Monday, December 26, 2011

On the wing

Milkweed, a monarch caterpillar and a monarch chrysalis painted on the wings of a monarch butterfly.

I started with a base coat of white acrylic paint that had not been thinned. The tiny scales on the butterfly wing are hydrophobic and cause water based paints to bead up. Thus, acrylic (which is my least favorite paint medium) provided a good base coat. I used watercolor gouache and gold paint to execute the rest of the miniature. Not terribly detailed, to be sure, but hey: it was a first attempt at a new and really challenging substrate.

The most difficult portion of this is that you cannot sketch on the wing without putting the graphite straight through the wing so I sketched an image to scale and then free painted everything on the wing.

Additionally, you can’t hold on to the butterfly to keep it from moving without damaging the wing edges. I used a few small flat-bottom glass pebbles placed around the butterfly to help hold it still. Don’t attempt this is a breezy room or on an evening when you don’t have a lot of patience to spare.

In future attempts I plan to work on to of a piece of Styrofoam so that I can pin supports all the way around the edges of the butterfly to hold it in place. With the challenge of "the damn thing just keeps moving!" resolved, I should be able to execute a more detailed miniature.

Disclaimer: No butterflies have been or ever will be harmed in the process of me turning them into art. I grow butterflies for a living and have a somewhat unending supply as they only live about 2 weeks to a month. All butterflies, both whole or in part, have all lived their natural and happy lives of flower sipping, mating, whizzing about and egg laying before they died of natural causes, mostly just plain old age.

Saturday, December 24, 2011



Commissioned by Jill S.

Time to execute: 90 minutes

Materials: watercolor pencil, watercolor gouache, bristol board

Size: 2 in x 3 in

Friday, December 23, 2011


con trails; image
streaks of incandescent light
smeared across
a pale sky
where the swollen sun
falls away
more orange than citrus.

and the radio
swells notes of karma
like god talking
in whispers
beyond the windows,
streaked with dirt
and insects,
fields stream by
in swaths of green

i note the geography,
the failing light
tracing the macadam
and ascending markers
counting off the miles.

i read the distance
i create.

it separates me slowly
into layers,
traces meridians
and parallels
in my faith.

somewhere deep
i close my eyes
and pray to return
by the old roads.

turn me southeast
and run me from this sunset.

to the home
i love best.

April 10 2005

Kristen Gilpin

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A wrought iron horror

Crouching on the corner of Highway 17 and Highway 40, there is a place of strange wonders where a giant iron rooster slowly rusts in the Florida sunlight. The devil’s mariachi band, a herd of license plate armadillo, a lonely carousel horse, broken pottery and more pieces of kitsch wait behind the gates. This shop has always caught my eye so I finally stopped about a year ago and roamed around with my camera.

I love roadside attractions. I bought a bottle of water and a jar of gallberry honey but I took away a memory.

Little Bird

Within the cage ofDscn0023
bone and breath, 
my heart:
a small and fluttering thing
of quick movements;
staccato rhythm.

Descending depths unknown,
I let it lead;
my small canary
with nails clipped short.

When breath leaves
it will fall quietly;
sing my warning
with silence piercing.
No perch left
to hold.

I can taste
the racing pace
of fear,
coppery and strange.

my heart,
through years and ages;
a single candle
to light
the endless paths.

until you cannot;
move unhindered
beneath deepest layers
of earth and sky
where fingers of rock
curl and rise
in half light
like hands
of gods forgotten.

little bird,
only at the last,
and within that pool of light
beside your empty cage
I will know:
how the air
has grown strange,
how the path
has led me astray,
how the day
has ended.

Go before me
and I will know.

Jan 19, 2005

Kristen Gilpin

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Know Me

is where I keep
the heart
that is not
on my sleeveDSCN0323
and soft
as babies.

Creamy pages,
napkin tatters,
thick journals.
will know me

are places
where I speak
where I weep
in characters
and symbols
during late nights
when headlights
play across
the blinds.

