Why Heraldic Beasts Look Left

LionessOne of the first questions new Heralds and Artists ask me is, why does every animal look off to the left? Why is left the default position?

The answer comes from Heraldry’s Original Purpose: to distinguish a noble and their followers from all other. Heraldry is literally the oldest form of Identifying Friend or Foe, and Heraldic Displays were created for shields on the battlefield.

 

Righty

 

This drawing of myself as a Viking Shieldmaiden displays my registered heraldry, Azure, a winged ounce within an orle argent. I have the shield on my left arm and my axe in my right hand. My fierce Ounce Lioness looks like it is ready to jump off of my shield and attack my foes!

 

 

Fart

I joined the Society as a fencer because I wanted to learn to fence just like Tamora Pierce‘s Lady Knight Alanna the Lioness. As a fencer, I fought with my right hand.

About six months into the Society, I discovered I preferred Heavy List combat to Fencing. As I studied Heavy, I realized I am a much better fighter with my left hand than my right. So I re-strapped my shield to be worn on my right arm.

As you can see, a left-looking Lioness is not fierce. She looks like she is going to fart in your general direction.

Lefty

Here is my repainted shield, with my Lioness facing Sinister and fiercely threatening my opponents. Yes, the Sinister Lioness looks right. The default position, called Dexter, features a feline looking left.

In period, bastard sons would sometimes display their heraldry to sinister. The Heralds don’t care one way or the other, though one was to clear a device in conflict is to make the beast Sinister.

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The Artistic Process

I have a degree in Architecture, and about a year before I graduated, I realized I was not suited to the field. I’m a draftsman and a technical artist, not an Artist. A large part of why I love drawing Heraldry is that it lets me use my skills as a designer, and I can trace any art that I cannot draw on my own.

Drawing Heraldry has helped me become more of a graphic designer and an artist. After five years as an Art Herald, I’m starting to understand how an Artist thinks and Designs.

In college, one of the concepts that confused me was the “Artistic Process.” Teachers kept asking to see my Process, and I’d be confused and explain that I was trying to design spaces that would best fit the needs of whoever was living or working there. As I was designing this prop, a wooden pallet to reflect my status as the new Pallet Herald, I finally wrapped my head around what the Artistic Process is.

Process is how the design changes and adapts as the Art is created.

Palletoverlap

My first step was finding clip art of an artist’s pallet, and printing it on a full sheet of paper. I cut out the shape and played with it before deciding it was too small to display my badge and the paint blobs. So I adjusted the size and shape of the pallet, making sure the grip indent and hole for my thumb remained the same.

This image below shows how I was played with the pallet size. The thin blue line is the size of a list tree shield. I used my flexible curve to increase the size of the pallet by tracing the original print out, and then putting the curve on the outer edge. I did this three times.

I used D-rings to see how much space I would need for each paint blob. D-rings are leatherworking hardware, and I had a bag of them on hand. They were about the right size for my paint blobs, so I used them as a layout tool.
PaintLocations (2)

WherePaint1

Once I had the spacing set, I used a leatherworking O-ring to draw circles for the paint blobs. I also folded the paper design in half, so I could be sure the hammer that’s my Personal Badge would be properly centered on the pallet.

This is an example of how the greatest difference between looking professional and slipshod is planning. Small things like folding a paper in half to find the center, or laying out designs on graph paper literally make the difference between a thing looking professional instead of slipshod. This is the reason I have a tag called graph paper solves everything.

WherePaint2

After I traced the paint blob placement in pencil, I had the challenge of not making them look like perfect circles. Making things look irregular is trickier that it appears. After some fiddling, I decided to just make little circles with my brush until I had blobs of color. After the paint was dry, I took a white eraser and carefully removed my pencil lines.

Each of the colors on my pallet are used in Heraldry: Gules [red], Argent [white], Or [gold], Vert [green], Azure [blue], Purpure [purple], and Sable [black]. Pink, orange, and brown are almost never used in Heraldry. Grey and silver are both considered Argent [white].

WhatAboutWords

After I painted my blobs and my hammer badge, I took a step back and really looked at the pallet. When I had only put the blobs of paint on my pallet, the rest of the wood was bare, and the unused space was not problematic. But after I added my hammer, the edge of the pallet looked bare and out of place.

This is where the Artistic Process comes in. I saw the empty space standing out, so I used my flexible curve to draw some guidelines for adding text. I lettered the pallet in the font I’ve created, which references the Norse Futhark Runes while still being readable Roman characters.

