How to draw like a medieval illustrator
June 13, 2016 5:39 AM   Subscribe

Are there any books/guides/tutorials out there on medieval drawing techniques? (I mean this kind of thing.) Ideally it would have some kind of step-by-step for a basic illustration.
posted by danteGideon to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Just noticed the first image is some kind of pooping bull-like creature. Not like that one! Scroll down please!
posted by danteGideon at 5:41 AM on June 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Print out your favorite images and use tracing paper to re-create them. You'll learn a lot about how they were made by remaking them. Learn from the masters. That's what medieval artists did.
posted by nologo at 6:17 AM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I make stuff inspired by late medieval woodcuts and I go about it the same way the scribes did - copy, copy, copy. When it came to printing, the person who drew the picture and the person who carved it were often different people - same can be said of the iterations of copied manuscripts. One monk puts a rabbit knight or snail on the page and several other monks copy it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:29 AM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is a good general overview of the process.

Some key elements that give the correct look: pigment selection and illumination. Relatively few pigments were available to medieval artists, and so picking colors within the medieval palette is important. Illumination is the use of gold leaf, typically applied to a raised surface on the page to create a slightly three-dimensional 'liquid gold' effect.

If you want to go all-in, work on animal skin parchment (available for purchase here and elsewhere). One advantage of parchment is that small mistakes can be erased by carefully scraping the surface with a very sharp knife (e.g. an X-acto or a carefully used razor blade).

I recommend starting with initials (i.e. the large, decorated letters at the beginning of books, chapters, or sections). They often have lots of common decorative motifs, but they're easier for a beginning artist than natural scenes or images of people. This book is a great resource for ideas and initials to practice copying.

There are some nice videos on YouTube showing the process, for example: 1, 2, 3. There are also some recorded lectures on medieval manuscript art in general, for example: 1, 2, 3.
posted by jedicus at 7:24 AM on June 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I'm guessing you're more interested in getting the style rather than copying the exact techniques but you still might find The Craftsman's Handbook interesting reading. It's a translation of a 15th century Italian textbook for artists, no pictures but detailed instructions on preparing tools, materials, pigments, etc. Dover Press has a lot of inexpensive art instruction and reference books available too, especially for older (copyright-free) periods.
posted by yeahlikethat at 8:54 AM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You could try looking for SCA webpages like: A Fine Hand: Beginner's Scribal Workbox Some of the links on the page appear to have expired or be members only, but there are lots of links to try.

This link: is good for reference art.

And here is another link: of medieval animal drawings on Pinterest
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:28 PM on June 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Seconding Jane the Brown about the SCA.

If you happen to be super-duper serious about making this kind of art , to the point where you want to devote a significant portion of your life to it, I'd recommend joining the SCA. There, you'll find a whole community of artists who work in that style, as well as many people with substantial expertise who may be willing to tutor you directly.

Though if you don't want to make a giant commitmentment to this stuff right now, the SCA may be a bit much.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:41 PM on June 13, 2016

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