Rustling papersPeacock 2
will remember me

My heart
will be found
pressed between pages
some day
long hence,
dried like beans,
like wedding flowers,
like butterfly wings.

I hope
that it is
your soft hands
that recover
these moments.
Collect them
like relics
and gather them
to understand.

Know me
even when IPeacock
have forgotten
the tenor
of tears,
the breath
of living,
the miracle
of survival.

know me.


April 19 2006

Kristen Gilpin

Monarch Metamorphosis

Commission for Jill S.

Time to execute: Image panels less than 2 hours per panel. Calligraphy panel about 5 minutes.

Materials: Watercolor pencils, watercolor gouache, ink, bristol board.

All images based on photographs take by Jill S.

Chedai’s AoA

What do you do for an award scroll for a Mongolian persona? About ten years ago I wasn’t sure either. Mongolian manuscripts are rare, especially ones with images or illumination. The script is very unique and there aren’t many examples to peruse.

My friend Beatrice and I were at a loss so we went with something that felt eastern to middle eastern in appearance.

Recipient: Chedai Negai

Time to execute: Miniature 2 hours. Calligraphy 45 minutes.

Materials: watercolor gouache, gold paint, ink, parchment paper.

Artists: Illumination- Maol Mide ingen Medra / Calligraphy- Beatrice de Winslow

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Old Groves

In old groves
the rows still run straight,
but that is all.
There can be no more chases
down the open lanes,
no more games.

Palmettos wave
and wildflowers bloom a carpet
when once the dirt
was kept clear
by constant feet.
Tall weeds grow
as kings unchecked
winding up
to strangle
in the crooks
of old limbs.

Once, all that was native
was tilled under
to nourish trees
that had no business
growing here.
Creeks were
to rush water
at thirsty roots
and there was prosperity
for a time.

Fortunes were made here
where the orange fruit
of a dozen seasons
now hangs unpicked,
mouldering away.
Brilliant hues
fade dusty
and sun washed
in the dry air.

is the only knowledge
of a tree.

Still they hunch
with limbs spreading
and spill
into the tumble
of weeds
and furtive rodents
as nature rolls back;
a wide wave
of unstoppable green.

one must look close
to know
the past of this place.
One must remember
times long gone
to taste sweet fruit,
to see proud trees,
and to know
the harsher, less certain
life of those
newly come to this land.

Tumbledown trees
are the only pioneers
that remain,
their orange memories

The smell of the river lingers
in this bend of orchard
now bisected with macadam
and patch-worked out
for emerald lawns
of new homes
that will look nothing
like an old farmhouse
that crouches still
in the distance.

Cats have taken
up root there
and gone feral
where the roof pours
sunlit pools upon
an ancient hardwood floor.
They lounge,
in a breeze of
orange and river
ever rolling
through the yawn
of broken windows
to carry the rumble
of a freeway
in the distance.

March 4, 2008
Kristen Gilpin

Blue Woman

The grackles on a wire
are puffed twice their size
beneath slate skies
that promise a cold
that climbs into your bones
and curls in the sinew.

Winter days
and I am a blue woman
in a blue sweater
struck with memory
that coalesces
with my breath.

Ice on the panes
and a memory of snow
on sepia streets
and I am far away
in another place,
another time,
with a blue girl
who dreams
of the sub tropics.

I want to reach back,
reach in
to that blue girl
with a hard heart
that still can be broken.

The southern winds
will thaw you,
the sands burnish you smooth
and the tropics will
slip around
quiet as a prayer.
The sea shall
take these memories
like an offering.

But blue girls
and black birds
all fare the same
on cold days.

On frozen mornings
there are grackles on a wire
too chilled to fly
and I am a cold woman
with a blue heart
too sad to remember.

Jan 12, 2010
Kristen Gilpin

Forget me not

 PICT1407Commission piece for Jill S.

