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.


  1. Here's my guess, though parts of it are rather strained to find 8's. :)

    8 winding beasts,
    8 deer in the lower left panel,
    8 lines on the verse,
    8 basic colors used on the scroll (gold, red, green, black, brown, blue, white, yellow),
    8 humans,
    8 branches on the "Tree of Life" in the lower right panel, and
    8 legs showing on the horses there.

    There may be 8 stars in the upper right panel, but I can't see it clearly enough to tell, let alone make out what's on those... cushions? rocks? in front of the fire.

    How's that?


    Here are the eights in the scroll:
    Eight beasties in the borders
    Eight humans total
    Eight lines of text
    Eight deer in the lower left panel
    Eight horse legs showing in the lower right panel
    Eight melons in the middle left panel
    In the upper left panel, the woman's arms and the horse's reins, neck and head form a figure eight.
    In the upper right panel, the nomad just "ate" dinner.

    1. Augh, puns! Very cute nonetheless -- nicely done! ;-D