Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Best Beginner's Paint Making Post

My students making their own paint.
I missed something. Something you will really want.

Two or three years ago when I was getting up to speed again for teaching my paint making class I missed the best introductory Medieval paint making post.

It is the Medieval Yorkist's Eulalia Piebakere's adventures in "Making Your Own Paints: A Beginner’s Guide".
Just what you need to get started making your own paints.

Paint making is fun. It's very sensual. Enjoy the subtle texture variety you feel as you squish the pigments into the binder. Be a kid again messing around while combining the parts. Try it, you'll like it.

Related Prior Posts:
10 Free On-line How To Make Paint Tutorial Links  

My Class Handout:
Playing With Period Pigments: A Make And Take Class--The Google Doc of my class handout minus its pictures.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Illuminated Diapering

One of the easiest ways you can embellish a scroll is to add diapering. Diapering is the geometric checker-board pattern you see in illuminated manuscripts. It adds dramatic visual interest and fills the vacuum medieval art abhorred.

Link to image.

Link to image.

You may see them include gold leaf or without it. 

Link to image.
Link to image;

You may even find it decorating a grotesque animal or clothing article.

Diapering isn't difficult. You can make it simple or complex, whichever you want. The more complex patterns are easily created when worked in steps.

It's all based on a supporting grid, even if it's invisible. You first construct a grid then systematically insert your chosen colors or patterns.

Quality diapering is determined by evenly distributed grid lines. While you want an accurate grid I think extreme precision detracts from a medieval feel. You don't want it to be vector-graphic perfect.

With every diaper pattern, you begin with a grid. If you want you could generate one on Incomptech and trace it using your light-pad.

I use a ruler and a 4H pencil, and evenly measure each side of my chosen space and make marks. I then connect opposing dots. If you want your lines visible go over them with ink then erase your pencil lines.

This first diapering pattern was done into the late 14th century. It is the less complex one I'm sharing. It's also easily modified using other shapes and patterns. 

  1. You begin by selecting the area you want to embellish. 
  2. Paint it all over with your choice of light to medium color. Let this dry completely, even overnight. 
  3. Using your best method construct an even grid over the selected space. Making your gridlines black makes the colors stand out and hides straying paint. I use a black Pigma Micron pen. 
  4. Next, build your pattern. Here I place a small red square in each grid-square’s center. Use a color that contrasts with your underpainting color.
  5. Last using white gouache you make a small X over the intersection of each grid line.

diaper pattrn construction (2).jpg
Tip: If your selected space doesn’t have straight sides like in the clothing and grotesque I've pictured above, imagine the area is set within an external frame. Construct your grid straight with that frame. Your frame doesn't have to be straight with the support's edge; turn it however you wish. If you rotate your grid 45 degrees you'll create diamonds.  

My second pattern turns up later in the Gothic era. 
  1. Select the area you want to use for diapering. 
  2. Use your best method to construct an even grid over the selected space. As before, if it doesn’t have straight sides, imagine the area is set within a frame. Place the grid straight with that frame. 
  3. Apply gold to every other space, making a checker-board. 
  4. Paint red all the squares in one diagonal row. 
  5. Paint a second red diagonal row two spaces to the right. Repeat this throughout your selected area. 
  6. Perpendicular to the first red rows, paint one red diagonal row of squares. 
  7. Two spaces over paint a second red diagonal row. Repeat this throughout your selected area. 
  8. Select a group of four squares to paint blue. It will be just to the right of your intersecting red squares. 
  9. Just below the intersecting red squares, paint the four squares green. When both green and blue are completed, the pattern should alternate four-square groups of green and blue.
  10. Add small black plus lines to each of the blue and green squares. 
  11. Go over your grid lines in black again. AND In each red square use white to place an X and a tiny square. 
  12. Finally, place a tiny white dot over the black cross in the green and blue squares.

diaper pattrn construction2 (2).jpg

Tip: With the second method it's less confusing if you paint one color at a time. It's also easier the further you go in the process. Once you paint step 6 you'll see the design clearer. 

