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William Fleenor’s Arms

I began painting coats of arms professionally in 1983. This was the year I graduated from art school. They have come in all shapes and sizes and some have been designed well making my job easier to interpret the blazon. Others have left a little to be desired but as an artist you do the best you can. Sometimes a blazon lands on my desk and I light up.
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When William Fleenor commissioned me to paint his arms this was one such occasion. I have always liked crests that flow into the mantling and this happens more so in continental heraldry. One of my favourite medieval armorials is that belonging to the Brotherhood of St. Christopher of Arlberg and I think perhaps on a sub conscious level this beautiful book was in my mind when I designed this particular piece.  I decided to make a detailed drawing of the arms to capture the spirit of the piece. It seemed appropriate therefore to make the mantle an extension of the lady’s dress. Heraldry is all about stylising the objects depicted and when it comes to human figures it is no different.  Femininity and strength. She is after all holding two medieval claymore broadswords! I have always thought heraldry is probably the first occurrence of what we now call fantasy art. So the lady is fantastic in true sense of the word but reflective of contemporary styling as though she has turned up for a photo shoot.
I have painted many arms for veterans who have seen combat and one of the ways I like to honour this is to give the war helm a battle scar. I do not know of any other artist who does this but it seems to be appreciated by the patrons. In this case I wanted the helm to be very much a war helm, heavy, solid and having the appearance of seeing a lot of action. William is a veteran who has been in some let us say, interesting situations and so this was my way of honouring his service to his country.
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The shield is a curved tournament shield. I think these look far more dynamic than the plain heater shapes we are familiar with and my inspiration came from German sources and in particular renaissance heraldry. The tricky thing with these shields is the shading to give them form and the arranging of the charges etc., to follow the contours of the shield. These arms have two scrolls and so I considered placement very carefully. Rather than have the scroll above the lady, I decided it would look better going behind her as this made for a better symmetry within the design as a whole. There was a medal to be depicted and so the lower scroll was designed to underpin the arms but also to enhance and frame the medal.
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All in all a successful piece to my mind, flamboyant yes, proud also, exaggerated perhaps, but isn’t that what heraldic display was originally all about.  ~ Andrew Stewart Jamieson

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