Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Are You Keeping an SCA Portfolio?

Have you started your SCA portfolio yet? Why do you even need one?

If you are new to the SCA I'm sure you aren't thinking in those terms. But I bet you're taking pictures. As you take them, be sure to take some of what you make too. Everything you make, awesome or crap. Digital photos and scans are a cheap, easily stored record of your SCA creative journey.

If and when you teach a class or enter a competition save a few copies of any handout or paper you create. Be sure the date and your name are on them.

Why keep a record for a hobby you do strictly for fun?  There's the possibility in the future you may want to remake today's item. Maybe it's more helpful five years from now, but you broke it, lost it or gave it away. Pictures will help. Journal notes would be even better. 

I've been in the SCA 25 years, so it's really fun to look back at what I've created and taught. Your friends and family will enjoy seeing your collection, too. It's also handy to display at demos.

Portfolios show your creative talents more extensively than any accomplishment list like a resume. A scribe's portfolio is easy because we work in two-dimensional art. All I have to do is scan the scrolls or other works and put them in a plastic sleeve in a binder. On the scan I write notes about the materials I used and my personal critique. Any written pages I three hole punch and include. I put them in the binder with the most recent toward the front.

If your interest is cooking you will want to include pictures of dishes and test meals you make. As you recreate a Medieval recipe include notes and photos of your experiment and the final recipe with a picture. Of course save the same handouts and competition documentation like any artisan.

Portfolios aren't just for artisans. Although they may not call their records by that name, fighters and archers will want to save pictures of their items as well. Attempts at armor creation, a handmade period bow or arrows. And of course anything you teach that has a handout. Save those labeled with the date and your name for sure.

Other things you might include:

  • a list of classes you take with their date and notes
  • a list of classes you teach with their date and handouts
  • a list of offices you've held with their date and comments
  • a list of relevant Youtube videos or DVDs you make
  • a list of awards with their date, monarch and kingdom
  • a list of well research topics
  • relevant letters you receive such as thank yous or encouragement
  • physical samples if possible, such as snippets of weaving or dying 
  • pictures of you doing SCA things
  • merchant data

While it's nice to keep these in a binder or a journal, it's possible to keep them on a DVD or a blog. The way you create your record will depend on your SCA interest areas. Your collection may expand beyond one binder. It may eventually fill a file cabinet.

In the SCA we create things, but we don't keep them all. If you don't keep and organize your SCA records, in the future you won't have them for reference, display, or reminiscence. 

Related Prior Post:
How to Toot Your Own Horn...Unobnoxiously

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Why Is Gouache So Expensive?

There are two general gouache price points, affordable and expensive. With affordable gouache paints, I get the look and feel I expect just not its full potential. 

Gouache paint consists of pigment suspended in a binder, usually gum Arabic, just as is watercolor. However gouache has larger particles and more pigment in its binder. It also includes an inert, white such as chalk. These make gouache heavier, more opaque, and more reflective than watercolor. The extra pigment and whitening with the longer mulling production time adds to its cost. The price is even higher for true pigment colors compared to similar manufactured hues. Cadmiums and Ultramarine blue the most expensive.

Many scribes begin with the Reeves 24 tube set. It has more hues than you need, but I think you have more choices similar to common Medieval colors. The affordable price ($15) is due to most colors being cheaper pigment combinations used to make a hue and the limited pigment in the binder.

I prefer Winsor and Newton paints, but have used them together with cheaper brands. I pay more, but prefer the quality results. The finish seems less streaky and the colors are more brilliant. The cheaper paint may also fade quicker than the expensive kind, but that is only a worry if the illumination is kept in full sunlight. 

If you are a beginning scribe Reeves paints are a great way to learn paint application and color mixing while you create pleasing scrolls. As you run out of a color replace it with a similar artist grade designer gouache color. Little by little you will have the colors you most often use. Unless, of course you spring for a color you can't live without, like most of my collection.

Related Prior Post:
Why Buy More Scribal Paint Colors?
Gouache and Watercolor Paint Comparison

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

10 Murphy's Laws for Scribes

Nothing to go wrong here.
Murphy's law is a popular adage commonly stating "whatever can go wrong, will ..." Variants and corollaries exist for assorted skills and daily activities. 

Over the years from experience I've developed my own Murphy's laws for scribes.

