Archive for the ‘Scribal Arts’ Category

Scribal Hint 13: Wet Paint – White Work

Monday, January 17th, 2011


Today we will be discussing white work, one of my favorite things. (I feel just like Oprah, only you don’t get a high priced gift with this show.)

White Work:

White work is the white shading and white line and dot work on top of the base color in almost every painted section of many illuminations. This photo shows a close up of some white work, both on the left in the painted border and on the right in the illuminated letter.
White Work

White work is done after the base paint is completely dry.

I know this can be a scary concept for beginning scribes, but just go ahead and do it! It looks great even if you’re new to it, you have to start somewhere.

Things to Keep in Mind as You Paint White Work:

A little bit goes a long way.
White Work

Use your brush with the finest tip; this is not always your smallest brush. I like to use my 18/0 liner by Lowe-Cornell. Look at the tips of all of your brushes when they’re damp (not drenching wet), and choose the one that has the sharpest point.

Move your brush a little faster than you’re comfortable with, until you get used to it. If you move the brush too slowly or are not confident with your brush strokes, the paint will show every twitch your hand makes.

I work with a paper towel between my hand/forearm and the paper. In this case it helps my hand move or float across the page more easily, creating stronger, cleaner, straighter lines. I will hold down the paper towel and let me hand float across it, as it has less resistance than the art paper.
Paper Towel Beneath Hand & Arm

White Work in Three Easy Steps:

1) Think Melted Ice Cream:
When you do white-work, make sure your white paint is just a little bit on the thin side like cheap melted ice cream. If your paint is too thin it will just disappear into the darker color beneath it. If it is too thick, it might not come off the brush, or it will come off in big chunky blobs.

2) Dab, dab, dab!:
Make sure after you dip your brush into the paint that you pull the excess paint off the brush on the side of your white paint well in you palette. Dab the sides of the bristles just a few times; it’s enough to get the excess off of the brush tip. Getting that extra paint off your brush ensures you will NOT end up with those funny blobs at the beginning of your white work lines, nor extra large white dots where you don’t want them.

3) Paint ONLY with the Very Tip of Your Brush:
Then apply the white paint in dots or smooth even lines with JUST the tip of the brush, making sure you don’t flatten or push down the bristles. This ensures your dots and lines will be consistent throughout the piece.

One last thing, when you are doing a long line, and your brush runs out of paint (it will start to look transparent on the paint color beneath it), go back and get more paint on your brush, and dab, dab, dab again. When you restart your line, do NOT place the brush where you left off, place it back about 1/4 to 1/2 and inch on the same line you are continuing. This will make it look more continuous.

That’s it! So much easier than you thought, right? Right!

Next week, diapering without the kids!

Hopefully Helpful,

Scribal Hint 12: Wet Paint – Color Mixing

Monday, January 10th, 2011


Now that we have discussed care and feeding of brushes, let’s move on to color mixing.

Mixing Colors Together and Shading:

Mix your paints with a palette knife or dedicated mixing brush (one you use for mixing paints only and do not paint with). This will give you a much cleaner brush stroke in two ways.
The first way is if you mix your paints with your brush you can bend or crimp the bristles making that nice point on the end of your brush go completely away.
The second way is the paint on the inside of the bristles might not be as thoroughly mixed as the paint on the exterior bristles of the brush, giving you 2 to 3 colors in one brush stroke instead of just one color. This can be a really cool effect, or a really disastrous one depending on the look you’re going for.

If the project you’re working on has a lot of shadows in it, and you just can’t seem to mix the darker color that matches those areas with your black paint added to the mid-tone colored paint, instead of adding black to it, add just a bit of the complementary color. What’s a complementary color you ask? They are colors that lye opposite each other on the color wheel. Examples: red and green are complements of each other, blue and orange are complements of each other, yellow and purple are complements of each other. (We will be discussing Color Theory in future posts, so stay tuned!)
Side 1 Color Wheel
Side 2 Color Wheel

If you mix red with green, or mix blue with orange, or mix yellow and purple, you will get a kind of muddy looking color. Each will be a different color of mud when finished mixing, but all will be a dark brownish color. (Note: Don’t mix red, green, blue, orange, yellow and purple all together. Mix only the 2 colors listed together.)

If you put a dab of white paint in these muddy colors, each will become a different color of gray. When you mix these colors for shadows, use just a little, tiny bit of the complementary color you are working with for the color of the shadow. If it’s not dark enough, add a tiny bit more until you get the color you want. Just like cooking with spices, it’s easier to add than to subtract.