There are many ways to detail diapering; boxes, crosses, dots and diagonal lines are only a few. You're only limited by the space you have, your smallest brush, and your steady hand. 

After looking at countless medieval manuscripts with geometric diapering you'll have the “eye” to see the steps and layers building the whole. They become simple. You’ll also find your own methods to recreate them. 

Just create the grid. Fill sections with colors. Add tiny highlights. Repeat.


  • Alexander, Jonathan J. G. Medieval Illuminators and Their Methods of Work. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.
  • Asplund, Randy. “Making an Illuminated Cover Illustration” on Randy Asplund’s website. accessed 20 March 2016
  • Backhouse, Janet. The Illuminate Page. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.
  • Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut ed. The Goettingen Model Book. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1972.
  • Lynskey, Marie. Illumination for Calligraphers: The Complete Guide for the Ambitious Calligrapher. Hong Kong: Harper Collins Publishers, 1990, pp 52-58.
  • Reynolds, Caleb. Caleb's A&S Blog "How-to Diaper a Scroll" accessed 21 May 2018

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

4 Arts And Sciences Activities At Calontir's Summer Coronation

Calontir's 2018 Summer Coronation is just around the corner. I truly hope you can come. It will be a grand time. Not only for the court's pomp but because this one's also a camping event. 

Camping coronations give you more time. More time to talk to friends, attend meetings, enjoy bardic presentations, eat the feast and take part in Arts & Sciences activities. 

This time I'm in charge of the A&S competitions. Create them, display them, find judges and voting tokens. I also get to find or create prizes for the winner(s). Fun things for you to do.
Largess Display

Here are the competitions you can enter. If you don't enter, come by and see who did... and what.
Largess Display: Any person or group's item(s) to gift the incoming reign. Items should be labeled with the giver(s) names. 
Peers Only Novice Again Competition: Entries should be a peer's first attemp at a craft they started within the last 365 days. They may be a work in progress with a large portion completed. Written documentation should be limited to 1 ppage, not counting photos and soucrces. Judging will be anonymous and based on generic intermediate level Kingdom criteria. Note: hide all identifying heraldry etc and names. 
Populace Choice: Entries should be a recreation of a Roman item made within it borders or territories. Entries should not also be offered in the other competition or display. Please provide a card with your name, what the item is, its location and approximate date of original.
But there's more. This one is for anyone that's made an SCA thing in the last year. Anyone. Anything.
Show and Tell: A throwback to younger days. Bring something you've made in the last year, completed or in progress, to show others in the circle and talk about your "thing". Easy, peasy. And social too. HL Natalya Alekseya Vasilova is the moderator.
There's something for everyone. I hope.

Related Prior Post:
 Largess: The Art Of Regifting

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Nobody Told Me...

My binder-portfolio with the early stuff I made.
Nobody tells this to you who are beginners. Beginners in any creative craft.I wish someone told me. 
If you do creative work, you get into it because you have good taste built within you. But there's a gap between starting to create and being good. 
it’s the just not that good but trying hard gap. It's potential. 
Your taste that got you into creating is still killer. Your taste is also why your efforts disappoint you. 
Some people never get past the gap. They quit. 
As a Laurel doing creative work many go through years knowing our work doesn’t have the special quality we want it to have. We all go through this in some form. I know I did.  
If you are just beginning or are in this gap, please, know its normal. And the most important thing you can do is more creating. Commit yourself to creating something every week. 
It is only by creating a huge body of work that you close and remove the gap. That your work becomes what your dreams imagine. And I took longer to figure this out than most. 
Know it’s gonna take awhile. Know it's normal. Be aware, keep creating and you'll fight your way through the gap. 
 Related External Links:
Ira GlassPosted on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, April 25, 2011

