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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Parchment and shell gold: QoC for Duncan Kerr and Lindquistringes for Jasper Rose

Finished pieces, before trimming off excess parchment. Click to embiggen, or go to the Flickr album for more process pictures.

Queen's order of Courtesy: Duncan Kerr


From Adamastor to the south, and north
To Aarnimetsa, there is no virtue
Valued more than courtesy. Go ye forth,
Proclaim it to the mountains and seek you
One who hath this in greater measure than
Lord Duncan Kerr. You will find not one, nor
Any who come close. Since our lands began
The Queen has marked out courtesy, a corps
Of honoured folk who have this virtue strong.
And to it now, we add this Duncan Kerr.
Let now ye all rise up, and call it long,
His name, and celebrate him, without bar,
Nor let, nor yet surcease. Make sure he knows
That's known about his duties how he goes.
So says Isabetta, the red queen of Drachenwald, this 18 of June, AS LII from Nova Grangia in Dun in Mara.

Lindquistringes: Jasper Rose


Come one, come all, and heed these words!
Let the trumpets sound their call!
For Lindquistringes set forth thy birds,
Stand forth ye, of service all!
Spare him now no blush or stutter,
Spare him now no dark shadow.
He'll demur or quiet mutter,
Just as soon his fame let go.
Now bring ye forth that Jasper Rose,
Despite that he be nervous.
Let him stand forth among all those
Who do good loyal service!
So say We Siridean Šah (SHAH) and Jahanara Bambišn (BAMBISHN) of Drachenwald this 18 of June, AS 52 from our ancient seat of Nova Grangia.
These pieces were both commissioned with less than a week's notice (kingdom signet lost some messages to email hacking).

While I'd hoped to tailor each writ more, in the end I chose to do both in the same style to save myself time and performance stress. They were handed out by 2 different sets of royals over 2 days.

Design choices

I went hunting for late 15th to early 16th c styles in small format (good for both recipients), to suit A6 or smaller pieces of parchment.
I settled on the Hastings Hours, c 1480: Add MS 54782 in the British Library (whole book).

Why A6? because I'm keen on recipients being able to find a standard frame and put their writs on a wall, rather than storing them waiting for a custom frame. So I've marked all my parchment for standard sizes, use the excess to test paint and ink, and trim it off before handing the work in.

The features I wanted to copy:
- small size, where original is 16.5 x 12cm - A6 format is 14.8 x 10.5 cm
- layout w/ broad margins and calligraphy 'floating' between scored lines (rather than 'sat' on bottom line)
- modest illumination with an unusual colour scheme of gray/white capitals on red-brown ocher background
- batarde hand

Sample image from original to show colour scheme and hand.

Hastings Hours f24v

Text source

Both texts are courtesy of Lord Aodh O Siadhail, who rose to the challenge of composition on short notice. One is a sonnet, a known renaissance format. The other is is 3 verses of 8/7 syllables, which 'just seemed to work', says Aodh.


Parchment, scored with a hardpoint tool
Oak gall ink with metal nib dip pen for calligraphy
Gouache and watercolour with watercolour brushes
Shell gold (appears in first photo)

Illumination sequence:
- paint capital blocks a plain red ocher
- paint in the letters with a middle gray
- highlight the letters with permanent white, using my finest brush - I did not manage to copy the rich variations of white on these letters
- dot and outline the letter background with shell gold
- outline letters gently with black watercolour

White highlights and black outlining require the same steps:
- start with a dry blob of pigment (see first photo)
- wet a fine brush with clean water and 'roll out' most of the water: unlike usual process, do not add water to the pigment
- run the damp brush over the surface of the pigment til it picks up a very concentrated dose of colour
- test, and apply to the piece

Keeping the pigment dry except for contact with the damp brush means you avoid flooding an already-painted surface with water and making the pigment run.

Good stuff

I love parchment: love prepping it, laying it out, writing on it, painting it. 'Nuff said.

I was pleased with getting the calligraphy to 'float' between the lines. This is always a work in progress but has been a long-term goal of mine, to get closer to the original calligraphy layout for most of our time period.

I got to try shell gold for the first time, and it's always cool to play with new matreials.

The two pieces were presented well. In Drachenwald, the Queen's order of courtesy comes with its own tale. Master Alexandre d'Avigne told it with flair, which built the tension before the recipient heard his name and approached her Majesty Isabetta.

In the first court of Siridean and Jahanara, Siridean Šah made a point of asking the recipient to close his eyes to hear the acclaim of the court, which promptly cheered for him. Lyonet Schwarzdrachen then read the verses boldly giving them the charming emphasis they needed.

Lessons learned

I wanted a small exemplar. I think I tried to make it too small for my own skill level. To get the look right, I need to try it slightly larger than original, and work my way down to the original's size.

Calligraphy: the batarde hand I do is ok, though it's not exactly like this one. This fine a hand with the crispness of the hairlines still eludes me, and I think I need to return to cutting quills, a lot, to get it right.

Shell gold is a funny thing. It's real gold pressed into a tiny block and held together with gum arabic. You add a drop of water and wait for it to penetrate the block, and then mix while you have a window of opportunity. Wait too long and the water is fully absorbed and your gold goes hard again. SIGH.

It's fussier to work with than the Schminke gold gouache and will definitely take more practice.

Labour tally

As I did both pieces at the same time, this count applies to both works.

Artwork by Genevieve:
Research: 3 hr
Layout: 2 hr
Practice: 2 hr
Calligraphy: 1 hr
Illumination: 4 hr incl drying time

Wording by Aodh:
QoC 1 hour
Lindquistringe: inspired 1/2 hour

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