Sunday, November 27, 2016

Why Guard Against Being Overfull?

Thanksgiving retaught me the meaning of "sated". Defined as full beyond belief, or satisfyingly full. I choose to be satisfyingly full.

As a scribe, that means knowing your limits. Knowing when you have enough on your plate to do in a timely manner, whether scroll creation or personal responsibilities, like family and holidays. Lack of energy, anxiety, irritability, lack of enjoyment and more. Knowing the signs you're burning out helps you pace your efforts.

Don't succumb to the siren call from others for help and the desire to do it all. Learn to stop with saying "no" rather than "no problem."

Remember, the SCA and scribes within it are volunteers. Family comes first. 
When you can't complete a scroll in a timely manner, tell your Royal Scribe assigner you hit a snag. Give them time to finish what you began. Guard against becoming full beyond belief.  

Friday, November 25, 2016

New Update for Your Calontir Blog List

Earlier I wrote about Calontir blogs. I have an addition I missed. I don't know how because it's been around since October 2006. It is M. Eleanor Deyeson's Workshop. A well organized, often updated, well researched, SCA relevant blog. Be sure you check it out.

Related Prior Post:
4 Calontir Blogs That Will Inspire You

6 Scribal Books For Your Cyber-Monday Shopping

Hope you had a joyful friends and family filled Thanksgiving. I did.

Now it's on to Black Friday shopping, for me at my local Barnes and Noble

B&N is the only national book retailer in Omaha. Even so, it is limited to trending books. 

I took a look at its scribal related books, hoping for inspiration. Sadly it's lacking. 

There is David Harris' The Calligrapher's Bible, although The Art of Calligraphy would be more appropriate for a novice. And any SCA scribe must have a copy of Marc Drogin's Medieval Calligraphy: It's History and Technique. Sadly missing on this shelf.

There's little here for illuminators, unless you count watercolor, illustration or drawing techniques. Nothing on history, gouache application, or medieval manuscript terminology.

Therefore, I give you a Cyber-Monday shopping guide for the novice SCA scribal person on your gift-giving list.

Related Prior Posts:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

An Amusing Iren-Hirth Scroll For Duke Sir Anton Rhaghelan

I've been posting information relating to the making of a scroll I can now show. How to Google For Illuminated Manuscript Inspirations, My Battle With Calligraphy, and 5 Tips To Train Your Artist Eye all sprang from my efforts to create this scroll.

The scroll is an Iren-Hirth for the Duke Sir Anton Rhaghelan. That alone is special because the Iren-Hirth is a mid-level combat award being given to a knight and former Calontir Monarch.

Sir Anton came to Calontir from another kingdom prior to becoming our beloved King. He didn't come up through the Calontir fighting orders. Receiving this honor, the Iren-Hirth, officially makes him a Calontir Huscarl. A treasured membership in Calontir.

The current Monarchs are Norse, so blending their personas with Duke Sir Anton's 14th century persona was a trick. The inspiration itself, the Icelandic Flatey Book, a challenge for its unrefined quality.

My creative attempt adapted the Flatey Book's colors, double columns, a split enlarged decorative versal, other colorful versals with filligree, vines, and selected relevant images for a bas-de-page. The sun, falcon, and water are references to the oath TRM Logan and Ylva swear to peers during their reign. Of course I added the order's heraldic arms and included Sir Anton's in the bas-de-page. 

I hope the scroll looks like a refined Flatey Book page to you.

Related Prior Posts:
6 Scroll Design Tips
The Making Of An SCA Scroll, Part 1.
The Making Of An SCA Scroll, Part 2.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

5 Tips To Train Your Artist Eye

People don’t see detail like a camera, and yet as a scribe detail is penultimate. We anticipate what we think we should see therefore we miss things. Our logical brain gets in our own way.
My first SCA art teacher, M. Gillian of Dragonsley, showed me a way around this, at least for my then novice brain. To draw an image from a picture, she had me turn my source image upside down. It worked.
This trick stopped my brain from identifying objects and helped me see scenes as collections of lines, shadows, and shapes. My drawing improved dramatically. Without this trick, I was only drawing image icons, not the item itself. 
Since then I've discovered other tricks to help improve my drawing. These include
  1. not naming the item I'm drawing  
  2. closing one eye
  3. squinting
  4. drawing the negative space
  5. turning my source picture upside down 

How you see the detail in an image you want to recreate is important. With practice, you will learn to see more and more detail. 
When painting a recent scroll I snapped some pictures that included missing lines. See if you can find them. It's a game called "What's missing?" like we did as a kid.
You can find more information on The American Psychological Association's web article How Artist's See.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

How To Google For Illuminated Manuscript Inspirations

Calontir's current Monarchs, Logan and Ylva, are Norse-Viking and the scroll they want me to do is for a person with a 14th century Western European SCA persona. How do I blend those two?

