A New Hobby – Beginner Illumination

So as we know the SCA can be an all encompassing hobby. The hobby that eats all other hobbies. How else could I have all my embroidery, costuming, cordial making, and artsy stuff count as one hobby?

Recently, our Tyger Clerk of the Signet (read person in charge of getting scrolls), has presented a challenge. Blank scrolls are needed for a variety of awards and for each blank submitted your name goes into a hat. Names will be drawn at random during Birka and you get a prize. So I like to paint and do art stuff. I’d never done illumination but I figured, “why not?” I needed another hobby like I need another hole in my head! In any case I went to a scroll blank workshop held by our group’s Minister of Arts and Sciences. She had pre-drawn several blanks based on period sources and gave us the reference images so that we could paint our own.

14th C Lutrell baseEverything was going great until the cold got to my hands and they started to cramp. (Thanks, arthritis.) I dropped my brush and ended up with several odd looking blobs on my pristine paper. I was told to cover it. Strategic placement of a vine and several leaves later and it was fixed. Unfortunately I didn’t finish painting it at that particular session but I did bring it home and finish it. The completed scroll is to the left. I think it’s based on the Lutrell Psalter from the early part of the 14th century. (You can view it here.) I could be wrong though.

So bit by the painting bug I decided I would take a stab at it on my own. I spent time trying to figure out if I would trace or try to draw something freehand. I was scared to do something wrong. In the end I decided on a fairly simple design and drew it free hand. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right or if I would be able to do the rather intricate initial at the top corner but I decided to try anyways. At the very least it would be good practice since I hadn’t really painted since I left college. Unfortunately I had found the image on Pinterest. The image was part of a group of images that showcased the best of the museum’s illuminated manuscrips.bartholomeus de umbrino 14th c It did not give any details as to what it was actually from. I spent several hours knocking my head against the wall before I finally found it. (I had to do it the old fashioned way and look through the manuscripts of the approximate time period. Never again.) This one was a great deal plainer than the first and, since I was doing it all by myself, I was happy about that. The scroll is based off of a manuscript at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands. It was done by Bartholomaeus de Urbino in his great work Milleloquium veritatis Sancti Augustini Pars I: A-M (University of Utrecht, MS 71, fol. 1r) which he completed by 1345. All in all I don’t think it turned out half bad.

st. alban psalter supper at emmus

St. Albans Psalter.   Christ Dissappearing at the Supper at Emmaus.

I was all set and fired up to go to the next scroll blank workshop. A friend was even driving in from the western part of the state to join us when, due to bad weather, it was cancelled. *Boo* So we had our own scribal night at home. I had found in my search another model that I wanted to try. I wasn’t crazy enough to attempt the figures so I thought I would be fairly safe with just the border. Straight lines, half circles, and diamonds: no sweat, right? Ha! Long story short is that I didn’t end up finishing the border that night. Close but no cigar. So I was working on it the next day and went to the bathroom a bit. The pesky cat hopped up on to the table and dipped her paw into the paint water. She didn’t like the taste of it so shook the excess water off. Right onto my masterpiece. I wasn’t very happy. I had it almost done. I tired to scrape and dab the pigmented water stains off but it did very little. So then the question became,”How do I fix it?” My solution was to take a few of the elements and rearrange them a little to cover the stains. The end result? See for yourself!

St. Albans pg 71I was quite pleased with how it turned out. Not too bad for my third attempt! I need to try to have a steadier hand though. I find that some of my lines are a little too wobbly to be really straight. I also did this mostly free hand. I did use my ruler to help plot out the buildings and a compass to do the circles because there’s no way that I’m that good.

We did end up rescheduling the scroll blank workshop and I got to paint another pre-drawn scroll. Compared to the last one, this one was a piece of cake. I even had my own gold to use now. I didn’t go with gold leaf or even shell gold. I’m too poor. Instead I went with Schminke Aqua Bronze in the Rich Gold color. It was something I’ve used before, back in college, to simulate gold. Far more affordable and looks good too. I was able to finish this one in one sitting which made me happy though I don’t feel it turned out quite as well as the last. gold box and vinesThe gold is a little hard to see but I think it turned out alright.

I’ve already got another one that I would like to try and do in mind. It’s simple and just a border but a different style. Birka is this weekend and I’m hoping to be able to attend the scribal round table and I’ll be handing in my blanks as well. I’m still new, still learning, but it’s not as scary as I thought it was going to be. YAY!




Categories: A&S, Illumination, Medieval, SCA | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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