You want fervor, you got it.

Michael

typerror's picture

It was not the calligraphers who disagreed with me.

Michael

typerror's picture

You know what is a shame Hrant? This thread has gotten more posts than the calligraphy thread where people could have asked questions and gotten real answers from many of the lettering artists on this site. Instead they are... well you know, responding to the word "funny" in the title as opposed to "trying to find things out!" And this is your wild goose chase.

Michael

Graham McArthur's picture

>> There are not enough visual clues in this
>> piece to indicate it was done by a southpaw!

>Here are the top three opinions in this thread that make me doubt that:
>-“You’d have to rotate your pen anti-clockwise for the ’A’ swirl with quite
>a difficult manoevre, and even more so for the clockwise one on the ’h’
>(unless your wrist joints are disjointed).”
>-“it might have been originally written at an angle and then skewed upright.”
>-“the pen angle is all wrong from the start and is not correct at any point.”
>There are a few more, although less focused.

You do not have to rotate your pen anti-clockwise for the A swirl. The 'swirl' in question is a simple and basic pen manipulation technique that is an anti clockwise 'movement', however the rotation is actually to the right - a clockwise rotation. In this case the pen starts at a natural angle of about 60 degrees and in a downward- anti-clockwise movement the right hand edge of the pen is rotated to the right to finish at another natural pen angle of about 20 degrees. This a natural and simple pen manipulation for both right and left handers. It is, in fact easier for the left hander in this particular pen stroke. This standard manipulation is one of the easiest to do and the first one a calligrapher would learn when starting pen manipulation study.

As for "...and even more so for the clockwise one on the ’h’ (unless your wrist joints are disjointed).” "
This is not a pen manipulated stroke in any form! Are we looking at the same piece of lettering? Do you have any idea about pen made letters? From the comments being made in this thread I can only say - and with respect - that there is a lot of ignorance and ill informed opinion on calligraphy standards and practice as well as on how letters are constructed using the tools of the craft.
Nothing special here in pen manipulation and nothing to indicate a left hander. Even given the very steep starting pen angle - this is not always a sign of being left handed although it is more common in left handed beginners trying to write with a right hand nib and coming to grips with the pen hold (pun intended). It is also seen in right handed calligraphy, so its not exclusive to left handedness but is more due to a lack of looking, lack of familiarity with the tool and little understanding of correct letter form.

There is no skewing at all in this work. There is nothing 'peculiar' either. It's a standard example form the time. There is nothing special and nothing to define left handedness. My reference to the pen angle being wrong from the start can not be taken as a sign of left handedness - for this 'fault' is a common one for both left & right handed calligraphers. In this case the pen angles are too steep all round. Again this can not be seen as a sign of left V right.

Perhaps you may find more weight for your research into the direction you wish to take it by studying the effects and influence of religion on left/ right handedness and writing from left to right and from top to bottom and of turning the page from right to left.

Sye's picture

hey all, my 2 cents, hrant by using the word funny, i was 'tricked' and suspect other were to, into looking for something humerous. i think maybe in the future, using a different word would help ease the confusion and possibily the tense emotions.

just a suggestion.

cheers

hrant's picture

> Nobody has brought forth any inkling of proof

Forget proof, but do focus on the inkling.
Are we reading the same thread?

> It was not the calligraphers who disagreed with me.

Graham for one wrote "the pen angle is all wrong from the start and is not correct at any point." Is he not a calligrapher? I admit maybe I misunderstood him however. But there are others who are perhaps less experienced and were less incisive, but they made potentially interesting points, points that warrant a little bit of composed introspection, as opposed to berserker trench-digging.

> If you want to do this off line

Why should I want to do that?

I don't want your fervor; I have my own.
I do want your logic, because that I don't have.

> This thread has gotten more posts than the calligraphy thread

Considering this is Typophile, and not Calligraphile, I don't think that's a shame at all. In fact I'm very happy to hear that this forum, which I've frequented since its inception, is maintaining its integrity.

--

Michael, I fear your blustery manner is scaring off others. If you refuse to cool down and broaden your focus to include more than just what you can easily use as a punching-bag, please abstain. This isn't useful to anybody.

hhp

Graham McArthur's picture

hrant: “The question is: can right-handed and left-handed calligraphers produce the same results with the same effort?”

Michael: Absolutely, unequivocally and without reservation!

