8.5 Majuscules β€” I, J

In this lesson we will become acquainted with two new majuscule letterforms that make use of a tricky component known as the β€œCat Eye”. Although this group contains only two letterforms, do not be fooled by their apparent simplicity. I am confident with diligent effort you’ll be quick to add these to your bag of tricks and move on to those in the next lesson, but the Cat Eye is a tricky thing for many, so don’t be discouraged by a bit of extra work to wrangle it!

The Cat Eye

The I & J comprise our smallest letter group where majuscules are concerned. These two letters contain a consistent component known as the Cat Eye which wraps around the top of their Primary Shade and balances, elegantly, on either side.

Without over-complicating a two-stroke component, we may think of the Cat Eye as extending (via a splice) out of the top of the Majuscule Stem, and then curling around behind it. Of course, this component makes use of a crossover connection, so there will be a pen lift in our creation. This gives us an opportunity to add a shade on both sides of the Primary Shade and helps us to balance the form.

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Begin by splicing a hairline off of the top of the Majuscule Stem and looping around and back to the stem in an Indirect Motion. This small loop should not allow much white space inside of it, and must cross the Majuscule Stem high enough that it is still fully a hairline.

Pull the first shade of the Cat Eye down and to the left of the Stem and place a small shade that is balanced on the slant. After rounding down and to the right from this shade in a Direct Motion, conclude this stroke as a hairline before it allows ink from the Majuscule Stem to ink jump back into it. Refer to the plate above to observe the appropriate amount of white space inside of the entrapped space.

Lift your pen to the right side of the Majuscule Stem and add the second stroke of the Cat Eye by transitioning from a hairline quickly into a shade that resembles a very thin ~PS#5. Aim for a similar heft to the small shade found on the left. This shade should be kept tall and proud, and as the stroke transitions back to a hairline, it must meet the right side of the Majuscule Stem in a way that implies a successful Crossover Connection.

Once you have successfully crafted this component in isolation, begin to work it into the two letterforms found below. Remember: it should appear identical regardless of the form it occurs in.

The Majuscule I

Class: Majuscule letterform
Priority: Medium
Sequence: Majuscule Stem > Cat Eye 1 > Cat Eye 2

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The simplicity of the majuscule I should never be taken for granted. Although it contains only the Cat Eye Component and a simple Majuscule Stem, it can quickly become a problem when penned thoughtlessly, as we tend to use it as a measuring stick for many of our other forms. The smallest amount of inaccuracy while creating our Stem can create an compounding problem if we continuously look back to it when penning letters such as H and K.

Aim to secure a Majuscule Stem that you are proud of. It should be full in body, have a solid, well-placed terminal, and be appropriately curved so as not to feel flimsy or overly rigid. The Majuscule Stem is a wonderful place to invest a large amount of your practice time, as it will pay off time and time again in the construction and refinement of other majuscule letters.

We begin with a Majuscule Stem, pulled down from the Second Ascender Line and sweep it under at the baseline. Remember to place your terminal so that its top edge rests just below the 50% line. This will ensure you are raising it the appropriate amount.

The Cat Eye is then added to the top by splicing a small hairline off of the top of the stem and looping around on itself with an indirect motion. This crosses over and down to the left, where we add the left side of the Cat Eye. The shade of this stroke should be along the slant, and far enough out to the left that the white space enclosed by it does not feel cramped. The stroke concludes at the dashed crossbar line and is lifted before ink jump can be initiated.

The second half of the Cat Eye is then added to the right side of the Majuscule Stem. Aim to secure a similar amount of white space between the shade of this final stroke and the Stem as was represented between the previous shade and the Stem. The two shades should feel balanced on each side. Similar to PS#5, keep the shade tall and proud. Aim to produce shades that compliment that Majuscule Stem, rather than contrast with it.

The Majuscule J

Class: Majuscule letterform
Priority: Medium
Sequence: Elongated Stem + Descending Loop > SYNTH > Cat Eye 1 > Cat Eye 2 > ~CH#1

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Alternative to the relative simplicity of the majuscuile I form, the J has a somewhat complicated geometry. It also makes use of the most vertical range required for any letterform that we've covered so far, so those of us with shorter fingers might find the 25mm stretch from the top to bottom quite taxing.

Begin with an Elongated Stem. Pull the long Primary Shade towards your body from the Second Ascender Line and draw it along the slant, aiming to have the maximum heft balanced through the x-height. You will likely want to experiment with your hand plant/placement for this stroke, as you need to reach from the top to the bottom with relative ease. The shade should begin to taper off as you enter into the descender spaces. At the bottom, pull to the left, around, and back up as if you were enclosing a Descender Loop.

Add a Synthetic Shade to the bottom left of the loop by retracing the hairline and adding a tiny amount of pressure. Try to keep the beginning and end of this small shade on the hairline.

At this point, we create the Cat Eye Component in precisely the same manner as on the majuscule I. When comparing your work, criticize the differences between the Cat Eye component as it occurs in each form. Some have a tendency to build it a bit smaller on one or the other.

To conclude this form, employ a ~CH#1 that exits out to the right. Keep in mind that this hairline may need to reach a bit rather than usual via a (+) Interval Value if the subsequent letterform contains any Airspace Element that occupies space above the x-height.


Lesson Code: ES200-8.5

Below, you'll find a couple different unretouched word exercises for developing the majuscules covered in this lesson.

Taking into consideration the unique requirements of the majuscule ductus alongside everything we have covered regarding minuscule letterforms and word-writing, reproduce the plate to the best of your ability and post it on the Community Forum.

Write a short essay about which majuscule form you felt was the most difficult and any questions you might have.

Discuss your experience with the long stroke inside of the J. Did it prove to be more difficult than you expected to find the right hand placement? Was it easier than I was making it out to be in the video?

Our next group of majuscules contains the P, B, and R forms, so make sure that you spend a good amount of time working the Majuscule Stem found in the I so that it is a permanent resident of your Engrosser's Script toolkit.

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