Aendru's Black Hours Bronze Ring
Aendru is the current Baron of Rivenstar, and his award was long overdue. I collaborated with his wife and Baroness, Enkara, to personalize his award.
I always do the calligraphy first. Most paint mistakes can be fixed just by painting over them, but errors in writing are trickier to repair. This is a basic gothic script, although slightly looser than the usual "picket fence" of textura quadrata. Still, I hesitate to call it a true batarde, which would be still more cursive and quick to write.
The image below is from a fighting manual dated to about 1409; it was the most dynamic single-figure pose that I saw at first glance, and was in a style of fighting that Aendru has experimented with.
Next up, thanks to Enkara, a picture of Aendru in his usual fencing armor/garb.
With those two images in mind, I was able to craft a modified version of the pose (which shows the figure's jacket or tunic cinched at the waist) to more accurately reflect how Aendru might look in that same position.
I am often asked what sort of ink or special pencil I use to get the images to show up so well on black paper, but the simple fact is that an ordinary pencil lead is made of shiny graphite, which reflects quite nicely on the black. No special tools needed. In fact for that arch above the figure, rather than pull out a compass, I traced the curve of my paint palette. The original manuscript often arched the tops of miniatures in this way, rather than leave them rectangular. There was also often an impression of depth, and a framing of the image with columns or a doorway; here I opted to use trees.
Sforza's borders are often filled with whimsical or strange figures, as well as roundels that break up the density of the flowers and stems; this is perfect for an SCA scroll since you can include award badges, personal heraldry, or any other detail that you like that fits the recipient. For this piece, the two bottom roundels are the kingdom seal and the badge of the order, while the side roundels are a horse and a man "tinkering", since Aendru is both an equestrian and an engineer outside of fencing. Hidden in the border on this side will be a pair of gears for the tinkering aspect, and a mermaid (or merman, I suppose) based off similar mer-people from the source material.
Here is the border fully penciled in and ready to paint. I will probably spend a lot of this blog post discussing the large figure rather than the border, since that is where I really stepped outside my comfort zone and tried new things.
The horse roundel in progress; I typically paint in gold and silver first before moving to base colors, then I will come back and highlight the colors in gold and silver again. There isn't necessarily an obligation to do it this way, except that I like to have something other than an empty space in the roundel by the time I get to the colors.
Again, working in the metallic colors first; they have a different technique from simply laying in opaque base colors, where I build the color up in several translucent layers, as you can see on the horse above and on the body of the mer-person. It took me quite a bit of practice to learn this technique; my first mermaid (on another scroll) ended up looking like she had a hairy chest, because I was trying to shade with brush strokes rather than with the natural translucence or opacity of the paint.
I was especially pleased with how this beastie turned out; you can really see the shift in opacity across its body and the leg.
Hidden features don't look very hidden just yet, but they will once all those vines and flowers go in. I was especially pleased by the shading of the white on the figure, under his arm; I essentially drew a dotted line and let my opaque paint go up as far as the line, then sort of dry-brushed the area past it to get less white and more shadow from the black paper.
Now we add the base colors, bit by bit; the least used colors (light blue, purple, white, and yellow) went in first, then for whatever I reason I tend to prefer to work in red and blue next, followed by green. Throughout the process, the idea is to work from largest to smallest, so as to fit in everything that needs to fit, followed by everything that goes around it, and finished with fillers for any gaps that remain.
Again, I am ecstatic with how the shading worked on the red for the figure; since the brush starts out loaded with paint that gradually diminishes, I mostly reminded myself to start each round of painting with the brush over those areas that needed the most color, then I could work toward the areas that had less. There are no secondary shades of darker red here; this is all done with translucency and opacity, allowing the black paper to do most of the work. The "stripes" on the legs are careful work "coloring inside the lines" that I first drew in pencil.
You can get away with surprisingly intense colors when you work with the red and blue, as long as you remain opaque; anything too watery will not have enough pigment in it to show against the black once the water has soaked in or evaporated. Here is a pretty dark blue, showing up just fine on the paper. There's no need to lay down a layer of white before you proceed, as some people do and have taught. It's truly not necessary.
Skin tones; I hate mixing paint, I tend to avoid it like kids avoid their vegetables, but the color here worked out pretty well. Again, note the use of translucent layers.
I actually used two or three different shades of green here, just for variety; the period manuscript tends to keep to only one for the most part, sort of minty green like in the top left of this image, with the rest flowers. Now the density is starting to fill in and the border is starting to come together.
Black paper still needs black paint sometimes, though I admit I was tempted to leave it off; here are the figure's stockings, shoes, and facial hair done in black, highlighted with brown.
The next stage is to start filling in stems and highlighting all the flowers and leaves; it's not as tedious as outlining (to me at least), since you don't have to be quite as precise. Here I'm working in silver, not only "frosting" the leaves but also adding a few in above the trees, here and there.
Next it was time for gold, and once again I surprised myself with how well the shading turned out on the figure. Again, I worked from brightest to darkest, letting the paint diminish on the brush naturally as I came to areas that needed less light. I was floored with how well these areas turned out. I've also added a bit of gold to the stockings and shoes, because this style does like to be as shiny as possible, wherever possible.
Surprisingly, I didn't pause to take a picture once the gold stems were added; after they go in, it's time for tendrils, thorns, or other filler bits on the stems themselves, including some additional leaves here and there, or mini flower blossoms, or what have you. After that, fillers that include simple squiggles and starbursts will go into every available remaining blank space, to give the border its dense look. The finished product looks extremely complex, but every stage is actually quite simple and in some cases is barely a step above doodling. Here is the finished piece, along with some close-ups here and there where you may be able to spot the fillers.
The finished borders are outlined with a special tool called a ruling pen, which lets you work with a ruler to get precise lines without the risk of the paint or ink bleeding under the ruler and ruining all this hard work.
A blurry but still legible picture of the script, as well as the border illustrations.
You can see the gold and silver "squiggles" and "starbursts" filling in around the flower stems, as well as the addition of a little gold highlighting on the figure's sleeve.
As always, readers are more than welcome to contact me with questions or commentary about how I did the piece. If you read this far, you have my thanks!