Me: Absolutely, unequivocally and without reservation!

hrant's picture

Graham, thank you for the detailed -and calm- clarifications.
Sorry that I misunderstood some important parts of what you had written.

Now, when you say:
"It is, in fact easier for the left hander in this particular pen stroke."
and
"given the very steep starting pen angle - this is not always a sign of being
left handed although it is more common in left handed beginners"
does that not seem to correlate with my main point?

I do understand that practice will allow a left-hander to come closer to what a right-hander would more easily render, but I have to suspect that even this difference matters; comfort, "natural", is very relevant.

> studying the effects and influence of religion on left/ right
> handedness and writing from left to right and

I'm not sure how religion can be a factor, at least in this realm; please elaborate at will. The directionality issue however can be quite a fascinating opening, and I was actually getting ready to ask the following:

Ahmad,
presuming you are experienced in Arabic calligraphy, I'm wondering if you think the right-to-left direction of Arabic actually gives an advantage to left-handers (due the smearing issue that Michael mentioned) even though as far as I know the conventional models are still based on right-handed calligraphy. Are there any left-handed Arabic calligraphers whose work might shed some light?

Simon, point taken.
Language is... funny. :->

hhp

typerror's picture

"Considering this is Typophile, and not Calligraphile, I don’t think that’s a shame at all. In fact I’m very happy to hear that this forum, which I’ve frequented since its inception, is maintaining its integrity.
Michael, I fear your blustery manner is scaring off others. If you refuse to cool down and broaden your focus to include more than just what you can easily use as a punching-bag, please abstain. This isn’t useful to anybody."

You, Hrant, are the one who broached this topic. Doesn't look like type to me!
So don't, at this point differentiate, between lettered or vectorized forms.

I have not been blustery, but steadfast in my beliefs based on knowledge. It seems to me you are the one unwilling to bend. Your lack of interest in corresponding cordially via e-mail tells me you just "wanna be right."

I am cool and "calm."

Michael

hrant's picture

> Doesn’t look like type to me!

It's indirect, certainly. But I'm essentially interested in type, not calligraphy, so you can be sure there's a connection, and it's a connection I already alluded to: if the dominance of right-handedness in calligraphy is spurious (and I admit that does remain a big IF) then the calligraphic basis at the heart of the bulk of type design so far should be tamed, possibly even discarded. To put it another way: 15% of the population cannot be "unnatural", cannot be seen as needing to "compensate"; it's much more logical (and gracious) to think that calligraphy (at least uni-directional calligraphy) is unnatural to type.

Calligraphic "handedness" is only one piece of the puzzle however. There are other, and much more forceful, arguments that lead to the desire to demote calligraphy in type design. This issue is quite a minor one. But we do deal in details around here!

As very many fellow type people know too well, this is a sentiment I've harbored for a long time, and I admit it would take a lot to dislodge me from it, considering all I've seen and all I've thought. However I am not jaded enough to stop looking for both validation and doubt.

> corresponding cordially via e-mail

What makes you think I would be cordial?
I'm much more a believer in candor.

I would correspond with you privately only if there's something important you'd like to contribute only in private.

hhp

Graham McArthur's picture

>Now, when you say:
>“It is, in fact easier for the left hander in this particular pen stroke.”
>and
>“given the very steep starting pen angle - this is not always a sign of being
>left handed although it is more common in left handed beginners”
>does that not seem to correlate with my main point?

I don't think it does support your main point at all. You will need a lot more tangible evidence than what is displayed here.

Religion has a large part to play with manuscript production, therefore it also had a great deal of influence on the development of the alphabet under discussion. Left handedness was considered a sign of the devil and was seen as a curse. It also has direct links in book binding and book design. More research needed before you can conclude anything yet, hhp.

John Hudson's picture

Re. the direction of Arabic writing:
http://www.arabictypography.com/movie1a.htm

Just because a text is read from right to left doesn't mean that it was written from right to left. Rotating the page avoids the ink smear problem.

typerror's picture

"What makes you think I would be cordial?
I’m much more a believer in candor."

As am I, and you are chastising me for that in this thread. I just offered you the opportunity to talk about calligraphy with a career's worth of knowledge. You refused. I question your sincerity.

"There are other, and much more forceful, arguments that lead to the desire to demote calligraphy in type design. This issue is quite a minor one. But we do deal in details around here!"