1. If you quickly add something to an illumination when you are nicely dressed to go out, you will get paint on your good clothes.

2. If you bring a fresh beverage to your painting table and place it anywhere near your rinse water, your brush will go in it before you finish half your drink.

3. If you make one tiny correction to a scroll it will lead to one more, which leads to one more, and one more until your alarm clock goes off.

4. When you sit comfortably beginning the scroll text with your dip-pen poised for your first stroke…your phone will ring in the other room. If you get up to answer it will be spam or a wrong number. If you do not answer because you are alone and placing gold leaf, which is going rather well for a change, it will be a loved one that needs your help immediately.

5. If you have a month more time than you usually need to complete a scroll, your job or family will suddenly develop a major problem that requires only your special assistance for 4 weeks time.

6. If you find a great gouache sale, when you bring your purchases home you will store it next to the two tubes of the same color you already have. The corollary is, the one color you do not buy will be the one you're missing.

7. When you briefly leave your painting area and place anything on your chair when you return you will sit on it ruining either your clothes or the exemplar you placed there.

8. If you leave out your completed vellum scroll when you return your dog will have eaten it. After all, it’s just another rawhide chew.

9. When you work on two scrolls at the same time your favorite or necessary tool will be next to the other scroll.

10. When you combine two colors to make the exact color you want for a large area, you will run out of paint shortly before completely covering the space.

These are my Murphy's laws for scribes. I'm sure you have your own. I would love to learn them and how you developed them. Please, comment below. Inquiring minds want to know.

Related Prior Post:
How Can You Boost Your Scribal Confidence?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

How to Use a Dip Pen

When you adventure into using a dip pen you will find its use noticeably different from cartridge pens. Even the supplies needed are different.

Besides the obvious pen nib holder, nib, ink and paper I have a few other things I use along with my dip pen set up. Most of my nibs also have a reservoir that holds a little more ink than a plain nib. I also have a piece of scrap Bristol paper, paper towels and a small round brush.

For clean up I use an old tooth brush, window cleaner or mild soap and water. If I've been lazy cleaning my nibs I may want a commercial pen cleaner.

With new nibs I first remove the factory rust preventive coating with hot water, dish washing liquid and I scrub them with an old, soft toothbrush. Some scribes briefly hold the nib over a flame to burn it off, but I haven't tried that yet. I dry them carefully to prevent rust.

I check the nib reservoir to see if it is firmly attached. The reservoir is attached by tabs to the nib at the factory or sold separately for you to attach. If it is so loose it slides off the nib I press the tabs in to tighten them. A little movement is okay. 

I also check if the reservoir is centered and flat against the nib, whether I or the manufacturer added it. I see if it is about 1/16th" from the tip. The reservoir's position effects the ink flow. Too far up and the ink might not reach the tip; too low and the ink blots. I don't measure it actually. Eyeball is close enough.

When I first got my dip pen I loaded the ink by dipping the pen into the bottle. It is a dip pen, after all. Quickly I learned that isn't a good way. I made a big mess. Too much ink got into the reservoir and then all over my fingers.

My Dip Pen Ink Supplier
There are several ways to load the ink so it's more controlled. Many scribes use an small eye dropper or brush to apply an ink amount to the nib. I made a small container for the ink I plan to use that sitting. It is about plastic pop-bottle cap size, so the ink doesn't cover the whole nib even if I touch it to the bottom. 

After loading the pen I test it by stroking a Bristol paper scrap. With the first stroke for the project, I check to see if the strokes have sharp edges and the ink is deposited evenly. If the ink blots or skips I adjust the reservoir slightly and assure it touches the nib.

If I'm using an old nib I also check the tines for too much spread because I was being heavy handed. If they are too far apart the lettering will be broader and sloppier. 

Dip pen edges are sharper than cartridge pens so the stroke should be crisper. To assure that, after loading the nib I stroke it across the scrap paper before I letter. I would rather check it than spend time redoing my lettering.

When I take a break from lettering my scroll I rinse my nib in water. If I plan to leave it over night or longer I try to clean the nib and reservoir, especially if I've used waterproof ink. Dried ink between the tines or in the reservoir impedes ink flow.