PaintMyself

Frack! Paint is supposed to go on the pallet, not on my hands! This is why painters wear smocks.

As I was putting the letters on my pallet, I realized “Pallet Herald – of the East Kingdom” was passive voice. I changed my pencil lettering to “Pallet Herald – Kingdom of the East.”

After the painting was done, I put a coat of polyurethane over the entire pallet to seal it. Because I am the klutz who has dropped and entire horn of coffee over everything.

Final

Forms of Greek Dress

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I have a degree in Architecture, and when I was a student I hoped to work as a historical or restoration architect. I ended up in the publishing industry, and the graphic design and drafting skills I learned are mostly applied to heraldic art and the design and creation of clothing and armor. I found a series of images showing how to pin and drape various forms of Greek dress, and I was surprised at how the Doric and Ionic chitons corresponded to their column capitols.

I made mnemonic devices to help me remember the three types of column capitols:

The Doric Order is simple and square, and I like to think of it as the Dumpy Order.

The Ionic Order looks like a scroll, and is often used in libraries and universities. My favorite history teacher liked to say, “It’s ironic that they didn’t know Ionic,” and knowledge is full of irony.

Tops

The Corinthian Order is the fanciest, and it looks like carved leaves springing from the top of the column. Since the Corinthian’s detail is often used in state and country Capitol buildings. In America, the founding fathers like to carve Corinthian leaves in the shape of corn and tobacco, because these plants are native to North and South America.

This image is from a Vignola illustration published in 1640.  I cropped this version to highlight the differences in the column capitols.

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Now to address the pointof this post: Greek Dress for men and women. Much like the simplicity of the Doric Order, the Dorian Chiton (pronounced KY-tin) is constructed from two folded cloth rectangles, and is held together with two pins and a cord around the waist. This is comfortable to wear in the heat of Pennsic.

 

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The Ionian Chiton is fancier than its Doric counterpart. Because it does not require a folded over front, the Ionian requires less fabric than the Doric.

This chiton is also comfortable to wear at Pennsic.  I prefer buttons and small loops of fabric instead of buttonholes, both for the look of the garment and because buttonholes are annoying to make.

In contrast, men wore the Peplos (left) and the Himation (right). The peplos can be worn instead of the chiton, and is belted at the waist. The himation can be worn over the the peplos or chiton. It can be made of a heavier material, and pulled over the head to form a hood in bad weather.

 

Promoting my Preferred Pronouns

Ten years ago, I had never heard the word “transgender.”  Since then, transgendered people have become a focus of the media, often not in a good light. Once I became aware of this, I stepped forward as an ally, making sure to always address people by the pronouns they prefer and help in any other ways I can.

In the midst of this, I learned there was another category of people who were not transgender, but rejected cultural assumptions based on gender assignments. These people are Genderqueer, and if you’re interested in learning more about this, here is the Wikipedia article.

I am a genderqueer person. I prefer it if people address me with the singular ‘they’, as well as the pronouns ‘their’ and ‘them’. I have begun wearing a button explaining my pronouns. The singular ‘they’ can replace ‘she’ or ‘he’ in speech, such as “Is that their hood? Why would they make look like that?”

HoodWithin the confines of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, there is a heated debate about gender expression. The SCA is dedicated to creating living history before 1600 C.E. and most historical cultures only acknowledged two genders. But just as the SCA uses modern medical and cooking practices, we are also addressing how to incorporate non-binary genders into our Society.

My persona is a Viking Shield Maiden, a woman who wears mens’ clothes and fights alongside them. I chose to have a Viking persona for a number of reasons, and being  a female doing “male” activities was a large part of my persona choice. In order to display my pronouns, I created a square Skjoldehamn hood. My Badge and my Silver Wheel awards are embroidered on the front panel, and my pronouns are embroidered around the outer edge.

CatUp

In addition to having THEY – THEM – THEIRS embroidered around the edge, I also sewed a piece of velcro with a rare earth magnet to the underside of the shoulder. This allows my Heraldic Cat Plushie to stay on my shoulder when I walk around events.

 

CatDown

I was worried that sewing a strong magnet to my hood would cause trouble in the washing machine, so I only sewed a square of velcro to the hood. The matching piece of velcro has the magnet sewn in. I also opened a seam on the plushie and added a magnet to it.