You forget that I design type (TDC awards two years running)and am a calligrapher. It is a huge issue to me. Are you saying that details can only be achieved by bezier control points? Balderdash!

You want calm, you got it. Does that please the gods?

p.s. if you are not interested in calligraphy, according to your last post, why did you start this thread.

Michael

Graham McArthur's picture

>Calligraphic “handedness” is only one piece of the puzzle however. There are other, and much more forceful, arguments that lead to >the desire to demote calligraphy in type design.

So, at last we come to the crus of the whole exercise. You are on a long path with no end in this battle.
Unfortunately your very strong and heavy bias against calligraphy is much too strong to engage in a reasonable debate on almost any point on calligraphy or in type design or even within this current thread.

This whole thread was orchestrated to deliver a certain response which has not delivered what you were after, despite a small claim of victory. Any support to your theories stand on very thin ground and to my mind have been refuted.

I would also refute any claim by you that Michael needs to calm down. He has put his point of view across strongly but calmly, as far as I can see. I can find no fault in his argument so far. I haven't felt the 'blustery manner' of any response. What I have felt is your continued trawling to stir the pot and invoke anger with thinly veiled jibes.
Michael has made a sensible suggestion given the direction and length of this thread to continue in private discussion. Michael is an extremely knowledgeable and competent calligrapher, one of the very best in the business, so he has a lot to offer and pass on to any discussion on letter forms, and not just calligraphic letter forms. Why take affront to this suggestion?

Instead of trying to manipulate and twist debate, why not present a documented and detailed submission supporting your theories. This continued clutching at straws will lead to nothing but resentment from those who may be able to offer insight.

This whole debate has become farcical and pointless and destined to a sad end.
Its good day from me.

hrant's picture

> You will need a lot more tangible evidence

I have to agree (even if I think there are glimmers of light in this thread). Maybe the Arabic (or Hebrew) angle might be more fruitful, since that seems to favor left-handers (in terms of not smearing at least).

> Just because a text is read from right to left doesn’t
> mean that it was written from right to left.

True.
On the other hand, it's possible for a right-hander to perform Arabic calligraphy without re-orienting the paper; during a workshop on Arabic calligraphy that I participated in during a type conference in Beirut, we were not told to tilt the paper.

> Rotating the page avoids the ink smear problem.

It also "avoids" the scribe being able to comfortably read what he's writing. :-/
I think the deciding factor might be the length of the text: if it's a short/artistic piece there's more freedom with the paper orientation.

> You forget that I design type (TDC awards two years running)

Congratulations. I can assure you that I fully believe that most of the craft of type design is on your side. Most type is essentially calligraphic. I don't claim to be in the majority. I do however claim to see where type is heading, even if it won't happen in my lifetime. For a glimpse, please see -no, research, and contemplate- the font Legato by Evert Bloemsma.

> Are you saying that details can only be achieved by bezier control points?

No actually, one of the main things about type (ideal reading) can only be arrived at through the delineation of the border between black and white, as opposed to the marking of the black. I'm not going to elaborate more in this thread, because I've done so too often in the past here and elsewhere.

> if you are not interested in calligraphy, according
> to your last post, why did you start this thread.

I am interested in calligraphy to the extent of learning its limitations and learning how to ween people (including myself) off of it in the realm of type.

> This continued clutching at straws will lead to nothing but
> resentment from those who may be able to offer insight.

I don't expect to get insight from people who's art I have insulted (if only in the sphere of type - calligraphy of itself I find very beautiful and enriching). I don't think most people are strong enough to remain objective when their entire life's work is doubted; artists especially are more liable to rely on their egos and throw humility out the window, to be honest. And that's why I had to resort to a ruse of sorts - simply to circumvent human nature. But that doesn't mean the outcome was predetermined. I really am looking for lights on the path, and this thread has been useful to me: now I know I need better examples, more evidence.

That said, I don't think I'm the only one who sees inconsistencies in the various opinions and claims made by you and Michael in this thread. These inconsistencies give me hope that there's more to this than meets the hand.

If you were expecting this thread to be a cheerleading festival for your art, I'm honestly sorry it turned out into something quite different. I do want people to celebrate, but sometimes there's serious ideological work to be trudged through. In any case, discussions with people I disagree with are my best hope of honing my methods and ideas, so thank you.

hhp

typerror's picture

We do not need cheerleaders.

