Another fine artisan to participate in our Kingdom’s Virtual Queens Prize Tourney is Master Caleb Reynolds, who entered with a wonderful illumination. His entry “Axeman vs Centaur” sure sounds intriguing, and of course we all want to know more! As we do not have the ability to converse with our entrants face to face, the Virtual Queens Prize Tourney offers the opportunity to fawn over images and read the documentation right there on the Kingdom Ministry of Arts & Sciences website – even to leave feedback! And to learn a little more about the artisan and their thoughts behind their entry, the organizers decided to broaden our traditional entry of object and documentation with personal interviews.


Two reproductions of an inhabited initial from the Hunterian Psalter, by Caleb Reynolds.

Could you tell us a little about you, your persona?

I am Caleb Reynolds. I joined the SCA in November 1984 after seeing an armored combat demonstration at the Texas Renaissance Festival. I tracked down my local chapter (Barony of the Stargate) by looking up Richard Lionheart’s number in the phone book. My persona is a late 11th century Norman in occupied Saxon England. My piece is based on the Hunterian Psalter, which was produced in York around 1170, about a century after William’s conquest. While my persona would not have lived long enough to have seen this book, he might have been familiar with similar psalters, particularly as he rose in the ranks of landed nobility.

What inspired you to make your entry?

I like the image. I enjoy the elegant simplicity of the Hunterian Psalter artwork. There is such a diverse variety of images that it is one of my “go to” sources for inspiration. I had no actual assignment in mind for the large image, planning on holding onto the blank until the next assignment I received relating to thrown weapons (the image contains an axe and a spear). I had completed the large image when the Shelter-in-place Scribal War was announced. And since I already had a high-res image of the source material, as well as my version of it, I asked to do the ‘A’ for AEthelmearc’s challenge and, as the first one to respond, I was given that honor.

What is your intention for your entry?

The smaller image, essentially a miniature scroll blank, was sent in for the Shelter-in-place Scribal War. The larger version might be used for the thrown weapons tourney at Summer’s End this year, if normal returns to town. Otherwise, it will be used next year.

Did the entry throw up any unexpected issues?

The larger image gave me the usual anxieties: What am I doing? Why did I pick these colors? I’m going to ruin it. I am satisfied with the end result, but, looking at the scan, my eyes are automatically drawn to the flaws. The smaller piece; that was a completely different set of hurdles. The same second guessing, but this time on actual vellum, which I’ve never worked on, before. For non-scribes, gouache soaks into paper (the larger image was done on 100% cotton paper), and since it soaks in, it stays put as long as you don’t put too much paint on at once. Vellum doesn’t behave that way: the paint floats on top of the material and can move to places you don’t want it, particularly if you tip the paper. Pergamenata (a plant-based vellum substitute) is the same way. My method of dealing with this issue was to apply a thin, thin coat of pigment in each area, to act as a primer. Once the primer coat was dry, subsequent layers of pigment bonded to the primer and was less likely to run to other areas. As small as the vellum piece is, 3×2 inches, I used four or five layers of gouache in order to get the depth of the shadows and the shading.

Did you learn something specific, something you would do differently, or would recommend others to do again?

I might not have chosen this image for the Scribal War. I had thought that it was going to be easy; I had already made a larger version of the image, and a smaller image meant that I would use less paint. The thing that I didn’t take into account was that this is a detailed image, even for a 12th century manuscript. Other entrants used the majority of the vellum, while I made a tiny, tiny scroll blank. I needed to wear off-the-shelf reading glasses in order to see what I was doing. I did make a number of small mistakes that I worked around because I have zero experience with scraping paint off of vellum: I did not want to damage the fragment. It certainly challenged me.

What motivated you to enter the Virtual Queens Prize Tourney?

I hope that I can inspire others to try their hand at illumination. I certainly do not consider myself to be one of the Kingdom’s top illuminators: I can’t do perspective; I can’t get gold leaf to stick to anything other than my hands; my “calligraphy” is basically me trying to print neatly. I am envious of my fellow scribes and their skills. But, I have heard from tons of people over the years that they couldn’t make a scroll as good as {INSERT THE NAME OF YOUR FAVORITE SCRIBE HERE}. I’ve said it, myself. We have magnificent scribes who can make scrolls as good as the Duc de Berry’s book of hours, or Catherine of Cleves’. But some people are under the impression that unless they can scribe at that level, their work won’t be wanted; so they don’t try. It’s like saying, “I will never be as good of a fighter as Sir Maynard, so there’s no point in putting on armor and learning.”

Our Kingdom does not promote this idea (some Kingdoms do, but they aren’t as nice as Æthelmearc), but it’s a mental road block for people. “I can’t do that, so I won’t even try.” I do early period designs, where my artistic skill is no better or worse than the scribe from a 1,000 years ago. I enjoy showing people that if they can color between the lines, and practice some very basic techniques, they can make wonderful work. Both of these scrolls are just 7 colors: Red, dark blue, light blue, green, brown, gold, and a little bit of white. If I can inspire new scribes to try their hands on the early period work, perhaps they will gain the confidence and skills to do the more complicated, later period pieces.

Thank you, Master Caleb Reynolds, for sharing your wonderful work with our Kingdom’s artisans and populace!

If you would like to see Caleb’s entry, follow this link. And if you liked his work, have a question to ask, or a tip to share – please leave your comments with his entry! You can “Leave a Reply” at the bottom of the entry’s page. We have four more weeks to peruse, enjoy and interact with the entrants. Make use of the opportunity, if you can!

Would you like to enter your own project? The deadline for entering the Virtual Queens Prize Tourney is June 30th, and you can find all you need to know on how to enter on the KMOAS website.