Rabbit’s Lion Scroll

Hey guys! I have this scroll I did, but the person who commissioned it (Her Majesty Michelle) asked me to keep it under wraps until it was finished and given. But now that it has been, I can talk about it! The person in question has a Roman persona, and is often called Rabbit. I wanted to incorporate both of those things into his scroll.

I started off looking at pediments and tabernacle frames. Technically, the one I used for the most inspiration is a Renaissance creation, but it adheres to classical lines, so I went with it. I also looked at mosaic designs and repeating motifs from Pompeii and other Roman sites to add interest to the columns and pediment. I also found some interesting examples of Roman rabbits, and of course, the award badge had to go in there. too. I sketched out my design on graph paper, drawing in one of each motif, since they will get mirrored in the final design, and adding in a branch of Laurel leaves to reference his peerage.

I traced out the text box on another sheet of graph paper and played around with nib size and line spacing until I got it right. This hand is based on the Roman Rustic Capital alphabet in Marc Drogin’s book, although some of the line height and spacing was changed both to make it easier for me to write and to look more like the period examples shown. It only took me two tries to get it right! DSC05307

I did somehow manage to get my initial draft off by an inch (the scroll is on 9×12 Fabriano hot press watercolor paper, but my draft was only 9×11), so the scroll is an inch longer than I’d planned it to be. It changed the proportions a bit, but gave me enough room to add in that line in the middle margin that I didn’t have room for in the draft.  Rabbit's Lion Scroll

Next up: gilding. I used miniatum as the substrate, and patent rather than loose leaf gold. Patent means that it comes attached to a piece of tissue paper, so you’re not fighting with tiny pieces of tissue thin gold that falls apart with every breath you accidentally blow on it. After the gold is finished, time for painting!
Rabbit's Lion Scroll

Rabbit is a skilled artisan (there’s a reason they made him a laurel!) and scribe. I wanted to up my game for this scroll, so I used the period pigments that I have been studiously ignoring for the last year. It’s part of my goal this year to work more with period materials and techniques, and I figured: why not start here? Lion scroll progress.

About halfway through laying the flat colors. The paints I used were from Scribal Workshop and Griffon Dyeworks: ultramarine blue, cadmium red (don’t lick your paintbrush!), viridian green, and black. I also used a gold bronze-powder paint to add the dots at the very end. 
Lion scroll progress.

And, finished. I didn’t do any shading at all in the flat areas; I liked the way they looked with flat, graphic colors. The point of the colored areas is to offset and highlight the gold.

Rabbit's Lion Scroll

Detail shots: You can see how I didn’t manage to get the miniatum 100% smooth under the gold leaf. That’s something I need to work on, and I wonder (since I was trying to go flat gilding as opposed to raised) if I should have used garlic juice instead. But I thought the miniatum would stick better. Next time I’ll thin it out a bit before laying it, and see if that helps the smoothness.
Rabbit's Lion Scroll

Words. I wasn’t terribly precious about line breaks, preferring to keep a nice full wall of text. Romans didn’t care particularly much about having line breaks in awkward parts of words anyway. My friend Cecilie told me I should have omitted vowels the way they did too, but I said I wanted viewers to be able to actually read it if they tried.

Rabbit's Lion Scroll

Loving the clean lines and bold colors.  Rabbit's Lion Scroll

It was really hard to try to photograph the shine of the gold. Either it got blown out completely, like this: Rabbit's Lion Scroll

Or the rest of the picture was terribly dark, like this. Suffice it to say: it’s SHINY. Design to finish, this scroll took about 15 hours. Rabbit's Lion Scroll

Court Barony Scroll for Sabina

I was commissioned by a friend to make, in secret, a Court Barony scroll for his wife, Sabina. He had some very specific ideas for what he wanted it to look like. He wanted a very long scroll, that could be unfolded (and unfolded and unfolded). He wanted a genealogy, going back to the line’s founder, and ending in Sabina. Her persona is Italian, so he wanted a very Borgia-like family, plagued by misfortune and calamity (some of it wrought by other family members).


Looking around, I found a manuscript, the Genealogy of Christ by Peter of Poitiers (ca. 1130-1205, which is way early for a Venetian courtesan, but who’s telling this story?!) that we both liked the bold, graphic nature of.

Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

I started off by measuring the longest sheet of paper I had, Somerset printmaking paper. It turned out to be 30″ long. I settled on making the scroll 11″ wide, to make it look even longer proportionally. I taped two pieces of graph paper together and marked off 1.5″ margins all around. Then I marked out the central line and circles where I thought they’d look pleasing. It should be noted that this is not meant to be an accurate family tree, even for her persona. It’s meant to be a prop that looks good, and is accidentally a legal document.

Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

The design was inked to allow for easier tracing via lightbox.

Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

Using my patented Giant Natural Lightbox technique (ie: taping the papers to my french door and tracing the lines), I transferred my design onto the final paper. You may not that I didn’t do any “wet-fits,” or making sure that the calligraphy would fit into the allotted space. If you look at the original manuscript, the text is rather jammed in around the lineage. I wanted the same look. I did, however, leave what I was pretty sure would be enough space at the bottom for the actual award text.

Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

I inked the initial lines in red. Originally I used brazilwood, but I think perhaps some remaining iron-gall ink in my nib oxidized with it and instead of a lovely light pinkish-red, it darkens to a pretty (but incorrect) purple. Instead, I used a red india ink.

Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

You can see my first serious screw up. I traced the line with my ruler upside down and the ink bled underneath it. I love my first screw-up of a project. It keeps me from being too precious about the rest of it.

Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

And for a mistake, it’s easily fixed by scraping the top layer of the paper off with my scalpel and burnishing the fuzzy spot that’s left. The green inner circles were drawn with watered down gouache, and the faces were sketched in (very loosely, this is not a time for perfectionism) and then inked with my favorite Scribal Workshop Iron Gall ink.

Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

Portraits are all finished! That’s Sabina at the bottom right. It kinda looks like her, too.

Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

Side by side comparisons of the design paper and the in-progress scroll. All the painting is finished there; I’m particularly proud of the central stripe. It’s so lovely and graphic.  Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

A close-up of the portraits. They got a small bit of shading after this picture; I thought they looked a bit too flat, even for this style.

Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

Names and causes of death filled in. Like any good Venetian family, lots of poison, lots of war, lots of killing each other in underhanded ways. Even one “defenestration,” which is being thrown out a window. Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

And with the text and marginalia written in. The actual award text is in English, while the marginalia is in Latin. I wanted the writing to be there, but not to detract from the actual award. Some of the latin bits are Bible verses on the importance of a loving family, and some are notes about how horrified the poor scribes are about how “unlucky” this family has been.  Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

If you notice, the last seven heirs died in a fire (started as they attempted to kill each other to obtain the estate). This family tree and the coronet she was given were the only surviving artifacts. Part of my commission was to make sure that the scroll looked like it had been rescued from a fire. I aged the paper with various washes of watercolor, and added some bloody handprints and splatters. I also painted the paws of my more tolerant cat and had him walk over the back of the scroll. He was very patient and only cried a little bit when I washed the excess paint off him.
Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

I added some wine rings on th front (such careless scribes!) and some more blood splatters and sooty handprints. I was going to make those in charcoal, but it wasn’t wanting to cooperate, so I just used dark grey gouache instead. Then I took a candle and burned the edges, and made soot marks.
Sabina's Court Barony Scroll

The one place I deliberately (mostly) avoided was the legal text. I didn’t want that getting smudged or burned beyond recognition. The hole in th middle accidentally forms a nice portrait window if you fold it over right, too.  Sabina's Court Barony Scroll The scroll all folded up. I actually have some hanging seals to attach, but I thought it’d be easier to do it after the hoopla in court was done. 
Sabina's Court Barony Scroll A clean version of the scroll text, before clean-up. I misspelled her name horribly, but it’s a relatively easy fix.

Photo by Katy Thompson. Used with permission. Photo by Katy Thompson. Used with permission.

And Her Excellency Sabina with her scroll!

Lilium Aureum (part two): Painting the Scroll

Commence Part Two! The first thing I did was to fill in the rest of the calligraphy. I tend to be pretty confident when it comes to my calligraphy (I have a tendency to give one of my mentors heart attacks because when I work with other illuminators, I’ll do the calligraphy after theyre finished painting instead of before they start), but there’s no use tempting fate.