Time: 2 hours

Size: 2 inches by 3 inches

Materials: watercolor pencil and watercolor gouache on Bristol board

This is number 4 of a series that I painted as part of a commission. The other pieces in the series had subject matter of other flowers like amaryllis and coneflower. I was pretty keep on the amaryllis and hope I can get a photo later.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Azrec’s Ring of Chivalry

Recipient: Azrec del Aragon

Award: Ring of Chivalry from the Barony of Wyvernwoode

Time to execute: 4 hours

Based upon: Can’t remember which manuscript I saw this border in but it was simple and attractive.

This award recognizes those who have exhibited outstanding courtesy and chivalry. It is voted upon by all of the ladies of the Barony of Wyvernwoode.

Breakdown: Aluminum leaf is still not fun. It is like gilding with tin foil. On the upside, it won’t tarnish in 2 hours. Also, I could really use some more calligraphy time. I feel like I am getting rusty.

Duncan’s Duchy

Recipient: Duncan Arthur Ross the Black

Award: Duchy

Time to execute: About 100 hours

Artwork Based upon: Border work design based upon the Codex Vindobonensis 1856 a Burgundian manuscript that dates to about 1470. The color scheme was converted to a blue and silver base to be more Trimarian and the new colors are based more in the style of the "Black Hours," for Rome use. Belgium, Bruges, c. 1470 (MS M.493). The center vignette of ships departing comes from the Chronicle of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem

Calligraphy and Illumination: All me on this one. Which is crazy when you look at the picture below of the framed and finished piece sitting on a regular length sofa.

Text: PICT0084

Twice has the valiant and noble Duncan Arthur Ross the Black won the Crown of his Lady Love, Larissa, bringer of love and beauty, who inspired his Chivalry.  Twice has he won the Crown for this Lady who inspired his sword and shield to great speed and strength. Twice has he ruled with wisdom, strength, and courtesy.  Now his reign is ended and his people clamor that such worthiness is rewarded. Our wish is to make it known now and forever that  We, Ari Tyrbrandr and Sibilla Dane, King and Queen of Trimaris, hearby name Our good Duncan Arthur Ross the Black as a Duke of Our Realm, accompanied with every dignity, honor, joy and burden thereof. In Accordance, We place our hands to this document in joy and celebration to declare this to all assembled

 PICT0097 What are those tiny, tiny words?

Tiny writing on the flags and pennants on the ships can be seen in some photos. The latin text translated by Master Octavio reads:

Decedam a te numquam

Dero te numquam

Ero desultor aio numquam

Efficam te lacrimare numquam

Vale dicam aio numquam

Mendacium nocere tibi numquam dicam

This can be roughly translated into English as:

Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

Yep, I’m that kind of friend.

Breakdown: This page took much longer than expected and the execution time crept up over 100 hours. I did get to listen to two entire audio-book novels which really helped me to make it through rather than dousing the page in kerosene and cackling as I burned it on the driveway.  The border came out better than I expected but it was insanely tedious and I kept losing interest in portions of the vignette and had to keep jumping around to stay enthusiastic and interested. The imagebest part was the rick roll. That was the part that made all the effort worthwhile.

The only other good part of this experience was the look on Duncan’s face when he  saw the scroll as it was presented in court. I have to admit, that pretty much made my day (ok, that and the Court Barony didn’t hurt).

The frame weighed a ton but I decided to hold it up myself so I could watch his reaction. I mostly couldn’t feel my arms anyway after all of the hours of painting.

The lesson gleaned from this piece seems to mostly be: Never again work on a scale this large.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Johann’s Grant of Arms


This Grant of Arms was created for HL Johann Craft and was bestowed upon him at Gulf Wars by King Lorcann and Queen Grainne .

The calligraphy for the page was executed by HL Gwenhwfyr ber Cain.

Things we lost in the fire.


These are the only photos that seem to exist of a two page spread I created as a Pelican scroll for Baron Meredudd. The photos were taken before the final details and the calligraphy were added.

The text read:

Each legend begins with one man.

