Flourishing Calligraphy: Analyzing Principles and Examples | Doris Fullgrabe | Skillshare

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Flourishing Calligraphy: Analyzing Principles and Examples

teacher avatar Doris Fullgrabe, Lettering & Calligraphy, Freelance

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Welcome & Introduction


    • 2.

      Handout & Basic Shapes


    • 3.

      Historical Examples: Analysis & Principles


    • 4.

      Warm-Up Exercises


    • 5.



    • 6.



    • 7.

      Flourishing a Longer Quote


    • 8.

      Troubleshooting & Thank You


    • 9.

      Bonus: Longer Quote Flourishing Process


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About This Class

Flourishes are swirls, loops, waves, and curves that decorate and embellish existing letterforms. They can be connected to letters or free-standing. They can be used to add flair or whimsy, and if there’s too many of them, confusion. 

With the right eye for design and layout, they can enhance your piece and help with overall composition and beauty. You can use them to fill gaps, to make interesting connections, and to fill imaginary shapes. Most importantly, you can practice drawing them. 

In this class, we’re going to look at examples of flourishing and learn to analyze the principles of when and where to place them, how to build them, and why they may or may not work. This class is intended as a companion to my Introduction to Copperplate course, also available here on Skillshare, and you don’t need previous experience. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Doris Fullgrabe

Lettering & Calligraphy, Freelance


Writing and doodling with our hands has been shown to improve memory retention, calm monkey-brain, and lower blood pressure. It makes everyday life more beautiful, and it's a craft you can learn. 

I'm Doris, I'm an MBTI® Master Practitioner, just graduated with a Masters in Applied Psychology, and I also love lettering and calligraphy!

Born and raised in Germany, I have lived and worked in Scotland, England, Spain, the Canary Islands, Mexico, Texas, and New York City, before moving to Brooklyn. 