If I've used non-waterproof ink I clean with dish soap and water scrubbing with a tooth brush. When I'm feeling industrious I even separate the reservoir from the nib and clean. If I use waterproof ink I use window cleaner to clean the nib. For dried ink I use Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay pen cleaner, although others may work well too. Once waterproof ink has dried and difficult to remove it might be easier to replace the nib. I don't use commercial pen cleaner on pen holders because it damages the plastic. Finally, I never put nibs and reservoirs away in a box while they are wet or they rust.

I hope my dip pen adventures and misadventures help you along your scribal journey. I've included some YouTube videos below for visual help.

Related Prior Post:
Dip Pen v Cartridge Pen
Related YouTube Videos:
Beginner Guide to Dip Pens part 1--don't know what happened to part 2
Detailed Introduction to Using a Dip Pen --very detailed, although modernly based
Dip Pens 101 (Why do artists still use them)--another helpful modern approach

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Tracing Light Box And Its Use

My Tracing Lightbox Set-up
I've owned a tracing lightbox for years and use it often. While light boxes themselves were not used in the Middle Ages, tracing often was. So I think using this tracing method is fine for scroll production if you choose.

If my goal were to create a completely authentic work I would use another tracing method. If I were entering a competition I would also document that method as period. That's easy to do.

Me Working On A Preprint
Light boxes have many uses, besides the obvious 1:1 tracing. They're helpful when reproducing the same pattern multiple times such as a repeating motif. They help when you want to align a design from one page with another page. They're great when you want to use your earlier art to add to a current handout, notecard or other largess. I leave mine in place and use it as my work surface.

There are many lightboxes available to purchase. From very slender to standard deep sided ones, even free standing tables. Surface area, light source, and power supply also vary. Commercial prices start at $20 and go way up from there. 

Where I live I usually shop at Dick Blick's. That is where I bought my Autograph 12"x18" Lite Tracer II. I've had it at least 10 years, so long I don't remember what I paid. It was worth it because I haven't even changed the bulb yet.

Prices have gone up. At least I know $125 for my same one seemed high. Amazon may have better rates than Blick, but they didn't have my size. 

It pays to shop around, especially with the many options available. When searching on-line, look for "tracing light box" or "copy board". If not you'll get photography items. 

  • Weight and portability--I prefer a model I can easily move and store. Since I bought mine you can find ultra thin LED tracing pads that start at $40.
  • Even, strong light--Even light reduces misjudging line transfers due to artifact shadows.
  • Surface quality--Size and smoothness. If I were buying a new light box I would prefer it be at least 11" x 17" so it will be larger than the average scroll I do. That saves moving the support around as I work. The surface should also be free of scratches, shadows, and bumps.
  • Durability--I want a long life for any art investment. The more portable the light box the more important durability becomes. It's even better when it has a warranty.
  • Value--I want quality for my money. As with anything, I'll pay more for features when I know I'll actually use them. Added features such as battery and computer connection must prove their higher cost to me.

Using a light box is simple. Place your original image under your support. I tape a few corners together with masking tape to prevent the line I'm drawing moving away from the original. This is important if your lightbox is smaller than the items you're using and you must move it as you work. Dim the room lights and turn on the lightbox. I work across my page in a manner that does not smear my pencil line. After I've finished tracing the lines I want, I lift a corner and compare my tracing to my original. I check to see I haven't omitted anything or need more detail. 

Here are two videos showing artists using a light box.

If you're interested, here are three YouTube videos that show economical, simple ways to make your own.

Using a lightbox is easier and less messy than some other forms of tracing, especially those from the Middle Ages. That's why lightboxes are so popular.

Related Prior Post:
Is Tracing Period?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

10 Top Calligraphy And Illumination Artists

Have you thought about becoming a C and I artist? I have. Calligraphy and illumination arts aren't dusty ancient skills Medieval monks used to make religious tomes. They are used by many today to create art. 

Here are ten people who modernly use calligraphy and illumination to create art and make a living. People who prove it is possible to do something you love and be paid for it. 
  • Nancy Hulan sells her award winning book arts at Renaissance Faires and her Etsy shop. Her work inspires me and give me courage to expand my interests.

You may also enjoy the Medieval and Renaissance style vector graphics art created at AlfredoM's Graphic Arts Studio. They are lovely Medieval style art, but created by a different method than calligraphy and illumination.

I enjoyed finding these current calligraphy and illumination artist while creating this list. Their talents, both artistic and entrepreneurial, are amazing. 