Inconsistencies only occur in typefaces based on a lack of understanding of their calligraphic origins!

Michael

shawkash's picture

Ahmad,
>I’m wondering if you think the right-to-left direction of Arabic actually gives an advantage to left-handers

The right to left direction? hmm it is a nice theory too, but I don't see a different. It is all about training. Those who learn how to write by left hand are just got trained in a calligraphy school or they have trained them selves to do so. Likely someone like Khudir خضير who spend most of his day doing calligraphy is going to do the same art his hand can write by both hands with same quality in same time.

> Are there any left-handed Arabic calligraphers whose work might shed some light?

Hussien Fahmi Kahla حسين فهمي كحلةand he is a very old calligrapher, since the Egyptian kingdom days.

Fahmi Zayed. فهمي زايد
Said AbdulQadir ٍسيد عبد القادر
Hamdi AbdulSamad حمدي عبد الصمد( I guess he is still alive! and I know he graduated from my faculty too, so he has studied design as well! which means he sketch designs by his left hand too! ) - Faculty of Applied Arts, Cairo.

The are all Egyptian calligraphers, and it is well known Egyptian calligraphers are very good in what they are doing.

A.

hrant's picture

OK, let's say that with a little bit of training a left-hander can pen what a right-hander can with the same effort. What about this: let's say we ask a left-hander to write with a normal/natural grasp (like when writing a note with a ball-point pen) and not tilt the paper 90 degrees, and we give him a pen with a "normal" nib (or actually maybe one that is cut at the opposite angle - do they made those?), what would he create? Surely it would be different than what the right-hander would. Like the axis would be flipped horizontally, no? If so, what would people think of those results?

This experiment would be interesting in both Latin and Arabic (or Hebrew, which however I'm far less familiar with so would have trouble evaluating) so Michael, Ahmad, Graham, and possibly others are encouraged to help.

In fact I'm sure this has been done before, if only quietly; it seems hard to get left-handers to flaunt that fascinating divergence they're born with. Maybe having struggled to "compensate"*, at least initially, makes them loathe to go "backwards".

* That's still hanging - attacks do not remove the need to reply in earnest.

Something else:
It would be interesting to measure the proportion of left-handers in the population of calligraphers. If it's far below ~15% (as I suspect), and if we believe that left-handers have different parameters of creativity (no hard proof that I know of, however) then the question of "what are we missing out on?" resurfaces.

hhp

typerror's picture

"Surely it would be different than what the right-hander would."

Absolutely Hrant.

"If so, what would people think of those results?"

Sorry for the humor... but it would probably be hard to read.

I thought the percentage was about ten. When I teach Hrant, I always ask before class starts if there are any hookers in the room. There are usually snickers but invariably a knowing smile on a face appears and a hand is raised. Then everybody gets it.

How they have adjusted has long since passed. Suffice it to say they have adjusted tool (canted edge), stance (of the pen), grip, perspective (orientation of both body and paper) in order to allow them to physically represent the letter du jour. For no known reason I use a similar face to paper as a left hander (only I look from the left), I view from the side as opposed to straight on. Tried to break the habit but I could not give up the pacifier : )

All this to say each of us compensates, and going backwards would be a tough one unless it is caught early on. But, and here is my point, it is in order to accurately make the historical forms that have been passed down through the centuries. Even Zapf, after a few years of practice, reoriented his grip. Not an easy thing to do.

"it seems hard to get left-handers to flaunt that fascinating divergence they’re born with"

Not when you give them a tool that is "point neutral," such as a pointed pen (Michael Sull) or a ruling pen. Then you really see the smiles.

Michael

shawkash's picture

>What about this: let’s say we ask a left-hander to write with a normal/natural grasp..

What is normal to a left hander is not normal to right-handers! what I know is, it depends on the person himself. Those Arabic calligraphers who are writing Arabic calligraphy with both hands are a good example. One of them may use some pen that is different than the pen he uses to write by his natural writing hand ( if it is right or left ). This is basically possible as well for right handers, and it means their right hand is comfortable with some pen and their left hand is comfortable with another.

And some of them can write with both hands with same pen too! It is a question of the body itself: how good he can control over his left hand. And btw, I deeply believe it is always possible to get both to work the same way by a lot of training.