One man with a love of Trimaris and a heart strong enough to bring change can use his hands and his heart to help shape a Kingdom. Through long years of service, this man ensures the betterment of his land and by his deeds this man commits his name to the tide of history. Such a man is Maredudd ap Cynan.
With your guidance we improve Trimaris. By your voice we know Trimaris. With your drum we celebrate Trimaris.

As your works have served only to improve and advance Our Kingdom, We Gunnar and Anastasia do hereby elevate you to the Order of the Pelican by these letters patent with all rights and privileges thereto appertaining on this twenty seventh day of May in the Thirty Fifth year of our Society.image

A few months ago, Baron Meredudd and Baroness Cheri’s home caught fire and the damage was quite extensive. The home was left unlivable, and they lost many things in the fire. This scroll, and many other of their SCA awards were lost.

If you by any chance have, or know someone who has a photo of this piece when finished, please contact me. I would really like a copy.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ysabela's Trefoil Argent

July 25, 2011

Trefoil Argent for Baronessa Ysabela Celestina Manrique de Palma y Majora inspired by Dream of Nebuchadnezzr from St. Jerome, Commentary on Daniel circa 950. Executed in Spain by the illuminator Maius.

Adelheid’s Laurel (details)

Before text and arms were added. Details of gilding and paint.

Inspired by several leaves of the 15th century German manuscript Stefan Lochner Gebetbuch.

Illumination for Laurel scroll of Meisterin Adelheid Leinwater, 2011. 24k gold, watercolor gouache and a number of hand ground pigments with a gum Arabic binder.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

A Spear for Caleb

Caleb Spear
Working with one other person on a project can be difficult enough but this particular piece proves that eight artists can combine their efforts to create a beautiful final product.
Creating a personalized award for someone with an early period persona can sometimes be a challenge. I have worked to create rune stones and decorative shields for other early personas. The additional challenge to this piece was that due to military service, the recipient had lived in five SCA Kingdoms. How do you represent all of that?
This spear was created as a knighting “scroll” for Caleb Hogg. The production of this piece included eight artisans from five SCA kingdoms. The pieces of the final product all met up for the first time at Gulf Wars, were assembled and presented to Caleb when he was knighted on the field.
First, the spear head was cast by Iarl Brian Mac Brand of Meridies and mailed to Trimaris. The text of the award was crafted by Mistress Gwenllyan verch Morgan of Trimaris and is based upon the prologue of Beowulf. Next I secured a six foot length of pine, marked out a careful spiral down the length and then used a burnt sienna paint to apply the runes to the haft. The original plan had been to wood burn the runes onto the haft the the wood burner was just not equal to the task.
Weavers in five SCA Kingdoms each wove a campaign band that could be tied onto the spear. Each band was woven in a design chosen by the weaver and was crafted in the colors of the Kingdom which it was representing.
  • From Caid, Mistress Aldgytha of Ashwood wove a blue and white band decorated with the crescents of Caid.
  • From Meridies, Mistress Gabriella Francesca Quelja de Warre called Calleja
  • wove a beautiful black and white band and decorated the loose ends with beads.
  • From Gleann Abhann, Mistress Brigit Olesdottir of Gleann Abhann card wove a band in burgundy and black with rams heads and the text “Honor above all”.
  • From Atlantia, Mistress Genevieve d'Aquitaine of Atlantia wove a zigzaging band of blue and white with a white seashell at the end.
  • Lastly, from Trimaris, Queen Grainne ingen Aloin meic Cerbaill of Trimaris tablet wove a band of blue and white silk.
IMG_1963Pieces arrived from the various artisans and were delivered to me at Gulf Wars. All of these far flung artisans used their care and skill to create a truly unique final product. The spear was presented to Caleb at his knighting by King Lorcann and Queen Grainne of Trimaris.
The runes transliterate as follows:
"A wayfarer should not walk unarmed, But have his weapons to hand: He knows not when he may need a spear, Or what menace meet on the road." – Havamal
LO, praise of the prowess
Of mighty warriors, of spear-armed thanes,
in days long sped, we have heard,
and what honor the athelings won!
To Us a mighty hero was sent,
a son to this land, to favor the folk,
feeling the woe of his enemies.
So is named the Wielder of Wonder, with world's renown.
Famed was this Caleb Hogg and far flew the boast of him,
a son of Trimaris and many lands.
So becomes it to Us to quit him well by honor and gift,IMG_2021
by lauded deeds shall he have honor in every clan.
Then shall we bear him over the ocean's billow,
loving clansmen, as late he charged Us,
and therefore bind him in glory as nam├ęd
To the rank of Knight in the Society for Creative Anachronism
For We Lorcann and Grainne
the Crown of these three-shored lands
Do set it forth in written word.
and have these runes cut in Anno Societas XLV
Upon the 19th day of March.

