Wednesday, March 28, 2018

When a text layout isn't straightforward

I've been pushing myself lately, not because I was told to but because I felt it was time. So with this AoA for a Middle Eastern persona I decided to get into the two sized texts that the Ottomans loved so much.

And I found an excellent piece for it. This is a page from the Qur'an, written in both Arabic and Persian. It is a warning page, the text underneath being the Persian and the source of the warning, saying ˓Alī Ibn Abī ṭālib said, Woe unto you, O Qatāda, if you interpret the Qur˒an by yourself.
The piece can be found here, and the original leaf is housed at the Morgan Library. Other leaves reside elsewhere - the book is not whole.


I took this piece and decided that it would be excellent to highlight the reasons for the AoA, the Royals, the Recipient, and the event, and leave all the other words to be the subscript. The layout for this took much longer than other pieces I've done, including the hourglass shaped text for the Kells AoA I did last year.

What I loved most was how the text ran along the outside, in the border, and continued into the center. I omitted the medallion in the center because I had more text to place than they did. I saved the medallion on the left side for the Arms, and left room at the bottom between the border and the bottom row of text for signatures. I also left room between the rows for the blazon once his Arms are passed.

This was another assignment where I received little information about the recipient. Even reaching out revealed little more than what I already knew. Middle Eastern is a wide range, and from a scribal standpoint does not narrow it down. So, I did what I could with what I had and moved forward on creating the scroll.

I roughly sketched the vines a few times before closer inspection revealed that they're circles. All the vines are, at their base, circles around the red text. That made things easier, and I think I achieved a much better recreation. The piece is done on pergemenata, and when I ordered it I ordered white instead of natural so visually my piece is different from the original. Because of this, I changed the color of the outside tracks on the knot work. In the original, those are a beige very close to the parchment color, but slightly darker which could be either a faded gold or a raw sienna/ochre color. I tested both on a scrap piece and they did not look cohesive with the piece. I chose instead to do the those tracks in rich gold gouache like the vine work. I am very happy with the final piece, and I feel it has the cohesion of the original. The calligraphy was done with Winsor Newton Red ink, Higgins Eternal black ink and Mitchell nibs. All words by me.

Visually I am happy with the scroll. If I were to do this again, I would likely move to a larger page size to accommodate so much text. However, staying with this page size is more in line with the original, and I'm happy with that. On a practical note, it's also easier to find an affordable frame with an 8x10 mat opening than it is larger sizes.

Tsar Ivan, presenting it in Court at Mudthaw, photo courtesy of Dayna Tarabar



Sunday, March 25, 2018

Comedy/Tragedy in a Borre style

I was sent an assignment, and I haven't gotten one yet that I've turned down. I knew I would be able to accept this, and it only got better when I read who it was for- someone I know who is deeply deserving of the honor of the Order of Troubadour.

I also knew that for this I needed the absolute right words, so I went to Nicol mac Donnchaidh, because he has the best way with words and because he knows the recipient. He was overjoyed to get the assignment and thus the scroll was born.

With Viking personas it gets tricky to get the right look, the right feel. In our case we got lucky - Cedar has a Wiki page. They laid out exactly where and when they're from, what they do and how. It made our job easier to a point. That point being that most of what still exists from their time period is metalwork.

So how do you take a medallion in the Borre style and make it a painted page? Well, you look at other works, find your period color palette, and then start sketching. This is an award for a Skald, a bard, an artist. Cedar has immense talent. I needed this scroll to pay honor to that.

I did some searching and found a medallion that jumped out at me. This is Borre style, found at Upland, Sweden. The link goes to the item catalog entry.

To me, this little face was smiling. That, in concert with the fact that this is a bardic award, lent me to think that perhaps what I needed was a Borre style Comedy/Tragedy mask medallion.

Then was the drawing, making sure each part fit together and reworking the knot in the center to be a four pointed knot instead of a triskele. It meant redrawing the face to include a mouth, and then redrawing it to both smile and frown.

