Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Uncovering Gouache's Authenticity

As an SCA scribe, I work in two worlds, the current and the pre-17th century. I recreate medieval styles and similar manuscript illuminations but use tube gouache. But what is gouache? And is it period?

Wikipedia summarizes gouache thus:
Gouache...body color, opaque watercolor or guache, is one type of watermedia, paint consisting of pigment, water, a binding agent (usually dextrin or gum arabic), and sometimes additional inert material. Gouache is designed to be used with opaque methods of painting. The term, derived from the Italian guazzo...
Not the best summary, but a place for me to start.

Entering the term into the  Oxford Reference search box and limiting it to "Art and Architecture", brings up 582 entries. Imprecise, but some of the references might work for me.

More concisely my 1971 Painter's Dictionary Of Materials And Methods, by Frederick Taubes says:
Gouache is a term used for opaque watercolors that use white color, not the white of the paper, for achieving white or light passages. Hence, standard transparent watercolor mixed with white, as well as colors that are cut with white in their manufacturing process, are referred to as gouache. ... To manufacture gouache, colors are mixed with a white pigment such as whiting. Their binder is, as a rule, gum Arabic. pp.120, 121
But what's the difference between gouache, watercolor, and body color?

Handprint, an informative personal website by the artist Bruce MacEvoy, details anything relating to watercolor pigments and manufacturers. MacEvoy describes gouache and distinguishes between the terms. 
The method of mixing watercolor pigment with an opaque white pigment in a watercolor vehicle (made with gum arabic) is traditionally referred to as gouache. The method of mixing concentrated watercolor pigments with a vehicle that is made with fish gelatin (isinglass jelly) or animal gelatin (size) — without the addition of any white pigment — is traditionally called bodycolor (or distemper in England). However, the two terms are sometimes confused or used interchangeably, both in historical writings and current usage: some "designer's gouache" paints are made with concentrated pure pigment in a watercolor vehicle, without any added white pigment. The core meaning in all cases is that gouache or bodycolor is an opaque watercolor paint.
The Handprint website goes on to say
Gouache is usually made with the same gum arabic vehicle as ordinary watercolors. A good quality gouache contains the following ingredients:
• dry pigments
• distilled water
• inert pigment (blanc fixe or precipitated chalk)
• binder (gum arabic)
• plasticizer (glycerin and/or dextrin)
• preservative 
Sometimes a wetting agent, such as ox gall, is also added to improve milling or handling characteristics. Dextrin, a syrupy medium derived from heated corn or potato starch, is also sometimes used to make the texture of the paint creamier. 
With the exception of the impermanent, "brilliant" pigments ... the pigments used are the same as those found in transparent watercolors. 
Ralph Mayer 1980 book The Painter's Craft: An Introduction To Artists' Methods and Materials tells me that
A gouache painting is a watercolor done in opaque instead of transparent coloring.... The materials used to make gouache and watercolor paints are identical or nearlyso, the difference between them lying in their method of preparation. Gouache pigments are ground with a greater proportion of vehicle to pigment, and when they are painted out, the result is a continuous paint film of appreciable thickness rather than a thin wash or stain produced by watercolor.
The color of the paper usually has little effect on gouache paint as an underlayer... p.133
Mayer's book also contains recipes for making modern gouache paint from watercolors. Like described on Handprint the ingredients are basically coloring agent+white+gum Arabic. It also includes additives, such as glycerin and a wetting agent. p.134 
Inert pigments, such as blanc fixe or chalk, are often ground in with some of the colored pigments, not as adulterants but in order to increase their bulk and to improve their brightness or opacity. Those colors which are ordinarily transparent in oil and watercolor act as body-colors in gouache, and often yield womewhat different color effects. p. 135
Abrect Durer's Hare
The gouache technique has a long history beginning with illuminated manuscripts, possibly going back to Egypt as indicated by Britannica.com  and the Grove Encyclopedia of Materials and Techniques in Art (p. 259). The earliest modern (non-manuscript) use, although still pre-17th century, was Albrecht Durer's nature studies. My favorite is his famous hare.

