Monday, June 18, 2012

Notes From Lilies

Lilies was so much fun! I learned a lot about many different subjects, including how to do a handful of crafts, and met a bunch of fun and nice people in the process. I weaved a seamless bag which I need to felt now. My husband made a leather jack and did really well with the tooling. He is much better at basket-weaving than I. I also learned that Yoda speaks Latin in English. My husband (now going by the name he'll be submitting, Gamble) and I are going to buy a couple rapiers to practice Calontir Steel cut and thrust on our own. I really, really need to find a place where I can practice thrown weapons 'cause it is tons of fun. Especially spears. We also saw Their Royal Majesties and Highnesses from five kingdoms do the wave in court.
I drew two device submissions for heraldic consultants. One of the pre-prints I had painted previously was given to a new Boga-Fyrd. I was the only entrant in the borders competition, but was assured I didn't win by default. I drew up another zoomorphic border. I'm kicking myself for forgetting to take a picture before handing it off... I did two deer with their hind limbs flipped above their backs and long antlers filling up the extra space- one on the top left corner, the other on the bottom right with antlers extending vertically up/down the sides of the sheet (scroll is in landscape format), and horizontally to the center of the page. At the center, they turn vertically toward the center of the sheet for just an inch or so to hold onto a blank circle for an order badge at top and a blank escutcheon for personal arms at the bottom. Their Majesties' scribe suggested painting around the colors instead of over them since she's seen paint not stick to gold gesso before. I picked up an illumination how-to book which described a masking method that might make that easier to do. I'm excited to try it out next time.

I finished skimming through the giant French tamga book in time for my class at Lilies. I had one student who's currently exploring Mongol stuff and we had a lot of fun talking shop. It would probably be a copyright violation to post translations of the book online, but I will e-mail relevant passages to anyone who asks as well as discussing each chapter on here once I'm finished translating each one.
Ashina Turk on the left, modern Mongol on the right
On a related note, to the reader who asked for a raven tamga- There actually was a tamga in the book which means "crow/raven" (the French word used, corbeau, does not differentiate between the two). It seems that tamgas didn't have specific names or meanings (other than identifying the one who uses it) in the beginning, but later on some were given names. Modern tamgas in Mongolia are still used this way, including the raven tamga. This tamga first showed up in a source cited as "The Book of Tang". It was compiled from earlier sources in the tenth century and in it are illustrated the tamgas representing various nomadic tribes within the then-borders of China. A Turkic clan called the Ashina used a tamga basically identical to the modern Mongol raven tamga.

The dumpling class was an even bigger success. I had seven people show up and they all seemed to really enjoy themselves. I ended up giving out a couple copies of the recipe beyond the class as well. I almost entered them in the "Cooked On Site" competition, but given that I forgot to re-look up and write down the scant documentation I'd found beforehand, I decided to wait until next year.
If you have the opportunity to go next year, I highly recommend it. So much fun!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Possible kurta pattern

At the request of a reader, here's a possible pattern for a kurta. I don't have time to test it before leaving for Lilies, so if anyone tries this, let me know any problems or ah-ha moments you have. It's based on the child's kurta in the Hermitage Museum I posted previously.

I would recommend not actually cutting the triangles out of the sleeves (just sew along where the seam should go) until you've tested whether you have full range of motion with your arms. It's entirely possible that it could have a more complex shape than a straight line.

This post will be updated after I make one.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Zoomorphic Art as Illumination Take Two

I entered this scroll in the "8 of anything" A&S contest at Melon Wars about a month ago. My take on the theme is that there are eight sets of eight things on the scroll. It's intended to be a game for the viewer to try and figure out what they are. I'll give people some time to guess then put the answers in the comments if any are missed.

   I've continued to work on Sarmatian zoomorphic art as an illumination style. One thing I didn't mention in my first post about zoomorphic art as illumination is that when Sarmatians put animals on objects, they made them fit the predetermined space. Proportions don't matter so much as removing as much white space as you possibly can. That means elongated or shortened bodies and limbs are commonplace. And if the animal is a deer- expect its antlers to be ridiculously long with oodles of tines and fill every inch of white space they possibly can.

  The animals in the border are all from or based on artifacts pictured in my trusty Golden Deer book. As before, I used jewel tones to color the internal linework and whitespace in reference to the jewels that would sometimes be placed in the eyes, nostrils, etc... All of them are animals which have been depicted in Iranian steppe nomad art- mostly Sarmatian.