Just a side note on color mixing, I’ve heard a lot of artists talk about how they mix their own colors, and when they finally get to the color they want, they have a heck-of-a-lot of that color left over. If you start with the lightest color you’re going to mix with on your palette first, then add the darker color(s) into the lighter color, you usually end up with a lot less paint. It takes more white (or a lighter color) to make a darker color lighter, than it takes a darker color to make a lighter color darker. Example: If you mix a tiny amount of purple into a larger amount of white, you’ll get lavender or light purple faster and with a smaller amount of paint then if you mixed the white into the purple.

That’s all for today. Next week, we will be talking about white work.

Hopefully Helpful,

Scribal Hint 11: Care and Feeding of Brushes

Monday, January 3rd, 2011


Before we go any farther with paint, I would like to discuss the care and feeding of your brushes. Specifically, I am referring to natural bristle brushes for gouache or watercolor paints. If you treat them right, they will last for years! I have quite a few of my favorite brushes that I have been using for over a decade, and they are still going strong! I don’t generally get the expensive brushes. The ones I get run anywhere from $3 to $12 each. So the price of the brush really doesn’t have much to do with the longevity.

I am not one to usually say to specifically “Never” or “Always” do something, but I feel very strongly about these points, so I am using those words in this post.

The Care and Feeding of Your Brushes:

Never! Ever! Ever!…

Never keep brushes sitting in your wash water container! It will bend the bristles out of shape or if your brush has paint built up at the base on it, the weight of the water can break/snap the bristles completely.

Never smash the brush into the bottom of the water cup. Always swish the brush around above the bottom of the brush in the water. If the paint near the quarrel (the silver part between the bristles and handle) is caked on and a bit harder to get out, place the side of the bristles next to the side of the water container, so that the brush is at a very steep angle, and the bristles are just below the surface of the water. Place the brush between your first finger and thumb, then roll the brush back and forth quickly a few times. Then, rinse it out in the water again. If the stubborn paint is still there repeat until it’s gone.
Rinsing Brush on Side of Water Container

Never lick the brush to get the paint off of it. Some paints are still quite toxic, even in very tiny quantities. It’s just not a good habit to have, especially if you want to eventually try your hand at authentic materials and techniques. It’s a naughty habit and one that’s potentially dangerous..

Never lick the brush to get it to a fine point. Always dip it into the water container and gently dab it off on a paper towel.

Never dab your brush point first on the paper towel. Always dab it on it’s side at a low angle, so just the sides of the bristles are gently touching the paper towel. Dabbing point first will result in frayed and broken bristles. That does not make for easy or good painting!
Dabbing Brush

Never pull on the bristles, especially when the brush is wet. Yes, this does mean even if you do it really gently. Yes, this includes when a paper towel is between your fingers and the bristles. Even pulling gently on the bristles when wet can cause bristle loss, or them to come out of the quarrel completely.

Never store your brushes tip up while the bristles are still wet. Doing so can cause mold (even in the desert), or sometimes the glue holding the bristles in can become soft and the bristles can fall out. Once they’re dry, storing them upright is the safest way to keep the bristles pristine.
Brushes Stored Upright


Always clean your brushed thoroughly between colors and after you’re finished painting for the day, or if the doorbell rings, etc. There’s nothing worse than getting a color you didn’t want in the color you do want because your brush was dirty. The second worse thing is to have a brush clogged with paint after it’s set out too long. Depending on your paints/pigments this can also eat away at your bristle, so no more brush.

Always mix your paints with a pallet knife or a brush dedicated to mixing that gets rigorously cleaned after each color is mixed. This saves your brushes unnecessary wear and tear, and not to forget, fraying.

If the paint starts to chip on the handle near the quarrel, take a little clear nail polish and paint it over the chipped area, and over the quarrel a little, as well as over the paint a little further up the handle (maybe 1/16 of an inch), so that water doesn’t seep in between and chip off more paint.
Clear Nail Polish Over the Chipped Paint

If you feel the need to use soap on your brushes, make sure it is  recommended for your type of brush. Honestly, I have never used soap on any of my brushes, and they are still good as new!

Always respect and care for your brushes, and they will last you a lifetime.

Hopefully Helpful,


Scribal Hint 10: Wet Paint – Choosing a Color Theme

Monday, December 27th, 2010


Now that we have covered  how to most effectively use your gouache paints, let’s move on to choosing colors.



