Traceable Art Update For April

I’ve continued adding charges to the Book of Traceable Heraldic Art, drawing from both the Pennsic Traceable Art collection and from period sources, and it’s now up to over 800 pages of illustrations.

Of these, I’m particularly fond of this image of a tent from Guillim’s Display of Heraldry (1611).

There’s also a new External Resources page that lists charges which are found in the PTA or PicDic but do not have corresponding images in this collection, and a Contributing page with some preliminary notes about how to send in your own art for inclusion.

More (and Less!) Traceable Art

There have been a bunch of incremental improvements to the Book of Traceable Heraldic Art in the last few weeks:

  • I’ve continued to add images to the collection, so it’s now over 700 pages of traceable illustrations.
  • I’ve been sourcing more charges from historical rolls of arms, like this key from the Derring roll (c. 1270) and the Schnecke from Siebmacher’s Wappenbuch (1605).
  • There’s a new abridged version available for download that leaves out some of the mirror-image alternatives and artistic variations, producing a PDF with 10% fewer pages for folks who want to have less to haul to events in the field.
  • New “see also” links on some pages lead you to the matching entries in the PicDic and Pennsic Traceable Art libraries, so you can review alternative design options.
  • For the nerdiest folks who might be interested in how the site is built, there’s a new Build Scripts page which explains how a 2,000-line Perl program converts the book’s PDF files into a series of web pages.

I’m still working on a process to streamline artists’ contributions of images, but if you’re interested please feel free to reach out and introduce yourself and we’ll get the ball rolling.

More Traceable Art

I’ve made a number of changes to the Book of Traceable Heraldic Art recently:

  • I’ve finished incorporating the last of the 74 images I received from the Pennsic Bored-Artist Collection.
  • I’ve added a couple dozen more images from historical sources, including Bossewell’s book of 1572 and Guillim’s from 1611.
  • Many more of the items have downloadable PNG and SVG clip art files.
  • The online index does a better job of cross-referencing items under multiple terms; for example “Stalk of Wheat” is indexed under both “Stalk” and “Wheat.”

Traceable Art Update

As I mentioned recently an effort is underway, led by Lady Þórý Veðardóttir, to update and expand upon the Pennsic Traceable Art collection in order to facilitate emblazoning of armory submissions at Pennsic and other SCA events.

I’ve been working on a draft document that combines field divisions and ordinaries were from a collection of heraldic elements I had been assembling, along with a number of charges picked up from other sources, including the original Pennsic Traceable Art book, illustrations by the volunteers of the Pennsic Heralds’ Point Art Tent, and several publicly-available sources, including the Viking Answer Lady‘s collection of SVG elements.

Field divisions and ordinaries are drawn at precisely the scale used for SCA armory submissions, while mobile charges are included in a range of sizes so they can be used as primary, secondary, or tertiary charges.

The collection numbers over five hundred pages, but is far from complete; I expect it to wind up somewhere over a thousand pages.

There are PNG and SVG versions of some of the items; eventually these should be available for every field and charge.

There is a alphabetical index for the full collection as well as a table of contents, both of which allow you to download individual pages in PDF format, as well as the PNG and SVG images where available.

You can also find separate tables of contents for each “volume,” which are organized by category:

  • Volume 1: Fields, including furs, field treatments, and semys.
  • Volume 2: Complex lines.
  • Volume 3: Field divisions.
  • Volume 4: Ordinaries and their diminutives.
  • Volume 5: Geometric shapes, heavily bodies, features of the earth, and assorted symbols.
  • Volume 6: Tools and man-made objects.
  • Volume 7: Plants, including fruits, seeds, and leaves, as well as mushrooms.
  • Volume 8: People and animals.

Additionally there are a few odds and ends that are related but not part of the core traceable art collection:

  • Visual Reference: Contains a number of pages of small side-by-side images of field divisions and charges, for use on a consultation desk to help show clients some of the choices and explain specialized terminology.
  • Reference Posters for Consultation Sites: These are posters containing examples of field divisions, ordinaries, complex lines, charges and arrangements designed to be hung at a consultation site for easy reference by clients. Designed to be printed on tabloid-sized sheets (17″ x 22″), but may also be printed on regular 8.5″ x 11″ paper for desktop use.
  • Consultation Worksheets: includes items that may be useful for on-site armory consultation, including doodle sheets, alternate display outlines like the lozenge, and drawing grids to assist with spacing charges.

If you have a recent version of the drawing application OmniGraffle (Mac only, $99) you can download the original working documents for each volume to use the elements to assemble armory electronically.

A Traceable Resource for Armory Illustration

While I’m happy to do most of my armory design on a computer, there are times when you need to be able to put together a device or badge submission entirely offline, most notably at Pennsic and other large multi-day events.

Some folks have both an encyclopedic knowledge of heraldic art and the freehand illustration skills necessary to produce quality designs unassisted, but many people with less experience or weaker drawing abilities — and those who, like me, have both of those challenges — depend on references like the PicDic and the Pennsic Traceable Art collection.

I recently heard about an effort led by Lady Þórý Veðardóttir to update the Pennsic Traceable Art book to clean up some of the rough scans, include additional material, and otherwise upgrade this useful tool, and have thrown myself into the effort.

I’m terrible at freehand drawing, but am able to tackle the digital illustration and page layout side of things, so I’ve jumped in and drafted a bunch of printable heraldic elements, scaled so that they’re ready to be traced over (perhaps using a lightbox) to help speed the process of creating devices and badges.

I’m pleased to share a rough draft of the first set of illustrations resulting from this work: a set of common field treatments, divisions, and ordinaries, all drawn at the exact scale used for SCA heraldry submissions.

None of the material here is particularly complicated or unique, and any experienced herald painter could reproduce most of this in minutes with just a pen and a straightedge, but hopefully this will help make things a little easier and save a bit of time for folks dealing with the crush of hundreds of submissions processed at Pennsic every year.


A Digital Armory Toolbox

My freehand illustration skills are rudimentary at best, so I do all of my armorial design using a computer, and I figured I’d post a few notes about the software I use in hopes that it might be of use to others.

(I should note that I’m a Mac user, and wouldn’t even know where to start on recommendations for Windows.)

I use OmniGraffle as my illustration tool, which may seem an odd choice as it seems to be primarily used as a technical diagramming application, but I’ve been using it for two decades and it works well for me. The fact that it imports and exports PDF files means that I can combine armory designs with the SCA’s submission forms, and allows me to give people nice high-quality vector files rather than pixelated images which can’t effectively be scaled up to banner size.

To convert bitmap images, such as those from the invaluable PicDic, I use Potrace. The standard distribution only reads PBM and BMP files, but there’s a Mac wrapper that provides a GUI and adds support for a wide range of file formats, called DragPotrace. DragPotrace only seems to be available from that one Japanese web site, the installation process is confusing (you need to install the regular command-line Potrace first) and the UI is clunky, but once you learn the necessary options, it works great: for most of the images I use, I can just click the “Opaque” checkbox and export the results as PDF.

To convert SVG images, such as the Viking Answer Lady’s SVG Images for Heralds or the Wikimedia SVG Coat of Arms Elements, I use Gapplin to export them as PDFs. The next version of OmniGraffle will add SVG import, which will obviate this step, but in the meantime it’s very useful.

I’ve been working on a collection of standard charges and divisions in OmniGraffle format, as well as templates for armorial design and submission, and hope to share those at a later date.