I painted the borders gold with some gold watercolor I’ve had laying around for a while. Or maybe it was the Winsor & Newton gold gouache? I can’t remember. I wanted something shiny in there. I also chose black and gold for the backgrounds of the biggest areas to better represent Ansteorra. The blue was because I thought it looked rich and opulent. You may notice that there’s a big ocher blotch in the middle of the calligraphy. Yeah. That’s what happens when you try to paint during an allergy attack.


The background flats are all finished here, and I’ve started filling in some of the foreground flats. I’ve blotted away the excess paint in the mistake, and dabbed it with a little water to pick up what I can of it. Then I’ll let it dry over night and then scrape off what I can of the paint that’s left with a scalpel blade (seriously, scribes: scalpels. Cheaper than exactos and sharper, too).


The foreground flats are all finished. You can see how strikingly graphic and beautiful this design is when painted with just flats. It was a huge relief to me to see that, since it was a consideration in my design. I’ve tried to not paint over the lines, but not made a huge deal of it, since there were no outlines in the inspiration piece. I’ve scraped away most of the yellow paint in the mistake, but it’s not completely gone. I’ll have to paint over it with white in order to fix it.


Starting in on the shading. I suppose this is as good a time as any to talk about paint. I use gouache, an opaque watercolor consistig of pigment (the color), gum arabic (the binder that holds the pigment together), and chalk, or other inert substance (to make to opaque). I tend to use artist grade paints, a legacy of my time in art school, but a mixture of brands. I could probably write up a whole post on the paints I use, with comparisons. In fact, I probably should.



And the majority of the shading finished. For the most part, it’s achieved by hatching and cross-hatching a highlight color, either white or yellow, on top of the base color. I used a teeny-tiny round brush (3/0 or 4/0 I think) to do the shading.


A closer look at the left side of the scroll. There will be a drop-shadow added behind the ornaments, too, to heighten the illusion of dimentionsality.



Finished scroll! I’m really pleased with the way that it came together, although I think the filigree work around the versal was a little haphazard. But I know that Asha loved her scroll (her mum told me so!) and that’s really all that matters to me.

Lilium Aureum (part one): Creating a new charter

Not too long ago, at our local Larurel’s Prize Tourney (I have picture of that coming soon), I was approached and asked to design a charter for a new children’s A&S award. For those of you unfamiliar, a charter is a scroll that has spaces left blank for the recipient’s name, the date, royal signatures, etc. They also usually have linework designs on them, so each can be painted individually. I’ve never made a charter design before, and I was thrilled to be asked. It turns out that charter-designing is pretty different from one-off scroll-design.

First, I needed some inspiration. It was a tough decision, actually. I needed a design (a later period design, at the request of Their Majesties) that was complex enough to stand on its own if a very beginning painter just used flat colors, and something that would give more advanced painters the chance to go to town with shading if they wanted to. In the end I went with Francesco Marmitta’s Rangoni Bentivoglio Book of Hours, an Italian work from around 1500. It’s currently housed at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

LA: sketch

Not shown: taking ideas from several leaves of the Book and sketching them out on graph paper to get the proportions right within my space limitation. I then brought the images into photoshop to get everything the way I wanted and mirrored without a whole ton of problems. Then I traced the image onto tracing paper so I could easily transfer it to the final working paper.


I knew I wanted to make sure the hand was consistent with the illumination style, so I went through all the pages I had and pulled out several letters that appeared on them. To fill in the gaps, I looked through Stan Knight’s amazing book Historical Scripts from Classical Times to the Renaissnce for similar times and places.


I did a couple of calligraphy drafts…


And then a couple more. The problem with creating a charter is that you have to leave space enough for a hugely long name (because someone might have picked Tangwystyl Fairehayvenn of Llanleystocke as a name, rather than John York), a hugely long area of expertise (again, calligraphy and illumination, as opposed to gaming) and placename. Trying to make sure that each of those had enough space, as well as the date, years, and signatures was difficult. I went through six different drafts, instead of my normal two or three. At least it gave me the time to practice my hand?