If you have a color wheel and want paints that will match it almost exactly, they are:

Cadmium Red (light or medium)
Cadmium Yellow (light)
Permanent Green
Ultramarine Blue
Dioxazine Purple
Lamp Black
Permanent White
Also you’ll want to have Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna as earth tones in your kit.

Choosing a Color Scheme or the Answer to, “I don’t know, what do you think?”:

Choose a color scheme for your piece before you start painting. You are the artist, pick a theme. Don’t rely on others unless you’re really stumped. Do not be afraid to play with color combinations, remember, it’s just paint! I find the best way is to choose 2 main colors and one metallic color, gold or silver. I usually choose gold as my standard metallic, I live in a Kingdom that has gold as one of its primary colors in its Heraldry. OR, I go with the colors of the recipient’s personal Heraldry, if I know who it is. If I don’t know, I wing it.  Choosing a color theme before you start painting will serve you best when it comes to period designs, especially when you’re just starting out. Remember, just because you have a lot of colors in your paint case, doesn’t mean you have to use all of them in one piece of art. (Yes, I did actually hear one of my college art professors say that in a lecture.)

What the Heck are Good Color Themes? Here are Some!:

-Blue and red with gold work especially well together and provide enough warm/cool contrast to keep your eye busy without knocking them out of your sockets. These colors are also used heavily together in the Gothic pieces.

Blue Red Gold

Blue and gold/yellow are the Kingdom colors for Atenvledt and work much like the first choice.

Blue and Gold

Earth tones and gold look good together, it makes a nice warm illumination.

Earth Tones

Blue and purple go really well with silver; it makes a nice cool illumination. (This is a closeup of a scroll, the blue and purple are int he corner design.)

Blue and Purple

Purple and gold/yellow are complementary colors (directly across the color wheel from one another) and go well together when the purple is deep and the yellow is bright or light.

Purple and Yellow

Red and white, with or without a metallic, is a good combo, as is red and black (with gold).
Red & White

Green and blue are nice together, as is green and gold/yellow (Outlands colors).

Green and Blue

I personally stay away from a lot of bright orange. It’s perfectly period to use, I just don’t use it much. You can use it successfully with earth tones and yellows. I suggest not using it with metallic paints, as it can look a little too bright. This is the only illumination of mine I could find with orange in it.

Blue and Orange

-I know the Barony of SunDragon (in Atenveldt) has a lot of colors (red, white, blue, yellow/gold, purple). If I use all of these colors in one piece, it’s usually vines with leaves or floral, or even a bit on knot work. This seems to support all of the colors best (in my opinion). If you do a larger more filled in design, too many colors can make it confusing to the eye.

SunDragon Rainbow

-Try to avoid painting a black background if you can (unless the original you’re copying exactly has one or if you really mess something up and it’s the only way to save it, then go for it!). This design originally had the black background, and I was successfully able to make it still look vibrant. This does not work with many designs.

Black Background

Avoid using colors such as day-glow green and neon orange in the same scroll. Anything that makes your eyes scream is not a good combination. (I just don’t even have a sample to show you on this one.)

As you do more and more illuminations, you’ll know what will work together and what won’t. Just be patient and trust your eyes. If you think it’s a beautiful combination, then so will someone else.

Hopefully Helpful,


Scribal Hint 9: Wet Paint – Using Gouache

Monday, December 20th, 2010


Let’s see… Last week we discussed pallets, today, let’s talk about how to most effectively use gouache paints.

Always Squeeze Your Paint into a Pallet:

Do not dip your paint brush directly into the tube. Use a palette with small depressions, called wells, and squeeze a pea sized blob of paint into a well (note: sometimes a larger sized pea is called for). Use one color per well only. I usually add 1 to 2 drops of clean water to the paint; mix it together thoroughly until it is the consistency of melted ice cream or heavy cream, and then paint. If your gouache paint has totally dried, it will take more water to reconstitute it. Just add it drop by drop until you get the hang of how much water it will take to reconstitute different amounts of paint.

Warning: I am a total water snob! Since I live in a city that has very hard water, I use bottled or filtered water to mix into my paints. I do this because the chemicals and minerals left in the hard water can change the color and consistency of the paint, and I really do not want that!

Mixing Paints or What the Heck Color is THAT!:

To mix 2 or more paint colors, I use a sheet of wax paper or a single use piece of paper called palette paper. It comes in a tear out packet like drawing paper. You can buy it at almost any art supply store in the paint section. (Note: Do NOT use drawing, typing, or any other kind of water soluble paper for a palettes it will disintegrate.) Since I have all of my paints premixed in my pallet, I generally don’t have to stop to mix paints, which is a huge time saver! Also, I did mix all of the the paints in the wells of my pallets because I know how much paint to use. Until you get a sense of how much paint it will take to mix a certain color, please stick with mixing it on a piece of palette paper.