CardPocket

Finally, I added a pocket to the front of the hood. I have a habit of chatting with people at events and forgetting my shoulder bag. With my SCA business cards in this pocket, this is much easier. I “hid” the pocket’s attaching seam behind the black embroidery of my Badge.

Making this hood was easy. Being recognized as a genderqueer person will be much harder, but it is a good first step.

In conclusion, I would like to discuss my choice of colors for this hood. I used bright silver thread for the Silver Wheel and my name and pronouns, black thread for my badge and name pronunciation, and dark gray thread for the seam treatment. The silver thread has high contrast against the blue fabric, and draws attention. The black thread has a lower contrast, and draws some attention. The dark gray thread has very little contrast to the blue, and almost disappears into the fabric.

High contrast colors draw the viewer’s attention. In order of importance, my hood is designed to showcase my Wheel and Pronouns, show my Badge, and have some detailing.

FinalHood

Drawing a Dozen Different Dragons

Much of this blog is dedicated to the Heraldry I draw for specific clients. Aside from the Pennsic Reference Boards, I haven’t talked about the hours I spend at Pennsic and at home, consulting on heraldic art via Oscar and the Baby Heralds FaceBook group.

In addition to that, I am the Herald who envisioned the newest version of the Traceable Heraldic Art Project. Not long after I began working on it, Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin stepped in to help. He has software that can convert line art into vector art, and the server space to host HeraldicArt.org.

Vector art is different from scans of line drawings because it is scaleable. If you take a photograph to a copy shop and make it twice as large, some of the details will blur due to the limitations of the DPI (Dots Per Inch) of the photo. Vector art is different because it can be enlarged and shrunk on a computer and not become blurry.

Making the new Traceable Art in vector format allows the artwork to be reproduced at any size or scale, from combat shields to banners and tabbards or list tree shields. Vector art allows people to have artwork that is more complicated than they can draw.

This project is enormous. It incorporates most of the Pennsic Traceable Art, as well as all the backgrounds for heraldic shields (called Field Divisions). Additionally, we are including heraldic artwork created by artists around the world.

One set of artistic compilations was created in 1994 by Herald Torric inn Bjarni. His work is incredibly detailed, but his use of shading and hatching are difficult to translate into vector art. One of my tasks as an artist is to take his artwork and turn it into drawings that are easily converted to vectors. This is a huge task, because he compiled his drawings in a way to save space and paper, often using dashed lines and small notes to indicate how alternate versions of a creature would be drawn. These are scans from a few of his drawings.

 

Dragons

I have scanned these versions of dragons, and the other pieces that allow different variants to be drawn. The dragon has four legs, while the wyvern has only two. Additionally, Torric made notes on basilisks and cockatrices, which I also drew. These combinations resulted in drawing a baker’s dozen different variations of the same dratted dragon.

DragonsSittingHere are the first two dragons. The dragon on the left is Sejant, or in a seated pose.

The dragon on the right is Sejant Erect, or sitting with a raised limb.

 

WyvernsSitting

 

In contrast, these two wyverns have only two legs. They are also displayed as Sejant and Sejant Erect.

 

CockatricesSitting

With Torric’s note of the cockatrice head and the beginning of wings in the thumbnail drawing, I was able to piece together drawings. A cockatrice is a wyvern with the head of a cock.

BaskilisksSitting

 

A basilisk  is only different from a cockatrice because it has a dragon’s head at the end of its tail.

 

After drawing eight pictures of similar creatures, I was delighted to draw these dragons Couchant, or crouching. The right dragon is Coucant Erect, or crouching with one limb raised.

DragonsWingup

And here are another two versions of the Couchant dragons, with their wings folded. Having many variations of heraldic animals can be helpful when artists are placing images within limited space.

DragonsWingdown

Finally, here is the dragon Dormant, or sleeping. The Hogwarts motto “Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus” seems appropriate here, since you should never tickle a sleeping dragon.DragonDormant

A Tale of Two Chinstraps

PaintedHelmMany of my blog posts are dedicated to the sport of Heavy List fighting. The Society for Creative Anachronisms counts its members in hundreds of thousands, with roughly ten to twenty percent are fighters. This means not many sports equipment items are mass produced (aside from repurposed hockey and lacrosse gear). Fighters spend a lot of time creating, maintaining, and modifying their gear.

