Obadiah the Obstreperous' Order of the Laurel scroll, by Tatiana Nikolaevna Tumanova
Contribution by Tatiana Nikolaevna Tumanova
This scroll is my first venture into a doing a period style. Obadiah was Laurel'd mainly for his talents as a moneyer, and he was instrumental in founding the Kingdom Moneyer's Guild, hence the miniature showing him hard at work striking coins. As befits a triple peer, Obadiah is a Renaissance Man, and I wanted this work to be the very best. Therefore the calligraphy (have I mentioned how much I detest doing calligraphy?) was done by the best in the Kingdom of the West -- Mistress Aldith Angharad St. George, who did her usual outstanding job (much better than I could ever dream of producing!). The style is 15th century Italian, taken from the Visconti Book of Hours. The miniature was inspired by the Hours of the Passion, Terce "Jael Kills Sisera"; the shading and whitework on the large illuminated letter was taken from the Hours of the Holy Ghost, Compline "Stoning of Achan"; the border was adapted from the Office of the Dead, Third Nocturn "Israelites Leave Egypt."
Paints are Windsor-Newton gouache, with the exception of the earth-tones those were mixed from powdered earths and ochers mined in the south of France (a gift from Earl Geoffrey of Griffinhold and Countess Kira Leonovna Zemnodushina upon their return from Drachenwaldt). The palette was Permanent White, Lamp Black, Ultramarine, Permanent Green Middle, Spectrum Red, Alizarin Crimson, Magenta, Brilliant Violet, Primary Yellow, Orange Lake Light, and Gold. The vellum came from Lochac (Australia) and had been waiting for years for a period style piece.
To give an idea of scale, the small illuminated letter "B" that begins the text is half an inch by half an inch; the border is one inch wide; the seated figure of Obadiah is two inches tall by one inch wide.
The miniature scene was painted first, starting with the sky and using Ultramarine blue lightened with Permanent White. The Cynaguan (northern California) summer-brown hills were next, using powdered "ocre jaune" mixed with water and a dab of gum arabic. The oak trees were painted with Permanent Green Middle; darker greens were made by adding a dab of Spectrum Red to the green. The shadows under the trees were made with the ochre darkened by a very small amount of Brilliant Violet. The exterior of the pavilion was painted next with white and Lamp Black, then the seated figure. The banner depicting the Arms had to be red and white, and Obadiah has a red-and-white tunic just like the one he's wearing in the scene. The tunic is done in Spectrum Red; highlighted areas are Spectrum Red lightened with Orange Lake Light (the orange-red color may be lightened farther with white without turning pink), and darker areas were done with Alizarin Crimson added to the red. Ob's hair is more ochre; flesh tones are white with more orange and a dab of "ombre calcinee," with more of the burnt umber added for the really dark bits. The leggings were painted yellow because I had already decided to paint the grass green. Yellow grass would have been more appropriate for Cynagua but then the scene would have had predominately warm colors. To balance it, I wanted the cool green color at the bottom, with all warm colors in the middle of the scene. Additionally, warm colors come forward where cool colors recede, so this also helps to draw the eye to the important action in the composition. The hardest thing to paint in the entire scene was the hammer. I wanted the look of blued steel but it just wasn't turning out right, and finally stuck to black and gray -- I painted it at least three times and finally left it as is. Next was the banner, then the interior of the tent. You would think I would have learned my lesson about using gray on Gaius's Laurel scroll, but I was must have been asleep at the wheel. The gray instantly robbed all the color from the figure and the banner. Much cussing followed. The gray was darkened. Better. And darkened some more around the figure -- much better! The tent pole was painted using "ombre calcinee" on the dark side and "ombre naturelle" on the sunlit side. The white coins were painted next, then the grass using Permanent Green Middle out of the tube for the sunlit area, darkened with red for the shadows. The exchequer's counting cloth was next, red squares and then black squares, taking care to make the lines crisp and even. The red is Spectrum Red straight out of the tube, the black was lightened to a dark charcoal gray by adding Permanent White. The part of the cloth in shadow was red darkened with green, and black straight out of the tube. The money bag was next, using more of the French umbers. Then texture was added to the grass by painting flecks of dark and light green to give the suggestion of blades of grass.
The background behind the large letter was the easiest part, if tedious. The gold was painted first, followed by Ultramarine straight out of the tube. Extra care was taken at all the edges to make sure they came out crisp, eliminating any need to outline the illumination.
The large letter "O" came next and was done in one session, using three shades of green; green from the tube, light green (green + white) and dark green (green + red). I also used three brushes, one for each shade. Starting at the top left, green was laid down in the middle of the letter, then a band of light green was applied to the inside edge of the letter, then dark green applied to the outside edge. While the paint was still wet, I worked the edges of the shade together. I went back up to the top of the letter and put down a little paint there so that edge wouldn't dry completely, then repeated the process on the lower left quarter of the letter, then the right upper quarter, then finished with the right lower quarter. After it all dried (and gouache always dries lighter than it goes on) I found that the light part of the sky and the light part of the grass in the miniature were too close in hue to the light green on the letter, so I painted a narrow line of dark green around the inside edge of the "O" -- the only outlining in the entire piece. The Laurel wreath design was painted freehand in white straight out of the tube, and a line of white was laid down around the inside edge of the letter. Free space around the laurel wreath was filled up with "doodles" -- my doodles don't come out very well so I think I'll plan them next time.
