Thursday, March 31, 2016

Throwback Thursday Photos: Barony of the Lonely Tower's Revel August 2005

A few Lonely Tower revel pictures I took August, 2005. Sadly, we are missing several people in these photos.

The Baronial Court of TE Faolin and Tatjana

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bang-up Book "On Writing Well"

I'm reading this book on writing well. It's a guide to writing nonfiction. And that's almost its title.

I've written so many SCA handouts and competition documentations I forgot writing nonfiction was fun. 

William Zinsser's book, while on writing basics, is amusing and shrewd. I've changed my style because of it.  

I'm throwing out adverbs (when I recognize them) and abridging things. I'm rewriting earlier posts for practice. It's fun seeing the flow and feeling become graceful.

Although my dogs think I'm crazy, I say out loud everything I write before I push the publish button.

A journalist and teacher, Zinsser sometimes breaks rules. Like his thoughts on contractions, 
Your style will be warmer and truer to your personality if you use contractions like "I'll" and "won't" and "can't" when they fit comfortably into your writing...There's no rule against such informality--trust your ear and instincts.
And the on valued untouchable initial word "but" he writes,
Many of us were taught that no sentence should begin with 'but.' If that is what you learned, unlearn it--there's no stronger word at the start. It announces total contrast with what has gone before, and the reader is therefore primed for the change.
I relish the humor he spreads on each page. Like when he describes the difference between "that" and "which".
Anybody who tries to explain "that" and "which" in less than an hour is asking for trouble. 
Or his comment about business writing.

...just because people work for an institution they don't have to write like one. 
 The book's biggest takeaway--simple and clear writing is powerful. I've rediscovered it's also fun to do.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Seven Scribal Virtues

When Pope Gregory I (540-604 CE) defined the seven deadly sins, he also gave values to adopt, The Seven Virtues.
Virtues may be both built-in talents and learned actions. They are both good deeds and their necessary training. 
Here, I describe the seven virtues relating to scribes. Traits that effuse every scribes' calligraphy and illumination on their every scroll, whether novice or experienced.
What are the seven scribal virtues?

Illuminated Hebrew and English hand-done award
Bi-Lingual Hebrew-English Award Scroll
Prudence, according to St. Thomas Aquinas is “right reason in action,” It's practical wisdom combined with our conscience, making us aware then able to do right things.

The prudent scribe is silent about her assigned scroll's future recipient. She unobtrusively gathers personal details. He quietly researches persona related manuscript styles, keeping quiet about their use.

Justice is the virtue that gives all its due. Creations, people, animals. Treating each by its own nature, laws, and rights. It is giving respect, honor, and dignity. Qualities lauded by our Society.

The very scrolls a scribe caringly creates are for that purpose. They allow Their Majesties to give respect and honor in a glowing dignified way.

3 women in medieval style clothing sit at a table painting and talking
Scribes Working and Sharing Information
Fortitude, similar to courage and strength, faces fear directly. Like a fighter, a scribe with fortitude perseveres through hours placing teeny-tiny ink and paint strokes on Bristol board or vellum. Sometimes sleep deprived with aching back.

Temperance sets boundaries and bridles delight's draw. The temperate scribe creates scrolls or preprint-masters following his Monarch's wishes, guided by the Kingdom's scribal handbook. Inspired by medieval manuscripts, her scrolls resemble a lost page from her inspiration.

Those are a scribe's natural virtues, impelled by those of faith, hope, and love.

Faith, in its nonreligious form, is optimism. It gives the novice patience and will to learn scribal skills. Faith helps us face scribal difficulties and expect positive outcomes. To make the best decisions to produce a worthy work.

A woman in medieval style clothing in holding in each hand a hand painted award and a hand painted picture.
Scribal Work Received
Hope is expecting something better and the basis for joy. A hopeful scribe seeks and learns ever more skills—vellum use, gilding, paint making—expecting excellence in their next courageous work.

Love as St. Augustine said, “... is the fulfillment of all our works...” It is felt when making a well-crafted scroll for someone never met. It is coaching others with your acquired detailed skills. It is taking the Royal Scribe mantle, often more than once.

A scribe's response to Virtue's call is complicated and personal. I'm not able to achieve it wholly. I'm only able to rehearse.

Copyright (c) by Susan E. Gordon 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Throwback Thursday Photos: The Barony of the Lonely Tower's Demo at Nuke Con 2005

Wonderful demo! The Barony of the Lonely Tower's huge display at the 2005 Nuke Con

Pictures of SCA stuff and participants from 2005. 

Those were the days, my friend ...