And I believe so because I have a personal theory, As a lot of practicing is the key of any hand craftsmanship. It is also the same way it may work for You to use Your right hand or left hand to gain a specific result. I know a girl that can draw with her feet.. and I see she can paint classic paintings too! and she does that because she has naturally born with no arms.. and acutally she doesn't have the arms concept at all. The Natural to her is just feet! It is something about the person at first place, and if someone has not born with his arms, he will instead train him self hard to use his feet, and it seems from her paintings she has a big control over a lot of various lines and colors.. and her art comes very natural.

Another matter of fact, I have read at some place in this thread that one of reasons to run this thread is about some students who has been asked to drop the calligraphy because they are left handers, if I am not wrong about what I read.. I hope what I mentioned is a good reason for them to say: No, we will not forget about calligraphy, we will just try it.

A.

hrant's picture

> it would probably be hard to read.

I don't see the humor, but I do see a relevant point of discussion. What would make it hard to read? Also, is readability a primary concern of calligraphy these days? When you read a piece of calligraphy, are you typically in a hurry? But of course I'm focusing on type, so speed/comfort is a big issue: would a font with horizontally-flipped ductus be slower to read? Why, and for how long?

> How they have adjusted has long since passed.

This is quite a peculiar thought to me...
What about the ones that aren't born yet?

> in order to allow them to physically represent the letter du jour.

OK, we're getting somewhere.
1) It's more like the "lettre des milènes"!
2) Are you saying it's a matter of fashion?

This leads me to say that it's time to change those clothes, at least when it comes to: making type; left-handed calligraphy.

> accurately make the historical forms

To me this has little value.

> point neutral

But then you can't make the "historical forms", correct? BTW, I didn't realize that Hull was using one of those in the video. I have to suspect that more left-handers use those than righties. If so, that's a skew right there.

> What is normal to a left hander is not normal to right-handers

Well, thank you.
Now, what does this imply?

> I deeply believe it is always possible to get both to work the same way by a lot of training.

It would be interesting to find any solid research to support that.
I have to doubt it because handedness is linked to brain structure.
On the other hand, it might be possible to change brain structure.
In fact during puberty this happens to all of us.

> I know a girl that can draw with her feet

There was a story on BBC.com about a boy like that in India.
But we don't know how well such people would have done with arms.

> good reason for them to say: No, we will not forget about calligraphy

If they're strong enough and if they want to badly enough.
The fact remains that a barrier is there, and I suspect we're losing something.

hhp

jt_the_ninja's picture

Hah...I guess that, being a lefty, I just didn't pick up on anything out of the ordinary...

Peace,
JT

hrant's picture

BTW, I managed to dig up that "Left-Handed Calligraphy" book (Vance Studley*, a 1991 Dover facsimile of the 1979 edition) and the inconsistencies I see here are reflected there as well. By turns you read things like "With a little effort, you can learn to letter with the broad-edged pen as well as the right-hander", followed not far afterwards by things like "the left-handed person is kept at a disadvantage" and "It is an altogether different way of tackling the problem and must be seen from this other point of view". Every passage contains a "sure, no problem" followed by a "it's really different". Very unnerving, and it leaves the impression that the nasty truth is being obscured.

* Whom I've met, at ArtCenter.

In Arabic and Hebrew especially, left-handers
should be placed on a pedestal, not retrained.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

In Arabic and Hebrew especially, left-handers
should be placed on a pedestal, not retrained.

Again, one shouldn't confuse direction of reading with direction of writing, and what needs to be analysed is how letters are constructed, not just the direction in which the arm moves between letters. Yes, left-handed writers might avoid issues of potential ink-smear in writing right-to-left scripts, but they face just as many challenges in terms of letter construction and ductus as they do for most Latin styles. Hebrew letters are basically written following the same construction as Latin letters, starting in the top left of the letter with the characteristic entry stroke. In almost all Hebrew strokes, as with Latin, the pen is pulled. In Arabic, the pen is more likely to be pushed sometimes, hence the importance of the flexible reed and the incredibly smooth paper used by Islamic calligraphers, but the ductus pattern is very similar to that of Hebrew (steeper than Latin, but in the same quadrant).

I suspect the implications of broad nib ductus patterns present the biggest challenges for left-handed writers regardless of script direction. These are always going to mean that a left-hander is at a disadvantage if trying to reproduce writing styles developed by right-handed scribes, and that is as true for Hebrew and Arabic as it is for Latin. Either the arm must be hooked or the page must be rotated; this is unavoidable. Again, this is presuming that the lefty is trying to write a broad nib style developed by and for right-handed scribes.