I use a small lightbox (9×13 or so) to stransfer small scrolls like this one. For larger scrolls, I tape the paper to my french doors. Thank goodness for th Texas sun. A friend of mine is actually going to make me a bigger light table, large enough to do peerage-sized scrolls. He made his wife one, and I’m intensely jealous. I trace out all my linework with 5mm mechanical pencil, in 2H hardness. I like the darkness of the line; I can see it well enough to ink, but it’s still easy to erase after, and the 5mm makes a consistently fine line on the paper.


Incidentally, I’m using Fabriano hot press watercolor paper here. It’s smooth and delicious to write and draw on, the ink I’m using (Scribal Arts Iron Gall ink for calligraphy, Platinum carbon blank ink in a LAMY fountain pen with extra-fine nib for the artwork) doesn’t bleed or feather, and it holds up to abuse (lots of wet paint, and scraping and burnishing for corrections) well.

Here you can see the pencils are all finished, and I’ve calligraphed the charter text. I’ll go back in later and fill in the premiere recipient’s information later.


Nearly finished inking. I’ve tried to reduce the lovely design into linework that evokes the delicate nature of the original without being too intimidating to paint.



And the charter is finished. At this point, I’ll wait for the ink to dry overnight to avoid any smearing of lines when I go back and erase the pencil guides. Then I’ll scan it into photoshop and correct any little tiny errors before printing out a nice bold master copy for our Star Signet (the scribe in charge of kingdom charters).

In the next installment, we’ll see how this goes from charter to finished award.

Wait, it’s been how long?

Uh, so. It turns out that even when you’re super busy with projects and creating things, they don’t actually end up blogging themselves. I have a million things to share (some of which are huge surprises that not even the Facebook page has seen yet).

The most exciting recent thing that happened was that I was awarded the Iris of Merit, a grant-level A&S award (it’s the rainbow ribbon on my shoulder). I was completely not expecting it even a little bit, as you might be able to tell from the shocked, glazed grin. For the rest? It’s coming soon, and more regularly. I promise.


Queen’s Champion Award Scroll

I was one of three people asked to make scrolls for the most recent Queen’s Champion event here in Ansteorra (author’s note: this has been in my queue so long that it was no longer the MOST recent Championship. *hangs head*). My compatriots picked the other scrolls, and I jumped on the chance to make the Champion scroll myself. I knew I wanted to make something late-period, since that’s when rapier fighting takes place. I was inspired by the Mira Calligraphiae, a germanic manuscript that’s known for it’s incredible calligraphic hands, super-impressive cadels (the decorative initial letter), and realistic watercolor illustrations. Queen's Champion Scroll

I used a pretty cadel that comes directly from the Mira, and painted the gold in with a mica-based gold paint before inking in the black lines. Thank heavens for light tables, seriously. Queen's Champion Scroll I painted a trompe l’oeil banner with the Queen’s Champion insignia on it, looking as though it was stuck through the paper. The Mira has several plates like this, and on the other side, you can see where the “flag” is stuck through the paper. Love the illusion. Queen's Champion Scroll A shot showing the lovely sheen of the gold. Queen's Champion Scroll And a little maker’s mark.  Queen's Champion Scroll

Super Secret Scroll: Finished!

The scroll is finished, and the title was given this Saturday during court, so I can talk about it now. It’s a Court Barony scroll for Robert de Bray, and it was requested that I include a European dragon of some sort and his coat of arms, all in a vaguely 16th century style. I went through Pinterest looking for suitable medieval depictions of dragons and found this page from a German manuscript (c 1463-1476, so a little early, but I can’t resist a good versal).

Court Barony

I moved the verbal up to the top of the page, to start the words, and made the tail spiral down around the gold bar. I also lengthened the top border to go all the way to the other margin. I calligraphed the words in my standard blacklister gothic hand, but replaced the capitols with painted letters in blue and red, to match the manuscript.
Court Barony

I didn’t use period pigments on this scroll, because of the time consideration. I had two weeks from commission to delivery, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to re-do it if I ran into a problem. I used store-bought gouache, and the Majestic Gold pigment from Griffin Dyeworks. 
Court Barony

I wanted to include this picture of the coat-of-arms with a ruler for scale. The little dragon is an inch and a half tall. The details were painted with an insanely tiny liner brush. I am very proud of this wee guy, and the whole scroll, for that matter. 
Court Barony

German Brickwork Reliquary Box

Part the second! To start with, I used a paper mache box, like these ones, and cut off the top and bottom circles. I chose some silk I had in my stash; the colors don’t match, but since the original inspiration seemed to be cut from leftover scraps and pieces of re-used tapestry, I thought it was still in keeping with the overall aesthetic.