Just so you don’t end up with gallons of paint that’s the wrong color, always (yes, another always) start you mixing by putting the lightest color you are working with on the mixing pallet first, then add the darker color to it. For example, to make a light blue, put the white on the pallet first, then add the blue little by little (very little, like Brylcream, a little dab’ll do ya!), mixing between adding more and more blue, until you get the color you want.

Thinning the Paint (at least something is thin):

When you paint, especially if you live somewhere that has little to no humidity, your gouache paint gets too thick, as they begin to dry out. To thin your gouache paints, add a little bit of very clean water (not water from your brush rinse container which has pigments from your previous paints in it, which can change the color of the paint you are currently working with). Add a drop or two to begin with, mix thoroughly, and then add more if necessary. Your paint should be about the thickness of heavy cream (or melted ice cream), maybe a little bit runnier (but not by much!) when you paint with it.

When Black is Not Black:

In some of the later illuminations, especially portrait miniatures, there is a really dark color in the background that looks like black, but isn’t. If you have tried to paint a portrait miniature (or another illumination) and the color black looks too harsh on your version compared to the original, try mixing equal amounts (as equal as you can get) of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna. This will make a rich, warm, black-ish color that isn’t as stark or harsh as black paint from a tube. Also, if you’re into recreating the works of the old masters in oil paint (especially Caravaggio) this is the black color they most likely use in creating the shadows of their works. If you use the Reeves paints, you will get a deep purple color instead of a black. You will get a black color if you use Windsor & Newton.

Tiny Boulders in your Pallet got You Down? No Problem, Easy Fix:

If your paint is a bit old (looks chunky, like a miniature rock field in your palette) and does not reconstitute well, you can give it a brand new lease on life by doing two things. The first is reconstitute with water and grind it (on a hard, easy to clean surface) using your palette knife. The second is to use a little bit of water and a little Ox Gall. Ox Gall is a wetting agent, and is already found in most paint mixes. It allows the pigment particles to flow instead of clumping together (making tiny boulders).

Instead of waiting until my paint gets to the tiny boulders stage, I put a few drops of Ox Gall in my dedicated to illumination water bottle. It doesn’t take much at all.

Shiny Paint:

If your paint is too shiny (plastic looking, not sparkly), it most likely has too much Ox Gall in it. That’s a sure sign on too much Ox Gall in your water bottle. At that point, use fresh water only to reconstitute your paints. There are some gouache colors that come shinier than others. If you don’t like it, then don’t use it. I have yet to find a way to get paints that are shiny from the manufacturer to not be shiny.

Those hints should help you manage your gouache paints. Until next time!

Hopefully Helpful,

Scribal Hint 8: Wet Paint – Storage & Organization

Monday, December 13th, 2010


Now that we have discussed what types of paints to use, let’s talk storage, and organization.

Several Words on Palettes:

The Pallet for Acrylic Paints:

The majority of art supply stores will have the little, white, plastic palettes in the painting section. These are fine if you do not plan of traveling with your gouache paints. Even if they have the little clear plastic lids that go with them, these easily and often spill the wet paint. If you’re working at home and never travel to a Scriptorium, these are fine to use.

These pallets are great for acrylic paints. The acrylics do not bond with the plastic and can easily be washed out.

White Plastic Pallet

The Pallet for Gouache Paints:

If you have access to a large art supply store, or a sewing/fabric store, back in the “notions” section, there are little, square, clear plastic bobbin cases, with lids. These make WONDERFUL gouache palettes! If you travel with your paints, these hold more paint, more securely, and will spill less. You still must set them on a flat surface, but they chances of them spilling are greatly reduced!

The lids on these pallets will not fit super tightly. They are not air tight, and when working with gouache and watercolor paints, that is what you want. You want the paints to be able to dry out between uses (if you don’t paint all day, everyday). The gouache and watercolor paints are easily reconstituted with a bit of clean water.

I love to mix paints! As a little girl, I used to mix the “clay dough” together just to see how many colors I would get. Then I would place them carefully next to each other, covering the card table or piano bench, as if they were little pancakes of paint on a palette. When my Mom asked what I was making, I simply answered, “Colors.”

