Pen and Ink

Some people are saying that penmanship is a lost art, that it is not a necessary skill anymore. I can still remember learning Cursive Writing in Grade School. The handwriting charts above the blackboard, white letters on a green background. Each letter was machine-perfect. A lofty goal that few mortals would attain in their lifetimes.

By the time that I got to 5th grade my buddy, Roger, had the best handwriting of any boy I knew. It was not “girly” by any means—no flourishes or over-rounded forms—but very concise, neat and, above all, legible. I tried to emulate his style, but never attained the level of his expertise. My handwriting continued to improve and I felt good about the time that I spent and the results that I achieved.

When I got into 8th grade I took a class in Mechanical Drawing. We learned the fundamentals of Orthographic Projection and Isometric drawing. That was the year that I got in touch with rendering the top, front, and right-side views of objects. It was also the year that I re-learned how to print in upper and lower case letters.

Mechanical Drawing was all about discipline. Seeing an object in your head wasn’t enough. You had to convey that information in such a manner that someone else could understand what you saw. Even those ancient artists in France had a learning curve leading up to the drawings that they left on the walls in Lescaux.

Switching from cursive to printing for an hour each day required practice. I had to once more learn to switch gears and use a skill that I had set aside. The following year I took a combined class of Mechanical and Architectural Drafting and it was at this point in my life that I took a detour that I have continued on to this day.

If you look at a set of plans for a structure you will notice that everything is written in capital letters. This eliminates the confusion that can result in different people working on the same drawing/project. All caps also has the advantage of presenting a uniform look to the information being presented. The numbers and letters are easily distinguished across the entire industry and communication is improved.

Printing in all capital letters slowly became my default handwriting and when I joined the IBEW’s apprenticeship program I already had the “look” that distinguished my work from the rest.

These days I can sign a check, or a document, with my name in cursive script. If I have to spell out my entire name I feel like that 3rd grader of so long ago, struggling to complete a sentence in cursive. The Lioness once observed that my checks look more like ransom notes, and she has a point.

Behold a Master

Jake Weidmann is one of 12 recognized Master Penmen in the world. He is the youngest by three decades. I am in awe of his talent.

During my time in college I had the pleasure of attending classes with some guys who had artistic skills similar to Jake’s. I have no idea what has happened to them in the last 50 years, but my appreciation of their work and the inspiration that they provided was re-awakened when I saw this video.

I will confess to being a font junkie since I began to use a computer. I love the look of different fonts and it is so easy to change from one to another without the painstaking task of actually putting pen to paper.

What is the state of your handwriting these days? Has the keyboard had an effect on your written communication skills?


  14 comments for “Pen and Ink

  1. August 12, 2015 at 12:06 PM

    Font Junky I thought I was the only one. I took calligraphy in college we used India ink and nibs. Very hard to do. But I learned about letter size and spacing. Fun remembering. Thanks Allan.


    • August 12, 2015 at 12:41 PM

      Nice catch, Carol. I also used my share of Speedball ink tips and nibs in my architectural drawing classes. It would have been fun to use a rig like Jake has and not have to stop so often to reload ink onto the nib. Ω


  2. August 10, 2015 at 4:28 PM

    I always loved writing and as a child I would practice my penmanship for hours. Today, years later, I still get complimented on my hand writing. I think it is a lost art. So many can’t even sign their names anymore. Schools don’t teach cursive and kids use keyboards to write and text.


    • August 10, 2015 at 6:01 PM

      Hi, Leonas. I agree with you that good handwriting is a lost art. Congratulations for not giving in to the trend. I bet it has not been easy for you. Ω

      Liked by 1 person

  3. alstacer
    August 10, 2015 at 1:03 PM

    What a gift to write beautifully… Penmanship was a struggle for me in elementary school along with Conduct. I consistently received C’s in those subjects. Staying between the lines manually or behaviorally was an early childhood challenge. As bad as my handwriting was, it’s gotten worse with age and an intentional tremor, so personal typing in high school prepared me to transition to personal computers and fun with fonts. Glad to see someone keeping the art of penmanship alive.


    • August 10, 2015 at 1:43 PM

      Thanks for checking in, Al. Staying within the lines is a lifelong effort for me, too. This guy is really taking penmanship to another level. Ω


  4. August 10, 2015 at 9:38 AM

    Allan, I don’t always take time to watch videos but I did this one. Well worth it!! This man is amazing! I learned cursive writing but in the 70’s, when I spent almost a year in Europe, for some reason I took up printing, except for signing my name. My printing was quite nice and artistic, although now if I’m in a hurry, it’s not so great. But my mom and m-i-l had that beautiful, clean cursive that we were to aspire to as students.

    Another great example of how beauty can be found everywhere and infused into everything. Thanks for sharing.



    • August 10, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      Hi Janet,
      Thanks for sharing your story. I think that you have a good point about being in a hurry and the quality of our writing. I know that mine tends toward a Comic Sans-type of script when I rush. Ω


      • August 10, 2015 at 9:44 AM

        Maybe you’re a frustrated doctor, Allan. They seem to have the worst writing of anyone, about things that are so crucial. 🙂 My husband seems to fall into that category, at least by handwriting.


      • August 10, 2015 at 10:11 AM

        The idea of me being a frustrated doctor is hilarious! I think that my situation is more a lack of concern on the finished text. Ω


      • August 10, 2015 at 10:16 AM

        You mended bridges, right? You’re a bridge doctor. 🙂


      • August 10, 2015 at 10:17 AM

        Bridgework, maybe something in the Dental field? Ω


      • August 10, 2015 at 10:21 AM



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