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Level: Beginner

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1. Welcome & Introduction: Hello, welcome to Introduction to flourishing, I'm Doris [inaudible]. The online dictionary defines flourish as to grow or develop, in a healthy or vigorous way. Or as a bold or extravagant gesture or action, made especially to attract the attention of others. In calligraphy, flourishes are embellishments, swirls, loops, or curves that decorate existing letter forms. They can be connected to letters or free-standing. They can be used to add flair or whimsy, and if there's too many of them, confusion. With the right eye for a design at layout, they can enhance your piece and help with overall composition and beauty. You can use them to fill gaps, to make interesting connections, and to fill imaginary shapes. Most importantly, you can practice drawing them. In this class, we're going to look at examples of flourishing and learn to analyze the principles of when and where to place them, how to build them, and why they may or may not work. This class is intended as a companion to my introduction to Copperplate course, also available here on Skillshare, and you don't need any previous experience. Your project, is to write your favorite word and to add flourishes to it. Take a picture, post on the project page, and share a little bit about your process. I prepared a handout for you, to help with some of the basics as we go along, and I'm going to go over it here in the next video. With that, let's get started. 2. Handout & Basic Shapes: I love flourishes and try to add some wherever I can. The principles I'm going to share in this class mostly apply to cursive styles like copper plate and modern calligraphy. To begin, I want to make sure we are on the same page, so let's review some vocabulary. Let's go over the handout that you can find under your project tab. Feel free to print it out and keep it next to you as you practice. If any of the terms are unfamiliar to you, you can review the basic tools and setup lesson in the introduction to copper plate class, the guidelines on using half the two to one to two ratio and 55 degrees land. If you are using modern calligraphy styles than us maybe a little more upright or have different ratios. That is okay. We just want to make sure that any flourishes we use have enough space to breathe and don't look too cramped on the page, the x-height is the size of a lowercase letter. The asunder space is where capitals and anything that goes above the waistline lives. The descender space is where anything below the baseline lives. Since I'll be making my flourishes with the same tool I used to write copper plate, the same restrictions apply. My name is only going to be so flexible. So any flourish that is larger than an inch or an inch and a half is going to look out of place. Also since the tool creates light up and heavy down Stokes and some of the flourishes have horizontal heavy strokes and need to remember to rotate my paper. Another thing to keep in mind with flourishes is that every stroke creates not only a line, but it also defines a space on the page. This is also known as whites-pace or a counter space. As with all calligraphy rules, we want lines and spaces to be even and parallel for a clean and elegant look, when you are looking at a flourished piece, all the lines may seem confusing, but they are actually made up of a number of basic shapes. Let's look at some now. Some flourish shapes look like half moons are brackets. With the S-curve you want to remember that only the ends are curved.The middle stroke is actually straight. The figure eight is a doubled up S-curve that can overlap but doesn't have to. Spirals, can be as tight as you want to make them. Just make sure the distance between strokes is quite even. Loops are oval shapes where the strokes touch or across. Sometimes they look like pretzels and sometimes they look like corkscrews. All of these curves and loops can be combined into larger pieces. Just remember not to cross two thick lines or down strokes. In fact with flourishes, we have a little more leeway and losing down strokes light as well. It all depends on how much ink we want to lay down on the paper. 3. Historical Examples: Analysis & Principles: George becomes competitive with the universal Penman, its a great open source and public domain document for inspiration. Let's look at some samples to a train our eyes to see what makes a good flourish. From there, we're going to infer a couple of general principles that you can use for your own practice.Here's a word where if we trace the lines, we see that the capital V has a flourished in stroke and exit stroke. The writer added one more large flourish that gives the appearance of the word floating on a cloud. It's pretty light and airy and balanced and fits with the meaning of the word. Knowing what we know about light up and heavy down strokes, the writer probably turned the page counter clockwise to add it, paying close attention to the counter spaces created by the crossing strokes. To compare. Here is the same word flourished again with a more elaborate capital V and two more freestanding flourishes. These are much more tightly wound and add more weight to the page, making it look darker overall. Mixing swirls and loops and a cork screw in one piece, makes my eye wonder where to look first, so I find this version less balanced and airy, but more busy and confusing. Here's a word with an ascender d, and a descender y that the writer flourished in addition to the capital I. I'm noticing the size of the oval flourishes are pretty consistent. If we trace their positions, they are pretty much horizontal. To compare, here's the same word with only the middle s flourished for a very clean look. With flourishes added to the front and end to help justify the word as a title above the text. Although they are not a mirror image, the looks are similar enough for the edge and these waves help anchor the word on the baseline. Here's a word with a flourished capital P, and a flourished ending y. A freestanding curly Q was added, and that visually fills an imaginary oval shape. When measuring fills shape, also known as a cartouche, like the old Egyptian named tablets.n The descender flourish S curves create even counter spaces so the piece feels balanced and the word remains legible. To compare, here's the same word written in all caps and flourished within an [inaudible] life. We see a couple of brackets, which I love, but we really have to concentrate to make out what is a letter and what is a flourish. If we look closely, there's a ligature between the P and y, which adds one long line where all others are pretty short and looped much tighter. In my opinion, it looks out of place. Maybe we could make this word more legible if we wrote the letters with thicker down strokes and kept all the flourishes light but all caps in cursive are generally hard to read, so it probably wouldn't make much difference. Let's review. The most natural places to add flourishes are the first and last letter, as well as ascenders and descenders. It is not recommended to flourish the same letter above and below, but it might work if it's the central ledger and that is the only flourish you add. You also want to avoid dragging down stems of letters that don't naturally taper to avoid ambiguity and maintain legibility. Freestanding flourishes can help center a title word or fill gaps to create visual containers also called cartouches, The size and shape of the flourish follows the style of calligraphy, and in copper plate that is the oval. The position of the flourish also follows the slant of the guidelines. Either the same angle as the down stroke or otherwise they're horizontal. If you're using modern calligraphy, your flourishing may be more round and upright. The strokes of the flourish should cross in a way that they create consistent counter spaces, and we want to make sure to give it enough space so it appears [inaudible] and light, not too busy or forced. We have some flexibility with adding weight to the flourishes, as