In my little bobbin boxes, I have premixed my paints. In the center row, I have the original color from the tube, which is my middle tone. On one side I have the original color mixed with white, in a light, and really light (almost white), which are my highlights. On the other side, I have the original color mixed with its color compliment from the color wheel for the shadows. (Yes, there will be an HHH for the Color Wheel coming soon.)

Yellow Gouache Pallet

Yes, I do have loads of paint colors. I have several reds, several yellows, several blues, and so on. I have all of my reds in one pallet, all of my yellows in another, all of my blues in yet another, and so on. Yes, I know this seems a little extreme, but trust me, it’s totally worth it!

My Gouache Pallets

Having the paints super organized and premixed does a couple of things for me.

  1. It’s a huge time saver! Instead of having to mix paints for each and every scroll or other art project every time, I already have my paints mixed. I have my 2 lights, my middle tone, and my 2 darks ready to go. You would be amazed at how fast I can paint a scroll (especially draperies and flowers) with premixed and ready to go paints!
  2. It looks totally cool! I mean really! Every time I show up to a Scriptorium with my hyper-organized pallets, inevitably someone calls me crazy, or “hyphenated”. The one thing they all say by the end of the night, “I wish I had organized my pallets that way!”

The Pallet for Watercolor Paints:

Since I only use one or two colors of watercolor paint for very specific illuminating, I use styrofoam bowls for these paint colors. I like working with the very wet, transparent paints in the bowls because it give me a lot of room to swirl the brush around in. It also affords a lot of room for the additional water needed to get the paints that transparent in the first place. I do not use paper or wax coated paper bowls because they can disintegrate with the amount of time the wet solution is sitting in the bowl. Wasted paint pains me! to see it run out of the bottom of the bowl, across the work surface, and onto the floor without stopping is just not something I want to repeat.

Well, folks, that’s all for this week, next week we’ll be talking about using your gouache paints effectively.

Hopefully Helpful,


Scribal Hint 7: Wet Paint – Paint Types

Monday, December 6th, 2010


Today we will be talking about the types of paints available to the modern illuminator. We will chat about which ones are good to work with and which ones are not. We will also be discussing a few brand names. If you already work with a specific brand name paint that you love and works for you, then keep on working with it. What works for one person may not work for another.

What Types of Paints are Available for Illumination:

Types of paints used for illumination differ from Kingdom to Kingdom. If you are a beginning scribe, check with your local Scribal Officer to see what the standard practice is in your area.


Pigments – the loose powders of color mixed into the binder
Binder – the stuff that binds the pigments together and the paint to the paper, canvas, wood, or metal surface

Gouache Paints:

If you are a beginner to illumination, I suggest using Gouache paints (pronounced: gwash). They are opaque paints, the pigments suspended in the binder is more concentrated giving it a smooth, velvety appearance that you can’t see through. The binder used in them is often Gum Arabic, which is a hardened sap from the acacia tree. Sometimes, it is honey, depending on the manufacturer.

I personally love using the gouache! It is easy to work with and since it is water based, a breeze to clean up my brushes and work area. My two favorite brands are Windsor & Newton (W&N) and M. Graham & Co. The M. Graham & Co. is the one that is bound with honey. Yes, these two are more expensive than the Reeves Gouache, but they are well worth it!

When illuminating with gouache, the paint is at it’s best when it is the consistency of melted ice cream, or heavy cream, especially the white for white work (another HHH topic coming soon).

There is a great difference in brands of gouache! Personally, I really dislike the inexpensive Reeves paints; they just don’t cover like I want them to. They are, however, an inexpensive way to get to know the gouache paints without spending a lot of hard earned money, especially if you do not know if this is something you really want to get into.

The gouache paints I use, W&N (the majority of my paints) and M. Graham & Co, are totally different from those in the Reeves set. The W&N paints are more expensive than the Reeves paints, because they’re made with more pigments. Most W&N will run you $3 – $5 per small tube, but some can run $15 for a small tube (like the Cobalt blue) due to the base price of their ingredients. These small tubes will last you years. I’m still using some of the original paints I bought 11 years ago. If you can’t afford to go out and purchase all of the paints at once, you can get one at a time. That’s how I got most of mine.

Gouache Paint

Watercolor Paints:

Watercolor paint is translucent or see-through as the pigment suspended in the binder is relatively sparse. The binder for watercolor paint is usually Gum Arabic, as well. I don’t generally use watercolor paints for illumination. There is, however, one place I do use them and it is for the background on the scatter border illuminations. A scatter border is when the illumination looks as though the artist has scattered or strewn flowers and bugs on the page. The backgrounds on these borders look very smooth. I use a watercolor technique called “running a wash”. I will have a Helpful Hint on this technique in the future, including pictures, and possibly a short video.

