At Otter’s Welcome in May, I was approached by Their Royal Highnesses’ Chamberlain, HE Hillarious Clock Werk. He asked if I would be willing to design something, perhaps create a backdrop that would be used at Coronation and likely throughout Their reign. I knew then that I would be out of town at Coronation, and he said that that wasn’t a problem and also that nothing needed to happen before Pennsic.
After Pennsic, this project picked up.
TRH’s have a Discord server for coordination, and I read everything that was in reign theming so I would be prepared with an idea for the first Coronation meeting. TRH’s wanted “a light in the dark” and the aurora borealis as the overarching theme. I immediately had the idea of the aurora in the shape of a tiger across an ombre night sky and set about researching.
I thought I found a tiger constellation. I was wrong. What I did find was the domain of the White or Eastern Tiger, 1/4 of the sky in star maps. TRHs’ both have celestial bodies in Their arms, and Tir Mara, the Northern Army and the Southern Army all also have a star or stars in their heraldry. Plus Coronation happens during an eclipse. In my mind, the design was obvious.
In the meeting, I listened carefully to TRHs’ wants and desires. I treated it like I would a theatrical design meeting. Her (then) RH had a very helpful photoshop image. What They wanted was incredibly similar to the design I had come up with. I laid out my ideas. His (then) Highness gave His permission to move forward.
I folded everything together and created a rendering for the next meeting.
After the rendering was approved, I set to work. I ordered all the paint I thought I would need, and I was lucky enough to be able to use some materials from my place of employment (I work for a top regional pre-Broadway theater). I sewed the drop to 11’ x 11’ to suit the frame available for it, including a flat felled seam and turnbacks, and added grommets. I was in a respirator for a lot of this as we had nasty fumes in the shop from our usual theatrical work.
I prepped the floor with paper and stretched the sewn drop on top, stapling it down. The paper prevents the drop from sticking to the ground.
I labeled the edges for the different colors of paint.
I primed the grommets with direct to metal paint and then spray primed the drop with the lightest color I planned to use.
Next I painted a gradation of 7 colors from black to pool blue. I had hoped I could scumble paint the transitions.
I sprayed the colors at transitions when I realized the scumble was not working.
This plan did not work out well enough. I left it to dry overnight.
The next day I over sprayed the drop with a few different mixed shades, and this finally looked like the ombre of my rendering.
After it dried, using my star map with a grid and a tiger outline on top, I chalked in the images.
I painted The Royal’s signifiers first. For Her (then) Highness, I eclipsed half of her signifier in recognition of the eclipse. The main symbol stars are all in the heraldic style, and the “regular” stars are all just dots of white, like a star map.
Tir Mara’s star got a little lost, being blue on black, so I lightly outlined it in white.
I then started on the tiger. I used two shades of purple and a dry brush technique to create the “aurora”. You can see here that the Northern Army star is becoming occluded.
After that dried, I mixed a pale yellow, intending to follow that with a greenish yellow to pull the image closer to the usual colors of the aurora. But then I looked at the backdrop and realized that if I used a darker yellow/gold instead, I would have the tiger aurora in East Kingdom colors. This didn’t really deviate much from my rendering, but I really liked the difference, so…design choice on the fly. I also decided to move the Northern Army star.
After reinforcing the paint on the other symbol stars, I stopped. I considered adding in a few more small stars, specks to imitate the rendering’s splatter dots. But I knew it was time to stop. So I signed the drop with my chop in the lower left hand corner.
When I got home, I posted a picture to the discord which met with approval.
After sleeping on the idea, I decided that the drop was indeed complete. It matched the star map. I felt no need to add dots for stars not on the star map. Knowing when to stop is important, and it’s usually a decision I struggle with on scrolls/award documents.
I cut tie line and pulled the drop from the floor. There was minimal sticking! Hooray!
It took about 55 hours of work, not including dry time, design through painting.
The one detail I’m the most proud of is the Tir Mara star. It sits on the star map in the location of Andromeda, and I think that’s wild. This star is also sometimes referred to as the “Tiger’s Eye” which feels very appropriate.
I changed the location of the Northern Army star as its original location got covered by aurora. It’s meant to be roughly placed as the tiger’s heart, but like I said, I had to change its location. It’s a star that is part of a constellation known as the “Tiger’s Net”.
The Southern Army stars roughly correlate to a constellation known as the “Tiger’s Stride”. These little details make my heart happy.
TRMs’ signifiers are placed in such a way that they should be almost directly above Their thrones, and my hope is that the other three star placements, which run north to south geographically, will also be able to be seen with the thrones placed in front of it. That’s part of why the drop looks a little like the northern part of the sky/top of the drop is more crowded than the southern part of the sky/bottom of the drop. After seeing a few images from Coronation, this mostly works out. The Southern Army stars (and essentially the entirety of the bottom half of the drop) were obscured by retainers and champions. I knew this would be a factor and I wish I could have thought of something a little better. However, south is south, and that’s where that constellation is.
I’m very pleased with how this design became reality. It matches my rendering in the best ways. The timing I planned for it was accurate. I have been actively working on time management of projects, and it was nice to get this one right.
It is a deep honor to be asked to create something that will be used to reinforce the reign theme, and especially something as important as the backdrop for Coronation. I’m grateful to Their Royal Majesties, King Matthias and Queen Feilinn, for trusting my skills and talents to make this large piece of art for Them and the Kingdom. I’m grateful to His Ecellency Clock Werk for suggesting me for the job and asking. It’s really nice to be able to use my mundane skill set to fulfill part of my fealty to the East Kingdom; I swore my art in times of peace. This is quite literally my fealty on display.
Now my attention turns back to sewing…