Reliquary Box  I used the tutorial from Åsa and Martin’s medieval blog as a guide. I stitched scraps of silk to the tops and bottoms of the box, and to thinner card stock circles. Then I stitched them together, right sides out, with a tiny whip-stitch. Reliquary Box Then I stitched the embroidered piece around the walls of the box, making sure it laid as smoothly as I could get it to, inside and out. Reliquary Box Yeah, the stitching? Not that pretty. But it’ll all be hidden!
Reliquary Box

For the lining, I took a strip of the peach silk and sewed it to one edge of the box. I tried to keep a clean line, but wasn’t every fussy about it, because I planned on covering the join with a braided ending.
Sewing down the lining

Then I pinned the fabric taut to the other edge and sewed it down with a whipstitch, again being neat, but not overly fussy.

Pinning in the Lining

When both edged were sewn down, I turned the raw edge of the strip under and stitched it down. I was fussy about this seam, since it would be visible at the end. Sewing down the lining I forgot to get pictures of how I sewed the bottom to the sides, sorry! It was kind of a pain in the butt, actually, but the process was simple enough; I just whip stitched them together.

I finished the edges of the top, the edge of the box, and around the bottom edge with Racaire’s braided sewn edging, which, it turns out, is really Matcheld’s.

Reliquary Box

I sewed the top to the sides of the box in two places, so that it would open easily but be stable and not floppy, as it was with just one connection point.

Reliquary Box The bead closure is a purple lamp work bead I got as largesse from someone (I can’t remember their name; I’m sorry!), and the loop closure is a simple four-strand braid. I’m actually pretty proud of the structure of it. I sewed one end of the braid down into a loop, which I then pulled a longer loop of the loose braid through. So, to tighten the closure over the bead, you pull on the tassel.

Reliquary Box The original box had a turk-head knot on the head of the tassel, but I confess it was beyond me. I have some silk gimp to practice with, so I may add one later, but I left it off for now.  Reliquary Box And as an epilogue? This box and my documentation (which will be up soon on the documentation page) helped me tie for first place at the Bjornsborg Trials of St Anthony, a saint-themed event in San Antonio.


German Brickwork Embroidery

Ever since I dyed some of my silk tram, I’ve been thinking that I should do some brickwork embroidery. The long parallel stitches really show how beautiful the shine of the silk can be. I didn’t want to do a pouch, though. Everyone does pouches, and while I’m okay with that, I wanted to do something different. Enter Helene, who reminded me of a saint-themed event that was coming up, and suggested I make a reliquary box like this one from  Medieval Arts & Crafts. She was also kind enough to suggest one of the patterns she charted, that was suitable for something horizontal, like the sides of a box.

Gold silk finished

I chose to use the cochineal (incidentally, my dyeing source says that the reason the cochineal turned out so dark-purple was that it must have leeched out some of the iron from the jar lid), onion-skin, and undyed silk for the colors. I ran out of the purple and decided to finish it off with some teal-ish silk I made by over dyeing indigo with onion-skin.
Just ran out of purple silk

The finished embroidery. Next time, putting the box together.
Reliquary Box Reliquary Box Reliquary Box

Shields: Finished!

They’re done! And just in time, too. My lovely Baron and Baroness have decided to step down at Candlemas, in February, so I wanted to make sure that they cloaks were finished and wearable for our Yule celebration in December.
Well, that's the blue sorted.

I kind of forgot to take more incremental pictures of Avery’s shield. Oops. The blue is long and short stitch, the yellow is chain stitch, and the black background is a diamond shaped laid and couched stitch similar to (but more widely spaced than) Phelims’s shield. The ermine spots were stitched over the black to help hold the laid stitches in place.

Avery's device is finished! Woo hoo!

And all four shields, finished. I just got custody of the old cloaks, and am looking forward to making the new ones. They will be linen, so as not to be too hot in the Ansteorran weather.

All four finished baronial devices.