Tips To Drawing More Period People

The way Medieval faces, feet, and hands appear in manuscripts varies by era or location, often in the details. Some appear cartoonish others more realistic. What’s the best way for you to learn how to draw period-looking people? 

Motifs I traced then transferred to
M. Luciana’s Renaissance scroll.

Most of us have been seeing since we were born but learning how to observe details is the important first step. Then if you can draw the next step is repeatedly conveying what you see to your paper. 

The best way I know to learn how to get the proper image to your paper is by tracing. And tracing is period. Some scribes don’t grow past this stage. And I prefer it so I create a period effect conveyed on my scroll. 

Begin by goggling for the images you want your chosen era and location. Download a high-resolution version of ones you like. Don’t use any from a virtual book for this. Even the British Library’s award-winning Turning the Pages doesn’t have the detail sufficient or image size for your project. You want images that are larger or that you can enlarge. 

Next trace them. And trace them again. The same ones or at least the same style you want to learn. Over and over until you have their exact look embedded in your mind’s eye and hand. You’re teaching yourself muscle memory for your chosen style.

My tracing light-box set up.

Then take it a step further. Keep a few pictures with a small sketchpad and pencil to take with you. Draw those images freehand anytime you have a break or are waiting for a bus. Any few moments you have sketch freehand your Medieval-style people’s hands, feet, and faces.

Observation, tracing, and practice, but remember to have fun with it too. Make some sketches look like people you know doing familiar SCA activities. You don’t have to make the sketches detailed but they should look like the style you’re learning.

The trick is observing numerous manuscripts over time, learning the general characteristics people have in the era and location you’re recreating and repeatedly making your own. Over time doing this for various styles will allow you to better draw what you see without tracing.

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