Making an SCA Scroll

This page describes the process of making an SCA scroll.  The scroll in this example is a Baronial service award for Dragonsspine called the Scales of Dragonsspine.  It was creating during the month of July 2002 and presented at Baron's War on August 3rd, 2002 to Daniel Archer the Bear.

The first step in creating any scroll is to do the calligraphy.  You don't want to spend 20 hours illuminating a scroll and then make a mistake in the calligraphy.  The calligraphy only takes an hour or two, so if you do it first and make a big mistake (like leaving out a word), you've only lost a couple hours.

When I callig a scroll, I first create the scroll text in a word processor.  I add the correct names and dates and change any wording, like selecting the first line so that it begins with the capital that I plan to illuminate.  I then print this text using a large font size that approximately matches the size of the letters I'll be creating.  This helps determine where line breaks will occur.  Sometimes I further edit the scroll text so that the line breaks are in good places and so that the name of the recipient doesn't get broken across a line.  The computer printout of the scroll text is then attached to my drawing board and is shown in the upper-left of this picture.

Next, I practice the hand that I'm going to use for the scroll.  In this case, the hand was similar to Gothic, and was taken directly from the pages of the Luttrell Psalter.  I write each letter several times to get used to it.  I then attach this to my drawing board also, and is shown in the upper-left of the picture.  While similar to the Gothic hand given in Drogin, this variation has some interesting flourishes, including the "s" and the punctuation.  The original hand is shown on top and the scroll is shown on the bottom.  The original is more condensed than the work on the scroll, but the hands and flourishes are similar.

When it's time to perform the calligraphy,  I use a dip pen, and literally just dip it into the ink.  I use a clean sheet of paper under my hand so that I don't get any grease on the scroll.  I also use this paper to start the ink flowing in the pen with a couple initial strokes.  I refill the pen every line or so, and take short stretching breaks every 5th line or so.  It's important to keep your writing hand relaxed, so performing some finger and hand stretches really helps.  This particular scroll took about one hour to callig.


The next step is to add details to the capitals on the scroll.  The important capitals, such as the recipients name and the Baron's name are painted in blue over the black ink.  In the Luttrell Psalter, the capitals are drawn using Versal letters and fine line work surrounds the letter.  This fine line work, or filigree, was done using a crow-quill pen, which has a very sharp tip.  It is dipped in a diluted red gouache.  The original, done in blue, is on the left, with the scroll done in red on the right.
After finishing the calligraphy and capitals, the design for the illumination is drawn using pencil.  For miniatures, like the archers at the bottom, a tracing of the original is made.  Then this tracing is transferred to the scroll.  This was also done with the bear at the top using a picture of a bear from "The Hunting Book" by Caston Phoebus, which is an excellent period Bestiary.  A bear climbing a tree was chosen from that book, reduced in size, and the hind leg changed so that the bear would look like it was hanging from the branch rather than climbing it.
The next step is applying the gold leaf.  It's important to apply the gold leaf before any of the other illumination since the gold leaf will stick to the gouache (the fine filigree is too small for the gold to stick to, so it's ok to do it whenever you want).

To apply golf leaf, the areas are first painted using gesso or "size".  In this case, a special acrylic size mix is used (created by Mistress Tatiana Pavlovna Sokolova) which works in the low humidity of Colorado.  After letting the size dry for several hours, you can then blow on it through a straw to moisten the surface, then lay a sheet of gold leaf over it and burnish it.  The gold leaf will stick to the moistened size.

In addition to the initial capital B, about half the oak leaves are covered in gold, and all of the acorns are covered in gold.  Finally, the dragon scales in the badge of the order are covered in gold.

In this picture, the gold leaf has been applied.  Next, the illumination is started.    Schmincke calligraphy gouache is used for the painted colors.  A scrap paper is used to test the colors as they are mixed to get colors that closely match the original work.  Also, testing with a scrap paper helps get the consistency of the gouache just right.  You want it thick enough to be opaque, but thin enough to flow nicely.

The pencil design is used as a guide, but the brush is allowed to flow and turn to create nice shapes.  Thicker white gouache is used to paint the veins of the leaves.  And a thick brown gouache is used to paint the veins on the gold leaves.  Basically, I mix a color and then paint all of the elements that use that particular color.  Then I lighten or darken the paint to highlight details.  

The bear, for example, has many different shades of brown to give is a three dimensional shape.  This shows the completed bear after all shading and white work.
In this picture, then greens have been applied.  Getting the consistency of the green gouache just right to cover large areas like the trunk of the tree takes some experimenting.

Green was chosen for the tree instead of the original blue because the recipient's colors are green and gold.

After all of the solid colors have been applied, the white work is done.  White work is the process of shading the illumination using dilute white gouache, and then adding fine white lines to the details.  Here, a closeup of the tree trunk is shown.  A dilute wash is used in the middle of the trunk, and when that is completely dry, a fine white line is drawn down the center to match the original (on the bottom, which is blue instead of green).

Next, the illumination of the archers along the bottom was painted.  The colors of the scroll (on the bottom) look a bit redder due to the light and flash of the camera.  In person, the colors are much closer to the original on top.  

The fine line work is done using a crow-quill pen dipped in black ink.  These fine lines really help finish the work.  The line work adds the expressions to the faces, the hands, and the bows and bow-strings.

Finally, more white work is done to bring out the details in the clothing and to shade the images.  A bit of diluted gray is added to the hair, faces and shadows.

I like adding the badge of the award to the scroll somewhere.  In this scroll, I decided to add the badge as part of the archery scene, since the badge makes such a great bull's eye.

You'll also see a very tiny badge around the neck of the archer on the very right of the picture shown above.

I always add my maker's mark somewhere on the scroll.  On this scroll, there are actually two: the "M" next to the grass on the right side of the base of the archery target, and my device, a silver owl, peering out of the tree trunk as in the original shown above.

Next, the diapering is added to the background of the initial capital.  A simple grid of gold squares was selected for the pattern and is similar to many examples in the Luttrell Psalter.  In fact, it's very similar to the diaper work used on the outside of the capital B from the original work, shown on the bottom.

To achieve the grid effect, the entire area is first painted with gold ink (Windsor-Newton).  Then a series of red lines are painted over the gold horizontally and vertically to create the grid.  The leaves are outlined in red and also traced using a crow-quill dipped in black ink.

Note also the white work in the green areas of the capital, although not as detailed as in the original.

Line fillers are added to fill any white space at the end of each paragraph of text.  Fillers used in the Luttrell Psalter were chosen.  Here, the original is shown on top with the one used on the scroll shown on the bottom.

Detailed white work was again used to highlight the filler.

And here is the final scroll!  The page from the Luttrell Psalter that inspired the overall design is shown on the bottom.

Total time, about 20 hours over several days.



Oh yes, one final step.  This is the best part and makes all of the detailed work well worth it.  It's the awarding of the scroll to the recipient!

This is afternoon court at Baron's War, with Baron Timothy congratulating Daniel Archer the Bear for his great service.  The scroll is being held and read by the herald, Mistress Tatiana.

I always like to personalize my scrolls to the recipient (like the bears and archers in this scroll).  The look on their face when they receive the scroll is priceless.

I hope this description of my work will help inspire you to go create scrolls yourself and help raise the level of art on all scrolls in the society.

  by Marko Evanovich Panfilov, 7-Aug-2002, A.S. 37