In the SCA period, gouache was not recognized as a separate paint type (as oil and acrylic are today). The term is first found in late period as a technique of mixing pigments with the binder gum Arabic, some color recipes specifying the addition of chalk or eggshells.

Below are related recipe bites from the 1410 century source "Manuscripts of Jehan le Begue", that describe combining an opaquer with pigment. 
A good rose color...for parchment or paper... --Take brasillum [process it then] let it be put into a glazed jar with white chalk or gersa [gesso] in powder or with powdered bracha...which is otherwise white lead, otherwise ceruse, otherwise Spanish white and let it be allowed to incorperate with the said chalk or ceruse. ... And write and draw and paint with this colour whatever is wanted on parchment, and primed panels, as well with the pen as with the paintbrush. And the less ceruse or chalk there is in it the darker will be the colour; and so, on the otherhand, the more there is of it the lighter the colour will be.  Merrifield vol. 1 p. 270.
A blue color, that is azure, which is not ultramarine...which is good on ...parchment, or paper...--Take fine indigo, which is call by the name of Bagadel, and Spanish white, otherwise called ceruse or blacha, and mix both together, and grind them on a hard stone, with white of egg beaten and mixed with pure water, or with gum water, made with gum Arabic...And the lighter or less dark you require it, the more blancha or ceruse you must mix with it; and on the other hand, the darker you wish it, the less you must put of the said ceruse, that is, white-lead, that is to say, while you are grinding the colour upon the stone. Merrifield vol. 1, p. 271. 

Begue's comments tell us that opaquers were added, but don't add too much or the color will be too light. What today is called a tint. (The color theory, as we know it was not developed until the early 19th century.)

They were also aware of two color "densities", at least by the 16th century as the Manuscript of Diverse Secrets tells me:
Divers colours for painting works in oil, or "a putrido"-- And mark that the colours are of two kinds, one of which consists of those which have not body, and which do not conceal the colours laid under them, but only tinge them, as saffron for inatance; the other consists of those which have body and which cove every other colour over which they are laid, and many of these colours are inimical to each other, so that by mixing together they spoil each other, as white lead and verdigris and white lead and orpiment. Merrifield vol. 1 p. 608.
This also showed that white lead could not be used as the opaquer for every color. It would spoil verdigris and opriment (which is also why it wasn't used by illuminators to highlight those colors).   

And from the 16th century Booke of Secrets you find:
Of Red color, and first of Brasill: ... then put in one ounce of beaten alum, one ounce of gum Arabike, two ounces gum of a Cheritree, or else two ounces of cleane glue, strain it from the wood: you may likewise put into it some chalke beaten to pouder. p.8 
A faire greene colour: Take honie, put a little quantitie of vineger more then the honie is, into it, mingle it well in a leaded or copper pot, stop it well, and set it 12 daies under another pot, and put thereto a little chalkep.11
To make Azure: Take one ounce of white lead, nine ounces of Indicum, pour good vineger unto it, put them in a leaded dish, let them seeth well, and that which swimmeth on the top is the color. Or take two parts of chalk made of egshels, one part of Verdgreece, one part of Salarmoniacke, mingle them together with strong vineger, and put them into a new pot, stop it well, that no aire issue forth, set in it a warme place for a month long, and it will be Azure. p.13

To summarize, what I found.

While the term "gouache"  is distantly related to the late period Italian word "guazzo", it wasn't used to describe a paint type. 

The technique combining a pigment, binder and opaquer to make paint less transparent was written about by the 16th century.

They were even aware by the early 14th century that doing this required care or it would make the color too light. Also, not every whitener could be used with every pigment; white lead would spoil some colors.

In my opinion, modern tube gouache made with a period pigment or safe modern equivalent are an excellent substitute for anyone not seeking ultimate authenticity. The difference between the period materials and today's manufactured gouache depends on the preservatives and plasticizers, added to prevent mold and maintain usefulness. I also take care with the hues I use so the illuminations appear created with period colors.