Saturday, March 19, 2016

10 Free On-line How To Make Paint Tutorial Links

I'm getting up to speed on making paint from pigments, again. Preparing to teach my paint making class in a few weeks.

I found several on-line tutorials you may like.

The first part of making paint is dispersing a powdered colorant in water. 

The second part is mixing in a binder.

The binder in each video is different Still, I learned tips from each video, even the videos using a binder different than I use.

Written Sources

YouTube Videos

  • Making Ochre Paints--Using soil and roadside rocks artist Helen Fitzgerald makes Ochre watercolor paint. 
  • Egg Tempera Making Lecture--How to make egg tempera paint with egg yolk and powdered pigments. She also shows techniques in using it
  • Making Your Own Watercolor Paint--Watercolor artist David C. Powers show how he makes watercolor paint from powdered pigment. Powers works from a large amount of pigment giving you another viewpoint.

The Take Away 

Watching the videos you see the easy way artist's make paint. I like experimenting and fun to just play.

Bonus Videos

For the curious mind, Master Pigments has four videos showing the tedious historic methods of making vivid blue, lead white and blue ochre. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Throwback Thursday: My 2004 Manesse Codex Inspired Scroll Illumination

I love the Manesse Codex illuminationsThe heraldry and style are so inspiring. 

I wanted to have these painted so much, they are the reason I learned illumination in the first place.

This "Throwback Thursday" I'm sharing my scroll illumination inspired by it. (See the original page by clicking here.)

Hand painted picture of a kneeling man with a horse, in front of a woman
My Illumination From Mathieu Chartrain's 2004 Capstone

Medieval style award scroll with calligraphy on the left half and picture on the right.
The Complete Scroll

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Is It Unsolicited Advice Or Teaching?

Have you every had this experience? 

You're at an SCA event working on a project when someone, out of the blue, tells you, "There's a better way to do that. You should do it this way. 

It wasn't a competition or a class. Just a conversation. I've seen this happen more than once. 

Frustrating. Irritating. (I know. It took me years to not snap when someone did that to me.) 

Even though the person giving the unsolicited advice is probably trying to help, it still hurts. 

What would you do? Bite your tongue and walk away mad? Reply angrily? Your have choices:

  • You can ignore the advice and continue as you have been.
  • You could give their suggestion a try. See if it works for you.
  • You might take their advice and put it to regular use.

I try to listen to the offered idea, test it and decide if it helps in some way. By listening, trying, and honestly considering the idea you keep your options open. 

(My daughter would tell you, I'm big on keeping options open. I think I made too big a deal of them as she was growing up.)

After consideration and maybe some historical research, you could decline. It is too expensive. Or it wouldn't have been done by your persona. Or something else. But you actually tried it and made a decision.

You've accomplished more than you realize by listening, trying, then deciding.

Why? Because one size does not always fit all. What works for one person may not work as well for someone else. (You!)

These same three choices also apply if you ask someone's help.

Once the person you ask for help gives you their idea you could ignore it. But then why ask for help in the first place? So listen well, try the suggestion, and make an honest decision.

Now, if you are in a teacher/student relationship can you ignore suggestions? 

Maybe sometimes. With strong reasons and good communication. If you ignore too often you may find yourself minus a mentor. 

A good mentor may accept listen-try-decide, but you may be ask to show-and tell how you came to your decision. (Which means you are no longer ignoring things.) 

I expect students to follow this approach because I don't know everything. But, I want to discuss concepts and reasons with them. Why?

By teaching, whether in a class or as a mentor, I link my self to that person. If they tell someone “Mistress Jehanne taught me ...” I want the student to be as good or better than me. If something is amiss I want to know about it. Perhaps it is my teaching method, but I want to know. I want to make things right.

I find listen-try-decide is a useful tool to keep things calm and still progress in learning. It fits well into most social situations, not just the SCA. And when someone gives you unsolicited advice, you know just how to handle it. It's a good place to start.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Wow! Scribal Research Has Changed

I love books, which is why my favorite bookstore closing was such a big deal.

I buy books or borrow them from everywhere. Books and research are part of the SCA's attraction to me.
A woman in jeans and  coat is seen looking at a bookstore item viewed from between the stacks of books.
Bookstore Search

When I first joined the SCA, 26 years ago, I spent hours at the library each week. Then took a  stack off books home. 

I spent money copying them or used the copier at work. I didn't want to loose any precious information nuggets.

When the internet first developed I was in heaven. I found tons more SCA related info. I learned to distinguish website gold from fool's gold. 

(Not all information on the internet is real gold, but books and journals are that way too.)

