Sunday, December 9, 2018

People Of Color In SCA Award Scrolls

With western art books and resources being mostly produced by white people they tend to assume the white European as a human standard. And in Western European illuminated manuscripts there is a dearth of people of color. But they do exist. And all ethnicities are welcomed into the SCA. 

Dijon - BM - ms._0562 f. 181Vcreated around 1260-1270
representing the Holy Land

So how do you create an award scroll for a non-White friend with people that look like them?

Or maybe your scroll recipient has assumed a Saracen persona. How do you create a scroll creating accurate historic art combat scenes?

You seek out original works.

There are a few Western European illuminated manuscript pages including people of color. But they may be inappropriate to use such as this one portraying people in the Holy Land created in the late 13th century. 

Some 13th -15th century popular French illuminated manuscripts feature Christian-Muslim interaction pictures such as the British Library's Histoire d'Outremer. And various copies of the Grandes Chroniques de France and the Roman d'Alexandre en Prose.

But the best place to search is the website MedievalPOC. It is a blog showcasing European works of art featuring people of color from the fall of the Roman Empire until about 1650. Often these works go unseen elsewhere and you might see them differently now viewing them from a fresh perspective. The blog is searchable and even gives you a guide to its use.

If you search digitized manuscripts you'll see the earlier ones appear with dark-skinned Europeans. Later images display more specific ethnicity. To help your technique is a tutorial guiding you in drawing modern heads with ethnic differences. Modern, but will help your observation skills too.

We choose the historic aspects to use for inspiration and should be able to include accurate and appropriate diverse period images in our SCA recreations. The reality is even pre-17th-century European life absolutely included black and brown people. European art history misrepresents that in American classrooms. But you can find people of color in period European art with some research. Take time to look at illuminated manuscript details "because you wouldn't want to be historically inaccurate."
Related Prior Post: 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Happy Friendversary - Almost

Detail from the British Library's manuscript Burney 201  f. 90 

Some of you have been reading this blog since I started it December 9, 2015. I am so pleased you are still with me. It's an anniversary of sorts. A friendversary. 

It's been an incredible journey for me. Seeing my numbers rise is inspiring. And the numbers keep going up. 

I started it as a hobby and a way to stay connected with people in the SCA and other scribes. I've tried to give you meaty purposeful tips, tricks, and information about book arts and the SCA. 

I couldn’t have done it without you. A blog isn't a blog without you the readers.  Especially this one because it isn't my career. So as we celebrate a friendversary I want to say thank you for your support over the years. You’ve helped me make a dream come true. I hope what I’ve shared here has helped make your dreams realities, too.

So here’s to our future together. With a new calendar year almost upon us, too. I hope you’re able to realize even more of your life's dreams this year. Wishing you a Happy Friendversary. May we share many more.

Related Prior Post:
70 Years And Still Counting
Kris Kinder Absence--Family First 
My One Day Pageviews Shot Up Over 1000

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Tips To Drawing More Period People

The way Medieval faces, feet, and hands appear in manuscripts varies by era or location, often in the details. Some appear cartoonish others more realistic. What's the best way for you to learn how to draw period-looking people? 

Motifs I traced then transferred to
M. Luciana's Renaissance scroll.
Most of us have been seeing since we were born but learning how to observe details is the important first step. Then if you can draw the next step is repeatedly conveying what you see to your paper. 

The best way I know to learn how to get the proper image to your paper is by tracing. And tracing is period. Some scribes don't grow past this stage. And I prefer it so I create a period effect conveyed on my scroll. 

Begin by goggling for the images you want your chosen era and location. Download a high-resolution version of ones you like. Don't use any from a virtual book for this. Even the British Library's award-winning Turning the Pages doesn't have the detail sufficient or image size for your project. You want images that are larger or that you can enlarge. 

Next trace them. And trace them again. The same ones or at least the same style you want to learn. Over and over until you have their exact look embedded in your mind's eye and hand. You're teaching yourself muscle memory for your chosen style.

