A place for Drachenwald's scribes to hang out, learn, discuss and critique each others work.

Friday, January 28, 2011

works in progress

I thought I would share what I am currently working on while I am still working on it. I often found that, while it was wonderful to see the finished works, what was often more helpful was to see the progression from pencil to painting so I figured I would try to document this on this batch of scrolls. Unfortunately I decided this only after I'd inked the three main ones out but you can still see the pencil lines. The I started doing a bunch of what will end up being puzzle caps and flourish scrolls as fun. I bought, some time back, egg tempura paints to try them out and I have to say I am super impressed with the colours and how the paints handled, the smell...not so much. Not that they were stinky but it was definitely a pungent scent.

I hope to continue the documentation process as I progress.

the three current assignments

straight lines require a ruler.

I am a huge fan of using a ruler especially for inking out any straight lines I might need. I don't free hand any of this because even when I am at my best I don't get the lines straight enough. I use a metal ruler with a cork underlay so that the actual edge of the ruler is slightly off the page, this way I don't get ink bleed-under when I use the ruler.

lots of small detail.

All of the non straight line stuff is actually done without 1st drawing it all out in pencil. I do basic guide lines to tell where the main vine-line curves will go but the rest is all as you go along.

a mixture of both precise and freehand

This is an example of rulers and free hand together. The straight lines are all done by ruler and measured out ( especially the pesky diamond shapes which I still didn't get quiet right) The curvy stuff and the grotesques are all done free hand but I do pencil them in first to get an idea of how it will look, sometimes I need to change the placement and that's hard if you've already done the inking. I am still debating whether or not to add another creature or so looking towards the right of the page to balance it out. Luckily I can wait a while before deciding because adding stuff after the calligraphy is done is easy, removing it, though, isn't.

The puzzle cap scrolls

I always draw the letter out first including the break lines between the different colours then add the white space by painting on either side of the pencil and leaving just a tiny bit.  It requires a steady hand and decent paint, the trick, at least for me, is to get the paint to the consistency of warm honey. It should be fluid but not watery, you should be able to get enough on your brush to colour a fair amount of area and be able to "push" the paint rather than stroke it. If you get a meniscus forming between your paint, the brush and the paper this should allow for a motion that is easy and fluid. If you are fighting with the paint against the paper then your consistency is off.

One of the biggest "mistakes" that I see , especially in beginners, ( personal opinion here)  is paint that has been applied too thinly so that it appears uneven and you see the brush strokes and the paper through them clearly. This tends to make the work look unfinished, slightly thicker, more even applications of paint have a more complete feel to them and also make the colours and the paintings stand out better. While there are many examples of a wash style being used in medieval manuscripts for the most part the paints were more thickly and more evenly applied given the work an opaque look rather than a wash look.

To get this consternating mixture right I always put my paint in a paint tray of some sort and I add water to it with a dropper or in my case a syringe ( you can get them at your local apotheke in Germany no questions asked) I use no needles but a 10 gauge needle is nice for getting drop count exact. This way you can keep the paint at a constant consistency by adding water to the paint. A single drop of water can make a huge difference in how the paint reacts.

I also get the right amount on my brush and position it by rolling the actual brush gently on the side of the paint well. Paints will dry and this can happen quickly so I keep the brush hydrated but not soaking and control the amount of paint/ water by rolling the brush head around on a hard surface ( usually the paint tray/well)  gently. This has the effect of moving the paint/ water from the top of the brush head down closer to the tip as well as helping the brush tip form a nice point. It's a very hands on and every artist has a different method, you will eventually find your own but as this is a question I get asked about quite a lot I thought I would share my particular method here.



These capitals are now waiting for their flourishing.  Flourishing is deceptive because it looks like it should be easy to do but it actually isn't as easy as it looks. There is a certain pattern to how flourishes looked and how they sit around the letters. The very best way to learn is to do, see the mistakes, go back and study more then do some more until one gets a feel for how the pen and ink is handled. It's not just random squiggly lines but I'll post more on that when I get this batch done.

Next step will be calligraphy and laying down the gold....

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