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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Shameless Self-Promotion! "The Poet's Creed" Illumination and Namo Mandos Character Biography

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Shameless Self-Promotion! "The Poet's Creed" Illumination and Namo Mandos Character Biography

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art lives
It's been so long since I've had something to creative share that I've almost forgotten how to do it! First, the SWG's fabulous biography writer heartofoshun took the month off for the holidays, so I got to step into her very-hard-to-fill shoes. I've authored character biographies before, but they've always been emergency OMG-less-than-a-day's-notice! affairs. (In fact, I'd written about Námo before, so this one is building on that early and very inadequate version.) It was nice to get to spend the time on this one and run down some avenues of inquiry that I wouldn't have had time to pursue otherwise. The bio is loooong--I guess I figured that if I hardly ever get to do this, then I better make it count--but I hope it is useful and maybe a little bit interesting to other nerds who like thinking about these things. Námo Mandos's biography can be found on the SWG here.

Because newsletters like to grab my life by the scruff of the neck and thresh it violently from side to side, I was also responsible for the Barony of Bright Hills' newsletter this month (long story ... I was supposed to step down as deputy three years ago and didn't and this is what I get), and of course, it was also due on the first of the month. (It was also a day late--ha!) Anyway, despite pleading with some other artistic types for help with cover art, I didn't get any replies and had an almost-finished illumination of my own. So I finished that and used it. The upside to having spent almost all of my waking moments for the past day working on newsletters is that I actually got an illumination finished.

'The Poet's Creed' illumination by Dawn Felagund

This piece is called "The Poet's Creed" and uses a lettering style found in the 15th-century Bible of Borso d'Este. It is ink, acrylic, and gold leaf on Bristol board.

Back when I first became interested in illumination, Tristan (my laurel and also friend) used to bring illumination books to Friday night SCA practices, and I would look through them. Once, I saw a scrap of text done in the same style, only it was all blue with gold letters and the same delicate whitework. I fell in love ... but we both forgot what book it was in. When I rediscovered the style in one of my books, I made up my mind not to let it escape again.

Tristan and I were doing a demo at the Walter's Art Museum last year, and I was demonstrating gilding using honey, which would have been used in the medieval period to adhere the gold leaf to the vellum. I needed a piece that was easy to draw in a hurry, used a good amount of gold leaf, and that I wouldn't mind being inevitably ruined as it was handled. I chose this style and, sort of off the cuff, came up with "amuse, inquire, provoke, inspire" as, what I said at the time, were my goals as a writer. The piece was indeed ruined from being handled so much at the demo--honey takes a lot longer to set than modern size does!--but I really liked how it was turning out before gold and honey got smeared all over the page, so I redid it with modern size and finished it.

In my classroom, I have a wall for "Poetry of the People," and it is destined to hang there as soon as I can get a cheap frame for it and bother Tristan to help me mat it.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • That is stunning. Absolutely gorgeous.

    ETA: I will definitely read the bio when I'm actually awake enough to study it. I did not have a restful night's sleep last night, and I'm crashing now.

    Edited at 2012-01-03 01:18 am (UTC)
    • Thank you, Indy! It was a fun project; I'd actually do something in the same style again. (Usually, I'm so tired of an illumination when I'm finished that I never want to do anything like it again--not right away anyway! :)

      Namo isn't going anywhere, so no worries on not reading him right away. Good night--hope you rest well tonight! :)
  • That. Is. AWESOME! I never tried gilding with honey! Wow, was it harder?

    Love the whitework, too.