My tracing light-box set up.
Then take it a step further. Keep a few pictures with a small sketchpad and pencil to take with you. Draw those images freehand anytime you have a break or are waiting for a bus. Any few moments you have sketch freehand your Medieval-style people's hands, feet, and faces.

Observation, tracing, and practice, but remember to have fun with it too. Make some sketches look like people you know doing familiar SCA activities. You don't have to make the sketches detailed but they should look like the style you're learning.

The trick is observing numerous manuscripts over time, learning the general characteristics people have in the era and location you're recreating and repeatedly making your own. Over time doing this for various styles will allow you to better draw what you see without tracing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Full Moons And Medieval Prediction

Diagram from the German
Arundel 501 f. 26v  to
determine feast days 

and the moon's age.
Tonight there is a full moon. But if you, as your persona, lived after 1100 you probably considered the moon to be a planet. 

If you thought about its movements at all you thought it revolved around the Earth in a perfect circle. Just like Mercury, Jupiter and even the Sun was thought to do. Medieval thinkers still had facts to learn about the moon. 

Beginning in the 12th-century period astrological writings inspired Medieval people's belief that the location of heaven's bodies predicted future events determining their daily activities' outcomes. They directly influenced the elements and their own bodies. 

Period ‘lunaries’ or ‘moonbooks’ gave predictions for each day between consecutive new moons. They determined whether the Moon's position made it a beneficial day for bloodletting, traveling, finding lost possessions, being born, buying or selling. So many things your persona might want to know

Hildegard of Bingen - the famous 12th-century German abbess - explained bloodletting was best done just before the moon was new. She also reasoned lunar phases helped determine your persona's personality by the day of the lunar phase on which you were conceived.

Folio 11, verso: November

The lunar phase was also important for agriculture telling you things like when to plant seeds. The belief was a waning moon drew water deeper into the soil, and a fuller moon drew water up then out of the soil. 

Wherever your persona is from you considered lunar phases a serious matter. They gave you insight into God’s galactic design and its influences on earth. The Moon's tidal effect even confirmed your persona's belief it influenced the elements and your daily health.

Research today shows your persona's desire is deeply held through all civilizations both past and present. The desire to cope with future fateful circumstances, predict its course and influence its development. Tonight's full Moon reveals more than the man in the Moon's face, and especially to your persona.

Related Prior Post: 
Can Jehanne Read And Write?
Surviving Winter

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Holiday Shopping For SCA Scribes, Book Artists And Friends

Gifts featured at Kris Kinder.
With Thanksgiving over it's time you turn to preparing for the coming winter holidays' gift-giving. Here's a few shopping tips and budget friendly ideas.

You could put together a scribal gift-pack like the one I described in my post Holiday Scribal Gift Ideas. It's easy to make yourself and a great gift for a want-to-be scribe for 12th Night.  

Or you could give one of my 8 Scribal Books For Cyber-Monday Shopping. These classic sources are great because there are so few books for illuminators at local bookstores. And nothing on history, gouache application, or medieval manuscript terminology. There aren't many current books in this category. But these are books I have and use to this day. 

More from Calontir's Kris Kinder
And in Calontir you can enjoy shopping for gifts at Kris Kinder December 8th. It's the yearly winter holiday shopping extravaganza for Calontiri. It bursts with quality handcrafted toys, attire, jewelry, camp gear, edibles, weapons, and armor tempting money out of 600 attendees' pockets. 

If you can't make Kris Kinder you might buy your SCA friend trim online from Calontir Trim's catalog. Master Andrixos offers you "Fabulous Trims at Fantastic Prices", great for all persona eras and places. If you're unsure which trim to buy check out his links.

But perhaps your SCA friend - sadly - doesn't do trim. If he or she is a book artist check out John Neal's calligraphy, illumination or bookbinding items. OR just buy a gift certificate online.

Finding the perfect present can be a challenge. This post will help you step up to the task with gift ideas for your budget and many SCAdian interests. So happy gifting friend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Perplexing Pictures In Manuscripts 7

Two grotesques from the Vaux Psalter,
Lambeth Palace Library MS 233 f.15r.
Glad you are back for another perplexing manuscript picture. It's hard to believe these two grotesques are from the lovely Vaux Psalter. Just look at the left grotesque's fearful dirty look. Dramatically amazing. But what is it? And why?