Unless I'm entering a high-level competition, I make choices based on what is best for the artwork, rather than authenticity. As a scribe working in two worlds, the gouache information is important to know and is useful in documentation.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Now This Is A Retirement Party

                                                     At 76 Doctor Tafoya finally gave it up. An excellent dentist with a long thriving practice. His send off was everything a retirement party should be. Friends, family, and for a dentist his long time patients.

From the profound greeting to each and all...

at the local best brewery and winery, Soaring Wings...   

to the casual, comfortable air...    


                                                  ...the guests are family connection was felt by all...                                                                                                                                                                                                 ...the food served with a Latino-dental twist.

 Dr. T's emotional speech credited his "success" going back to his high school principal, who guided him into a career rather than military service and a follow-up job. His wife...his wonderful staff... and all his many longtime patients.                

                                                                          Thank you so much, Dr. T. for all you give to each of us.
May your view from the porch always be warm and sunny .

Thursday, August 18, 2016

TBTh: Warthaven's Master William Blackfox

Master William Blackfox (aka Mark Wallace), author and illustrator of the cartoon Warthaven, was, talented in many fields, including playing the bagpipes. He viewed everything in life as fun and generously gave the SCA his time and talents, until his untimely death in 1997.

For those of you who never had the pleasure of knowing William Blackfox, Master Chidiock's poem describes him well.

Photo taken in 1990 at the
Coronation of Rorik and Morgana

The pipes are stilled, no longer will they sound,
To herald the beginning of a court,
No more with joy will revels now abound,
Nor will his voice of songs raise in support.

The quill laid down will not be used again,
To tell Warthaven's tale in simple frames,
No longer at his wit shall we all grin,
Nor smile at his parodies of names.

Such a great soul gone, in but a blink,
And we are left to mourn in sorrow deep,
And though to his fond memory I'll drink,
For now I can do nothing else but weep.

Oh William, it was too soon to depart,
We who remain will hold you in our hearts.

Master Chidiock the Younger

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bang Up Book: "The Art Of Teaching Craft, A Complete Handbook"

Wandering through my local 1/2 Price Books I came across  the The Art Of Teaching Craft: A Complete Handbook by Joyce Spencer and Deborah Kneen. Written in 1995 it is just what I'd been searching for to help me prepare for my calligraphy and illumination classes.

It is a practical guide to teaching small to medium classes, in your own home, your studio or at another venue. It details how to set up your space, plan your class, provide teaching aids and keep records. The authors also include multiple check-lists to summarize each section. I find it's very useful for lesson plans.

Written in 1995 for those living in Australia, it still applies to teaching crafts in the U.S. today. Although if you are starting a business you would want to confer with a lawyer on legal things. 

An easy to read book and well thought out. However, I would love to see it updated. One that would include the use of internet media such as Pinterest, Facebook, eVite and Google Doc, Sheets, Slides and Forms.  So much has changed in internet media that are useful for small group teaching, but may be unknown to some.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

6 Scroll Design Tips

I've been writing my scroll layout handout for the coming Lonely Tower Scribes' class. While it's too detailed for here I thought a few design tips might be appreciated.

Picking your inspiration 
I first choose a medieval style relating to the recipient's persona or interest. If that's not possible because time is short and I can't find that information on Facebook or through their home group, I base the design on the Monarchs' persona.

Choosing size and shape  

I consider the scroll's text when planning the layout. It's a blessing when I connect with the wordsmith prior to its writing to get an idea of the planned style.

If it includes poetry I will need more space to display the text lines appropriately. 

If it is a legal-type text may opt for a horizontal "landscape" format as in later period illuminated patents. 

Sometimes I design the scroll as if it were a bifolio, two book pages opened flat. While useful for lengthy text, it divides the "picture" in half, rather than the more eye appealing thirds.

Considering my available support, I base the size on a standard frame and mat size. It is a courtesy that encourages care by prompter framing. 

