Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Calligraphy, Vellum, and Vikings

I heard about an assignment, and in a very round about way put myself to the task of painting the AoA scroll for one of my best friends.  I had been among those who wrote her in, and when I heard it was being done I was ecstatic and fervently asked for the assignment. I was granted it and then set about doing the scroll.

I went a direction I haven't before with this one - I did the calligraphy (something I usually do not as my hand is, to me, very poor) as well as the illumination, and I did it on deer skin vellum from the Guild of Limners.

About the ink and paint:
I wanted to use period ink, and so I went looking and found lots of recipes. At the time I wasn't as deep into period materials as I wanted to be and so instead of using period ink I used what I had. This was done with black Speedball ink and a Speedball nib. There are many problems with this: one, the ink is very, very wet and the nib I used was not excellent at release. Should I use vellum again I will use period ink that is slightly thicker, and a Mitchell nib as they are better at releasing the ink in a more uniform way. I used Windsor-Newton gouache and Shell gold, both from cake instead of from tube. I use straight water as the agent and achieved the consistency of heavy cream before using the paints.

The ink, being far to wet, puckered on the vellum. There should have been far more definition in the letters than there is - as it is, I should have stopped and reassessed. I'm not sure I could have fixed it at that point or not, although I could have kept the nib a little drier and had to refill more often. That may have alleviated some of the problems. My paints were just the right consistency and went onto the vellum smoothly, and did not make it pucker. I'm happy with how the illumination turned out.

About the layout:
I went looking for period Viking/Norse artwork for, really, the first time seriously. Come to discover, there wasn't a lot in the layout I was familiar with (14th c/15th c French and English). Instead I found lots of artifacts, most with actual dates, some with a vague idea of a time period, some so outlandishly modern that it made my eyes hurt. I narrowed my search by sticking to museum sites, and found the Oseberg ship. The more useful images I found on Google, courtesy of Getty Images.

The actual ship is huge, and seeing as I was working with a 5x7 piece of deer skin I needed to modify the layout to accommodate a few words as well as the illumination. Having never worked on real vellum before, this was a lot to take on but I had a few things going for me - mostly that the piece was small (5x7 total sheet size, with a 1/2" border drawn for matting and framing) and that the piece was going to a very good friend of mine, Gudrun, who would understand any small blunders I made.  And I did, but that's ok too - it's period!  ;)

Ultimately I decided that the front and back of the vessel would work well, in the method of bookends, and connected them through the bottom of the ship. I free handed the knotwork on each and am happy with how both turned out. If I could, I would change how I handed the wood of the ship. I should have followed the actual ship and laid out planks, complete with the scroll work on each. As it is, I know Gudrun likes it and I am satisfied.

So I had written this entire post and was ready to put it up immediately after Investiture.... but couldn't as Gudrun was called out of town and wasn't there to be called into Court.  So I waited, and we all waited, and finally last weekend at our Baronial Thrown Weapons and Archery Champions our Baron and Baroness were able to bestow the AoA and scroll on behalf of their Majesties.  In a great stroke of luck, The Duke and Countess who were sitting Royals at Investiture were at our Championship, and so got to see the scroll presented as well.
Their Excellencies presenting Lady Gudrun

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