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

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 Herald Stick for Crown Tournament

The SCA holds a Crown Tournament twice a year, in the fall and spring. The winner and their consort then become the Royal Heirs, and six months later they are crowned royalty. This puts a lot of pressure on the Heavy List fighters who compete, and can be dangerous if the spectators stand too close. To keep everyone safe, the combat spaces are marked by waist-high ropes, and Marshals sometimes need to place their staff against the back of a fighter’s armor and loudly tell them, “This is the Edge of the World!”

1

In addition to the Marshals, Voice Heralds will be the only people on the fields who are not in armor. Many of them wear white and carry a one- or two-foot white painted Herald Stick. As both a Heavy List fighter and a Herald, I wanted my Herald Stick to be close to the length of a Marshal Stick, but painted white instead of a Marshal’s yellow-and-black. I bought a heavy duty hardwood closet pole to become my stick.
2

I wanted my stick to have rounded ends, like a larger version of the normal herald sticks. I had a drywall plane left over from another woodworking project, so I used it to take the edges off of my stick. I could have used a carving knife or a rasp, but this was faster.

3

 

This is how I started to cut the curve out of the top of my stick, working hard to make the top curve, and lightly taking the wood away farther from the top.

4

This is the rough shape of the top of the staff. I deliberately left a bit of the purple end marking on the very top, to show just how much material was cut away.

5

Here is the rounded stick top after I used sandpaper to even out the rough edges. I prefer a smooth curve.

Once both ends were rounded, I put the stick on newspaper and sprayed primer on it. After the primer dried, I gave the entire stick a coat of white paint.8

 

9

Most herald sticks are just plain white, but I wanted my stick to have my name on it. So I put masking tape on both sides of the stick, to keep the writing neat and even.

This is written in the Elder Futhark runes, and says, “Skald Þórý Veðardóttir”. A skald is a Norse poet and historian, a proclaimer of deeds and a teller of tales.

10

After I completed this project, I ended up wandering around to campfires in the evenings and reciting Sassafrass’ Futhark Song (and some of their other songs, as well.) I realized it was far more fun and educational to be able to show each rune I was talking about. So I stripped the sealer off of the back of my Herald Stick and painted all twenty-four letters on it. I also included the English equivalents.

11

 

Making a Heraldic Plushie

Winged Lioness Rampant
One of the silly things I’ve seen SCA members do is buy (or make) plushies of their Heraldry. Since my Heraldry is a silver winged cat, I doubt I’ll be able to buy an off-the-shelf plushie anytime soon.

After some thought, I realized I could just get a white cat plushie and find a similar bird or bat plushie to use for wings. Since Beanie Babies are small and made from similar materials, I was able to find a white cat and a swan on eBay cheaply. (When I posted about this on my FaceBook, someone mentioned the swan plushie is often given red sequins and presented to a new Pelican.)

A little work with a thread and needle, and I give you Argent, my Winged Lioness plushie. I also decided to make her a collar with my badge, since she should be identifiable as one of my possessions. Badges are the Heraldic equivalent of saying, “This is mine.”

 

All About Paint

paint2Mundanely, 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.