Controlling lines 
Because the eye follows lines I emphasize them. Even the natural Renaissance illuminations have tiny outlines, although I prefer the earlier styles more dramatic lines.  

I like curved lines for design interest. They're more fun to create than the strength giving horizontal and vertical lines. I control their pattern, especially when creating rinceaux, which can overwhelm script.

Balancing space 
I try to balance "white space" or negative background space and my art, the positive space. I like white space because the scroll feels less overwhelming, busy or chaotic. Too much white space and it feels boring and lifeless. I consider this balance when planning room for the Monarch's signatures and standard matting.

Contrasting colors 
I love whitework because of its intense value contrast. I also like dark lines within light areas. Both contrasts attract the eye. For color contrast, I use heraldic tincture rules to deliberately choose my colors. They were ingrained in medieval life, so you find them used in most manuscripts.

Balance is a key to design. If the layout design is off I simplify. I remove distracting elements or peripheral interests. When the period style is busy I choose only necessary motifs to combine for a totally original work. 

Those are my main layout considerations. Some begin with the period resources, some with the recipient. All combine to make the final scroll.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

TBTh: My Role Model

Until 2010 this caring woman, Lady Milada von Felsenhof, was my SCA role model. Her memory still is.

I met her in 1991 at a Lonely Tower summer revel. Besides her yummy pie for the pot-luck lunch, she brought bubbles for the children. She didn't just bring them, she played with the children with them. I still see her blowing them for their chasing.

She was an excellent seamstress and created the tastiest liqueurs. She regularly won competitions with them. As a senior woman, she also competed in and often won traditional archery tournaments, both in the SCA and in Nebraska state competitions.

My goal is to live my senior years as did the wonderful Lady Milada.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

More Reconnections

A few days ago I went to the Old Market again. 

That is always a chance for pictures.

I never know where they will pop up.

The reason for this Sunday walk and lunch at Wheatfields was to meet with good friends and visitors from Wisconson. 

When I lived in Germany John and Cerona were upstairs neighbors. John has the beard and Cerona is on his left, almost hidden. They were in Omaha for two events. John for a reunion and Cerona for a bridge tournament. 

It was great they made time for us. We talked about Germany, everyone's health and family happenings. 

This has been quite a reconnecting year for me. This visit with John and Cerona, Gillian and Arnoud from Montgomery, Tom and Carina in Kansas City and my trip to visit my brother Gene and his family in Minneapolis. Heartfelt connections all around.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Retirement Comes In Stages

All my adult work-life I planned what I would do in retirement. There would be an office celebration, relief from the dental hygienist rat-race, and bucket-lists to fulfill. I was looking forward to going places and doing things I missed while working and raising my daughter.

My introduction to retirement didn't go as I'd dreamed. I had knee replacement surgery. The lengthy recovery became my unexpected exit door. There was no work celebration.

But my home life soon took over. I spent hours doing things with both my elderly brother and my long-time partner. Doctor visits, shopping, and visiting. I traveled easily for my SCA hobby because John was my in home dog-sitter. I was honored to be welcomed into the Order of the Laurel, the highest honor given for the arts in the SCA. I enjoyed life as it happened and barely noticed retirement. I found my purpose.  

Until life changed again with their passing. After spending time putting one foot in front of the other I realized I was filled with ennui, boredom, disillusionment and restlessness. Things had to change for my golden years to be golden again. Because I retired several years ago, I didn't know, this was a common retirement stage, not grief. 

Back in 1935 when the retirement age was set by the government at 65, it was rare people lived to that age. Today, living to be 100 is becoming common. Sitting around 30 years is motivating for me in itself and longevity provides opportunity. Realizing if I didn't take action this is all there would be, I determined to recreate my life's purpose. To find productivity and a new routine. If I didn't act this disillusionment would last years. What could I do to recover my retirement dream?