Watercolor Wash Background

Acrylic Paints:

I just don’t use acrylic paints for illumination. Acrylic paints are a fast drying paint, with the pigments suspended in an acrylic polymer solution. I do use them sometimes for other projects, but I find the end product for illumination just doesn’t look right to me. If you live in a Kingdom where acrylic paints are used instead of Gouache, and you just can’t get your illumination to look right, please seek out someone local to you to assist. Hopefully, one of our guest contributors in the future will be able to shed more light on illuminating with acrylics.

Do Not use Oil Paints on Paper:

Oil paints are just that, loose pigments mixed with oil (usually linseed) as the binder. If you put oil paint on paper, the oil will leech out from where the paint is applied, and look like a grease halo around your illumination. The oil will also degrade the paper faster than any other binder. It just simply isn’t made to go on paper. If you want to do a scroll on treated canvas, treated wood, or treated tin, and you are a rocking oil painter to begin with, I say go for it! BUT, know that the SCA Royalty (Crown, Prince/Princess, Baron/Baroness) in your local area still have to sign the scroll before it goes out. A good portion of SCA Royalty usually does not know how to do calligraphy with a pen, let alone with an oil paint brush. If you can work it out with them to get their signatures before hand and put the signatures in, great!

Loose Pigments Hand Mixed with Binders:

We will be discussing loose pigments in the Authentic Materials Hints to come.

Paints! They are lovely! Know what is used locally to you, and which paints will adhere to which papers (see Hrefna’s Helpful Hint: Scribal Hint 3: Choosing Paper, for what paint goes best with what paper).

Play with your paints like you played with choosing your favorite paper, and work with what works best for you.

Hopefully Helpful!

Scribal Hint 6: Paints & Inks – How Cracker Barrel can Save the Day

Monday, November 29th, 2010


Before we get to paint & ink and the containers you can purchase at the art supply store, I wanted to say a few words about how the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain can save the day.

A few weeks back, my hubby, our friend Anne, and I went out to breakfast at the Cracker Barrel. Needless to say, all three of us had something to serve as a syrup delivery device. I have been pilfering everyone’s little syrup jars every time we road trip to/from an SCA event. Let me just say, the Blueberry Syrup bottles are the BOMB! The regular ones are good too, but the blueberry ones are money!

Syrup Bottles

Why yes, this is the picture from my cell phone of the bottles that went home with us that day!

These bottles are super because they are meant to contain sticky liquid during transport. They are resealable and the lids close tightly (especially if you have a really strong fighter or ceramic artist in your group).

The Regular Syrup Bottles:

The regular bottles are NOT good to use for ink. It seems like they would be the ones to choose for ink transport, but alas, no. Simply, their openings are just too small for a regular/standard pen (metal nib holder) to dip into. They are wonderful for transport if you have another container to transfer the ink or paint into when you get to the work site.

The Blueberry Syrup Bottles:

Aaaah, yes! These are the fashizzle! The openings are wide enough to dip pens, paintbrushes, palette knives, and loads of toothpicks (for paint stirring sticks). They can even be gently reheated to reconstitute gesso for gilding (adhering gold leaf to stuff,including overly helpful furry pets).

Both Bottles:

Both of these bottles are good for giving out samples of stuff (just remember to take off the labels) for SCA classes, A&S entries in displays or competitions, or for individual size stuff (things you want to take to an event, but not the entire big bottle/jar) for any and all events.

If you’re going to eat there anyhow, and you’re having the syrup anyhow, it’s not going to cost you anything extra. As we all know, free is good!

Touching Short Story that Demonstrates Usefulness:

Last month, my friend Jennifer was working on a family project in a sepia colored ink from a Micron tech pen. She tried and tried to mix a gouache paint that would work as a match for her to do the calligraphy in. She got frustrated and asked me to mix the paint for her, because I am really good at mixing colors to match. I told her to get a container for me to mix it in, and for her to take the left overs home (better to mix too much than not enough). She looked and looked for a little container, then suddenly remembered that I had given her one of the blueberry syrup bottles, and she still had it in her car. She squealed with glee as she went outside to retrieve it. I mixed the perfectly matching color for her, and she happily set to doing calligraphy.