Related Prior Post:  

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Celebrating Our Nation's Independence

Independence Day is a family day of barbeques and fireworks to celebrate the American freedom traditions. You'll find watermelon and hot dog eating competitions, sporting events, three-legged races, and water activities.
I display my American flag outside my door and listen to the neighbor's fireworks go off with loud bangs scaring my dogs. I think the most impressive fireworks are on television with blaring patriotic music. 
Independence Day is a patriotic holiday to honor the best of our United States of America. A time to give thanks for the freedom and liberties fought for by our earlier American generations.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Why Are Vellum And Parchment So Expensive?

Vellum or parchment is made from animal skins processed until they are smooth and thin enough for light to pass through. It's been used for book-pages longer than has paper. 

You can find one of the oldest surviving books in the British Library, the Codex Sinaiticus. It was written on parchment in the fourth century and is over 1600 years old.

With that longevity and tradition, of course, SCA scribes want to work on animal skin. It's the ultimate scroll surface. But is it ever expensive.

When I can afford it, I usually buy my animal skin, from Talas. Their non-calligraphy types cost about $100 for a size suitable for a Peer's scroll. The calligrapher's quality costs even more. 

So, why are vellum and parchment so expensive? You can get an idea watching this Dirty Jobs YouTube video in which Mike Rowe makes vellum.

This is why I now use pergamenata for my scrolls. I even prefer it to smooth Bristol board, which I used back in the day before SCA scribes discovered perg.

Even with these costs, you'll want to use vellum or parchment sometime. It's a wonderful scribal experience. You'll be enthused and feel emotionally connected to medieval manuscript creation. 

Related Prior Post: 
Untangling Your Scribal Paper Purchasing Puzzle

Sunday, June 24, 2018

How-to Paint And Pen Straight Lines

M. Giraude's laurel scroll showing
interlinear and filigree lines.
For years I've fussed over painting straight lines on a scroll. I keep coming back to starting with a ruler and light pencil lines then painting over those lines. The problem is when you use light intensity paints like pink, white, or yellow you see the pencil line through the paint making them seem gray. Unappetizing.

Is there a better way to paint straight lines? 

Whether you're painting precise interlinear text lines or diapering on your scroll, there's a way you can get them done with success.

For scrolls, I use a ruler and a sharply pointed small round brush or a dip pen. The brush size depends on the line width you want.

I've used a bridge without success because it seemed too bulky, but maybe I should have bought a different one. I have better results with a ruler and a brush or dip pen. 

Here are two videos showing you line-work tips. The first is Steve Mitchell's. He's a professional designer, illustrator, and watercolor artist. Steve's video shows you several ways to create precise lines, both tiny and wide, using different techniques. The second is P. J. Holden's. He's a professional comic artist. I offer you this one because of its low angled camera view; it's almost on the paper. 

Steve Mitchell published his video Dec 8, 2014, on his YouTube channel, Mind of Water.

PJ Holden published his video Sep 28, 2016 on his YouTube channel by the same name.

Although I describe how to use a brush to do this, you can also use a pen to rule straight lines. Here's how.

Firmly prop your ruler at an angle with your hand, raising it high enough so only the brush's metal ferrule touches your straight-edge. Hold the brush's ferrule firmly against the ruler and have the bristle point just touching your support. Stroke the brush or pen steadily down the length of the straight edge making your line. 

Tip: use a light touch and go quickly, but more importantly don't look at the pen or brush's point. Look ahead at where you want it to go. This takes practice at first, but it's worth it. Looking at the pen's tip causes your line to ugly wiggle. If your line isn't exactly on the target you'll still have better results than if it's wiggly. 

Another tip is to use your arm's natural swing when you position your paper or pergamenata. If you're right-handed, it's easiest to paint a line diagonally from your lower left to the upper right. so move your support so your line goes in that general direction.  

