Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rebooting My Pigments Class For RUSH

My class at the 2015
 Bellewode Symposium
You asked for it. My arm was twisted again.  I'll be teaching my "Playing With Powdered Pigments" class at the coming November 3rd Book Arts RUSH classes

I was asked to teach it at two prior Calontir Lilies War RUSH sessions, but I couldn't. The location wasn't appropriate. A little wind gust would quickly swirl away the powders wasting them or worse causing you to possibly inhale them. Neither a good idea.

Dealing with pigment powders may be harmful if not handled carefully. Your safety is important to me. While I don't use toxic pigments in this class, learning safe methods is important because even non-toxic dust can be harmful when inhaled. And repeated exposure to them may cause irritation leading to actual harm.

If you breathe in pigments or they get into your mouth they can enter your body. If you have a cut or scratch they can penetrate your skin and be absorbed. Any of these methods may cause you a health problem, even if you aren't allergic or have a predisposing condition.

It's always important to know and follow safe art procedures in any studio or class. Learning how to be safe allows you to possibly someday advance and create paint from powders that are more toxic than earth pigments such as arsenic, lead, or mercury. Learning preventive basics from the beginning will help later.

Overhead view of a student making paint.

This class lets you experience making paint by hand using eight natural earth colors. And you get to take your finished paints and safety supplies home to use on your own creations. Whether you use the paint on more art or the preventive supplies to make more paint they're yours.

While not the only way to make paint, these natural earth powders when added to a binder were used in Medieval manuscript illumination. And many are still used in paint types to this day. 

I don't know how fugitive or permanent these paints are. But this was a well-known problem for past artists. Many historic paintings look different today from how they originally appeared. Early artists experimented sometimes unsuccessfully. Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper is perhaps the most famous. His experimental technique caused it to deteriorate soon after it was created.

Creating your own paints is not just fun but an adventure to do. A lesson in art process and materials' safety. It's also a part of history. The repetitive strokes of paint making can be a rewarding, tactile, calming experience. One I hope you will come and enjoy on November 3rd. 

The class size is limited. If you don't or can't get in on the class here's my Google Doc's "Playing With Powdered Pigments" handout for your guide. Remember, "Any time ya learn, ya gain." -Bob Ross
The Only RUSH Book Arts Seminar                                                        

Sunday, September 16, 2018

What Do You See?

From the Daily Star in the UK
You can enhance your work by nurturing your visual awareness. Whether you research pixels in medieval manuscripts or notice details in modern pictures you increase your observation powers through constant practice. 

What do you see in the picture to the right? Is it a duck or a rabbit?

Whether you see a rabbit or a duck may depend on how you believe either should appear. This also happens when you recreate medieval manuscript images, especially faces and hands. We expect them to appear a certain way so we draw them onto medieval people in the scrolls we create. 

It goes a bit deeper than that. The way Medieval faces, feet, and hands appear in manuscripts vary by era or location, often in the details. Compare the images below. They're separated at least by two centuries and hundreds of miles. What do you see?

Do they appear cartoonish or realistic? How many paint layers can you find? What shading and highlighting do you see? How dense are they outlined?

Book of Kells, Folio 32v,
Christ Enthroned.

Book of Kells, Folio 32v,
Christ Enthroned.

From an 8th century 
Insular Gospel Book
the iconic Book of Kells

Escorial, Biblioteca Monasterio
 Cod. & II. 5

Escorial, Biblioteca Monasterio Cod. & II. 5

From a 10th Century 

Spanish Beatus, Mozarabic art's best-known works.


Melisende Psalter
 Web Gallery of Art 16037
Melisende Psalter
 Web Gallery of Art 16037

From Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre ca. 1131 and 1143

The Visconti Hours:
National Library, Florence
Celestial Court and
Fall of the Rebel Angels
The Visconti Hours:
National Library, Florence
Celestial Court and
Fall of the Rebel Angels

From a colorful late 14th century Italian personal Book of Hours

Looking at medieval illuminated manuscripts strengthens your detail awareness, your "medieval eye". However you do it, these in-depth comparisons are vital to scribal progress. I like how they challenge my expectations and creativity. 

Related Prior Post: 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Only RUSH Book Arts Seminar

And the Barony of the Lonely Tower Welcomes You

Calontir Book Arts RUSH 

Location: Grace United Methodist Church
112 North Walnut, Glenwood, Iowa 51534
(712) 527-4607
November 3, 2018
Site opens at 9:00 AM
Site closes at 10:00 PM

Book Arts RUSH Flyer
Whether you’re curious, have an interest or an unquenchable passion for Medieval book arts you need look no further than the coming November 3rd RUSH Book Arts Seminar, hosted by the Barony of the Lonely Tower. 