After the spear was presented, I spoke with Caleb and let him know just how many people had worked on this project and he was truly humbled by the great effort that had been put forth for his knighting.
My thanks for the artistry and professionalism exhibited by all of the artisans who helped to make this unique project come alive. Each of these fine people is excellent at their craft.
  • Spear Head: Iarl Brian Mac Brand of Darkwood, KSCA, OL of Meridies
  • Tablet woven band, Caid: Mistress Aldgytha of Ashwood of Caid
  • Tablet woven band, Meridies: Mistress Gabriella Francesca Quelja de Warre (Calleja) of Meridies
  • Tablet woven band, Trimaris: Queen Grainne ingen Aloin meic Cerbaill of Trimaris
  • Tablet woven band, Gleann Abhann: Mistress Brigit Olesdottir of Gleann AbhannIMG_1738
  • Tabby woven band, Atlantia: Mistress Genevieve d'Aquitaine of Atlantia
  • Text based on Beowulf: Mistress Gwenllyan verch Morgan of Trimaris
  • Spear haft, transliteration and rune cutting by Mistress Maol Mide ingen Medra OL, OP of Trimaris
It was reported to me that upon returning home for the war, Caleb walked around his home to very carefully choose a spot for the display of his spear. He selected a corner that contained another spear, flung that one aside and then placed his knighting spear in that prominent place. Nodding to himself, he just stood and stared.

Monday, May 02, 2011

From Ethiopia, with Love

Sometimes I get challenging requests and I have to use a lot of imagination to find an inspiration for an illuminated page. In 2009 I was asked to create an illuminated page for my friend Simon who was being elevated to the Order of the Pelican. Simon’s persona hails from Ethiopia.

simon I searched and came across some photos online that showed illuminated manuscripts being displayed by clerics at the Monastery of Na’akuto La’ab just outside Lalibela, Ethiopia. The church at Na’akuto La’ab is a brick building built entirely within a large natural cave. The clerics at this church will happily bring out manuscripts and display them for visitors. Lalibela and Na’akuto La’ab were founded in the 12th century and are among the holiest sites for Christians in Ethiopia.

Although I have done much research, I cannot find a date for the manuscript being displayed by the cleric from Na’akuto La’ab. The style of the manuscript in similar to the wall frescos inside the churches at Lalibela and Na’akuto La’ab so I utilized it as a model that is representative of the painting style done in that region.

simon2 The illuminated portrait on Simon’s Pelican scroll is taken from an image posted by a visitor to Lalibela. The portrait from Na’akuto La’ab depicts a man holding a key and walking stick or cane. This may symbolize St Peter who is often depicted holding a key or St Lazarus who is shown with a cane. The text page was inspired by another page from the same manuscript. The calligraphy was inspired by the Ge'ez script in the manuscript.

There is a photo album on Flickr that shows more detail from this manuscript on display at Na’akuto La’ab . The photos are really lovely and striking. I also found a travel journal that includes gorgeous photos of the area around Na’akuto La’ab, the church, and the church’s treasures which include the manuscript upon which this piece is based.