Had it not been for that little jar, we would have had to mix it in who knows what else, and had to leave it at our friend Catherine’s Scriptorium to dry, possibly to have never been seen again (more helpful furry pets and all). But now, she has that color of ink/paint that matches and that she can take with her where ever she goes.

A happy ending indeed!

So, next time you’re on your way to an SCA event, stop at a Cracker Barrel and have the pancakes. Take the bottles with you, when you get home wash them, and see if any of your scribal or otherwise artsy-inclined friends would like to have them.

Last, but certainly not least, if you have a really nice wait-person, ask if they will rinse the bottle out for you before you leave. If not, and all of the contents are gone, you could rinse it out in the bathroom sink, but I don’t recommend that for every time. In either case, remember to give it a thorough washing when you get home. It’s always nice to have semi clean bottles to stick in your purse, basket, bag, tote, or “European Shoulder Bag”.

Hopefully Helpful,

Scribal Hint 5: Page Layout – Layout Specifics

Monday, November 22nd, 2010


Yesterday, we learned what tools we are going to need to get the design on the page. Let’s continue with more specifics of page layout.

Be a Space Case, Leave Space Around the Edges:

Now that you are at the stage where you are drafting/drawing your own scrolls, please make sure you leave a space around the border, or edges of the paper. This makes it much easier to frame the piece (especially if you frame it yourself!). If you run the design all the way out to the edge of the paper, it is very difficult to matte and frame. I usually come in 1/2 inch to 1 full inch from the edge of my paper (depending on the size of my paper, a smaller sized paper will get the ½ inch measurement), and put a light pencil border on with a ruler so the lines are straight (people invented rulers for a reason), then I make the entire design, including space for the calligraphy, inside those lines. If you want to make sure the design is squared off, feel free to use a T-square. Pencil in your design lightly, then ink over the design with your technical pen. Let the ink dry (drying time will vary with the air temperature and humidity in your area), then erase the pencil lines that you can still see. You erase the pencil lines for a couple of reasons. First is that sometimes, they smudge across your pristine paper when you can’t paint over them, and sometimes they do get ground into the paper and don’t come out. Second is that some paints don’t cover as well as others. (We will discuss this when we talk about paints.)

Drawing the Design:

When drawing your design, the shape of an object is extremely important. Example: If you draw a leaf, make sure you paint the shape of that leaf. I suppose that’s the grown up version of “color inside the lines” with the caveat that if you do go outside the lines, make sure the shape of the leaf is the same when you’re done. If you drop a blob of paint and make the leaf look like a flower, then make it into the shape of a flower. If someone else has drafted the design, the shapes they chose to draw are the shapes they need to be for a successful piece of art. Just stay as true to the original shapes as you can.

Draw the Shapes you want

Can I have an “O”? Give it a Whirl:

If you haven’t drawn your own designs before, I highly recommend giving it a try. I know a lot of you have more talent than you think you have. Look at a design in a manuscript book and copy a simple design out of there. If you have to use a photo copy and a light table, go for it. They are great tools for this. If you want to try just looking at the book and drawing off of that, go for it, just keep in mind everything has a familiar shape. By that I mean you can break down every element into familiar shapes. A curly-Q at the end of a vine is just a circle (the letter “O”) that gets smaller and smaller and never connects. Everything breaks down into circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, and shapes we see everyday. Pretty much everyone can write the alphabet, look for shapes that remind you of how you write, they’ll be easy for you to execute.

Design of Os

Now get drawing!

Hopefully Helpful!


Special Holiday Hint: Scribal Gift Ideas

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I know there are a few of you out there who have budding Scribes in your home, but you just don’t know what to get them as a holiday gift.I figured I had better send this out now before everyone goes on holiday vacation, and so you can shop the after Thanksgiving sales! Yea, sales!

Many of these selections can be bundled into one large gift, and many can be given over several nights. All items can be found on-line. I have added loads of pictures below for those of you who have never before set foot in an art supply store (like my hubby when we first go married, he says pictures help a lot).

For all Scribes:

Mechanical Pencils & replacement lead (get a good one, not the cheap-o plastic ones in the multi-pack that fall apart)
Mechanical Pencil

White Eraser
My White Eraser

Large Soft Brush to get eraser residue off of the paper instead of your hands, which are oily and that’s bad for the paper. These can be found in the drafting section of any art supply store, and will run about $4.
Large Soft Brush

Kneaded Eraser
Kneaded Eraser before and after

Typewriter Eraser (this is handy for resurfacing the paper after it has had a mistake scraped off) You’ll find these on-line only.
Typewriter Eraser & Refill

Technical Pens:
Micron – disposable These will run about $4 each.
Faber-Castell – refillable
Rapido-Graph – refillable
Rapido-Sketch – refillable (and my favorite! These clog less than the Faber-Castells and the Rapido-Graphs) These will run about $17 each, but are worth it in the long run. They all come in different sizes, but the .50 is the easiest to start with.

