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Lesson 1

Small Bar Borders

Mistress Dairine Mor o' uHigin, OL
AKA Gael Stirler


Small bar borders, like the one in the picture to the right, were often used around text and miniatures in period manuscripts. Many different patterns were used--from those as simple as a line--to elaborate vines and geometric shapes. In nearly all cases the borders were painted red, pink or blue. If red and blue borderes were combined, the artists were careful to keep a balance between the colors as in this example. After my own experimentation I have concluded that these colors were most commonly used because they looked best, and I encourage you to follow their example. The edges of the bar borders were painted with shell gold or gilded with leaf gold. I like to use Lemon Gold powdered tempera paint from Daniel Smith.

Here are 8 examples of small bar borders that I have collected from historic sources. Invent your own or discover a new one for yourself in a period manuscript. See the link page for links to museum collections. Some have gold edges only on one side of the border, especially when the miniature background is already gold, as in this example. Click on the picture to see a larger image with text and leaves. Nearly all of the scrolls in my SCA award series include some form of a small bar border area to paint.

The scroll to the right is a button that will open a larger picture of the finished Award of Arms Female-1 scroll (Gutenberg item #AoAF1.) For this first lesson lay down a base color of deep red or alizarin crimson (carmine) or dark blue (ultramarine) in the center of all the small borders with a #2 or #4 brush. Don't try to get the paint smooth and even, it looks better if the shade varies slightly. I like to use two shades of red (scarlet and crimson) and mix them in varying amounts as I paint. This gives the appearance of light shining through glass to the work.

Paint the white design with an #0 brush over the base color when it is dry. make sure that your paint is mixed to the consistency of cream. This means it is thin but still opaque. Test your brush on a side sheet before making lines in the base color. You should be able to get a very fine line that doesn't sink into the base color. You can even use a white chalk pencil sharpened to a fine point to make the white designs. Do not use a waxy Prismacolor pencil. If you make a mistake or your lines get too chunky, wait for the white to dry then paint over it with base color again. Paint a different design in each of the border areas on your first scroll. When you are done, make a color photocopy of this scroll for yourself. Then you will have a sampler of designs for future reference. Paint the edges of the small bar borders with powdered gold tempera paint. Printout this handout and keep it for future reference. It has many other examples of period whitework designs for small bar borders.

Review the artwork in this museum site for more ideas on small bar borders and diaperwork backgrounds. Gaston Phoebus, Book of the Hunt
France, Paris, 15th Century.

Sites I recommend on this subject:
Whitework lesson by Meisterin Katarina Helene von Schönborn, OL
Whitework Tips by Merouda Pendray's

In the next lesson you will learn how to paint the diaperwork (also known as latticework).

Go to Lesson 2: Diaperwork.
Go to back: to Index.


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© 2002-2004Gael Stirler, Inc. 1-520-721-8346
Unless otherwise noted all art is the work of Gael Stirler.
AKA Mistress Dairine mor o' hUigin, OL


This page was last updated Friday, 27-Mar-2009 14:28:04 CDT