Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How Well Do You Distinguish Colors?

I've been known to get into some vivid color discussions with artists. I seem to see colors more intensely or acutely than even my hairdresser. Perhaps I'm just more dogged about the concept. Even so, occasionally I'm out done. 


Luttrell Psalter
Heures du Duc de Berry
Color determination, being able to see the difference between colors, is essential to an artist. As a scribe it is crucial to selecting colors that emulate your chosen inspiration source. 

There's a big difference in the colors in the Luttrell Psalter and those in Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

As an art student or scribe, would this change your ability to learn about art? Would it affect how you paint? No matter your artistic style, would you change how you paint if you don't see colors the same as those who view your work? 

Knowing how you see color is a step to answering those questions. Below are BuzzFeed quizzes to help you casually assess where you fit on the color determination scale. These fun quizzes will give you a clue to the next step on your scribal journey.


If you are interested to learn more, as part of their free online color theory classes, The Student Art Guide website tells how color determination affects art students and artists. While the Student Art Guide website is intended for high-school students, it's pages are relevant to most art students. Be careful you don't get lost within it for days. 

Exploring color mixing is important. Being able to see the changes that happen when you do is crucial to recreating scrolls that emulate your inspirations.

Related Prior Post:
5 Tips to Train Your Artist Eye



Image credits: Click title under image for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, December 25, 2016

To My Readers, Family And Friends...




Hope you enjoy your holidays.

Thank you for your interest and support. You may still not quite understand what I do, but you've supported me unconditionally. I hope I don't bore you with nerdy details, jokes, and addictions I enjoy and pass along. How you continue to tolerate my geekish banter amazes me. 


Thank you, again.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Brush Basics and Buying

I'm a brush collector. I have all types and sizes. I even have some for oil painting, which I've never tried. With each purchase, I feel that brush will be my best brush for it's intended task. If that's true, why do I keep going back for more? Why do I have so many?

Brushes are tricky to select. There are many options in type, shape, fiber, manufacturer, cost, and wear-ability. 

Most scribes begin with a friend or teacher's recommended brush. That's how I started. I bought and used that same brush, in different sizes for years. 

I still like Winsor and Newton Sceptre Gold II watercolor round brushes. (Round brushes come to a point.) I like the way they feel on the paper, their spring. They are a less pricey artist grade brush because they blend red sable and golden synthetic fibers. I have them in the smallest 101 series round size, 00 up to a 4.

I prefer to buy an illumination brush I can see and feel. When buying a brush, I first go to the section for the medium I'm intending to use. When doing a traditional illumination you want a watercolor brush. They are softer than oil/acrylic brushes and come in smaller sizes. You might also consider decorative detail brushes for their micro size.

Most of my brushes are round pointed brushes, with average length hair. I also like the short haired, round brush, some call spotted round. I do have a few small flat brushes, with a broad flat edge. I like them, but I don't often use what I have. They can be useful for underpainting or brush lettering.
Multi-use artist brush area
at Hobby Lobby 

When shopping in the watercolor brush area, you'll find sections of brushes by name that are based on their fiber composition and handle design. Manufacturers give them fancy names to attract your attention. There are sable, squirrel, and synthetic blended fibers. The selling price depends on the rarity of the fiber. Premium pointed-round watercolor Kolinsky sable brushes are treasured because they keep a fine point, and are long lasting. I choose the W&N Sceptres as an intermediate option that combines sable hairs with synthetic fibers for less cost. 

Looking at a watercolor section with round short handled brushes you'll see they are stocked by size. The larger the number the bigger the size, the more 0s the smaller the brush is than a size 0. The very tiny may say 20/0 because there isn't enough room to write 20 zeros on the handle. I pick the size I want for the size paint stroke I expect to make. If I'm underpainting I use a 2 or 4. For outlining or highlighting I use 00 or smaller.
No point on this brush tip.

When I find the fiber, size, and cost I want I pick a brush and slightly wet the tip with water from my drinking water bottle I carry. Don't lick it. Some manufacturers coat the tip for shipping with a bad tasting "fishy" oil. After moistening, I point the tip by pulling it between my index, middle finger and thumb. Then I closely check that it comes to a crisp, sharp point, without stray, outlying fibers. If there are I pick a different brush.

I've tried plucking out bristle stragglers of brushes I own. That never works well for me. Most of the stragglers happened when I placed the plastic guard tube over the bristles to transport my brushes somewhere. I like guards, but I must look very close to use them or the thing I'm trying to protect gets damaged.