the inquiry lay down helps balance the overall look of the piece. To write the flourishes, we will be rotating the paper a lot to make sure we're working with our tools and not against them. Above all, flourishes should enhance the word and not complicate its eligibility. If in doubt, take it out. 4. Warm-Up Exercises: If you've taken my class on corporate play or handwriting, you know that I'm a fan of the warm-up. Same goes for flourishing. If you want your lines to have good flow and grace, you might want to loosen up your arm and bring those ellipses and ovals and curves and waves into muscle memory. With a pencil and a piece of printer paper, start by making some really big ellipses. Really get your shoulders and your whole arm involved. So often we cramp our little hands around the pen and write just from the wrists, but with flourishes, we need freedom to move. Let's do some swirls and loops. We want the distance between the lines to be quite equal. Right now we're just loosely warming up. Anything that comes out is okay. But when we get to the actual application, we're going to be more intentional about it. See if you can find a rhythm where your circles are similar in size and contrast and spacing. Now that we've filled a page or two of these, let's look at some words and phrases we're going to write. 5. Love: Have a look at the word that you want to write and consider how many ascenders and descenders it has. If you're writing a longer quote, take a look at how you want to stack them. That will inform how close you can put each line to one another and how many holes you potentially have to fill for an even distribution of ink on the page. I'll show you an example of my own work a little later on. But first, I usually write the basic letter forms before I think about flourishes. Since there are so many different ways to flourish, it's a good idea to start sketching in pencil first and see how everything fits and works together before inking the whole piece. I love the word love so let's start with that. My process involves thumbnails and sketching before I go in for refining the final piece. Let's write the word a few times to get a feel for where the flourishes would make sense and where we might find a natural and organic flow. With a capital L, we have a great entrance loop and we can make the horizontal base a little longer. I can tell I want to play with that already. The O can be formed in various ways. Traditional copper plate or a more modern [inaudible] style with loops on top. Good to keep in mind that I can balance out the space above in case my lower L stem dips down a lot. Same with the V. That can also be more traditional or more modern. The E is going to end on a high note just by virtue of the exit stroke moving upwards. We can make that loop around or use a line to make it reach out to maybe fill the void. Just with this, we have four letters and looking at three variations each which gives us 64 different ways to write this word. That's amazing. I'm going to pick this combination and see how I like it written out. 6. Joy: Let's write another happy word. How about joy? I'm going to show you a different pen for this. Just for fun. I really like the hard [inaudible] I hope I'm pronouncing those correctly, and also the dual brush pens. Let's play with those. For a short word like joy, its going to be fun to write it a little bit bigger. Already while sketching, I see that this word potentially has to descenders depending on how I write the capital J. Which means we'll have to get creative filling the space above those letters to make sure it's not too empty up there, while, we're flourishing down here. We want to make sure that the descenders don't get it into one another ways. We can take the uppercase J over here. We can open up the descender or connect it to the next letter. We can open up that O again or leave it closed, so it doesn't interfere with the J. We have a bunch of options with our closing Y. I'm going to work through a few to see which ones I like best. 7. Flourishing a Longer Quote: As a third example, I found something on my iPad that I did last year. It's a phrase that I borrowed from a print I bought from Matthew Smith. He is at @mttymtt on Instagram. I was pretty happy with my version at the time, but as is the case with learning and growing and practicing more, I think we can give it another go today and get a different result. Here is a photo of the original from Mtty's Instagram and here's my rendering dated February 14th, 2017. What I'm noticing is that the loops aren't really following the slant or a horizontal orientation. There's a hole in the middle. The overlapping strokes from the capitals create uneven counter spaces and as much as I like the leaves and illustrations, it just does not look balanced overall. How would I do this differently today? Again, I start by writing out the basic letter forms and then on a separate layer, I add some potential flourishes. I'm not really feeling this approach. It's not working out and I don't want to click and drag each word to change the line spacing, so let me start from scratch and a bit more loosely. I know which words I want to emphasize. So, I'm going to write those larger and I'm going to add simple embellishments as I go along by just writing the in strokes a little larger and adding a horizontal pretzel to the ascenders. Looking at the first sketch, I noticed a couple of blank spaces I'm going to want to fill. I want to make this line smaller and generally see that I can fit the whole piece into this oval shape to create a cartouche. In the second go-around, I'm sketching on top and writing over what I had to fill the gap and see what emerges. I love free-flowing it and in the Procreate app on the iPad, I have so many different layers to play with. I could be sketching for hours. Here, I even found a couple of ligatures connecting the capital G to the L, and then this Y to the D. I'm going over it with my copper plate ink brush to see what it looks like with a more pronounced contrast and there we have version three. Reviewing this one, I want to make sure my downstrokes appear parallel and that all flourishes follow either the slant or lay horizontally and that they feel the imaginary oval container. So we have an oppression of a coherent and balanced quote. To do that, I'm going to have to take out the Y and do the ligature because it pushes the word, garden too far over to the left. I'll also have to find a new place for this A. With these changes and although the M flourish on poem and the G flourish on garden could definitely be finessed. I'm going to call it, force times a charm. 8. Troubleshooting & Thank You: I hope these examples have helped train your eye to analyze flourishes pieces you like and what to emulate. They have also given you some ideas how to go about flourishing your favorite word. If you've been playing with flourishes but something doesn't quite look right, here are some ways to troubleshoot. Look at the whole, is the word legible doesn't look busy and breathable and are there any gaping holes? Hold your piece at arms length or if you're on the iPad, zoom in and out. Are the flourishes and letter forums the same shape? If there are crossed lines, do they create evenly sized counter spaces? Hold your peace upside down. Are the line weights evenly distributed? Or is there a lot of ink and heavy down strokes in one side of the piece, but not the other. Now hold it up close to your face. Are the nukes and ellipses nice and round? Or do the lines have thoughts? Are there any 26 strokes crossing each other? That's it for introduction to flourishing. Thank you so much for joining me and following along. Now you know everything I know about flourishing. I can't wait to see what you come up with. Please share your work on the project page here and let me know any questions or comments you might have. If you're sharing on Instagram, please tag me @stars for grabber and use the hashtag, just pick up a pen so I can see your work and share it with the pinch-off. Thanks so much and happy flourishing. 9. Bonus: Longer Quote Flourishing Process: