Blog Archive

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Easy does it, continued

I hadn't realized I'd gone so long without updating the blog. I've certainly been busy scribing, but confidentiality and keeping certain pieces a surprise before they ate delivered meant I couldn't really post about my recent projects till now.

Here are some images from a project back in August. I think I'd gotten as far as the text, gilding, and beginning of the paint before I stopped posting about it. So here are the rest of the images: 

Vine work added in the border and between the columns. 

Filling in the green to add body to the vine work. 

Finishing the seal and heraldry, adding the whitework, and highlighting the vines with gold

Close up of the seal 

Text detail, with a bit of the vine work visible. I wanted to erase pencil marks, but the friction from the eraser caused some of the ink to smudge even though it had been dry for days. 

Whitework details

Further whitework details, because why not; also some decent close ups of the smaller capitals. 

The recipient's heraldry 

All in all, this was a nice, relaxing piece to create for my client, and she was really happy with how it turned out. 

Up next: the same client gets a surprise wedding gift from her wife. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Answering a question

I was thrilled to receive this question in my Tumblr ask box sometime last week:

anonymous asked:
Can you tell us about how you got into calligraphy and gilding? I find it really interesting but I’m not sure where to start!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Easy does it

I've got another scroll commission, and the best part about this one is that it's not anything crazy! Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of fun doing those Black Hours pieces, and the fancy stuff before that. But it's nice to come up for air once in a while and do something that's not too complicated, something I don't have to worry about too much. 

This is a second scroll for a client, but all she requested was that I make it pretty to go with the first piece she had. I decided to keep the two column layout of her original piece, but a change in style meant that I had room to add more wording. 

I also got to employ a nice batarde script from about 1475 to 1490 here. I like it because it's fairly cursive and therefore quick to write, but still elegant. 

Instead of gilding, I opted to go with my Coliro/ Finetec metallic paint for all the initials and capitals. It saved a little time in the short term since I was able to skip a step (usually it would paint adhesive, then gild), but in the long term, I'm not sure it really saved me anything. Painting around gold is pretty easy because the metal resists the paint. Painting around painted letters doesn't have that advantage, so I had to slow down and make sure I didn't get sloppy. 

All in all though, the slowest part of this piece has been the decision making process! The vines I had originally planned were going took take up too much space and not really leave room for leaves, so I'll be changing styles a little from what my first vision of this piece was going to be. 

The new vines will be done in ink, with smaller, more delicate leaves. They fit the time period of the alphabet a little better, as well as taking up less room on the page. 

Anyway, there's where I am as of a couple days ago. I hope to get more time to work tomorrow!

I hope your days are peaceful and that you are surrounded by beauty wherever you go. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

My second Black Hours scroll

Now that it's finished and the recipient has seen it, here are progress pics for my second Black Hours piece. Like the first, this one is modeled off the Sforza Black Hours, and is on black vellum. Unlike the first one, though, I learned from my mistakes and did not try to gild anything this time around. All the shiny is done with Coliro/ Finetec metallic paints, including the calligraphy.

I still learned a lot, though. For starters, my shading technique when I first started out did not give me the results I wanted, at all. My acanthus leaves looked okay, but the brush strokes were much too robust on the figure of a mermaid in the border, giving her what looked like a hairy chest. 

Special thanks to phenomenal scribe Mark Calderwood for taking the time to chat with me, from Australia at odd hours, to teach me how to solve the problem. I had to completely scrape off this version of the mermaid and start over, with this as the result:

Obviously she still needs detail work at this point, but thinning the paint and letting it build up in opacity, as well as using much smaller brush strokes, gave me much better results than trying to shade everything with the paint at full strength. 

I also learned the value of pouncing my vellum to remove excess oils from handling, which were causing the paint to bead as the oils resisted it (as in the pic below). It was amazing the difference a little gum sandarac made when I ran into trouble... and the difference would have been even better if I had pounced before I even started. Lesson learned!

So without further ado, here come the progress photos...

