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  • Andrew Stewart Jamieson

arms for a painter of Heraldry






I have been waiting to begin writing this blog for several reasons but today I had a notification that now permits me to make my first post. It will be a story to tell my grand children and mightily bored they will be. This year I reached the grand age of 60 and it was not nearly as painful as I had expected. When we are young it seems an ancient age and so far distant that we dismiss it. Now that I have arrived, it seems like I am only just beginning. What do I mean by that? Well it is also a time of new beginnings and some firsts. I married my long lost American sweetheart in 2019 and we began a journey together that was delayed for forty one years. This year she marked my birthday with an extraordinary gift, a grant of personal arms from the Lord Lyon in Scotland. Although I have English arms inherited from my father this coat is completely personal to me as it harkens back to arms I assumed when I first began my career as a painter of heraldry, which I used until 2002. The other first? I painted the new arms which were granted by Warrant dated 31st July. Nothing new there you might say, Jamieson has been painting heraldry for over 38 years. This is true, but this painting is different.


In May I decided to purchase a new laptop and Wacom drawing tablet. I have seen a lot of very bad digital heraldic art and some exceptionally good work. I decided to see what all the fuss was about and have a go myself. Adobe photoshop to the novice seems like a nightmare. Where normally I dip a brush and paint, on photoshop you use a pen as you would a brush and there are a myriad of different colours, thousands in fact. Adobe uses a system of layers so that the designer can add or subtract without ruining the original design. I have to admit, the air in the studio was blue on occasions. Nothing is more infuriating than technology in the hands of a luddite. I asked myself why I was even doing this, it was after all my precious down time, but like the motto of my great tutor Anthony Wood, I did 'Persist' and actually started to have some fun with it. I was using layers and had designed my own brushes for various tasks and actually enjoyed the process. It will never be the same as brush to vellum, however, how can it be? It is a cold, clinical, logical and mechanical process, where if not careful, it is all too easy to be seduced into a trap of making work that is very clean but has little life.


After familiarising myself enough with the processes and much of the said shouting at the computer due to my own incompetence, I sat down to earnestly 'paint' a coat of arms. My coat of arms, granted to me by the Lord Lyon. What a very nice person he is, more than helpful and very gracious, even when faced with the crest I contrived. The shield is simple as all good heraldic design should be, however, the crest is a little more impressive. I think it would look well atop any tournament helm. I had to reverse the tinctures on my shield as in Scots heraldry there are strict rules about mantles and wreaths following the primary colours mentioned in the blazon, which for those of you unfamiliar with heraldic terms, is the written description of the arms and is 'carved in stone' so to speak.


Now to the painting. I realised very soon that for me it is pointless producing super slick bland heraldry. Sure, it might reduce well for a letterhead, or work very well as a way of keeping digital heraldic records where artistic flair and skill is not necessarily a pre requisite. I also realised just how easy it is for the knaves, scoundrels and digi-fiddlers out there, who steal other artists' work and with minor modification call it their own. It is far too easy and explains why there has been a proliferation of so called heraldic artists all over social media. Even with a computer, the bottom line is you still need certain skills like the ability to draw and design. So where was I? Oh yes, the painting. I wanted this to look like a painting and super slick finishes and vector lines, which I feel reduce the art to a graphic logo, were not for me. I should say though, some vector artists have gone up in my estimation, having tried that particular brand of 'drawing'.


The Painting. I drew the arms freehand using the tablet on a base layer, then contrived different layers for colours shading outlining etc., so in a way, it was like making a heraldic sandwich. I could have produced a pencil sketch and scanned it in, but I resisted, as I wanted to see just what this box of tricks could do. I had fun! I really enjoyed it and the ability to move in extremely close was wonderful on my sixty year old eyes. It was difficult not having a brush in my hand that responds in certain ways but that said, it produced constant colour. Not having to brush and mix more paint to the exact same colour was useful. I found that the constant zooming in and out of the image took some getting used to unlike my normal painting where I see the whole design at any one time in my field of vision. The computer painting took longer than if I had painted it by the traditional method, but this painting was produced at 300 dpi which means it could be blown up to poster size if need be. A lot larger than the confines of a skin of vellum.


In conclusion, will I begin to paint digital coats of arms? The answer is probably no, although I see how it is a flexible platform for other applications non-heraldic and it is a very useful tool to have around. I will keep to my conventional painting, as it is so important to keep this traditional art form alive, imperative even. I will leave the digital painting to far more clever technicians than me. As for the arms, I cannot tell you what a romantic feeling it is to be a Scottish Armiger. Heraldry has a strong tradition in this great land and to now

be a part of that tradition is beyond words for me. I will do a further blog about the design for the arms and what it stands for in due course. But the Sun is shining through the glass window and I must begin to paint without the computer.



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