Wolf problems

The super secret peerage scroll has to have wolves on it. I’ve never painted animals before, and wolves aren’t the easiest since it’s remarkably simple to nudge them into looking like a fox or dog. This wolf looks like his face has the wrong taxidermy form inside:


The other one is better. He’s chasing a rabbit!


Painting fur texture is a challenge, but it’s incredibly hard when the subject is so tiny. Those wolves are about an inch high and an inch and a half wide. I’ve been doing them with a 6/0 and a 10/0 liner. I can’t even imagine how people do true miniature painting!

Crewel owl redo

I can’t get over disliking some choices I made on the owl, so I traced it again and started over. Ah, hindsight…


A narrower color palette, more careful stitch effects, and a little more attention to detail are making me happier with this one so far. The owl design (and the deer before it) are from Urban Threads, which has both machine and hand embroidery patterns. I like a lot of the designs – they’re modern and more sophisticated than most needlework stuff available – and, best of all, their hand embroidery patterns are $1 apiece.


Crewel work owl

We have been so sick over here for nearly two weeks with bronchitis, sinus infections, and general respiratory misery. It would be a grand gift of time to work on my secret peerage scroll, but the meds make me loopy and shaky. Detail work being out, I decided to start another crewel project. I’ve got a couple of owl designs in the queue, so I popped one on some orange scrap linen.

I’m still using the colors from the deer project, and I’m not sure about my color choices, particularly the green. The oranges are too close to the ground fabric to really shine. I think I’ll just use it to practice techniques and stitches for the real deal.

I really like the seeding and chain stitches in the eye area. Lattice might be nice for the pupil, especially with the grid of chest feathers that it would echo. On the deer, I didn’t get experimental with the wide range of stitches traditional to crewel embroidery. Consistency can really make or break how good even simple things look, which I’m learning the hard way.

The feathers are alright, but I got too many colors going. The outlines on the body feathers (above the tail in red, blue, and green) create the rhythm through the body, but only if the lines stay really straight and their widths consistent. Straight doesn’t blend well and gets awkward at angles. Stem is lumpy and ruins the angularity.

Shhhhhh…. it’s a secret peerage scroll!

20131215-180036.jpgI’m working on a super secret peerage scroll right now for someone who has never gotten theirs. It’s my first, and I’m trying not to be too daunted by it. The biggest obstacle is me psyching myself out. That’s got to stop since I already have three more queued behind it! For now, nothing I can show you will have the calligraphy showing, since that would make it pretty darn obvious who it’s being done up for…

If this looks big, it is. In Ansteorra, these are supposed to be 16×20 inches, which sounds great until you get in there and figure out how many little decisions go into filling up so much space. This one has ornate foliage, the recipient’s arms, the figure of a knight, animals, and gilding. I’m doing it with gouache on an archival paper for mixed media, Best Bottle sumi ink because I loves it with all my heart, and plenty of 23K gold leaf.

This is the design that gets traced onto the final paper. It took me about eight hours to draw all the fancy spinach out and another couple to do the B with the knight and wolf. I still have more animals to work into the foliage, which should be exciting. I can re-size sketches in Photoshop and tweak them to fit, but drawing them in the foliage makes for awkward positioning, which makes my modern eye all twitchy. Animals are not my artistic thing, and I’m pretty sure I need to think of an appropriate sacrifice to the art gods. Or maybe I could, you know, practice painting fur so they don’t look dumb…

There’s a lot of gilding on this bad boy. All those dots with spider legs up there? Gold. That big old B? Gold. The foofy bits on the white belt and the bar and the frame and the everything? Gold. I desperately love gilded things. They’re amazing and show stopping, and if I am going to be horribly honest about this, I trust in the power of gold leaf to elevate what I feel I lack in subtle illumination skills. I can’t cram five more years of practice into one piece that’s due in January, but I sure can make it extra super shiny.


This is about where I am with the painting. Base colors are down, shading is starting to go in, and I’m trying to take breaks to avoid over-working it and to give myself pep talks that it’s ok that it’s colorful. The colors are slightly darker in person, but it’s rather boisterous. Illumination is an area where I feel insecure, and it doesn’t help that my fellow Ninja Scribal ladies are both super good at painting. One of them has a degree in watercolor. I try not to feel like I make everything out of macaroni and glitter, but I have my days…

But let’s talk more about gilding, shall we? Gesso and I do not get along very well at this time. Maybe it’s Texas weather, maybe it’s missing some secret knowledge of the ancients, maybe it’s simple lack of patience. But if I need to KNOW that something will work, it’s not what I’m turning to. This isn’t an A&S project.┬áKolner makes two popular gilding sizes: Instacoll and Minatum. Minatum is great and comes in an ink consistency as well as a thicker one, but it has a short window for working with it.

On the other hand, Instacoll can be one step (put it down, let it dry until it’s juuuuust dry, breathe on it, gild), or you can let it sit indefinitely and activate it later. This indefinite thing is fun because it lets me get used to building up layers gesso-style for very pillowy surfaces. You can buy the activator, or you can do what I do and just apply another thinned down coat. I’ve used it to great success on vellum as well as paper, and I like it. It works well for big areas, too. As you can see, I’ve already laid the gold dots on the first round of Instacoll. They’re softly domed now, and will get one more coat when I’m ready to gild so that they’re rounded but not to the point where it will be hard to burnish them.

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Complete: Modern Crewel Deer

Kevin came down with a cold in a major way while we were in Boston for him to have a job interview at a university there. While it was sad to spend a paid-for day in a great city we’ve never visited in our hotel room, it’s sadder still that he was contagious. Yuck. The upside to this is that it’s been the perfect opportunity to turn my dull brain and idle hands to finishing my entry into crewelwork. The deer got finished last night during a Sons of Anarchy marathon because I’m just that hardcore with my needlework. The colors are milder in person, but it’s squirrely to photograph… I guess I’ll frame it up and plan on having a collection of modern crewelwork to grace a bathroom or something.