Foundational Hand – Order and Direction
After studying the proportions of the Foundational Hand letters, the next step is to start writing the letters.
Each letter is constructed rather than written. The letters are made up of a combination of pen strokes, which are only made in a top – down or left – right direction. The pen is never pushed up.
When we studied the proportions of the Foundational Hand we could group the letters according to their widths. Now, we can group them according to the order and direction of the pen strokes.
You may find it useful to look at the construction grid whilst studying the order and direction of the letters.
The first group consists of the letters c, e, and o.
These letters are based on the circle shape. This shape is produced with two pen strokes. Visualise a clock face and start the first stroke at approximately the 11, and finish it in an anti-clockwise direction at 5. The second stroke starts again at the 11 and finishes in a clockwise direction on the 5 to complete the letter o.
The first pen-stroke for the letters c and e are the same as the first of the letter o. The second pen-stroke on the c and e are shorter and finish around the 1 position on the imaginary clock face.
Finally, the letter e has a third stroke, starting at the end of the second stroke and finishes when it touches the first stroke.
The next group of letters are d, q, b and p. All these letters combine curved and straight pen strokes. When writing these letters it can be useful to think of the underlying circle shape, which your pen will leave or join at certain points depending upon which letter is being written.
The first stroke of the b starts at the ascender height of the letter, which can be eyed in at just under half the x-height (body height of letters with no ascender or descender). Continue the ascender stroke of the b until it ‘picks up’ the circle shape, follow round the circle until the pen reaches the 5 on the imaginary clock face. The second stroke starts on the first stroke following the circle round until it touches the end of the first stroke.
The letter d is similar to the c except it has a third stroke for the ascender, which will touch the ends of the first and second stroke being for finishing on the write-line.
Letter p starts with a vertical stroke from the x-height down to the imaginary descender line, which is just under half the x-height below the write-line. The second and third strokes are curved, starting on the descender stroke and following round the imaginary circle.
The letter q is almost the same as the d, except it has a descender stroke rather than an ascender stroke.
Letters a, h, m, n, r
All these letters combine curved and straight pen strokes. Once again, think of the underlying circle shape, which your pen will leave or join at certain points depending upon the letter being written.
The Letter h consists of two pen strokes. The first is a vertical ascender stroke. The second stroke starts curved, follows the circle round, then leaves it and becomes straight.
The letter n is produced exactly the same way as the letter h, except the first stroke is not so tall as it starts on the x-height line. The first two pen strokes of the letter m are the same as the letter n. Then a third stroke is added which is identical to the second stroke.
The letter r is also written the same way as the letter n except the second stroke finishes at the point where the circle would have been left and the straight is picked up.
The first stroke of letter a is the same as the second stroke of the letters h, m and n. The second stroke follows the circle. Finally, the third stroke starts at the same point as the second stroke, but is a straight line at a 30° angle and touches the first stroke.
The next group of letters are l, u and t. These letters are straight-forward. The letter l is the same as the first stroke of letter b.
The letter u is also similar to the first stroke of letter b except it starts lower down. The second stroke starts on the x-height line and finishes on the write-line.
Letter t has the same first stroke as letter u. It is completed by a second horizontal stroke.
The following letters k, v, w, x, y and z are made of at least one diagonal pen stroke.
The letter k starts with a vertical ascender stroke, then a second stroke diagonal stroke which joins the vertical stroke. The final stroke is also diagonal and starts where the first and second stroke meet and stops when it touches the write-line. If you look closely you will see it goes further out than the second stroke. This makes the letter look more balanced. If the end of these two pen-strokes lined up the letter would look like it is about to fall over.
Letter v is simply two diagonal strokes and these are repeated to produce the letter w.
The letter y is the same as the v except the second stroke is extended until to create a descender stroke.
Letter x is a little different, you need to create it in such a way that the two stroke cross slightly above the half-way mark on the x-height. This means the top part will be slightly smaller than the bottom which will give the letter a better balance.
Finally, in this group is letter z. The easiest way to produce this is with the two horizontal pen strokes, then join these two strokes with a diagonal pen-stroke to complete the letter.
Now for the hardest letters; f, g and s. Out of these three letters, f is the simplest. It starts with a vertical ascender stroke – except this is not as tall as the other ascender strokes we have produced so far. This is because we have to allow for the second curved stroke. The overall height of these two strokes should be the same as other letters that have an ascender. Finally, we need a horizontal stroke to complete the letter.
Which will you find the hardest letter g or s? These are trickier because unlike all the other letters we have written they do not relate so well to the grid.
The letter g is made of a circle shape, with an oval/bowl shape under the write-line. You can see the letter g is made of three pen-strokes. The first stroke is just like the first stroke of the letter o for example, except it is a smaller. The second stroke starts like the second stroke of the letter o, but when it joins the first stroke it continues and changes direction in the gap between the bottom of the shape and the write-line. The third stroke completes the oval shape. Finally, we have a little fourth stroke to complete the letter.
The letter s is made up of three strokes. The first stroke is sort of an s shape! The second and third strokes complete the letter s. These are easier to get right than the first stroke because they basically follow the circle shape on our construction grid. The secret to this letter is to make both ‘ends’ of the first stroke not too curved. Because the other two strokes are curved they will compensate and give the overall correct shape.
Finally, we are left with the letters i and j, which are made from one pen-stroke. You just need to remember to curve the end of the stroke when writing the letter j.