What stumped me the most was how to do the text. I struggled a lot with this, and ultimately enlisted three people to help sort this out - Nicol, Christiana, and Alayne. Ultimately I followed their suggestion to do the text in red around the outside like dots. I think I got close, but in retrospect I should have gone down a nib side to really get closer to the red dots so often seen in the Kells and Lindisfarne manuscripts. As it is I'm happy because the calligraphy is fairly easy to read, even if you do have to turn the scroll 360 degrees (twice) to read it all. This was also my first time doing circular text - that was interesting. I need more work on getting that style of text layout cleaner, but I am happy with the results.


The scroll is on pergamenata with gouache and Winsor Newton red ink by a Mitchell nib. Final size of the scroll is 9x11 on an 11x14 page.

Cedar, receiving their scroll in Court at Mudthaw, photo courtesy of Dayna Tarabar:


Monday, March 5, 2018

Adding Arms and Blazon

For Barleycorn/ Ostgard Investiture I had an AoA assignment which I delivered and got to see go out in Court. It was awesome, and I was so glad she enjoyed it. 


So the recipient, Cailleach, sought me out and had me add her Arms and Blazon to the scroll. I've never been asked to do this before! She sent me an amazing photo of the scroll framed and hanging on the wall. I won't lie (or hold back) - I cried a little. To know that my work was so treasured, I was truly touched. It's the wish of every scribe to know that their work is loved, and displayed for all to see. It was the kindest thing she could have done for me. 

Of course I said I'd finish the scroll and we arranged for me to pick up the piece at Dancing Fox and return it to her at Mudthaw. Sadly I cannot go to Mudthaw, but a courier will take it for me. (I love my couriers very, very much - every scribe does. They are wonderful people who do a great service for this Kingdom.) 

The piece came to me well packaged and opening it back up and seeing my work I noticed all the places that I have improved, and the places where I did better than I thought. It was a little scary to work on my own piece again, and wonderfully fulfilling too. I am thankful for this chance. 

The finished piece: 

I left myself possibly the SMALLEST shield to put the arms in! This is a lesson I will absolutely remember in the future and I will give a larger space for the arms. I also didn't leave enough room for the blazon to be added comfortably. Again, a lesson that I am taking to heart for the future. My sincerest apologies to any and all scribes who've had to add Arms and Blazon to an AoA I've done! 

I think my camera was tipped a little, because the text is much more straight than it appears here. Overall though, I am happy with the results and, more importantly, Cailleach is happy with the results. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Urnes style AoA

Or, Aaradyn goes Minimalist

The SCA as a whole has a lot of Vikings. I think that's awesome, but it makes doing original scrolls tricky. See, the Vikings didn't illuminate the way other cultures did. This forces us scribes to think outside the box.

Or page. ;)

There is a Stave Church in Norway with the most amazing carved doorways. It's in the Urnes style, a very specific style of knotwork that shows up many places in Norse culture. I have a theory that the doorways were painted once, but since it's been around since forever the color is gone and the beauty of the weathered wood is all that remains. UNESCO - Stave Church doorway detail

It's still breathtakingly beautiful.

I received an assignment for a Viking AoA, and decided to use the church doorway detail linked above. There aren't an abundance of Norse period works to draw from, and it makes us stretch as a scribe to use artifacts instead of books as our inspiration.

In choosing something that is not already a vibrant color, as an artist you have a lot of options. However, to stay in period you need to know what your color palate is, and Norse works are no different. I decided to follow the color layout of the abundant runestones from the era, and chose simple red on a beige piece of pergamenata. I left off pieces of the work that would have lead off the page, and modified others to keep the design contained. Parts of this design do not exactly follow the usual course of knotwork from the 12th and 13th centuries. My knotwork techniques have improved since then.

The ink on this piece is Higgins, and is much closer to the consistency of period ink. I find it much easier to work with. I didn't yet have my Mitchell nibs, so this was done with a Speedball nib. This piece does, however, show the lines from my Ames guide, and I have Mistress Eleanor and Master Alexander to thank for my working knowledge of that excellent tool.

I have not yet done a Norse scroll using runes, and I am unlikely to anytime soon. I am not comfortable enough with writing in runes to attempt that yet. For the most part I do try to match the hand with the time period, but in the case of my Norse persona scrolls I tend to use Unical. I'm familiar with it, it's comfortable for me, and it is not glaringly wrong.

