Thursday, May 18, 2017

a scribal sojourn

in which our plucky heroine minds her p's and q's...

I recently volunteered to create an original SCA award scroll for Stromgard, as I really enjoy the drawing and painting aspect of the scribal arts. But since I want to be able to do the whole scroll myself, that means learning calligraphy as well. There are quite a few different styles of lettering; I am learning Gothic, since I love the style of illumination that was common in western Europe in the 14th century.

I started out by practicing lower case letter forms on graph paper, using a calligraphy felt pen, the larger size helps with learning to see how the letters are shaped, when good and when needs improvement. Then I switched to using a dip pen nib, in a much smaller size, that would work for the overall size of the scroll I am making, here the letters are less than 1/4" tall, written with a nib that is less than 2mm in width.
I realised that I needed to learn to make capital letters as well, once I spent a fair amount of time online looking at the three manuscripts that were my inspiration. While some of the text in history had inset versal capitals, it was much more common to only use versal letters for end caps, and to use calligraphed capitals inside the text block. So, I opened my trusty Drogin, and set about learning the "uppercase" letters too!

(the blurry edges and blobs are in part because I am writing on graph paper, which is too absorbent to handle calligraphy ink)

After writing through the text several times, over the course of several days, I had a sense of how it would work written out as a block, where to put the end capitals on the left, and the line fillers at the righthand ends... one last time on graph paper, so I can overlay it and begin to mark out the space where the rest of the design will happen.

While doing the research for this project, I found and fell in love with these ladies on horseback, and since this is a scroll for an equestrian honor, using those images as inspiration seemed appropriate.

(detail of my sketch)

... finally it was time to start actually writing on the bristol board surface that will be the actual scroll... it was so much nicer than writing on graph paper, and my pen work looked a lot crisper, though obviously still very much work of a beginner. I can only work at the level I am currently, it keeps me humble to try new things, and I can see gradual improvement from where I started. As always, my own standard is "would I be happy to receive this" and in this case, so far, my answer is yes. Hopefully as the work continues and I add the painted and inked decorations I will still be happy with the outcome.

I do go through a lot of graph paper and tracing paper when doing design work... it allows me to keep the good parts of a sketch, and go on from there, gradually working out how I want the design to look. This is several iterations in to my efforts to design the illuminated border decoration. I have been looking mostly at images of The Book of Hours (fragmentary), Use of St Omer, from the early 14th century, for my inspiration, though the women riding horseback are from a contemporary work The Queen Mary Psalter, and I found the little person holding a shield that is hanging from the foliage when I was looking through images of the Luttrell Psalter
Once I add a design for the large remaining space above the text block, it will be time to transfer the design to the actual paper, ink in all the motifs, and begin painting. I predict a fun weekend!

1 comment:

  1. Girl, you are the crafter to pattern oneself after. My goodness, what a lovely undertaking, and a lovely form of calligraphy to learn. Love your sketches also. OK, I love everything you've done!