Michael Camille in his book Image On The Edge calls it a "gryllus design", a head upon two legs vaguely like a field cricket. Camille does not believe - as some scholars do - that marginal images are religiously repressed unconscious images or doodles. 

The gryllus had special meaning to those in the Middle Ages and goes back many years before that. It stood for the sordid baser instincts trapped within one's body leading you away from Christ's higher truth. 

Remember also in the Middle Ages people believed eyes emitted rays and didn't receive them. To them, that was how vision worked. Thus the phrase "if looks could kill" was real for them. 

One last detail about this gryllus. The artist exactly repeated it in the Grey-Fitpayn Psalter illustrating how Medieval scribes copied their motifs using them in more than one manuscript. Both manuscripts are 14th century and held by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK.
Prior Related Post:

You can see others in my series Perplexing Pictures In Manuscripts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5., 6
Is Tracing Period?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Surviving Winter

I detest winter. Not just the cold, but also the dark. I live like a mole until March. But with 24-hour supermarkets and drive through fast-food I survive until the sun returns. Do you have the same aversion? 

With all the modern conveniences it's easy to forget the once great effort it took to survive winter. Preserving autumn's harvest and fully stocking larders for the long nights and short days. What did our medieval forebears do to survive their barren, cold days?

One way you can see their wintry concerns and activities are through Breviarys, Books of Hours and Psalters' calendar pages. 

Medieval manuscripts' calendars served multiple purposes. They kept track of the date. They told you what the relevant zodiac sign was and which days were Church feasts and holidays. And since most were decorated with seasonal 'labor of the month' pictures you can see what people did then. Their daily life.  

My daily life this winter, after Lonely Tower's coming 12th Night Event, will be to head south for a time. To break the dark, cold monotony and learn something new. 

What do you do to survive winter? What would your SCA persona do?

Related prior Posts: 

Related External Sites: 
British Library's Medieval Manuscripts' blog posts on calendar pages. My favorite.
National Library of Sweden's detailed discussion on calendars.
Googling medieval calendars images. This often gets more than you expect.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Scribe's Quick Guideline Generator

I learned scribal illumination long before I pursued calligraphy. I tried calligraphy, but I wouldn't do it on a scroll. My problem was I detested drawing the guidelines. I still do. You have to be so accurate for the page to look its best. 

But I'm not the only one like that. Do you like ruling up?
15th Century French
Book of Hours

Recently I went searching and found another way to solve that problem. It's an online guide that will help, and especially good for practicing because it's quick. 

It's Scribblers' Guideline Generator

This is a snappy approach to creating the distances between your lines with a click of the button. Once you generate one page you can print it from your browser. 

The best thing is the space between your text-lines doesn't have to be the same as those for your script. You can suit it to the spacing that's more like your inspiration manuscript.

Scribblers is a store that stocks a wide range of calligraphy supplies and equipment. Unfortunately, it will be years before I get to it. It's based in North East Suffolk, United Kingdom. 

While you're on its website have a look at the many articles it has to help you learn calligraphy. I'm always looking for ways to improve. Theirs are the best. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Internet Round Up 4: Armour and Illuminated Manuscripts

Morgan M.456   Avis aus roys

Folio 34v, 1340-1360 A.D., Paris, France
Manuscript Miniatures is not exactly what you think it is from its name. It is a medieval armor research source with insight through illuminated manuscripts.  

The website's intent is to make it easier to hunt for online digitized images from numerous manuscripts. A way to quickly view 15,000+ miniatures from 1500+ manuscripts of 15+ countries. It's not a manuscript holder, so once you find an image you'll want to verify its accuracy. 

But that's easy. By clicking on the picture you'll find its source.  You can then verify its accuracy with the manuscript's owner.

Manuscript Miniatures has a tagging method that's innovative. The labels are created by viewers sometimes with interesting spellings or descriptions. It's also why you might find unique images included within a tag.

As a scribe, you might not find illumination's common term for things either. Its brickwork and brick pattern tags are what you'd call "diapering".