Goldwork for a Silver Wheel

Goldleaf is not my strong suit. I'm getting better, but yeah... it's definitely something I need to work on.  For this piece, the goal was even application and straight lines. I didn't quite achieve that, but I am happy with the piece nonetheless.

My other challenge with this piece was to use a faux Arabic hand for the calligraphy. I learned two things from working with this hand:
one, I need to work on my spacing considerably and
two, I need to relax my hand more when writing

That said, I had a lot of fun with this scroll, and I feel my white work was much better. Thanks again to Mistress Eva for her color matching lessons! I think my next lesson is to stop second guessing myself and trust my eyes.

This is a scroll for a Silver Wheel, referenced from an Iranian book of poetry to Muhammed.

French in the month of May

At Pennsic I was asked if I was interested in doing a page for the East Kingdom calendar 2018. Truth be told, I was overjoyed! I don't think I jumped up and down when Mistress Rhonwen asked me, but I might have...

I love the French style of artwork, and so listed it as one of the styles I'd prefer to paint. It was my assignment once they were announced, and with Rhonwen's help I found a wordsmith to translate the page into French. Many, many thanks to the research team that helped get the text sorted for me!

Then it was on to research! Tournaments are what brought me into the SCA, and being involved with the Deed at GNEW has solidified my love of the 14th century, so it seemed fitting that I chose a tourney scene. I chose a page from France, c 1330 - Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César, Perrin Remiet 
(Royal MS 20 D I / f6r).  The text came from Froissart's chronicles:

A il la nul gentilhomme qui pour l’amour de sa dame voulsist faire aucun fait d’armes? 
Se il en y a nulz, veéz me cy tout appareillié pour yssir hors armé de toutes pieces, monté a cheval jouster trois coups de glaive, ferir trois coups de hache et trois coups de dague.
Si en ait qui puet et tout pour sa dame. Or verra on entre vous Anglois se il y a nul amoureux.


"Is there no gentleman among you who would perform some feat of arms for the love of his lady? If there is, then here I am, ready to go forth fully armed and mounted to tilt with the lance three times, to land three blows of the battle axe, and three strokes of the dagger. So let there be someone who can undertake such a feat, and all for his lady. Now let us see amongst you Englishmen if there be any of you in love." 

It was excellent, and perfect for the scene. I am exceedingly happy with how this came together. Mistress Eleanor was kind enough to be my calligrapher for this, and her hand is (as always) exquisite. 


gouache on pergamenata

An AoA in the style of a Carpet Page

Every now and again I get an assignment for someone I actually know - these, honestly, are the best and the hardest assignments. Pressure! But the good kind ;)

When I received this assignment, I immediately reached out to get confirmation on some ideas I had from the one who wrote him in, and everything fell together wonderfully.

The finished scroll: inspired by the Book of Kells, containing wolves instead of cats as was the preference of the recipient.

Gouache on Perg
Calligraphy, Words, and Illumination by me.

The Book of Kells is available online, however, I pulled this image from a book I own. In the original Book, this is f 187v, The End of the Gospel According to Mark. I chose this specific page because of the text placement.

I replaced the Book that Mark was holding in the original with a shield for the recipient's Arms. The lion on the right was done partially in blue to allude to the East Kingdom's blue Tyger.

The recipient loves wolves, so the cats that originally appeared in the uprights on each side were replaced with a Celtic style wolf, modeled on a wolf that appears elsewhere in the Book of Kells.

I am, overall, very happy with how this turned out. I did trace the general design of this scroll from the original page. All detail work was done freehand. The colors were matched to the online images from the Book of Kells as the book I have is a poor quality for color matching. I used Higgins ink and a Mitchell nib, and I am never switching away from Mitchell now that I know how easy they are to use. The control was significantly easier.

When I was doing the layout for this scroll, the original has very few words in the center sections. It took a lot of trial and error to get everything to work out. I did intentionally lay out the text so that the word East is centered and the only word on the line.

This broke one of the "rules" that I've set for myself in the past, that the illumination should encapsulate all the text, including the signatures. I wanted to follow the original with the text size as much as possible, and using a scan of the page and a text editor I was able to reach the look that fit best. This couldn't include the signature lines, so I placed those below the finished piece.