Metal Ruler with a Cork Back, 15 to 18 inches long.
Metal Ruler Showing Cork Back

Circle Stencils (these are green and found in the Drafting section)

Plastic Pipettes
Plastic Pipettes

Squirt Bottle (This will need to be dedicated to only illumination stuff, no cat zapping with this bottle, because of some possible added chemicals.)
Squirt Bottle

Toothpicks – No fancy colored ones, no frilly tops, no pirate swords, no flavored ones. Get the nice round ones so they don’t snap when mixing paints. (No picture included, because I figured most people know what they look like.)

Exact-o Knife with curved blades, the sharpened blade should be on the outside curve so that when the scribe scrapes the paper (gently) the tip never gouges the paper.
Exact-o Knife & Extra Blades

Smooth Rock for Burnishing – This doesn’t have to be a burnishing tool that costs loads of dough. Mine cost maybe $1 at a little rock shop, out of the tumbled and polished rock barrel. Just make sure it’s a color your beginning scribe will like, and that it does not have any nicks out of it.
Burnishing Rock

Compass (no, not the navigational kind, the bigger circle making kind)

Portfolio Case the will hold a piece of 12 x 18 inches paper, at least. This can run you anywhere from $4 to $200 depending on the manufacturer, materials, style, heavy-duty-ness of the case. I have a few of these. I have a little paper one that I got for $4, which I barely used. I have a black hard sided one with 3 ties (one per open side) to close it, I think that was around $10, I still use the heck out of this one. I also have a full sized (approximately 24 x 31 inches) heavy-duty one I got for art class that was $80 (on sale), and I still use it all the time, as well.

Paper Towels

For the Illuminator:

Windsor & Newton Gouaches. These should run $4 to $10 each. Make sure these say “Gouache” on the tubes.
Cadmium Red
Cadmium Yellow (light)
Forest Green
Ultramarine Blue
Dioxazine Purple
Yellow Ochre
Burnt Siena
Lamp Black
Permanent White
Gouache Paint Tube

Paint Tube Squeezer – This get’s all of the paint out of the tube, so money isn’t wasted. It will cover it’s own cost! These can run between $6 to $20. Mine is all plastic. They do make metal ones, which are good for people who just don’t know their own strength.
Paint Tube Squeezer
Paint Tube in Squeezer

Natural Bristle Brushes (for watercolor or gouache, yes, they should all be labeled on the display case) These should run $3 to $12 each.
Liners work best for illumination.
Chisel (Flat):

Palette Knife – The metal ones will run about $6 each, the plastic ones should run about $1 each. I prefer the little metal one that I have.
Palette Knife

140 lb Hot Press Watercolor Paper or 230 gsm Pergamenata (these are both art papers, both come in “full sheets” or cut sheets – get the cut sheets to start)

Bobbin Boxes from the notions section of a fabric store as travel pallets. The bottom of the wells are curved, not flat. These will run about $6 each. (These will not come with paint already in them.)
Bobbin Box filled with Paint

Travel box to put it all in. Sometimes the ArtBins are on sale, but you can also use a tackle box. I happen to use a travel caddy for scrap booking, from Target.

For the Calligrapher:

Flat tip Calligraphy Nibs (if getting Speedball brand, get the ones labeled “C-” a number comes after “C-“, get a variety, 5 being the smallest, to 1 being a quite large nib). These should run $5 for a 2 pack.
C Series Nibs in Package

Calligraphy Pens (this is the handle that the nibs fit into) These can run anywhere from $1 to $100, depending on the material and craftsmanship. There are some that are hand carved. For a beginner, get a plastic one and maybe a couple of inexpensive wooden painted ones.
Calligraphy Pens with Nibs in Place

Calli Ink (or another highly recommended brand name ink), one Black India Ink and one Red. This should run you about $6.
Calli Ink

A bottle of Formula 409 (to clean the nibs), yes, really.

Next year we’ll talk about what books to get your budding Scribe for the Holidays! Just to wet your whistle, here’s the illumination book I recommend for everyone.

Here’s the calligraphy book I recommend for everyone.

Hopefully Helpful,