Heavy List helms are often the most expensive part of a fighter’s armor kit. This is my helm, made by my friend Hjalmar. He makes simple, solid, inexpensive helms and is willing to do a small amount of custom work for a bit extra. If you’re wondering why I have an oddly shaped “F” on my helm, it’s me being geeky. That rune is Ansuz, which is an “A” in the Old Norse alphabet. I chose it because I enjoy having a Viking version of Captain America’s helm. This is my creative anachronism.

Enough about my helm. This is a post about chin straps. Chin straps are a small part of a fighting kit, and they’re easy to not think about. I was fighting Duke Brennan in a tournament last year, and my helm slid off because I didn’t have a secure chin strap. I hope to live that down someday, but in the meantime I have put a lot of thought into chin strap designs. The photo shows my three piece chinstrap on the left, and the single piece chinstrap on the right.

Chinstraps.jpg

ChinStrapPDF
I created a PDF of the patterns by scanning the graph paper design I used for these two types of straps:   VedardottirChinStraps

WordPress does not display a preview PDFs,  so here is a small screen capture of the file.

When you print the PDF, be sure to choose the option that allows the PDF to expand to fill the entire page. “Fit to page” is the key phrase on most printers.

Leatherlayout

Making your chinstrap will require a 5×8″ piece of leather that is as thick as a leather belt. You will need rivets and an anvil in addition to the tools described in my post Beginning Sewing and Leather Working.

 

leathertapedI cut the pattern out and placed it on the leather. Next, I taped the pattern onto the leather with masking tape. This keeps the pattern from sliding off the smooth leather as it is cut.

leatherfold

Finally, punch the holes, then fold the leather over and rivet it together. This photo shows the loops of the more complicated chin strap. The strap cut from a single piece of leather simply folds over.

EKwiki Part 3: Adding Personal Information

This article covers what information can be posted on your East Kingdom Wiki page.

If you need to make a page, please refer to EKWiki Part 1: Why a Wiki?
If you need to add images to your page, please refer to EKwiki Part 2: Adding Photos and Images

This post covers:
1. An overview of what to add to your EKwiki.
2. How to add your personal information to the wiki.
3. An explanation of the wiki formatting tools.

The final part of your EKwiki page is adding your persona information. In some ways, this is the hardest part of creating your EKwiki. I can write technical instructions all day, but choosing what to share with the entire society is less cut-and-dried.

Describing your persona is helpful for people who want to get to know you better. If you haven’t created a persona, you can list your favorite activities. If an artist is drawing a scroll for you, they can personalize the artwork. Even just listing your favorite colors is good.

There are Categories listed in the “edit” tab at the top of the page, which are noted with pairs of equals signs:  ==  == . You can create or delete any category you wish. If you’re a newcomer and haven’t worked as an officer or created any publications, you can simply delete those lines of text. I removed the ‘officer’ section from my EKwiki and replaced it with a section on my heraldry.

To link to another page in the EKwiki, you put that page name inside two sets of brackets. My consort’s page links to mine with the code Create19.JPG“In Case of Court, please contact [[Thory Vedardottir]].” The link displayed on his wiki is this.

If you want to link to a different website from the EKwiki, put both the website text (called a URL) and a description of the website in a set of brackets. Be sure to leave a space between the URL and the first word of the description, or the description will look odd and the website will not load. This is what the typed text linking to my local group looks like:

Create17FIX

To make a bulleted list, simply make each item on the list begin with an asterisk (*). This text is on the left and the result is on the right:
Create18*Please do not surprise due to anxiety.
*Please summon to RP event in advance or use a writ.

Finally, there is the category called, In Case of Court. It is a new addition to the EKwiki created by Duke Brennan, and is very helpful. The problem with awards is that award presentation has several aspects.

Awards are bestowed upon people who volunteer for the society, and as such receiving an award is often a surprise. (Awards are not like elementary school trophies, and are not handed out for merely participating. Awards are intended to be given to people who are helping for the sake of helping, not merely chasing prizes.)

Surprise awards can be tricky because the people who recommend someone for an award may not know how to ensure that person will be at an event to receive it. By listing a friend, mentor, or partner in your In Case of Court, it is much easier to receive an award. The double brackets [[ ]] let you link to their page.

For people who do not like surprises, or have anxiety when they are called before a crowd, they can simply write, “Please do not surprise due to anxiety”

Thank you for reading my  post on what to put on your East Kingdom Wiki page. If you need to make a page, or are wondering why having an EKwiki page is useful, please refer to  EKWiki Part 1: Why a Wiki?

If you need to add images to your page, please refer to EKwiki Part 2: Adding Photos and Images