They each started down their artistic path then took a turn and drove to a whole different level. It takes effort, skill, and determination, but look at their accomplishments. The place to start is in your hands; a way to use your talents. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Better Together, Calontir's Scribal Community

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. Benjamin Franklin
I've been a Calontir scribe for 15 years and an illuminator longer than that. It took me too long to become part of our scribal community because I'm timid. I may be loud, but I don't like to intrude. 

I wish I'd understood earlier the meaning of Calontir's Scribes' Guild.

When I became part of the scribal community I made friends that enjoy doing things I enjoy, too. We shared stories, supplies, projects, and possibilities.

Calontir scribes learning how to make paint from powder.
They understood my craving to learn, to be worthy, and be accepted. 

The scribal community understands the newer scribes' needs, too. Sharing and caring are what they do best. The community is also the best, least costly way to learn new skills in person. We each were newbies once, even if we were already talented artists. 

In the Middle Ages the guild set production standards and expectations. It controlled membership and specified training. Today, Calontir's scribal standards are maintained through courses and scroll assignments offered. We each have knowledge holes we hope to fill. I know I do.

The Calontir Scribes' Guild has a Facebook online community, the Falcon Scribes. Along with personal friendships, the Guild meets twice a year, traditionally at Lilies' War and Kris Kinder. You may also contact the guild head for information with an email to <>.

Most SCA Kingdoms have their own guild or scribal community. Be sure to check yours out, whatever your ability. 

You might also want to take part in the public SCA Scribes' Facebook group. Its files contain an information wealth; its members are eager to provide answers to your questions.

Don't be shy, like I was. The scribal community benefits from its members as much as you benefit from it. 

Related Prior Posts:
How Can You Boost Your Scribal Confidence
Lilies War XXX Photo Aray 
Shopping And Merriment At Kris Kinder 2015

Sunday, March 5, 2017

7 Scribal YouTube Playlists

I prize the Internet for its ability to teach. If you know what you want to find and how to find it, so much is available. Very different than when I came up as a scribe. 

It does make your ability to critique your findings more important. To wonder about your resource's accuracy, authenticity, and appropriateness.

That is true with print media too. More so in self-produced media. Yes, even my blog. 

For your scribal interest, I give you seven playlists. They will keep you busy for hours, especially the last one. 

They provide basic information and in-depth manuscript knowledge. If you haven't already found them, they will expand your knowledge. Many are enjoyable to view again. 

YouTube Gouache and Paint Basics Play List
Illumination 3 introductory videos I collected on a YouTube playlist. They introduce gouache and color mixing.

YouTube Calligraphy Tutorial Playlists

YouTube Scribal Playlists

Related Prior Post:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Stalking Scribe

M. Rolf in stealth mode.
I'm a skilled stalking scribe, researching the recipient's SCA persona and related interests. It scares me how adroit I've become.

Facebook made this easy. I can snag scroll motifs from the recipient's photos. Pictures of pets, garb, crafts, family. I no longer have to sneakily talk with their seneschal or friends about their interests.                                        
Things improved even more in January 2014. Calontiri received a new online resource about themselves, the Calontiri Wikispaces. It's a place to present information about your persona and life. You might include your heraldry, a personal picture, interests, accomplishments and more

A culture wiki is a wonderful asset for individuals and groups. You would think everyone would want one. Most scribes hope you do. 

Having all the information a scribe needs in one place will save them time. Their scrolls will turn out even better if they don't have to stalk you to get your information.

A culture wiki isn't the complete answer to a scribe's dream. It's another handy tool. 

It can also be a persona research tool for yourself. There's an amazing number of questions you could answer for it. Try some on this Persona Wiki Worksheet  or on M. Modar's Persona Question page.

Unfortunately, not everyone will have a personal wiki page. A good one takes time to create. You also have to remember to edit it annually. 

Some people feel putting information online about themselves is unsafe or threatening. Some jobs may not approve and the information can link back to you. Though you all know me here, I'm still thinking about it, even though I can choose what I want to post.

I've been lucky researching information for scrolls, but not everyone is. Sometimes the lead time is so short you do the scroll in the Monarch's style. If it's a made on site "combat" scroll the recipient get's what you have in your head, or can pull from a brief satellite hook up. 

Having persona information in a wiki is convenient and educational. But for those other times, it's important a scribe has quality persona stalking skills.

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