If I found gold I saved the info nugget to something. Floppy disc, DVD, thumb drive. It's only been the last few years I didn't also print a copy on paper, too. (I have a metal filing cabinet just for SCA papers.)

Lately, I no longer have a membership to our college library or interlibrary loan books. Scribal image resources are readily available on-line.
An empty couch foot rest raised with a laptop and cup sitting on the seat.
My Current Research Spot

I no longer check out ten tomes of the best medieval manuscripts in the world. The Duc de Berry or Book of Kells facsimiles. 

I now find the images from over sea libraries while reclining on my couch. But, I also find the lesser quality medieval manuscripts. Unfinished illuminations that seldom made it into books. 

There's also full medieval pages with text-only, allowing me to see an average scribe's work. Not just genius talents. 

There's also common place books, a physicians' cheat sheet, and legal notes. A common man's prayer roll rather than a Kings.

Today, the gold ingot scribal how-to source is now Youtube videos, an artist's website like Randy Asplund, or a retailer's information article blog like Natural Pigments. You can learn so much from the best of them!

All this has made scribal research and learning easier. There isn't the same chase, hunting down the missing translated text needed to make my competition documentation whole. Or the last detail for a class handout.

Passing time changes things. Research is easier. More relevant information is available. And you can mine medieval information gold nuggets with your computer for your recreation, documentation, or class handout. All from the comfort of your home.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Photos of SCA Lonely Tower's 2005 Spring Fling Event

Looking for class handout files on old DVD discs... I stumbled upon more SCA photos! 

It's been ten years plus since the Barony of the Lonely Tower held this Spring Fling Event. 

It was so much fun! Camping, cabins, catapults, classes, cooking and court.

Have a look. Do you recognize anyone? Is that you? Maybe it's what's their name? Are they still participating? 

Two medieval style fighters, one standing, one on his knees, weapons in hand, fighting.
Fighting in the sun, fun.

4 outdoor medieval style catapults with users, supplies, and watchers.
Trebuchets or catapults anyone?

Everyone has their own brand of fun. Some fight, some build, most learn.

A medievally dressed man teaching in front of many heraldic devices.
Heraldry Class

4 medievally dressed women at a table with kumihimo braiding supplies
Kuhmihimo Class

 Court, the biggest draw and any event's highlight.

Outdoors, medievally dressed seated attendees looking toward one direction off photo.
Outdoor Court Captivates Audience

Calontir's Royal Majesties Tristram of Lindesfarne and Katrine Thorroffsdottir hold a court with Their Excellencies of Lonely Tower, Faolin and Tatjana. Many received honors that April 23rd 2005

Back view of several medievally dressed people looking toward the facing court of their King and Queen
Their Majesties Court In The Bright Evening Sun

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

6 Links To Remove Scary From Writing SCA Documentation

In my previous article on arts and sciences documentation I responded to a common SCA non-writer's lament. It presented several ways to show off creations without detailed writing

So what? What can you do if you want to write documentation? How do you learn to do it or improve at it?

I won't re-invent the wheel here. Instead, I give you resources to help you remove the scary from writing documentation.

If you are very new to this try the first link. Others have sections on basic documentation that help as well. 


Basic Documentation--This is a short article in Calontir's Forgotten Sea's Clarion newsletter well describing 3"5" card documentation. Exactly what is expected for Queen's Prize and novice part of Tri-levels.

5 Easy Steps to Writing Documentation--This excellent pdf breaks documentation into basic and ideal/detailed section. Each section includes the 5 steps. Examples included.

The SCA Arts and Sciences Easy Documentation-Writing Form on Ez-Doc--This Ez-Doc is form you edit with specific categories predetermined. You fill in sections relating to names (SCA and modern), project title, your inspiration (historical basis), tools and materials, procedure/methods, and sources.
Entry displays each showing documentation
Entries Showing Documentation

A & S Documentation Made Simple--A 2 page pdf about documentation steps. It's presented in a form similar to many documentation entries I've judged. Examples included. 

Advanced Documentation--Another Forgotten Sea's Clarion newsletter documentation article. 

Kingdom of Atlantia Arts and Sciences Handbook includes three brief sections on documentation.


As I come from the Kingdom of Calontir, I include this link to their Arts and Sciences Criteria. Have a look at what judges expect to learn from you about your creation. Each category is broken into sections: novice, intermediate, and advanced. 

There is so much to be learned from writing about your project. It crystallizes your knowledge about your medieval creation. These links will help you learn or improve your writing effort. 

Documentation doesn't have to be scary. (I personally love it as I love to write.) Knowing how to go about it is just another learning experience. Welcome it!