When your scroll design calls for straight lines, you don't want to spoil it with distracting, wiggly lines. Practice running a few lines before adding them to your almost-finished scroll. You'll be knocking them out in no time.

Related Prior Post: 
Cheap Tweak: Using Gouache For Ink

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Free JSTOR For Your Use

I'm so excited. While I may be behind the times, I just found out I can now read free articles on JSTOR, Up to six a month.

I use to only be able to afford this by driving to my local university library where I paid for an economical annual membership. But it was worth it because it had JSTOR's digitized issues of academic journals. The only other way to afford this was to be a college student or professor. 

Sorry, I neglected to tell you, JSTOR is short for Journal Storage and is a digital library founded in 1995. It has improved since I last used it because it now includes books, primary sources and full-text searches of 2,000 journals, with older domain content free.

Try it. But use Google Scholar for your topic first to see what Medieval academic stuff turns up. Then access it using your monthly six free reads. See what interesting nerdy stuff you can learn. 

Related Prior Post: 
Wow! Scribal Research Has Changed

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Perplexing Pictures In Manuscripts 2

“ 14th century (1349-1351) Austria - Lilienfeld
Lilienfeld, Stiftsbibliothek
Cod. 151: Concordantiae caritatis
fol. 244v - Public service. (killing adulterers)
The man fornicating/being killed is wearing a Jewish cap, which, astonishingly,...
14th century (1349-1351) Austria - Lilienfeld 
Cod. 151: Concordantiae caritatis fol. 244v 
There is no reason you'd want to include a prejudicial illumination like this in SCA art. But why? What do you see?

This 14th-century illumination shows a man wearing a Jews hat having sex, then being mortally stabbed for it. 

But there's more that's perplexing. What's up with his pointy hat?

The tall unique hat you see in the illumination was worn by Jewish men before 1215. It was required after that in parts of Europe and the Islamic world. Today it's an easy way you can distinguish Jewish people in Medieval illuminations. 

It's not the hat alone that makes the picture perplexing. It's the illustrated deplorable behaviors, the rape, and the stabbing. 

The picture unites the two behaviors. In the Middle Ages repeatedly seeing similar illuminations helped prejudice the viewers against Jews, eventually driving them out of Europe. 

M. Dov with his new Laurel scroll.
Prejudicial pictures like this are only useful for educational purposes. There's a tiny possibility you might use it in costuming research and documentation because it shows a woman's hose tied up with a cord. But never in a scroll.

The scribe who created the Laurel scroll for M. David ben Benjamin included people in the same Jews' hats because Dov often wears one.  But the people wearing the hats are in a respectful "parade".

It's the behaviors, not the hat, that make this illumination inappropriate.

Related Prior Post:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Resource Mining

One trick to learn when doing SCA research I call "Resource Mining". It is more fun than saying you can "get resources from the Bibliography" of the book or article you're reading. 
A bibliography is a list of books, articles, speeches, private records, diaries, websites, and other sources an author used when writing a paper. You may find it at the end of an article or non-fiction book. Sometimes it's called Works Cited or Works Consulted.
These lists are useful for the person who creates it because it gives credit to all the authors cited works. It also makes it easy for the enquiring readers to find the source used, but also to later researchers and curious people who are following similar paths. Think of bibliographies as time-saving and access keys to your SCA explorations.
Works cited in bibliographies may include more than books, articles, and websites. They may list professional journal article abstracts or summaries that are hard to find or expensive to acquire. The abstract or summary may have just enough information for your SCA project. Or give you a strong reason to seek out the full source.
Resource mining is even better when the bibliography is annotated. 

In an annotated bibliography each listing gives you its content and value, clues to whether you should read it. If you read a listing that describes the work as "ground-breaking" or otherwise amazing, it's a clue. It may give you an overview of the source, critique it, or comment on its usefulness, and reliability. It may comment on a listing's depth of detail, scope, and contribution to the work of others. More clues for you to explore.