    Edited at 2012-01-03 01:26 am (UTC)
    • Thank you, Dreamflower! That is high praise indeed from one who not only knows what goes into illumination but is really good at it too! :D

      Gilding with honey was definitely more challenging. I normally use modern size (the Mona Lisa brand), which I usually have to apply two coats of in order to get the gold to stick uniformly. Honey went on much thicker and dried much slower as a result. I can usually handle gilded pieces pretty soon after applying the gold, but the honey took forever to dry ... so since I was actively encouraging people at the demo to touch the goldwork to see what it felt like, meant that my piece was a big smeary mess by the end of the afternoon! :D Once it dried, it looked the same as any gilded piece, although one of the other scribes in the barony warns me that sometimes ants will eat through the gold or the paper to get at the honey. o.O So yeah ... I stick with the modern stuff except for when I'm going the authentic route for demos! :)
  • This is stunning! I have done some gilding in the past when I was working on picture framing. I haven't tried illumination before. Hmmm...possibilities in my future perhaps? But I really love not only your technique in this, but also what it says.

    And how funny that we were just talking about Namo/Mandos this morning - LOL. Well, he's one of my all-time favorites, so I'll have to read your bio when I catch up from all of my year-end crap.

    - Erulisse (one L)
    • I love illumination. I wish I had more time for it. I love painting tiny details (I learned to paint at Games Workshop, painting models) of the sort that can give one a headache and hand cramp. ;) That there's so many different styles (and it easily pairs with calligraphy, which I also love) only enhances the appeal for me; a single illumination takes so long to finish that I usually don't want to do anything like it again right away. So, yes, you should try it! :D

      The Namo Mandos conversation was pure coincidence! :D I was writing the newsletter article about how to use the Characters list, and I remembered that I hadn't checked in a while to see if any stories had been flagged.
      • I also learned to paint via 28mm miniatures. I still have them all over my house, both painted and unpainted. I can't believe how much I learned doing that for several years, and I still love painting them - I love that extreme detail work a lot.

        I read through your bio this morning. I have to agree with it, given the citations, etc. But I guess I've always felt that there is a deep underlying compassion that Namo has and is rarely allowed to show. So rather than unfeeling and distant, I see him as compassionate and loving in his own way, when not constrained by the desires and requirements of Manwe. Gotta love different viewpoints :-)

        The original descriptions of the dwellings of Mandos and Nienna are rather frightening and would more grace the likes of Melkor in many aspects.

        You did a good job on this bio, despite the fact that I want a warm and fuzzy god of death - LOL.

        - Erulisse (one L)

        Edited at 2012-01-03 03:38 pm (UTC)
        • So rather than unfeeling and distant, I see him as compassionate and loving in his own way

          Of course. You know (I hope!) that I'm one of the last people who's about to bludgeon you over the head with "canon" for not writing a character a certain way. "Tolkien said that Namo was a meany-poo so he has to be that way!!!1! *thwack! thwack! thwack!*" ;) The bios are really meant to give a pretty comprehensive run-down of what the texts say about a character; Oshun has set a precedent for Deep Thinking about them as well, so I tried to follow in her footsteps there.

          As I noted in the bio, from a historiographical perspective (which I often use in my own interpretation of the texts for fanfic purposes), it's really impossible to "know" Namo, since the texts themselves are from the [limited, biased] points of view of Elven narrators. It's similar to the argument I make to folks who want to label my Feanorians as OOC: What motive would Rumil and/or Pengolodh have to write them positively? Versus negatively? Namo definitely would fall into the latter camp, imo.

          What I find interesting--and what I didn't have time to get into for the bio (and it probably belongs anyway in an essay for the regular Reference section)--is what makes people want to see him a particular way. What makes people want to have him gentler, more merciful? Or go to the other extreme and make him sadistic or sociopathic?
          • What makes people want to have him gentler, more merciful? Or go to the other extreme and make him sadistic or sociopathic?

            I don't know about the sociopathic version, but as for the gentler and more merciful version - who doesn't want their judge to have a heart and be understanding and sympathetic?

            I suspect the sociopath comes from Tolkien's description of his domicile and the basic lack of understanding and aloofness that he gives Namo.

            My views of the Valar are very definitely my own, perhaps colored a bit by Fiondil but, still very much my own. In my ranking, Aule and Namo are the Valar I enjoy the most, and Nienna comes in there as well. I have no trust in Irmo, although Este is a good egg. Manwe - well, I don't trust him at all, and Varda follows along too closely for my comfort level. Others? Well, they exist - LOL.