One of its best tags is 'elephant'. Its 75 images show Medieval people had little idea what an elephant looked like. 

But there's more for you here than illuminated manuscripts. From this web page, you can tab to other similar item categories with separate URLs like  Armour In Art, Effigies & Brasses, and Aquamanilia. Each offers similar ways to search. Its Effigies & Brasses' Links also connect you to related external armoring information. 

While this isn't exactly a blog round-up, it is a work-in-progress webpage collection with contributions welcomed. And I thought they were too good for you to miss.

Related Prior Post: 
Internet Round-Up 12, and 3

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

How-to Get Your SCA Recreations Noticed

Calontir's Queens Prize just happened a month ago, September 15th. You may have seen pictures on FaceBook about it. Sadly I wasn't able to go, but I had many friends that attended. Some were novices who didn't enter. Why?

Many people make authentic medieval items but lament writing documentation. Are you like them? You make something from start to finish that's a medieval-style treasure. You want to show it off but you hate writing. What can you do? How else can you get your wondrous work noticed?

I have a few tricks for you that don't require a detailed write-up.

Coronation Event Scribes' Display
The easiest is to show your work it in an event display. A display has no judges or prizes. Although some ask you to list basic information on a small card like your name, your item's century and location. With a display, you don't even have to do research before you start. 

Displays may be for a specific purpose. Sometimes they are to show off largess donated to Their Majesties, creations by a specific guild, or items to be sold at a later auction. You'll want to be sure of the requirements before you drop off your creation.

A display may be entries by people who didn't make the things themselves. They might have been received as gifts, barter, or awards. A cool way to "rat-on-your-friends" with work by people that don't often enter competitions. There's one of these at the coming Book Arts RUSH, November 3rd.

12 Night 
Populace Choice Competition
You could enter a populace choice competition. These are similar to displays, but with a winner. They usually ask for a card label for your entry, similar to a display. The event notice will tell you if there is a theme for the competition, like this "drinking vessel". This 12th Night the populace choice competition is "anything made in contrasting colors".

The event attendees pick the entry they prefer. At the closing, the entry with the most tokens or beans wins. 

You might gift your creation to others. If you give it to Their Majesties in court everyone will see briefly what you made. If you turn it into them privately through their retinue all who visit their chambers will see it. Your work can be a gift for Their Majesties themselves, for use by the Royal office, or for largess. 

Make your creations for 12th Night or birthday presents. With this, you'll want to consider how the recipient would display or use your work. Is it something they can keep with them most of the time, like a handkerchief or belt? Or will it be left at home like handmade quills and ink? 

Donate your work as an Arts and Sciences' competition prize. For best results talk with the event's competition organizer soon after the event steward begins planning. Event staff will want to coordinate your donation with its budget and theme. This works well for both local and Kingdom events.

You might share your re-creation in a group discussion. In Calontir it's called an "artisans' show-and-tell". It was started by my friend HL Natalya Alekseya Vasilova. These are like being back in school. The maker talks about their creation while it's passed around the table for all to see. Others at the table ask questions. Sometimes a lively, friendly discussion gets going about your process. Simple and fun. 

If you can't find an artisans' show-and-tell to enter, lead one yourself. Coach everyone in the circle to share their work before you do. Encourage comments on each item and finish by sharing your creation. Of course, you'll thank everyone for coming and sharing theirs. 

Handmade Pottery Merchant Display
If you like making multiple similar creations you could sell them as an event merchant. Personally I rather write documentation, because this takes dedication, organization, planning, storage, hauling and seed-money. Still, it's a hobby that may help your budget plus get your items noticed. 

Those are the tricks you can use to show off your SCA creations without writing detailed documentation. Ways that will help you grow in knowledge and confidence while you investigate period practices. The best part is they connect you with SCA friends who share your interests in medieval arts and sciences. 

Related Prior Post: 
Why Write Documentation For SCA Projects?

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Craft Dancing

True ease in writing comes from Art, not chance, as those move easiest who have learned to dance. -- Sound and Sense by Alexander Pope.
I came across this aphorism in a book I picked up down the street at the Half-Price Books Store. The quote describes the way good writing appears. It's a bold claim that a good writer makes it look effortless and easy. 

