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 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

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

I enjoy ending posts with a bit of humor, but a recent change to heraldic registration laws has removed sleeping animals from the list of registerable charges. Sleeping animals are hard to distinguish from one another, breaking the First Rule of Heraldry: Can I Identify That Shield in Combat/ The Barony of l’Ile du Dragon Dormant of Montreal, Canada features a sleeping dragon. Since its’ heraldry is already registered, the Sleeping Dragon stays.

All About Paint

PaintBoxMundanely, I went to school for Architecture. I took a number of artistic classes including photography and painting. I fell in love with acrylic paint, which was fast-drying, easy to work with, and could be cleaned with water. I have artistic friends who swear by oil paint. (I tend to swear at oil paint because it takes days to dry!)

While acrylics were nice, they had a tendency to crack and chip if applied to a flexible surface. My LARP interests drew me to Liquitex Paint, which is flexible when dry. Panther Primitive Tents recommend Liquitex Paint for adding details to their canvas tents. They recommend  watering down the Liquitex to a ratio of three parts water to one part paint.

pursewipAlso, this stuff keeps indefinitely. Back in 2009, I was planning to attend the World Science Fiction Convention is Montreal. Author Seanan McGuire was also attending, and I’d been chatting with her via LiveJournal for about a year. I really wanted to make her a piece of Fan Art to thank her for making me giggle with silly posts. She said she loved the color orange and My Little Pony, so I painted a pony onto a purse I bought secondhand. This was the base coat: I’d printed a pony picture, cut it out, and traced the outline with paint.

pursedoneThis is the finished purse. I painted white highlights over Applejack’s hair, and added a black outline. This is exactly the same technique I use to paint heraldry onto shields. In fact, the bottle of yellow paint in this photo is the same one I’m using today. (The white bottle gave up its ghost for the Pennsic Heraldry Boards.)

Painting is fun; it’s like tracing with a brush. And if you mess up with Liquitex, just take a piece of damp paper towel to the bad section, remove the offending paint, and draw the lines again. Painting isn’t hard; it’s tricky. Knowing the tricks makes all the difference between the work of a novice verses a master.

Another neat aspect of this paint is that adding water makes it act like watercolor. This means you can do semitransparent washes and shading. Once Liquitex paint is dry, it is permanent. I have painted canvas Heavy List tabards with this paint, thought I needed to add the Liquitex Fabric Medium to make it machine washable.

Organizing and Presenting Arts and Sciences Research

Introduction

This class will cover six steps on how to gather, organize, and lay out Arts and Sciences presentations so viewers understand their research, process, and final product. Step one with cover gathering research materials, with suggestions of what to include. Step two will cover how to assemble images and text. Steps three and four focus on how to plan a layout using the Golden Rectangle. The final steps cover how to adjust the layout, and edit finalize the display.

Step 1: Gather Research Materials

Research is not a linear process. A scholar may start with a single article or book, and have their research encompass many volumes before a project is finished. The most important thing to present is the reference images that inspired the work.

When deciding what books or articles to include in the presentation, try the note card approach. Place all of the materials on a table, and write a sentence or reference point on an index card or sticky note for every piece of research that relates to the final product. The books with the most notes should be included.

Be careful with the notes. Having too much research can be overwhelming for viewers. Try to limit your project’s references to no more than three or four sources. Keep a full bibliography page on hand if additional information is requested.

Step 2: Gathering and Assembling Images

“A picture speaks a thousand words” is especially true of research. If the presentation is a piece of clothing, show the inspirational renaissance painting or the ancient garment from a peat bog. Viewers can easily see how close the final product is to the source materials. This is the time to use color print-outs or scans.

Not everything done in the past can be re-created in modern times. Lead was a common element used in paint, make-up, and feast gear in period. Modern science has demonstrated the dangers of lead, and other metals are substituted in its place. Note how safety, availability, and expense affected the final product.

Take pictures of the work-in-progress. If the final product is a painting, show the outline sketches, and how it looked as each layer was added. If the product is a garment, show how it as pinned. These details can help someone else create their own version.

Finally, don’t be afraid to show mistakes. If a thing was incorrectly measured or cut, note that, and show the correction. Document the process.

Step 3: Using the Golden Rectangle

The Golden Rectangle is a mathematical ratio found in nature and the proportions of the human body. This ratio is seen daily in 8.5 x 11” pieces of paper, among other things. 1

Ratios

The ratios of the golden rectangle determine the sizes of photographs, art prints, and most frame sizes available in any store.

Applying the golden ratio to larger or smaller layouts than 8.5 x 11” requires some proportional math. This process is called ‘cross multiply and divide,’ and can be used for finding an unknown length for either the larger or the smaller side.

XmultiplyStep 4: Laying out Your Research

The Golden Rectangle is more of a guideline than an actual rule. A thumbnail sketch showing relative locations is more important. Thumbnail sketches are quick drawings made in seconds. Make four or five thumbnails. The images below show an original design, its thumbnail sketch rearrangement, and the resulting information board.

Thumbnails.jpg

Step 5: Putting it All Together1page

This is an example of a single-sheet thumbnail sketch. The resulting board could be 11x17” or 24x36”. Each piece of information is surrounded by a box drawn with a dashed line to show how much room it needs.

This type of design is similar to a magazine page. It has a title, supporting text, and one or two of the most important points repeated in a larger font. Images are interspersed above and around the text.

The 10-foot rule is the most important part of board layout. Place your text and images on the board, walk about ten feet away, and look at the result. Details you miss when working up close become apparent from farther away.

Spread

A folded display is more versatile, and can be placed on a table instead of relying on a wall for support. Folded displays are more complicated to plan because the thumbnail sketches need to show both halves, but they can incorporate side-by-side comparisons easily.

Double-sided tape or spray adhesive are the best ways to attach printouts to boards. Single sided tape can stick the boards together during transport, and should only be used for single boards.

Step 6: Less is More: Editing

Stephen King’s advice for editing is that each draft should contain 10% fewer words. Write the documentation, have a good night’s sleep, and remove unnecessary words the next day. Focus on making project’s concept easy to understand. Understanding leads to engagement. Engaged viewers look for more information, and will appreciate the full depth of the project.

Conclusion

Organizing Arts and Sciences presentations is a complex, multi-step process. It requires assembling reference and process images and text that tell a story without overwhelming the viewer.

The first step requires gathering research materials, and choosing which sources to include. Next, images and descriptive text are assembled. The third and fourth steps are layout considerations, using the Golden Rectangle as a guideline. The final two steps involve looking at the almost complete project, and choosing how to streamline the information presented.

Suggested Reading

Architecture: Form, Space, and Order (2nd Edition) by Francis D.K. Ching ISBN: 978-0471286165

This book is useful because every page has a stunning visual layout. The second edition is out of date and has a lower price.

1 Images scanned from Architecture: Form, Space, and Order.