Text mockup. I always do a mockup (well, almost always) to make sure the text will fit! 

Testing the Coliro silver on a scrap. It works great! 

The finished text block in silver and gold, and the main elements of the border penciled in.

Here and below, some close up shots of the various initials and capitals. 

Another mer-person in the border, this time carrying a sword and wearing armor. Not sure how that helps him swim, but okay. 

Another figure, riding a rabbit like beast. This one was also supposed to be shaded, but the vellum was resisting the paint badly enough that I had to add ox gall to it, and that erased all distinction in my brush strokes. 

The border with most of the silver laid in. At this point, I was discouraged enough about the hairy chested mermaid that I procrastinated taking any further steps for about two weeks. 

It's amazing how the border starts to come together with just the acanthus leaves added in. These types of borders actually go pretty quickly once they're sketched out. It's just painting in the flowers and leaves, shading, and then connecting everything with stems. After that, you fill in any empty spaces that are remaining with tendrils and other fiddly bits.

The blue and brown added, with the beginning of red. The mer-soldier's armor looks bronze; it's actually brown highlighted with gold. (Thanks to Mark Calderwood again for that tip.)

I don't often paint with brown, actually. To be honest, I rarely mix colors at all. So I'm happy with how this came out, especially on the rabbit beast. It's really more of a dark orange, made with yellow ochre and a warm red. 

The mermaid with more details added. Around her, you can see where the blue gave me trouble.

Red and green complete. Most of the area is filled in and now it's time to shade or highlight things with silver and gold, then play "connect the dots" with stems and vines. 

Ironically, in period many black hours didn't survive because the paint flaked off. I used a different green paint this time around, and it didn't want to stick. It dried, then cracked and tried to come off in several places. 

The silver has a tendency to glare under my lighting, so I've been taking pictures with the mermaid in shadow to let more detail come through. 

The award is going to a man who makes parchment. I spoke with him and got a general idea of what kind of clothing he likes to wear, then stuck him in front of a parchmenter's frame. He's holding a curved knife called a lunellum to scrape the hide to an even thickness. 

Here we are with gold highlights added to the red and brown. 

Adding the silver highlights. I really like the before and after effect here in these flowers. 

And once again, here is the finished piece. The empty roundels in the border will be filled with wax seals once the scroll is delivered. 

Again, using shadows to help show off details that would otherwise be obscured by the glare of the overhead lights. 

Of the two mer-people, I think I like the soldier's tail better. 

I'm not entirely sure the figure here needed as much silver added as I gave him, by he doesn't look bad, so I guess it's okay. 

Hidden bird says hello. 

And that's it! As always, my thanks go to everyone who has offered a kind word, either here or on Facebook, or elsewhere. I really appreciate the encouragement. 


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Various and sundry

In case anyone's been curious, I have been busy with scribal stuff, but my recipient wants to be surprised, so I've been resisting the urge to post progress pictures of my work. It's another Black Hours piece and it's coming together nicely, though. I think I'll share one pic to give you an idea:

That's from almost a month ago. I had never made a letter out of flowers and foliage before, so it was an interesting challenge. 

The piece shouldn't really have taken so long to finish, but I ran into a problem when I made a mistake trying to shade a figure in the border. She's supposed to be a reasonable looking mermaid, and instead she came out looking like she had a hairy chest because I messed up with the brush strokes... I got advice for how to fix her, but I procrastinated a couple of weeks before climbing back into the metaphorical saddle and actually fixing her. 

Fortunately she looks much better now. I seem to have deleted my "before" picture, or I'd show you that.

So. I've been doing some calligraphy, and I have two more pieces in my queue once this one is done, but I can't show you anything quite yet. 

In other news, I've resurrected an office aquarium that I used to have on my desk at my last job... fourteen years ago... and set it up on my desk at my new job! I'm still waiting for it to settle and the plants I bought to root into the soil before I add any fish, but there are a few snails in there already. Right now it looks like this: 

Not too fancy, but hopefully pretty. I already find myself just watching how the plants move in the water flow, even without any fish, even I'm between tasks at work. 