  • Drafting: HL Gwenhwfyr ber Cain
  • Base Painting: HL Bryna of Kildare
  • Details and finish illumination: Mistress Maol Mide ingen Medra
  • Calligraphy: Mistress Maeva Eiriksdottir

Friday, April 22, 2011


Photo by Mistress Lisabetta Gaheris surprised me by requesting that I create his Knighting scroll. It turns out that quite some time ago I calligraphed and illuminated his Award of Arms and that he is still fond of that piece.

His requests were that the piece be simple in design and not overly large, possibly with a Roman flavor.

Recipient: Gaheris Vitruvius Gracchus

Award: Order of Chivalry

Size: 9x12

Materials: Ink on pergamenata

Hand: Rustic capitals

Source: Utrecht Psalter

Text by: Sir Severin

gaheris This 9th century Carolingian book of Psalms was executed in a style called Bistre or Bister. Bistre is a type of ink made by burning wood and then boiling the soot down to extract color. Color can range from grey to a brown with yellow tones.

The art on the pages of the Utrecht Psalter consists not of illumination, but rather of pen and ink plain bistre drawings that illustrate the psalms and canticles. The book contains 108 leaves and measures 13 x 10 inches in size.

The finished piece was put on display during Gaheris’ vigil, illuminated by candle light and then was presented to him the next day on the field at Gulf Wars after his Knighting ceremony.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Swamp Hibiscus

image This past holiday season I wanted to give a few of the ladies from an 18th century reenactment group small handmade gifts. I  chose tiny paintings in tiny frames:

For the dynamic Miss Annie I chose a brilliant Scarlet Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) flower. This species was identified by botanist Thomas Walter (1740-1789).

3x3 inches on plate Bristol board. Watercolor gouache and ink. 2010

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Small Shell Ginger

This past holiday season I wanted to give a few of the ladies from an 18th centuryimage reenactment group small handmade gifts. I  chose tiny paintings in tiny frames:

For the sweet Miss Gili I painted Small Shell Ginger (Alpinia mutica). This species was identified by in India by William Roxburgh in the 1780-1790’s. The model for this piece is a photograph taken by Gili of this lovely plant growing in her Grandmother’s garden. Although it isn’t a Florida plant, I was sure it would be enjoyed.

3x5 inches on plate Bristol board. Watercolor gouache and ink. 2010

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Sunrise Tellin


One of my many hobbies is 18th century reenactment and I am fascinated by that period in botanical and naturalist exploration. This past holiday season I wanted to give a few of the ladies small handmade gifts. I chose tiny paintings in tiny frames and tried to stay with plants and animals that were already named and could be found in Florida.

For the delightful Miss Elizabeth I chose to paint Sunrise Tellin (Tellina radiata) Linnaeus, 1758 in honor of her love of beachcombing.

3x3 inches on plate Bristol board. Watercolor gouache and ink. 2010

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Gwenllyan’s Laurel

Although the words “Visconti Hours” often bring forth swirling images of hot pink hosts of angels and poison green architectural towers, there are many individual pages that are quite lovely and less… colorful than other parts of the text. When presented with the choice of insane color combinations or demure and pretty, Finneadan and I decided that we would both prefer something more mild. This is how we picked the page to use for Gwenllyan verch Morgan’s Laurel Scroll.

Mistress Finneadan sketched up the page and I painted, gilded and calligraphed. The text was written by Master Iefan. In this we were able to include both of Gwenllyan’s Laurels and also her former apprentice sister.

The devil was in the details and the tiny castles and buildings really took up the most time as far as the painting was concerned. We reduced the size of the initial so that we had a place for the text to be written. There are various DSCN0097symbols that have been tucked into the trees and foliage so that various other apprentice siblings could be included. A chrysalis and emerging butterfly signify Gwenllyan’s transformation and also serve as an inside reference to my household, Feileacan Ghairdin, Gaelic for ‘butterfly garden’.

Executed on pergamenata using watercolor gouache, ink and 24k gold leaf. Time breakdown: I think Finneadan spent about 3-4 hours in sketch. I put about an hour or two into gilding and about another 18-20 hours in painting.