I like the quote because if you substitute a word like "calligraphy", "embroidery" or "silversmithing" - any art or craft you choose - it becomes a rousing inspiration for your particular creativity. A call to master your chosen craft as Pope describes. Just as people who look really great doing their thing dancing had to learn. They didn't come to it by chance and spontaneity.

Creativity is a balance between innovation and learning. At times it flows smooth and easy. Other times, especially learning times, you struggle and your steps are slow. Your passion keeps you moving forward and keeps the fun in learning.

Everyone is creative, more or less. It isn't reserved for geniuses or an unattainable state. It's more the direction you take it and the way you choose to adapt.

Pennsic War XXIII
Creativity can be:

  • Auditory
  • Mechanical
  • Physical
  • Relational
  • Verbal
  • Visual
And more.

No one knows - although many search - if you can learn to be more creative. In my experience, I am more creative when I loosen up and just have fun. When I stop comparing my efforts to what others do. 

There are no step-by-step dance directions for you to grasp creativity directly. It takes lateral thinking. Solving problems indirectly, using gauzy reasoning or misty ideas not immediately obvious. 

Keep exploring and having fun in whatever direction the SCA or life takes you. Give yourself permission to innovate. Creativity will flow.

Related Prior Post: 

Related External Blog:
Austin Kleon

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Surviving The Event Black Hole

The Calontir RUSH Book Arts Seminar is only three days away. I am now in a black hole of confusion. As Event Steward, I am in the uncomfortable spot in an event timeline that is often chaos.

Have you ever been there? Pulling your hair out chaos.

While I think I've organized everything into oblivion, the preparation steps are not quite complete. There is still positioning everything at the event site, which won't happen for two more days.

This is also the time as a RUSH Regent - my second hat - when I beg and pray all the scheduled instructors will stay committed. May no SNAFUs or monkey-wrenches enter their lives. While I have a friend or two who could pull out a dusty class and fill in, that's disappointing for all. Especially if you are the student who drives hours, maybe overnight, for just one class and then it's missing.

It's also when a creeping feeling follows me around whispering, "It won't work." I want to fix all and move on, push through and get the job done because I fear the whispers coming true.

To tamp them I revisit my plans and break them apart. I dismantle every section into tiny pieces and ask more questions: 

  • Have I gotten off track? What's missing?
  • Does one of my staff need help? Who could do that?
  • Have I prepared enough? Or overdone it?
  • Is there another approach I could use? Should I ask for someone's opinion?

I don't know if this is over preparation, but it helps with the whispers - at least partly - until I can take more action. It doesn't take them away completely and the waiting continues to beat down my confidence.

Hopefully, these nagging doubts and questions lead to a better event. Sometimes vague feelings are like NCIS Gibbs infamous "gut"  signals to look deeper or make a change.

The day is fast approaching, but since I'm used to a fast-food world it can't get here soon enough. 

Related Prior Post: 
Winging It--Crash Space Coordination

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Putting Medievalists

This happened Friday evening. My friends and I dressed in "garb" and met at Medieval Putt in Elkhorn to bobble our way through 18 holes.  

I'm not great at this. In fact, I'm ghastly. Then throw in riding a mini zip line all I could do was have fun. And I did. So much I missed the best pictures swinging a club unsuccessfully.

After several energetic rounds, Lonely Tower's Baron Augustin found a place to rest and relax to watch Baron Master Misha sink another putt.

What's this? Can't you tell? It's a foam red and black Lonely Tower constructed by Augustin in his spare time.

But my team wasn't the only one. And there were more dragons to see.

Just too cool.--->

Crossbows and minigolf. What could go wrong? 

Nothing really. But the bow wasn't much help getting the ball to the target either.

Meanwhile, the Tower's other teams surged forward.

After the game, M. Rose took her turn on the dragon.

The crowning photo is the whole gang collecting with the dragon for a Barony of the Lonely Tower Medieval Putt team photo.