Hope you all are well. Life here is pretty good. Cheers! 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Black Hours, final

I can hardly believe it's finished, but here we are. My first Black Hours piece has been a terrific learning experience, and I'm glad I did it. I look forward to tackling my next Black Hours piece in just a week or two, and I'll definitely be using what I learned here to make the process go faster. My vellum supplier has also really appreciated the feedback I've sent him on his early attempts at making black vellum, and says that he will be taking different approaches to the process going forward.

Without further ado, here are all the pictures:

The last time I posted, I had not yet added the green; here we are with the leaves and a couple more bits of fruit added. The green is probably a darker shade than they used in period, and doesn't show up well against the black by itself, but that's what highlighting is for. We'll get to that step farther down.

For now, it's time to begin filling in all the empty space with more stems, leaves, and fiddly bits -- tendrils and such -- in gold, with a little silver here and there just for variety. To give you an idea, here's the first corner begun:

You can really see the difference here, and how all the detailing pulls together the relatively "loose" elements of the design, bringing the flowers and leaves into a harmoniously balanced whole.

Above, a closer look at the bird with his red legs, and a couple of silver additions in the form of a leaf and flower blossom, with no color added.

The name of the award for which this scroll is being given is the Order of the Dragon's Heart. It's a service award, not given out very often, and is considered something of a big deal. Here, the badge is done in Coliro/Finetec silver, and green paint. Once the text was done, I put my gold leaf away completely. This silver won't tarnish over time, as the text will.

About halfway done with the border; compare the right side with the left to get a feel for what a big difference the detailing makes.

The seal of the Middle Kingdom; I had a lot of fun rendering it in this style, rather than going for opaque red and silver. Again, the green didn't show very well against the black, so I've highlighted the dragon and laurel wreath in Coliro gold. If you look below the seal, you can also see where I've highlighted the red flowers in gold. Blue and green details will be highlighted in silver.

The photos above and below were an entertaining comparison shot; I was showing the lady who gave me this assignment my progress and noting that for some reason the green just was not showing up in the photo, even though it was visible just fine in person. The photo below is meant to just show how well the badge "lit up" green when taken from another angle. I have no idea why that was the case.

Here we are now with all the vine work added in gold; it's time to go back in, highlight the blue and green details in silver, and then add a silver outline around the entire border. I'm so close to being done!

To give you an idea of what a difference the silver detailing makes, here's a pair of before-and-after shots of a section of border. The red flower has already been highlighted in gold, but look at how you can barely make out the green leaf just above it. The blue flowers show up okay, but not great.

And now, after: The flowers remind me of butterflies, and the leaf is finally picked out against the black.

And here is the completed piece! The silver outline helps define the edge of the border and really gives it a finished look. I love how crisp and clean it makes things.

A slightly different angle here, to get the bottom of the border to catch the light a little better.

And finally, another pair of closeup shots of the seal and badge, because they turned out so well. I especially like the texturing of the red around the dragon, on the seal.

I can hardly believe it's finished! This scroll represented over a month of work, with occasional days off. The slowest part was the gilding of the text, and I've since learned that in period that wasn't actually done (although I still want to double check with experts who've done this before). If I were to skip gilding and just write the letters in silver and gold paint, that would have gone much faster. I've also seen imitation scrolls like this one where the calligrapher simply used white ink, and those look fine too.

I am now down to three or four scribal projects to complete. One is another Black Hours for the supplier of all this vellum! Then, I've got a scroll replacement to do for a client, then a knighting scroll for the same guy I did the King's Chalice for... and finally, I've been asked to do a lady's Laurel scroll "sometime in the next five years" as a challenge of my skills. Because Laurels like to push artists to do more art, step out of their comfort zone, and expand their limits... and this particular lady is a scribal Laurel, so she gets to push me. I'm still thinking of what I'd like to try for her, but it's got to be good.

Thank you all, once again, for your comments and questions. I really appreciate them.