The rest of the lettering "badiah" was next. First the background gold was painted, then each letter was done using three shades of the paint; first with the straight color, then a lighter shade laid down around the interior of the letter. Finally a very light, almost white, shade picked out some details and made dots, etc. to give the letter some highlights. The letters were supposed to alternate blue, magenta, and green. I was painting the third letter and realized I had done it in blue, when it should have been green. Nuts and other comments. So instead it was blue, magenta, blue and green, magenta, green. The small letter "B" was done using the same three colors in the background, which was done first. The "B" itself was painted with several coats of white, then shell gold was applied. After it dried, the shell gold was burnished. It looks lumpy because the shell gold didn't apply quite evenly and several coats were done. I wasn't brave enough to try using gold leaf (which I have not yet played with), didn't have the materials, and didn't want to wait to acquire them (when Creativity knocks on the door, it doesn't stand around on the doorstep for very long, so an immediate response is always best). The line fillers in the text were painted the same way as the other letters gold paint first, then three shades of the blue, magenta, and green. I used three different kinds of line fillers just to see how they'd look; the lozenge-shaped "jewels" were the most fun to do.
Next came the border and I was really intimidated by it, as it's all done free-hand. After some consideration and doing a couple of little test pieces, I settled on using green in the middle of the border along with the gold, as it tied it better to the large illuminated letter. It's difficult to see in the digital photo but the center line in the border ends in a lozenge on each side. In the left-hand lozenge is my monogram; in the right-hand lozenge is Aldith's monogram. The monograms are painted in the same three-color scheme. Now out came the pen and india ink (Calli black). First a wavy line was drawn (the central "vine" of the stylized ivy). I started on the inside of the border on the bottom right-hand side. Then, using a crow quill nib, the ivy leaves were drawn in, then stems attached them to the main vine. Where the space was too small for an ivy leaf, a little lozenge shape with a stem might fill in, and occasionally a little round dot. This border was far too small to do five-leaved ivy -- I used three-leaf. Once the main bits were drawn, I came back in and added little curls to the tips of the leaves and some squiggles to suggest tendrils off the vines. These little touches really gave the whole thing a very delicate appearance. It actually turned out to be the easiest part of the entire scroll, great fun, and it goes fairly quickly (especially if you have good music to listen to). After the ink dried, the ivy leaves, lozenges, and dots were painted with gold. To square up the bottom ends of the border, I wrote "Illuminated me" in small letters next to my monogram, and "calligraphed me" next to Aldith's monogram, along with the SCA date.
After everything had dried, I turned the scroll over and wrote "care and feeding" instructions on the back as is my habit ("This is a scroll. Do not eat it."). I always document the materials and the amount of time the scroll took, and mention that should the scroll be lost, stolen, or damaged, to contact me and I'll re-create it from photos and preliminary sketches (which I always keep). I also advise the owner not to hang the piece in direct sunlight, over a fireplace, or in a kitchen or bathroom where it might get damaged. Lastly, some words of congratulations to the recipient on their award, and my signature and full name.
Now I back off and admire my handiwork for a while and take photos, then say good-bye. The scroll is protected by being folded into some tracing paper to keep the surface nice, stuck in a cardboard carrier, and it's delivered to the Chancellor of Scribes to acquire signatures and seals (although if I know the Royalty in question, I get their signatures myself to save the Chancellor the bother). I come down off my creative high and wonder what I'll work on next, for I'll never see that piece again.
As I'm writing this, something suddenly strikes me. I've collected many signatures of Royalty over the years, but not once have any of them ever thanked me for making the scroll that They hand out in court. Luckily the recipients are always grateful, or I'd wonder why I continue to do this!
-- Tatiana Nikolaevna Tumanova
Since Tatiana was faithfully working in the style of the Visconti Hours, it only made sense to use the same Rotunda hand as in the original, and it is just as nice to write as it is to look at. I can't really do it justice: the scribes who wrote the original could do more with a flick of the wrist than I can dream of on my best day.
The writing line is 4 nib-widths high, the capitals are 3 nib-widths taller. There is the space of a whole writing line between each line of text. Ordinarily, I like to letter certain parts of the text such as the recipient's name in red gouache, but since Tatiana's layout made the recipient's name the single biggest element of the layout, this was hardly necessary. Likewise, the illuminated initial and line fillers added as much additional color as the text needed. I used a 1 1/2mm Brause nib and Higgins Black India Ink mixed with a little Chinese stick ink for the calligraphy.
-- Aldith Angharad St. George
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