Book Plates

Woodcut Style Arms

I thought I would share this monochrome drawing and the process by which it arrived.  It was commissioned by a catholic priest for a friend who is a Professed Conventual Chaplain of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta. The Order, the world’s oldest chivalric order was founded in 1099 by the Blessed Gerard.

The patron commissioned this work. a bookplate from me and indicated that it would be nice if I could make it look like a woodcut.  I have produced several in this style and I enjoy doing them and so I told him it would be my pleasure.  The armiger is a Canadian and so it was suggested I might pop a maple leaf or two in the design which I gladly did.

The arms themselves were granted by the Canadian Heraldic Authority and feature a double headed griffin sejant displayed holding a sword in it’s claws.  I cannot recall ever painting a double headed griffin and so it was an interesting design problem to solve.  As a Professed Conventual Chaplain the shield rests on a cross of the Order and is encircled by a Rosary.  In the end I decided to place the arms on an elegant cartouche that incorporates three maple leaves with the motto scroll folded and twisted below.


The first stage of work of this nature is the design which I always work out on tracing paper. Then Once I am satisfied with it I trace it down onto art board and draw it in with a very sharp pencil.  At college we were taught to use the exotically named Dragon’s Blood to trace through for ease and speed. This is the pigment Armenian Bole rubbed into paper.  However I always found this nasty and messy and tends to stain everything it comes into contact with.  I prefer to work with hard pencils, cleaner and slower but the lines are crisper and I suppose in a way more contemplative.


After the image is drawn onto the board I line everything in using a brush.  Once I have done that I start to thicken the lines with the same brush.  When it came to the Rosary I drew each pearl with a compass and ruling pen.  I have a fine set of  precision compasseses made in the early 20th Century.  However I thickened the line around each pearl by hand so as not to give it too mechanical a finish, this was after all supposed to have the look and feel of a wood cut.


Finally once the lines were the thickness I required I modelled up the whole design using fine straight and cross hatched lines.


I hope that the arms have the feel of a woodcut.  I think what makes my work unique in todays world is the fact that it is individually designed and hand drawn and painted from scratch with no use of computers.  There are only a handful of heraldic artists in the world today professionally trained to create coats of arms in this manner.  I can only hope that my work will last as long as that of my craft ancestors working in the Middle Ages who’s work we still admire today.

Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Andrew Stewart Jamieson





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