   The images inside the animal border are depictions of steppe nomad life, with one exception. The picture of someone picking melons I included for the Melon Wars event. I doubt Sarmatians actually harvested melons. I'm not sure they would have even been found that far north. The image in the bottom right corner is itself an actual artifact. The deer in the bottom left image are based on Scythian artifacts.

   I was working under a very tight time limit and didn't actually finish painting until an hour before the competition ended, so I had to rush and skip step 8, hence the rough look of it. I might go back and fix that later, but I have other more imminent things to work on for Lilies.

   The calligraphic hand is Rustic Roman. Since Sarmatians didn't have a written language, I picked one that was contemporaneous with them. I think it works well with zoomorphic art. It was invented in the first century AD. Like other early Roman fonts, there are no lowercase letters. Early Roman hands didn't have spaces between words either, but that makes it a pain to read, so I included them. Brown ink might have worked better with my illumination, but I already had black and didn't need to spend more money than I already had on the Micron brush pens for the jewel tone linework (which work fantastically, by the way; definitely worth the investment if you do illumination styles that can use them).

The Golden Deer of Eurasia: Scythian and Sarmatian Treasures from the Russian Steppes, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Creating a Scroll

This isn't a post about how to design a scroll in a period style, or how to design a scroll for an award- you can find those here, here, and here- it's about how to go from a blank page to a finished piece. The start of a project can be very intimidating. What it should be, though, is invigorating. It's a chance to try something out. If you mess up, that's okay, because you tried and that's better than doing nothing. You can try to fix it or you can start over, up to you.

Here are the steps once you've come up with the concept and a layout:
1) Lightly pencil in blobs that will one day be the locations of your illuminations. Realize that these might change, so plan on fluidity- particularly if your scroll will have multiple modules interacting with one another. (This picture is from my test scroll, hence the different levels of progression in different parts. I forgot to take picture of this stage from the actual scroll.)
2) Are you doing calligraphy? Do your entire calligraphy sequence a couple of times on scrap paper to get an idea of how much space it's going to take up. This should all be done in one sitting because your hand can be slightly different depending on your mood, energy, etc...- especially if you haven't been doing it for years and years. Experiment with width, height, and spacing until you're happy with how it will fit in with the illumination. Pick a hand that works with your illumination style.
3) Pencil in guidelines for the calligraphy and possibly box in the space it needs to be contained in. Now do the calligraphy. This should be done in the same sitting as the practice runs. Always do calligraphy first because it doesn't take anywhere near as long to re-do as illumination does. This means that if something goes wrong which can't be rectified, you waste much less time starting over. Pick the right color for the calligraphy- black is the default, but some styles (like Italian White Vine) call for brown calligraphy.
 4) Now start sketching the actual shapes and details for your illumination. You might think about doing general shapes first, then details if your scroll is very modular (i.e., has multiple parts). Like doing calligraphy first, this is to waste less time re-doing stuff if you change your mind, mess up, or find your style changing as you work.

5) Got everything all penciled in to your liking? Here's where the process becomes less linear. I like to ink my lineart first. My husband suggested I should paint, then ink, but I like having more visible lines to paint between. So this step is optional- ink over your pencil lines then erase them. Doing all one line weight is very simple but also very boring. Do major delineations in a thicker weight (a .08 micron is good), then smaller and smaller details in smaller weights (.05, .03, .02, .01, and .005 microns are all options).
 6) Here's another step that's optional- do your leafwork, be it gold, silver, or something else. This is particularly important if you're using metal leaf because it will stick to gouache, and you don't want you painted portions covered up by gold leaf.I used gouache, so in this case I didn't need to do metalwork first, though I typically do anyways.
7) Once you have your shapes drawn (be they in pencil or pen), lay down the base colors of paint.
8) Now do shading, highlights, and whitework. It might seem like you don't need it at first, but if you try any of the above, you'll probably think your illumination looks much better for it.
9) Draw ink lines over where the pencil was/is (erase pencil if still there). Do this step even if you already did optional step #5 because unless you are an absolutely amazing painter, there will probably be bits and pieces of your lineart covered at least partially by paint. You don't necessarily have to re-ink the entire thing- just fix what needs to be fixed.
Ta-da! You just made an illuminated manuscript from start to finish. That wasn't so bad, was it? :)

About the piece

The Golden Deer of Eurasia: Scythian and Sarmatian Treasures from the Russian Steppes, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.