So there I was, early in the morning on a cool day at Panteria. I was just waking up, still wrapped in blankets in bed, curled up with my partner. I opened my phone and noticed I had an email waiting for me. It was from our Tyger Clerk of the Signet and it was an assignment. Lazily I opened it up because getting an assignment is kind of like getting a present and I needed to know immediately. As I read through the details my excitement started to skyrocket. Female fighter, OTC, I think you might want this one, and then Juliana de Essex. I turned to my partner and gave him a gentle wake-up smack and told him about my assignment. “JULIANA IS GETTING HER OTC!!!!!!! AND I GOT THE ASSIGNMENT!!!!!”
And from then on, all the way until July when the assignment was due, I was a tornado of panic and excitement. I was not willing to give up the assignment (I didn’t even want to ask her husband if she had preferences or had ever mentioned dream scroll ideas – in case he said she had a preferred scribe). Of course, I did ask him and not only did he give me the information I desired, he seemed happy I got the assignment.
I’ve had the pleasure to work with Juliana at the PAL practices and at events and I felt we became fast friends. Her persona is early Persian but her husband had mentioned that she might like icons of the sun and Simurgh (a mythological Persian Phoenix). I began my search looking for any manuscript that Simurgh appeared.
The most promising manuscripts were The Persian Book of Kings (Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp), which was an epic poem (I think 50,000 lines long) written in the 10th century and recreated over and over again. The version I chose was illuminated in the 16th century, a little late for her persona but it fit in every other way. The poem told both mythological and historical stories and this version was lavishly (and I do mean lavishly) illuminated. But, I couldn’t find a complete digitized copy of this manuscript and I became very frustrated in my search.
I ended up buying a physical copy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s hardcover edition of the book online (a used copy and then I used credit cards points and a gift card because I’m not made of money!) and I have no regrets. This book is incredible, even if I didn’t buy it to use to inspire a scroll, it’s beautiful just to look at! There were a few pages that had Simurgh on it (and it’s my favorite version of him with all his colorful glory!) and I ended up using a fake arabic script – for the very first time – to match the feeling of the words on the page.
The not-so-good – I am ready for my illuminations representing people to start looking like what I picture in my mind. I think this turned out… okay but, there is definitely room for improvement. I know it’s a matter of practice but I really like putting people on scrolls and it always either doesn’t look like it’s in the style of the manuscript or it doesn’t look like the person. It’s a real struggle. I know with practice, this will continue to improve.
Also, although I think the rocks on the side of the mountain look good, they probably would be improved with more careful blending or a combination of blending and hatching. There is a debate whether the original art was done with hatching or blending the paint or a combination and if I had good digitized images, I would have a better idea. I do think I captured the feeling of the piece though.
The good – This was so fun to do! I got to use a wide range of colors and try a new blending technique. I think honestly and truly, the best part of this was how fun it was. But I also liked how the gold turned out – I did an enormous area of gold gouache and I was able to make it look pretty solid. When I lay gold paint I do a layer and no matter how thick I make it, it always seems to look splotchy, so I have started to do two layers with a lot of success. I also liked the finer details on Simurgh like his back feathers and spots. I like the way he looks.
Other – I tried a new hand, a faux arabic hand that I got from some scribes online. At first I was a little frustrated learning it but I think after some practice, it came out well. I always do a line of calligraphy and hate it but once you get a few lines down it starts to flow together. I tend to like the hands that I can be a little free with and I think this one was great for that. I do think I need to work on my overall spacing of lines. Most manuscripts have lines that either fill out until the end, have spacers, or are consistent in another way. I really wanted to keep Matthew’s words intact because they are awesome** I’m going to type them below I like them that much.
Materials: Gouache, Iron Gall Ink by Ian the Green, Calli red ink, on Bristol
Source: The Persian Book of Kings (Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp), 16th century
Words by Lord Matthew MacGyver
Your majesties, we, your order stand as one
Now baking In Malagentian Sun
Your Tigers Combatant fierce and tested
Admit that some of us are bested
By How Juliana De Essex finds her fun
Her arms of brilliant solar rays
Are last seen by many men she slays
And bruised we turn away to hide
Attempt to save our battered pride
From that evil spear with which she plays
King Ozur, Queen fortune to you we plead
At this the 33rd GNE
Acknowledge how she has grown stronger
So that she will beat us up no longer
And perhaps harass the Chivalry
Given this 13th day of July Anno Societatis LIV
in our Province of Malagentia