I started by asking Google.

Trolling for manuscript images with Google is helpful if you know the way it searches. Its search results are based, in part, on a priority rank called a "PageRank"a way Google measures a web page's importance. 

The first image(s), if any, are from the entered search term(s). After the most likely items, the search engine hunts for individual terms in your request. (This applies to text as well as images. Right now I'm looking for images.)

For example, entering "14th century Norse illuminated manuscript" Google first provides images and the first two are Viking style boats in 14th-century manuscripts. Spot on for my search terms. 

The next image Google provides is an English 14th-century illuminated manuscript. A ball-park result, 14th-century.

But there's a problem here. If the person asking for the search doesn't know or doesn't follow through with calling up the original image, it's possible to misinterpret the results. A Viking boat image in a 14th-century manuscript fits, but a pretty, English manuscript that doesn't have Edda prose or similar is unsuitable.

The next image takes you to a list of 14th-century illuminated manuscripts at Wikipedia. Interesting to know what other manuscripts of the time look like, but less specific than my request.

The last images are an Armenian illuminated manuscript, showing Google was only searching "illuminated manuscript" at that point. The last is a blog post of new images at the British Library. Very remotely related to the full requested search.

When I googled 14th century Norse, I was surprised to find an image from an illuminated manuscript. I clicked on the image to enlarge it. Besides more images, that page described the picture as "King Harald in the 14th century Icelandic Flateyjarbok manuscript." 

I'd never seen or heard of this manuscript before. So I googled the Flateyjarbok. Besides Wikipedia's information, the search included other pictures from the manuscript, plus some from other manuscripts, as I expected.

 From the 14th century Icelandic manuscript Flateyjarbók
now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland.

My next step was to click on each image provided from the Flateyjarbok search. That click brought up the initial image searched and ways to access it. The image only or the web page that holds it. Since I was still looking for information on the manuscript I chose "visit page."   

"Visit page" takes you to the source that holds the image. It can be risky or educational. It might be in a foreign language. It might not relate to your topic at all.

When I click "View image" the indicated picture opens on my screen, without possible accompanying text. Useful for reports and possibly this blog.

From these searches I now have information and inspiration for my assigned scroll. I saved the results and printed the best examples. Now to use them to design my assigned scroll.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


"Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote." 
William E. Simon

Vote in person today, if you haven't voted already.
You can't call it in, text it in, or email it. You must go in person today.

 Margaret V. Lally at the door of a voting booth during the first election where women could vote, New York City. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2016) Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Beginning Illumination, Book Review

Queen's Prize in Calontir, September 2016

Checking out the calligraphy and illumination entries at Calontir's recent Queen's Prize Tournament I saw a copy of Claire Travers' book Beginning Illumination. I was intrigued, so I ordered it.

While only 80 9"x11" pages, it is worth the reasonable $19.97 hardcover cost. 

Travers first introduces the reader to the materials and basic techniques. Then using photos she guides you, novice or skilled, through her five illumination steps. Using medieval materials she shows you how to execute a floral decoration, medieval human faces, flourishes, and critters. Her book also includes the advanced techniques of preparing parchment and gilding. 

The book includes a short illumination masterpiece survey with photos. A small taste only, to whet your appetite for the feast that truly abounds.

Traves includes ideas to use these skills on current certificates, gifts and family trees. Many adapt to SCA scrolls.

You can view her lovely, detailed work at Claire Travers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Battling Calligraphy

Scroll production is a battle with calligraphy for me. I receive the task, research and plan the script and motifs I want to use. When I begin the lettering, the first and largest permanent motif, I'm tense.

The page is blank and the more expensive the support--Bristol board, pergamenata, or calfskin vellum--the tenser I am. There is a deadline to meet, and the more costly the support the less I want to remove mishaps or restart. 

I plan a mock up with letter and spacing. I outline motifs. I practice the script I intend to use. I'm ready to beginI. 

More often than I realized I restart on another page. I know because I am recycling the pergamenata I didn't use, scraping off the errors and using the reverse. I should have enough for 7 more scrolls...if I don't restart them. 

I know how to do scripts and how to develop a hand from a period source. But when I letter a scroll I feel the stakes are high, sometimes causing shaky hands and mislettered text.  Corrections work, but they take time and I notice where they were.

I use tricks I've found to get through the lettering. I refrain from caffeine before working. I play quiet background music for a subtle distraction. I use a pre-ruled plastic grid or computer mockup under the pergamenata to reduce errors and save time. I take breaks, but do the lettering within one day.  

Thankfully, with practice, I feel the battle receding. I'm enjoying the calligraphy creation, the flowing thick and thin lines even with small letters. The point of making a scroll is to do something I enjoy, that has a purpose and pass it on to someone else. It's a blessing I now feel also with calligraphy.