First, I took stock of my situation. My options, wants and needs. I wanted a challenge, mental stimulation, structure, and purpose. But bucket lists don't inspire me because I have done much along the way. I've traveled and lived around the world. I have fulfilling hobbies and my two crazy dogs. How can I find a new life's passion? 

I googled the web for answers but didn't find much help, not even on the dedicated “senior” websites. However, in one search, I stumbled across Robert Atchley’s research on retirement stages

I decided to aim for reorientation and design a retirement happy-place life. But without work or close family I had to find human connection.

Retirement is reinventing and exploring, but I held myself back with excuses. Cost mainly, because travel now involved paying a dog-sitter. But, the thing I missed most was connecting with people.

Scary as the thought was, I decided to regularly teach my art for social interaction, not for the craft itself. It's a new beginning causing me to see life through a different lens. And, I'm making new connections outside my SCA world. I even found my Tai Chi instructor is an artist who took and enjoyed my class among my SCA friends.

Strangely enough, I have another dog. John's daughter moved into an apartment and her 13-year-old dog is now mine. It is a win-win situation. While he lives with me and my two dogs, she visits him regularly after work and we visit. She will also be my dog-sitter when I travel.

I am pumped! I feel like I'm on my way to creating a rewarding retirement again. I serve and interact with my calligraphy and illumination students and can travel economically again. I hope this stage is lengthy, with time to enjoy hobbies, travel, my daughter and her kids. I also look forward to more discoveries and change.

My goal is to keep stage six at bay as long as possible. The termination of retirement, when I am so feeble and frail I can’t do any fun stuff anymore. When I am truly in God's Waiting Room (outside of Florida). I plan and work for that to be a long way off. Until then, I’m enjoying life retired.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

TBTh: Favorite Picture Of My Favorite Kid

Not sure the medium she was working in, but Nan had a wonderful time creating this beautiful mess. She's about 15 months old and loved to explore and learn. My favorite thing was sharing those eureka moments with her. They are imprinted in my mental album forever.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What's An Award Scroll's Purpose?

In the SCA we devote hours to award creation and giving. Whether entry level or the highest awards , from start to finish, their total creativity hours are in the thousands for each six-month reign. With all that consumed time, what's their purpose?

Their obvious purpose is to acknowledge the recipient's accomplished efforts. Whether novice or peer, we celebrate together and mark their exclusive occasion.

I've received recognition at work and other clubs with a piece of paper and a handshake from my supervisor or club president. While I was pleased to receive the attention and their notice, my SCA honors mean more to me than any others. 

The SCA goes over the top with their recognition process. They beautify the awards with art, sometimes very original and detailed. They present them with memorable, entertaining style and grace.

In Calontir they identify the recipient as part of a larger, august group. You are whole-heartedly welcomed as its newest member.   

I couldn't believe it when I received my first award for illumination. I was having fun painting pictures from the Codex Manesse. I gave each one a new twist, relating it to someone in the SCA, painting a metaphor about the people receiving my art. I was abundantly surprised to be honored for having fun. 

The award made me aware my art mattered, as did the award I'd just received. It isn't only one moment in time. The award lasts. ... I have mine framed and it memorializes my joy every time I see it. It beautifies my home.

Awards express dreams. My Laurel scroll physically expresses my long-held dream realized. And, my new beginning.

There is more to awards than receiving. Award creation also gives their creator purpose. 

Whether composing text, lettering or painting, scroll creation is the reason I keep learning. There are multitudes of new skills and manuscript history still to explore. And teaching on-going classes takes my learning to a new level and a scary direction. 

 Scroll creation is how I express a fantasy, myth or noteworthy life happening. As with my Manesse Codex twist, there is sneaky pleasure including personally relevant motifs in a scroll, like those I included for HL Beatriz.   

There is also meditation in scroll painting. When I paint, on stopping I often realize hours have unknowingly gone by. I loose myself in time and the world falls away. 

Award scrolls have more important purposes than their obvious intent. We teach, learn, honor, share, beautify, and take pleasure through their giving. They give purpose to my life.