This RUSH focused seminar offers you classes in bookbinding, calligraphy, illumination, materials and tools preparation, text writing and more. Plans include a “Rat Out Your Friends” display, “Supply Swap”, “Blank Border Largess” competition, and “Round-table Discussion”. 

Come and you can again be part of Calontir’s active and growing scribal and book artisans community. Immerse yourself in a day filled with paint, glue, ink, and letters.

This day-long seminar in book art techniques and related subjects is the first of its kind within the Calontir. A class teaser includes: 
HL Sean Angus MacDuinnchinn - Introduction  to Book Binding
M Aidan Corcrinn - Black Vellum
Lady Zafar Baabur - Quills and Brush Making
HL Vels inn Viggladi- Blue Alchemy

Necessary Details:

Event Steward: M. Jehanne Bening (Susan Gordon)
3133 S. 128th Circle, Omaha, NE 68144

Co-Event Steward: Ly. Zafara Baabur (Joan Alfers) 

402-813-7702 (text only)
Adult Event Registration: $10 / Adult Member Discount Registration: $5 
 Youths and Children Free 
Family Cap: $20 / $10 with Adult Member Discount 

Make checks payable to “SCA, Inc. — the Barony of the Lonely Tower”

Related Prior Post:
Why I'm Organizing The RUSH Book Arts Seminar

Sunday, September 9, 2018

5+ Medieval History Blogs - Internet Round-up 2

From the 1430 Milanese  

illuminated manuscript 
As I work on SCA projects I come across things I think would interest you. They don't always come with pretty pictures like this Milanese rabbit, but I thought as a group you might find them interesting. So I put five together in one post with a similar topic. 

These blogs are by a variety of professional historians.  Although Karen Larsdatter is also in the SCA. 

I know you'll find them as interesting as I did. And be careful. You might lose track of time or get "hooked" by one or two.



History Of The Ancient World gives you "news, articles, and videos about antiquity, from prehistoric times to the Roman Empire." It is edited by Peter Konieczny and Sandra Alvarez who you may also know for the website – a premier resource for those interested in the Middle Ages.

Material Culture Blog where M. Karen Larsdatter "blogs about stuff from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, including clothing, armor, and artwork. News about museum exhibits and new books." Don't miss her showpiece links page where you can click on anything and be amazed.  

Medieval Histories is another Larsdatter bonanza you won't want to skip. This one is her traditional blog. 

The Public Medievalist is Dr. Paul B. Sturtevant's unique blog about how the Middle Ages are currently featured in popular culture, museums and in education. You even find posts about SCA culture. 

Medieval Hungary is a blog written by Zsombor Jékely in English "
about medieval art history, with a special focus on Hungary". Jekely started posting in August of 2010 and continues today, but not as often. Even so, it's an interesting blog from a distant part of Europe. 


So that's the second Internet collection I saved for you. If this is as popular as the first I may do this often. A regular feature you might say.

Related Prior Post: 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Arts And Crafts Jewel of Calontir: Queen's Prize Tournament

2016 Queen's Prize Tournament
I'm bummed. Calontir's Queen's Prize Tournament is just around the corner, a month away, on September 15th. And I won't be able to go. 

Queen's Prize is Calontir's Medieval arts and crafts treasure. An event you don't want to miss even if you aren't entering. A competition that's inspiring for us all, whether you're a mentor or searching for a learning opportunity.

Intended for new and budding Calontiri, it is a great first Kingdom level competition even if it's your fifth time entering. "Why?", you ask.

Queen's Prize is fun. It's an encouraging friendly competition with built-in positive feedback conversations.

If you're new to competitions it offers you a personal friendly critique opportunity. You get to sit with three experienced artisans and discuss your thoughts on your project's process. What you've done and possible ways to take it in the future.

If you've entered time and again it offers you a different opportunity. A reason to go outside your creative Medieval arts and crafts box, stretch your Falcon wings and try something completely new to you. It might be so new you don't even have it fully finished, a work-in-progress.

A work-in-progress entry offers you a different QPT viewpoint. Intentional or not it includes three others in your creative process. Discussing your work before its finished can give you new direction or remove a roadblock to your effort. It's like having friends over and saying to them "Lookie here. What do you think?"

If you've already received an A & S Grant level award, like a Calontir Lily or Silver Hammer, your opportunity is in encouraging others. While you can't actually enter you can inspire and sponsor entrants. Sponsor friends, family, or a friend you haven't made yet. 

As a sponsor, you might help by coaching, if you're asked. Perhaps with the entry form, loaning necessary tools or advice on the next project step, but without doing the project yourself. You also provide a small gift or favor for an entrant who is not your "sponsoree" so all entrants go home with a prize.

I've learned so much just attending Queen's Prize events. The first was upon receiving my Calon Lily and shockingly discovered I could no longer enter. I was actually crushed. And crushed again because I'd already begun my entry for the year. 

