Heraldic Artist Chat

Another session with the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada, Toronto Branch. This time Jason Burgoin was interviewing six heraldic artists from different countries.

Edgar Sims

He has been drawing all his life, becoming a graphic designer after high school. He worked in different areas of art, not always as exciting. He studied law at some point, then transitioned to studying history in the last ten years. All of a sudden they all clicked together. Coats of arms are all around but most people don’t really think about them. Sims always worked with traditional media, but Latvian heraldry is very digital – no scrolls, letters patent or large beautiful manuscripts. He often has to explain the rules of heraldry to audiences who are not knowledgeable. He only works with Latvian clients, creating new achievements from scratch. He has made many civic arms, including the national hospital, as well as a President of Latvia.

Latvian heraldry is both very old and very new, rooted in the thirteenth century but interrupted by Soviet occupation. The Heraldic Authority is quite pedantic in stylistic choices to make a unified aesthetic, but the four artists working their can each recognise their own work. A wide variety of traditions are blended together – generally following the Nordic tradition but using British torses and crests. Branches of plants often surround personal shields, whereas other countries reserve these for civic arms. The main inspiration for the authority was the “boom” of heraldry in the interwar years, when civic arms were widespread but personal arms were discouraged – tainted by association with Germany.

Aaron Murray Travers

He is still relatively new to heraldry, but has been sculpting, painting and drawing his whole life. He met some of his lifelong friends through artwork. Australian heraldry was rare in the second millennium aside from politicians and military officers, but interest is growing now. Blazon has always been a challenge due to his dyslexia. He originally got into the subject after finding “the Travers arms” at a bucketshop. Fired up by his ancestry he eventually created his own style. He enjoys being able to recognised particular individuals by their arms across the centuries. He repeats traditional artistic techniques, but also incorporates elements from graffiti and comic book work. He particularly loves bookplates.

Allan Ailo

He was a graphic artist for many years. He had a lifelong interest in heraldry since finding Heather Childs’s book on it in high school. The rise of digital art has given heraldists much more flexibility and allowed it to become more widespread. Individuals can have representations of their own heraldry with much less fuss – no need to rent a private artist. Whereas before heraldic dinnerware required skilled craftsmanship, nowadays heraldic mugs can be printed by machine. Heraldry is more visible now that it is no longer bound to a physical object.

He advises new artists to study symbolism, and other types of art. His most rewarding experiences are seeing other people suddenly understand heraldry. His most challenging are interpreting blazon. He designed the scroll which the society sent to Elizabeth II for her Platinum Jubilee, as well as the members’ medallion.

Tania Crossingham

She is also Australian, but has lived in Finland for the past four years. She studied to teach art history in high school, but then fell in love with medieval illumination and taught herself calligraphy. She is also branching out to fabric design. One day Leon Mintle approached her at an exhibition and said she should try heraldry.

She loves the more traditional styles and these are what her customers typically want. She reworks old designs, including letters patent. She advises finding a more experienced artist to mentor you.

Xon de la Campa

Before he got into proper education he saw heraldry everywhere, but it was not popular as a hobby. It was weird, like comic books. Spain is unique in using the bordure to denote maternal arms, as well as quartering them with the paternal as a matter of course. There is also a tradition of adding text to the shield. This makes for some interesting designs, not all of them nice. He is more relaxed with digital art than traditional tools as it is easier to correct mistakes that way. Daniel de Bruen is his main influence, with his unique ability to show new and old, producing something very different.

Brian Abshier

He took art as an optional class at university. He was never taught formally. He never did any kind of digital art. He had a parallel passion for history. Wikipedia made his research easier. Heraldry is not very prevalent in the United States. His preferred style is that of manuscripts and armorials from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, for which he often receives online requests. His most interesting project was a history of an English manor, illustrating the house, its owners and their arms. Bitmaps and rasters don’t scale well, so he has to ask clients about the size of their intended display. He uses a mouse rather than a tablet, the resulting imperfections avoiding a wholly digital look.


Burgoin’s Hall of Heraldic Artists

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