Things change when the flexible pointed nib and the expansion stroke pattern are introduced, and there are styles of strongly slanted English roundhand at which lefties should excel, because the normal contrast pattern of these letters corresponds to the natural angle of a left-handed writer and special canted pens are made for right-handers to master these styles.

Nick Shinn's picture


The most commonly used text type for books in Greece, during the 20th century, was Monotype Greek 90, the "Plain" or "Simple" style, as it was known. It was originally designed in the early 19th century by Ambroise Firmin Didot.

Why did he produce such a baroque (to use Bringhurst's descriptor of stress) creature and not a "Didone" face?
And why is the angle of stress "left-handed"?

I suspect he envisioned a type which would have to satisfy the demands of being part of a triumvirate with Latin Roman and Italic in academic French texts, with a quite different look from either. But what effect did this apparent celebration of minority handedness have on the Greek book-reading populace?

hrant's picture

> one shouldn’t confuse direction of reading with direction of writing

But one shouldn't forget that scribes benefit from reading what they're writing. Writing in a way that makes it more difficult for the writer to read simply to follow a certain unfounded convention is neither intelligent nor honest.

> how letters are constructed

This is of course my main contention. You refer to a construction that I believe is misguided, especially in terms of what readers need. The construction you refer to is tuned for right-handed scribes, and not the object of design: readers. Furthermore, even in its focus on creation it demotes 15% of the human population.

> they face just as many challenges in terms of letter
> construction and ductus as they do for most Latin styles.

Assuming they follow the right-handed model, I agree. But not smearing is an advantage, while in left-to-right scripts it's an extra impediment; it might even be a big reason why left-handers are compelled (although maybe mostly by right-handers who are teaching them...) to write "funny".

Also, I think many of the cultures that switched from right-to-left (or boustrophedon) to left-to-write did so because of the smearing issue.

> In almost all Hebrew strokes, as with Latin, the pen is pulled.
> In Arabic, the pen is more likely to be pushed sometimes

From the Studley book:
"the right-handed writer makes the majority of strokes in movements directed primarily away from the body. The left-handed writer makes the majority of strokes in a predominantly pushing movement towards the body. The right-hander pulls the pen across the page from left to right with the writing hand well in advance of the damp ink. To achieve the same results, the left-hander pushes the pen in a way that will not smear the freshly written ink. This is best accomplished by holding the pen below or in extreme cases, above the line of writing."
This seems to reinforce the view that Arabic and Hebrew are more friendly to left-handers.

> Either the arm must be hooked or the page must be rotated

I'm not so sure. I think with a "special" nib and enough facilitation of pushing, it might be possible. But I'm not in a position to test that theory; I'm right-handed. :-)

But if you're right, the opposite should be true for right-to-left scripts, no?

Anyway, I'm not very interested in left-handers emulating right-handers; to me that's old news, and it's unnatural. I'm interested in exploring the missing links. I'd like to see a left-handed calligraphic typeface, and gauge how people -readers- react to it.

--

Nick, maybe Ambroise Firmin Didot was left-handed, and lacking a precedent that he would feel forced to emulate, he did the "natural" thing? I'm just speculating.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

precedent

That prompted me to look through some reference material.
Wilson (1756) and Baskerville (1763) both have a "left-handed" stress to their Greeks.
So does Fry (1828) (based on the Wilson).
Fry also has another, "right-handed" Greek, a clone of the Porson cut by Richard Austin in 1806, based on the handwriting of Greek Scholar Richard Porson.
The Haralambous 18th century German revival Bekkeriana is also a lefty.
It seems probable that the only "natural" writing-to-type Greek style was the Porson, and that there was a tradition in the West of "left-handed" Greek types for several centuries.
With earlier Greek types of the 16th and 17th century, the printing is so bad they all look monoline, at least in the few examples I've seen. Of course, I'm no scholar, just a designer with a few type books.

shawkash's picture

>Well, thank you.
Now, what does this imply?

YVW sir, it implies:
1.The one who has born with no arms, started to use her feet instead of it, oh and she can draw better than many art graduated students who have 2 hands in regards of her skills, why? because she doesn't even have the concept of arms ( according to her talk ). Her feet is the natural part of body to write and draw.