When you upgrade from brushes like ox-hair, squirrel, or synthetic, student brushes are still useful for loading dip pens, mixing colors, and odd jobs. I save my best brushes --newest, most pricey, or just plain favorite -- for the finest work. 

While a good brush should last you years, to ensure longevity clean them after using them. When I use a watercolor medium I wash them with cool running water and mild soap, gently pressing the bristle hairs in the palm of my hand. After washing, I gently "wring them out" using my fingers and pressing them together around the brush base and moving toward the tip. I let them dry flat.

My home-made brush storage.
In my studio, I store my brushes upright in a home-made tray that separates them from each other. Upright is what's important because their shape keeps them away from their neighbors. My home-made system helps me organize them by size. You can use any container, a mason jar or empty tea bag tin. 

Beware, brushes are like potato chips. It's hard to stop with one.




You May Also Like These Other Blogs' Related Post:
in bed with Mona Lisa/Painting Materials
Picking a Brush--Guest Post on Scribe Scribbling

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Gouache And Watercolor Paint Comparison

Teaching scribes in the Barony of the Lonely Tower I've been asked the difference between watercolor and gouache paints. I thought you would like to know too.

Simply put, watercolor paints are transparent, gouache paints are opaque. That's it in a nutshell. 

Watercolor paints use the white of the "paper" for their white. Lighter gouache paints, even white, may be applied over colored paint under-layers. White gouache may also be added to a hue to make a color tint. Gouache's opaqueness lets me paint in layers from dark to light.

Modernly both products typically have color pigments bound with gum Arabic or similar water-soluble binder. Gum Arabic is a natural, non-toxic, weak binder. Both paint types have a little preservative and plasticizer to extend their shelf life.




While a form of gouache was developed during the middle ages, today's designers' gouache was developed for professional illustrators. 

Student gouaches (and watercolors too) are applied like designer gouache. But student gouache, like Reeves and Artist Loft, has less pigment to binder, more filler, odd color options, and fewer choices. The manufacturers use synthetic hues for traditional single pigment colors like Ultramarine blue. They are economical but less pure or permanent.

There is also acrylic gouache. Like traditional gouache, it dries to a matte finish and is opaque. Its acrylic binder makes it unlike medieval manuscript paint, but resistant to water when dry. It's useful on more surface types, such as wood, fabric, and metal. 

It is possible to use watercolor paint for illumination if you use it with white gouache. The technique is not like watercolor painting. If you already have useful artist quality watercolor paints, buy some white gouache to get started. You may like it.

That's the difference between the various gouache types and watercolor. They each have their use and benefits. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How To Make Effortless SCA Donations

I'm retired now, but during my work-life there were times my employer matched selected donations I made to charity. Usually, these were medical or disaster relief related charities because I always worked for a dentist. 

One year the whole office was provided hordes of Girl Scout Cookies, even though it was a dental office. Seems the boss meant to bring the staff his daughter's cookie sign up sheet. He forgot. So he faked it. We got free cookies for months.

Did you know there's a no-brainer way to donate to the SCA? It's Amazon Smile. Most of us shop there anyway, so why not take advantage of it.

Hopefully, I won't sound like a salesperson now, but AmazonSmile is a simple, automatic way I support the SCA as I shop online. I get the same low prices and even use my Amazon Visa points charge card. 

Each donation is small because the AmazonSmile Foundation only donates 0.5% of the purchase price. Still, combining the amounts from all SCAdians shopping at Amazon would make a large donation. 

And it doesn't directly come out of my income. I think of it as easy, free money for the SCA.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Kris Kinder Absence--Family First

This is the time of the year I usually go to Calontir's Kris Kinder event. What's not to love? So much holiday spirit and shopping to enjoy.


Nan receiving her degree.
This year I celebrated something more exciting and important. Something in the works for three years. Yesterday, my daughter graduated as a Nurse Anesthetist.

It has been a long haul for Nan and the whole family. She's studied hundreds of hours, written a senior research project, provided hours of free clinical work, traveled to distant clinics...all of this with two grade-school children. I'm over-the-moon proud of her.

The family has provided 20 months of child care, room-and-board, and emotional support. Nurturing and love abounding.

Nan will have a major test to take before she's certified and can be employed as a CRNA. That will happen early next year. Even so, her graduation is a milestone completed. A major accomplishment for the whole family.

Calontir is like family, but it is not as important as the closest person in my life. Kris Kinder will happen next year. I'll find the perfect gift then. This year I celebrated something bigger, something that happens once in a lifetime.