            It was a well-done bio and I enjoyed reading it very much.

            - Erulisse (one L)
  • The illumination is beautiful, Dawn! So vibrant! The technical aspects of the art are beyond me, so I am appreciating the pure aesthetics of it. I can easily see this in your classroom.

    Ah, Jolly Ol' Námo! Now that is an authoritative bio, for sure. I've read half of it over coffee this morning and will continue later, but certainly got to one of the more chilling aspects of the Doomsman: his desire to put Eärendil to death. Ho, ho, ho. I'm kicking myself a bit here as I had a notion of a one panel cartoon featuring Stinky Pete, Frêd, and their big boss (Námo). Highly irreverent, as you might guess, but dang. It would have been a perfect fit for the bio!
    • Thank you, Pandë! The aesthetics are what matters. Most people could give a hoot about things like how the gold gets stuck on (and I'm so modern in my materials that it's not even interesting from a historical perspective); it's the "oh shiny!" effect that counts! :D This is one illumination that definitely has that effect, too.

      One thing I wanted to do that I ran out of time for was talk to some authors who had worked with particularly, ummm, notable versions of Namo to get their take on him from a fanfic perspective. You and Stinky Pete et al were definitely on the short list! So if you ever draw that comic, I'd love to add it to the bio!
  • I didn't get around to saying that I loved the illumination. It's a lovely concept also. No wonder I like your work. I love that amuse is first and inquire is second; the order works for me perfectly. Of course, one hopes to inspire, also, but a little wicked provocation comes before that even. Yay, Dawn!

    I wrote you my opinion immediately yesterday of the bio on the SWG, as soon as I wrote it, but think I will cut and paste it here because very few people dig into "comments" there I think, aside from the authors.

    [I must be losing my mind--I went to find it and I can't locate it anywhere. I must have lost it when I posted it.] The short version: brilliant. I loved it. I read it twice already. I'll write another comment on it on the SWG. Oh, yeah! Almost forgot. You showed me up with it also. You are such an over-achiever! I'll forgive you because he really needed a definitive bio. And anyway, I'm not competitive. Oh, no.

    Edited at 2012-01-03 04:58 pm (UTC)
    • I didn't get around to saying that I loved the illumination.

      Thanks! :) My way of thinking about the order (aside from the fact that it rhymed this way! :D) was that I started writing mostly for fun, then next thing I know, I'm getting serious about it in that order: trying to answer questions, trying to rile people up, trying to inspire generally.

      I must be losing my mind--I went to find it and I can't locate it anywhere.

      I never got it. :( And I checked your reviews, and it's not recorded there either. (I have been known to mess up the links on the character bios so that reviews go to the wrong author, silly person that I am.)

      You showed me up with it also.

      Pssh! Please! I write one bio every four years, and you write one every month. I've been thinking about this character in preparation for this bio since I wrote the original two years ago. And he's a character I'm very much interested in.

      So I wholly disagree with you on that. ;)

      But I am glad that you liked it--thank you!
  • That illumination is fabulous! Too bad the gold won't print properly or I'd print it out for my desk. I love how the delicate whitework is contrasted with the bold letters.

    And yay, Námo bio! I'm looking forward to reading that. As I've told Oshun in my reviews to her nominated bios, I've neglected the character biographies so far (read: ignored them). I'd expected something more or less like the "Encyclopedia of Arda" entries, so I thought, why bother? Then I finally got around to reading a few bios during MEFA season and was surprised how many odd and obscure details Oshun dug out that you don't find anywhere else (aside from the sources, of course)! So now I'm all excited about the biographies. XD
  • Thank you very much for the biography of Namo! It's a great thing to have and helps to clarify my thinking about him again--a lot of the details had sunk to the bottom of the muddy depths of my brain. (I tried to print it out at first, but the printer-friendly version doesn't seem to work?)
    The Poet's Creed is very appropriate--your work does do all that!
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