2.The one who has a right hand, doesn't have the concept of left hand using.. yes I know he can try it and do it. But he can also try to use his feet to draw and do it too by a lot of training. What I see about the human is he can just try and do.. it is like sports .. You can't enter now a karate battle, but if You got some training for about 1 or 2 years may be You can .. at least You will get a lot better than how You were...

3....and vice versa for a left hander.

And that is how my theory works for me, without finding a research to support it, but I agree a research in that would be very interesting, and may be I can find someone to help me to do it someday. I am a designer too acutally, and I know how research is very important in design field, it is important too in fine art, but a lot of things I know in my illustration/calligraphy part have been known by life experince and by meeting a lot of artists, visiting galleries and reading in art history.

Another matter of fact is most Egyptians have been taught English writing since they were kids in schools. If not, then they started to learn it in primary school. So I guess the English/Latin direction concept as well as the Arabic direction concept. If You ask me what does that implies, I would thank You firstly for asking me, then I personally am not sure, but it should do something with the whole discussion. :)))))

A.

hrant's picture

Nick, my theory is shot. This is a very interesting line of discussion. Let's hope an expert in Greek will chime in. In the meantime, let's ask the calligraphy experts here: are those Greeks in fact left-handed?

> It seems probable that the only “natural”
> writing-to-type Greek style was the Porson

Natural to 85% of writers, and specifically with the broad-nib pen.
But in terms of what matters (reading), not necessarily natural at all.

> Now, what does this imply?

To me "What is normal to a left hander is not
normal to right-handers" supports my overall thrust.

> she can draw better than many

That still doesn't mean she couldn't have done better with hands. Now, sometimes people get motivated by a deficiency. For example, I don't think Lance Armstrong would have been so successful if not for his cancer. But that still doesn't mean she changed her brain structure to become AS GOOD as a right-hander would.

That said, I would love to see some foot calligraphy as well. In fact, as I've said before many years ago, I think mouth calligraphy would be the most fascinating.

> he can just try and do

But surely there are limits. For example, we cannot digest tree bark. Also, just because we can do something doesn't mean it's a good idea.

> a lot of things I know in my illustration/calligraphy
> part have been known by life experince

Which is critically important. I'm that way too. Often people ask me for Proof, and I tell them just because I don't have any doesn't mean I'm wrong. There are entire dark worlds out there that have not been documented, and to some extent can never be.

> most Egyptians have been taught English
> writing since they were kids in schools.

And Armenians from Lebanon are taught three writing systems... :-)
What does it imply? I'm not sure, but if it's anything like learning multiple languages at a young age, it's very good.

hhp

hrant's picture

BTW, concerning the Porson Greek: one way I find it "unnatural" is in its essentially Latinized structure. Except for being slanted, structurally it looks more Latin than Greek.

hhp

eliason's picture

Why did he produce such a baroque (to use Bringhurst’s descriptor of stress) creature and not a “Didone” face?

Nick, is the stress distinction between caps (which are completely "Didone" in the example) and "baroque" lowercase typical through the other historical examples you looked at?

kentlew's picture

For what it's worth, Devanagari script is traditionally written with a ductus opposite to that of Western calligraphy.

However, I've never heard it referred to as left-handed in any way.

-- Kent.

P.S. This is not my calligraphy, BTW; I'm way too rusty.

John Hudson's picture

Re. the Didot Greek. Nick, the angle of the ductus in the Didot Greek is consistent with the heritage of the Byzantine minuscule, and with preceding Greek types in the Adline-Garamond lineage. Didot regularised the angle -- one sees more variation in e.g. the Garamond Grec du Roi --, but this kind of ductus had been characteristic of most Greek writing for more than five hundred years. It isn't a 'left-handed stress': it simply implies that Byzantine scribes, the majority of whom we can assume to have been right-handed, wrote in a manner similar to Sanskrit scribers, with the wrist bent in and/or with the page rotated 30-45 degrees.

Here is an image from my ATypI Prague presentation on the influence of tools and writing styles on the normative shape of letters in different scripts, showing the variety of angles found in a typical Byzantine minuscule (the darker the line, the more prevalent the angle). In the Didot Greek style, the angle is more consistent, but it is close to the dominant angle in the earlier styles of writing and type.

Syndicate content Syndicate content