Reign is an American historical fiction romance television series following the early exploits of Mary, Queen of Scots. The series, created by Stephanie SenGupta and Laurie McCarthy, airs on The CW and premiered as part of the 2013–14 American television season. On March 11, 2016, The CW renewed the series for a fourth season, which premiered on February 10, 2017.
I worked on the third and fourth seasons of Reign. In the third season Queen Elizabeth the Ist became a central character, and parts of each episode began taking place in England. At the end of the third season of Reign, Mary Queen of Scots returns to her homeland of Scotland, where much of the fourth season takes place.
Because all communication at the time was in letter form, calligraphy was an important part of the job. I found real letters written by Mary Queen of Scots, Catherine de Medici, Philip II of Spain, Queen Elizabeth the Ist, John Knox the protestant agitator, and many others and taught myself to write in their handwriting and replicate their signatures. I also learned the “Court Hands” which were used by the scribes working for Queen Elizabeth Ist. Through my research I also found that letter shapes and overall style differed from country to country, even within Europe. For instance Germany and Spain had styles all their own. Secretary hand, probably the most prevalent style of writing at the time in the British Isles, was particularly challenging to learn because some of the letters are not only stylized, but are shaped in an altogether different way. For instance, the lowercase e is backwards, the lowercase s, is, for lack of a better description, inside out, and most of the capital letters are unrecognizable to those of us who were educated in the 20th or 21st centuries and haven’t studied paleography. I also invented handwriting styles for characters who were not based on real people taking into account their personalities, and where and how they were raised.
I would usually begin with dipping ink and a flexible calligraphy pen nib, write the letter out on vellum, and then photoshop the result, usually writing out the signature a few times and photoshopping in the best one. If a particular style of writing was very hard and I hadn’t gotten the hang of it yet things could get a bit collagey. Then of course getting the paper texture looking right was an important part of the process. I would often find images of paper from the actual time period, photoshop out any text, and use them.
Later on I got into doing illuminated documents. I would start them in pencil, then paint them with gouache, and then scan and finish them in photoshop in order to lighten or darken or finesse the edgework or colours.
April 21, 2017