No biggie. I just put it in the judges' group prize basket, a yearly donation amalgam presented to the Judges' Choice recipient. I've done that most years I attend the event.

I've also learned there are so many Medieval things to recreate I'll never be able to get to do them all. From Medieval fishing flies and Chinese fake fingernails to common prayer roll recreations. 

There's much to spark your creative juices at Calontir's Queen's Prize Tourney. Even just looking at the entrants' explorations. They are others' wildest dreams.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Can Jehanne Read And Write?

Cydippe writing a letter in bed, 
epistle of Cydippe to Aconcius. 
Harley 4867 f. 170v
France, late 15th-century
I've been working through M. Modar Neznanich's Research Questions for Developing a Persona. Recently I hunted for information on number 23. "Would your persona have been literate in your chosen culture/time-frame?" I wanted an excuse for all the writing I do. Yes, even in bed. What about you?

Many in the SCA believe in the Middle Ages few people could read or write. So they contrive a persona-story that allows them those skills. But is that true? And what about for women?

The answer is "it depends". 

As expected it depends on the era, status, and gender. 

If you are curious you might start by looking into Medieval European educationBut with a female persona it's easier by simply googling Medieval women's literacy. From there you find intriguing tidbits.

The daughters of Emperor Charlemagne (742-814 A. D.) were educated at the Palace of Aachen's school with other nobles' daughters so in their future they'd live up to their social position. But they are early nobility in a central European area.

Later you'll find

  • Hroswitha of Gandersheim (935–1000 A.D.) German secular canoness, dramatist, and poetess. 

  • And Hildegard of Bingen(1098–1179 A.D) a German abbess, philosopher, botanist, and writer.

  • After the fall of the Roman Empire, the monks and nuns were the literate. Some nuns even contributing to the era's scholarly research, like the women above.

    The first universities emerged in the 11th century and women were usually excluded. But with a few exceptions. 

    In Italy educating women in medicine was more liberal than other places. A few examples are:

    And you can't forget Heloise of Paraclete, a 12th-century French nun, abbess and scholar. She even sent a letter to her lover Peter Abelard writing:
    We need never lack the pleasures of conversation... Even when separated we could enjoy each other's presence by exchange of written messages.

    So, from this, you would guess Jehanne could write just to do her job.
    Jehanne Bening was born in Ghent, the Duchy of Burgundy, April 16, 1439, or possibly 1440, by the Gregorian calendar date. She -or I- eventually became a manuscript illuminator and writer, an apprentice to Sanders Bening.  

    But what about Medieval women in general or was Jehanne special because of her occupation? Despite successes, you still find cultural bias affecting women's education during the Middle Ages. It's difficult to know from recorded history because historians write from their own viewpoint. But women achieved greater significance after the 14th-century plagues
    The plagues decimated Europe’s population and workforce. Women then often took on traditionally male jobs. That included the need to read court documents. This encouraged more women to learn to read.
    But could a woman be an author?

    Christine de Pizan wrote the first history book about women from their viewpoint and for women. She argued for women's achievements giving them a positive view. Since Pizan wrote her books for women there must have been educated women to read them. 

    In her book The City of Ladies, finished in 1405, she writes 
    I am amazed by the opinion of some men who claim that they do not want their daughters or wives to be educated because they would be ruined as a result... Not all men (and especially the wisest) share the opinion that it is bad for women to be educated. But it is very true that many foolish men have claimed this because it upset them that women knew more than they did.

    You also see this in the Paston lettersMargaret Paston was the daughter of John Mautby, a wealthy English farmer. When her father died she inherited his land. After she married John Paston, also a large landowner and lawyer, she looked after their large combined estates. When they were separated they communicated by letters. Hundreds survive providing us insight into 15th-century daily life. 

    But the biggest increase in women's literacy came from Johannes Gutenberg's printing press in 1450. His printing press both caused and resulted in a widespread literacy increase.

    All things considered, Jehanne could read and write. Her time, place and occupation show she could.  More specifically, this is mentioned in the book Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe.

    What about you? No cheating now. Would your persona be able to read and write? Where would you look for that information?

    Related Prior Post:  
    Why I'm Thrilled With My New Found Interest - Finding Jehanne

    External Related Sources: You can find an extensive list of works by and about Medieval women writers on Fordham University's Internet History Sourcebook.

    Wednesday, August 29, 2018

    Two Inticing Paint Color History Books Reviewed

    Yesterday I was going through my books preparing for the coming Book Arts RUSH and found again my current published books on pigment history. They are both books about early art material production. These books interest me because Medieval artists or their staff made their own paints. Knowing that paint production history enhances your color use when recreating illumination art.

    These two books present you tantalizing background stories and trivia about the complete color creation processes.

    The first book is... 

    Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay 

    In this book, you read varied, interesting stories describing Finlay's quest for the world's historical pigments and dyes. Written as a travelogue through color history, her book takes you from Afghanistan to the Australian outback, to China's ancient caves, and Spain's saffron harvest. 

    You read vivid stories, anecdotes, and adventures about the colors themselves. About Cleopatra's saffron use for seduction. Historically expensive ultramarine blue production from lapis lazuli extracted from an Afghan mine. And how carmine red, still used today in lipstick, is made from the blood of insects.

    I liked Finlay's book for its intriguing historical information, especially the extensive notes in the back. Unfortunately, I lost interest and only skimmed through her detailed personal travel descriptions. Instead, I jumped to the color fact chapters labeled by their names.

    Better yet is the next book I recommend ...

    Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color  by Philip Ball 

    This book tells you about western art history through the physical substances used to create color. How art, chemistry, and technology interacted creating the gorgeous colors you see on our walls, in art galleries and illuminated manuscripts' pages. 

    The author is a physicist and chemist who understands sciences' part in color perception and pigment manufacture. But he's also able to describe its facts in vivid and enjoyable detail useful for an artist.

    Ball's book goes back to the Egyptians, but most of it is about the classic artists' use of mediums and colors. He gives you intriguing insights into their fresco, tempera, and oil painting techniques

    You read about the minerals, plants, and insects artists used to produce various colors. How early in history the color you needed perhaps didn't even exist or was so expensive it was restricted to Saints' paintings the most important thing artists then portrayed. And how their palette options changed from the middle ages to the present when manufactured hues revolutionized their choices. 

    If you have a passionate interest in color history, pigment discovery and its detailed development Ball's book is the one to read. 

    As an SCA scribe and illuminator, I think knowing pigment sources, how paints are produced and the histories behind them add dimension to your creations. Both books tell well the miracle you have in your paint palette and tubes. 

    Related Prior Post:

    Why I'm Organizing The RUSH Book Arts Seminar 
    The Best Beginner's Paint Making Post  

    Sunday, August 26, 2018

    Why? Counted Thread German Brick Stitch Embroidery

    As I mentioned before my new passion is developing my persona. While I will never be a Duke Cariadoc of the Bow I'm doing more things Jehanne would have done.

    I, as Jehanne, lived in 15th century Burgundy in Ghent and Bruges. A prosperous time, well-developed in trade crafts. It eventually came under Maximillian I and Mary of Burgundy's control. The Holy Roman Empire.

    I'm not into learning any housekeeping tasks, current or medieval, but I asked myself: "Living then and there, what individual crafts would you do?" "How would you make a special gift?"

    Since Jehanne lived part of her life under Max's Holy Roman Empire, currently Germany, I decided to try it's counted thread embroidery.

    I found Cynehild Cynesigesdohtor's "German Brick Stitch" pdf directions online. And used them as a starting place.

    Digging around in my stash I found the red DMC floss color 666 some even-weave linen. Intending to make a needlebook I began embroidering. I soon learned I couldn't see the holes near the linen thread's thinnest parts.

    My experiments became choosing the fabric and thread I would use.

    After the even-linen, I tried double woven Aida cloth, also from my stash. This didn't work because these directions put a thread between the Aida cloth's paired fibers.

    I looked through my clothing fabric stash, but they were the wrong color or had huge fiber counts per inch. That meant I was forced to buy even-weave embroidery fabric. Which I bought in white at my nearby Joann's.

    That worked the best, even though you see fibers so near each another they seem glued together.

    Working independently from the handout, I first embroidered an overall "grid" pattern in DMC red 666. This is when I fell in love with repetitive embroidery. 

    When I finished the red "grid", to separate out the pattern's dramatic lines I did the pattern's smaller yellow sections. But I'm doing them in black, a Lonely Tower color. Since I used 3 strands of DMC red 666 I switched to 3 black strands. Amazingly, 3 strands of black thread do not fill the cloth as well as the red 666. To look as dense as the red I had to use 4 strands. I didn't expect that.

    Also on this adventure, while waiting for scribes to visit, I looked through my old embroidery books. Wallah, I turned up M. Richard of Waymarc's Compleat Anachronist, 1995. I forgot I even had this. It's been on my shelf ever since it was published. I should have started with it. It's a great how-to for this.

    I'll continue embroidering not only because it's a persona-possible activity, but because I like it. I like the repetition and once I get started it becomes its own pattern. Even the following steps are easier to make. I also like the small size project because it's portable and completed faster. And I like a craft I can work without thinking and watch a video, tv program or while visiting with friends.

    I think this one's a keeper. If you haven't already I hope you'll give it a try too.

    Prior Related Posts:
    Why I'm Thrilled With My New Found Interest - Finding Jehanne

    External Links:
    Richard of Waymarc's brick stitch patterns
    Taschen 's advanced techniques