Related Prior Post: 
Shopping and Merriment at Kris Kinder 2015
Why Guard Against Being Overfull?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dip Pen v Cartridge Pen

I prefer to use a dip pen, but that wasn't always the case. I started learning calligraphy using a cartridge pen. Why did I switch? What is the difference?

I switched from a cartridge pen to a dip pen to create scrolls in a more medieval manner. Quill pens would be even more medieval but not as practical for scroll creation. I'm not able to cut quills to a consistent size nib, so my letter strokes vary in width. I use dip pens as a reasonable compromise when lettering scrolls.
Dip Pen Nib and Handle,
Rotring and Schaeffer Cartridge Pens

How do dip pens and cartridge pens differ? A cartridge pen is a nib connected to a feed that gets ink from a cartridge held together with a barrel. A dip pen is a nib on a handle that takes ink from an outside container. 

Cartridge pens are easier to learn with than dip pens. You don't have to deal with having the proper ink amount on the nib for consistent stroke density. Although changing nibs with a full cartridge may be messy, cartridge pens tend to be less messy than dip pens. There is a limited choice of ink and you must use the ink cartridge that goes with the pen. If I use a cartridge pen I prefer a Rotring 1.1mm, but I have beginners start with a basic Manuscript set.  

Dip pens have a large range of nib sizes and ink options. I've even used very liquid gouache as ink. 

But there's a knack to using a dip pen. Determining how to get the proper ink amount to the nib takes experimenting. Over time, I tried multiple home-made systems to hold the ink for dipping. Some scribes use a brush with ink and stroke it across the nib's back. I prefer dipping in a short depth container similar to a 1-liter pop bottle lid.  

After I have the ink on the nib, I test a stroke on scrap Bristol board to make sure I don't have too much ink. Too much ink makes a blobby letter with no thin lines. I do this each time I dip for ink.

There's a difference in the lines each pen type creates. Pen nibs have tiny tines that spread when making strokes. Nib flexibility affects how the tines spread. Cartridge pen nibs are less flexible than dip pen nibs. (There's also variation within each pen type's nib choices, but that's a separate topic.) 
Cartridge Pen With Cartridge, Feed, and Nib
Note The Nib Slit Forming Two Tines

Nib flex is what makes calligraphy's thick and thin lines. The change between think and thin happens by changing the about of pressure you apply to the tines. On downstrokes, more pressure is applied spreading the tines allowing more ink flow to the paper.

Cartridge pen nibs are generally stiffer than dip pen nibs. I have to exert more pressure with a cartridge pen to create thick lines. I find it tiring after hours of lettering text. However, if you have a heavy hand this may be a plus. 


Broad dip pen nibs are also thinner front to back along the edge than cartridge pen nibs. (You can see this in the top picture.) This affects stroke thinness. I'm able to make thinner up-strokes with most dip pen nibs than cartridge nibs. I say most because nibs vary so much between manufacturers.  

The writing experience is different for cartridge pens and dip nib pens. Cartridge pens are forgiving if you push the nib into the paper. I get an ink splat when I do that with a dip pen. Dip nibs have a "scratchy" feeling and sound because their broad edge is sharper than a cartridge pen nib.

I'm a scroll production SCA Laurel, so I don't have the vast knowledge a modern professional calligrapher has with pens. I learned by research and trial to find what works best for me and the support I'm using.

Cartridge pens and dip pens serve different users for different purposes. They complement each other. They are both prime tools in my scribal toolkit.

Related Prior Post:
My Battle With Calligraphy

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holiday Scribal Gift Ideas


Are you a scribe wondering what to get that want-to-be scribe in your life for Christmas or 12th Night? How about putting together a scribal gift-pack collection?

When looking at John Neal Bookseller's web page, like a kid dreaming for a Christmas present, I came across this unique item offered by a professional watercolorist. It is a paint dot cardI've made similar cards for scribes wanting to experiment with paints beyond their Reeves gouache set. 

You simply apply large dots of your favorite, most useful artist gouache colors to cold press cardstock. Let them dry. Then label each dot with the brand and color name. 

Along with the dot card, you could include an intermediate quality brush set such as these six Loew Cornell Golden Taklon round brushes from Jo-Ann Fabric. (Under $10)

Add a small smooth Bristol board pad from Dick Blicks art supplies. (Often under $5) Include print-outs on cardstock from my free inspiration images and you have a gift for any aspiring scribe.

If your someone enjoys exploring through books give one from my Cyber-Monday suggestions.
And for the advanced scribe on your shopping list have a look at John Neal's web page specifically for SCA scribes. I was drooling over these for my own wish list.