Image may contain: 17 people, including Jim Janicki, Susan Gordon, Joan Alfers, Kimberly Bowles, Sylvia Kostisin, Dia Hilton and Roger Norton, people smiling
Photo courtesy of Jim Janicki

Related Prior Post:
A Bored Calontiri Is A Dangerous Calontiri

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Perplexing Pictures In Manuscripts 6

Jacques de Longuyon's poem
"Vows of the Peacock."
Tooting butt trumpets, really? It's amazing what you can find exploring Medieval illuminated manuscripts on the Internet. And this isn't the only one.

Medieval scribes worked long hours in cold rooms bent over their work. To entertain themselves bored and cranky Medieval scribes used the page's margins to kvetch, adding ribald doodles that often commented on the text they were yet again copying. 

If this perplexing marginalia entertains you I recommend Michael Camille's enlightening book Images on the Edge: The Margins of Medieval Art. It teaches about their comments on Medieval life and gives you a rare look at their way of thinking.

Surfing the Internet for weird marginalia is fun. But Camille's very readable book takes that beyond exploring to learning about the perplexing border pictures and the people that doodled them.

Prior Related Post:
You can see others in my series Perplexing Pictures In Manuscripts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

300 Posts And Counting

I want to say thank you to all my readers. You are the reason I continue writing. Your numbers are growing and that's thrilling to me.

If you had told me when I started this in December of 2015 that I'd still be doing this in late 2018 I would have doubted you, if not telling you straight out, "No way". 

I doubted I'd have enough ideas to interest you and keep you coming back for more. And it's "kind of a big deal" because this is my 300th post. Can you believe it?

It is a challenge. But I love my SCA readers, the hobby, and the Society. So this is now a big way I continue to participate.

I also want to thank those who leave me comments below or stop me at event's and ask questions. You are my dearest connections. You tell me what interests you and guide my future quests. So let me know what you want to see on here because I try to make this for you.

As we say,
"For the Dream."

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Scroll Finishing Touches

Deadline Made - Court Presentation
So you finished a scroll, and you’re pleased. You're also glad. Glad you didn't have to start completely over. Glad you made it with time to spare before the presentation deadline. But is that all to finishing a gorgeous scroll? What about finishing touches?

Getting the finishing touches right can elevate a scroll to something special so they are worth your time.

Remove Extraneous Marks
Penciled guidelines and motif designs leave marks and halos behind. While it isn't crucial they're removed - some scribes feel they are part of the work and leave them - most people erase them.
This best begins before you start your work. Do a test sample first to determine if your ink or paint is affected by a white vinyl eraser. And if the substrate's appearance is unpleasantly changed. 
When your scroll is done use your eraser to remove unwanted marks. Be meticulous and work in a strong light. Possibly use a magnifier. Turn your work in all directions to check for line-scraps you might have missed.  

Mounting and Framing
As the scroll creator, you likely have ideas of what the mount and frame might look like. Unfortunately, we often don't even know the recipient or get their input.  

Illusive Framed and Mated Scroll 
While the best decisions about where the scroll's “edge” should be placed happen when you're nearly finished they're difficult to make if your work has been squeezed onto a page that is barely big enough. You are now committed to a particular mat and frame size.
Again, this best begins before you start your work. Plan ahead to leave at least an inch of blank paper or pergamenata around your creation. This allows you to make finishing touch choices about where the margins will be. Especially if your generous leafy rinceaux wanders out of bounds.

A good tool for helping with this is a standard mat. I keep several just for this purpose. You could also use four paper strips. Lay these around the scroll as temporary outer edges moving them until you have an attractive look.

Give Yourself Credit 

This should not be an afterthought either. Take pride in what you do. Seclude your makers mark within your art. On the back give your SCA name and any other's that worked on the scroll. Don't forget the wordsmith writer too. 
Often scrolls are displayed on exhibition and easy identification will be wanted. Now most Kingdoms have an online display. You don't want to be listed as anonymous for your gorgeous work shown in a scribal Rat-Out-Your-Friends Display.

Bottom Line
While these are finishing touches that take planning before you begin, you are your work's curator. Express yourself, and have fun. Your recipient will be impressed.