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Q: any suggestions of appropriate exercises, books, websites would be fantastic.
from this thread, a list of sites put together by Randy Jones:
Notes on Type, Handwriting and Lettering by Gunnlaugur SE Briem
typeworkshop.com by Underware
Sketching Type from the LettError Wiki
Some Elements of Proportion and Optical Image Support in a Typeface [PDF] by Mark Jamra.
Form and Proportion in a Text Typeface: A Few Guidelines by Mark Jamra.
Karen Cheng's Designing Type also has useful comparisons of proportions of letters in different type faces.
Q: is starting entirely by hand/pen a better choice?
The more uninteresting a letter, the more useful it is to the typographer
- Piet Zwart
From the FontLab group at MSN