Interview with Michael Cross
Watercolor with Pencil and Ink
News for July
Archeryby Jenny Heidewald
"What of the bow?
The bow was made in England:
Of true wood, of yew wood,
The wood of English bows;
So men who are free
Love the old yew tree
And the land where the yew tree grows."
From Marching Song of the White Company, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
With their origins shrouded in the fog of pre-history, the combination of bow and arrow is among the most ancient forms of weaponry, possibly one of the first that allowed humans to hunt reliably from a distance. There are ancient cave paintings depicting hunters with bows, and many mythological beings were connected to archery, among those Cupid, Diana, Hercules, and centaurs. Ancient cultures throughout the world, from Africa to the Americas, used bows and arrows for food hunting, and later as weaponry. One of the most famous archers in legend is Robin Hood, who was said to have shot an arrow right down the middle of one already in a target, thus winning an archery competition. When someone manages this in the modern day it is called a Robin Hood, or alternatively telescoping. In the fantasy world, elves are famous for their archery skills, and there is usually that chilling moment in a tale when an arrow thuds too close to comfort next to a main character.
Anatomy of a Bow
There are a few different kinds of bows: straight limb, which is relatively straight; the recurve bow, which has tips that swoop away from the archer; and a compound bow, which is a rather recent innovation, and utilizes a system of cable and pulleys to produce more thrust while being easier to draw and hold.
The straight limb bow is not generally used by serious archers these days, though the around six-foot long bows used by the English for centuries packed quite a wallop, potentially piercing chain mail and plate armor in a straight-on shot.
The recurve bow's curved tips straighten when the bow is drawn, which provides more leverage, and thus speed.
Compound bows utilize pulleys/cams and/or wheels to create a unique situation; the energy required to draw the bow is greatest at mid-string, and the least when the archer is about to release the arrow. This bow is a good one to refer to when you are making a sci-fi type character; there are many design elements on the real bows that you can use to make it look futuristic.
A self-bow is a bow made of one piece of material, and a laminated bow is made of several pieces glued together. While in the past bows were made laboriously from wood, most modern bows are made from a combination of materials, utilizing the composite technology available today.
The string of a bow has been made from hemp or linen (treated with beeswax to help resist moisture), hair, or animal intestine. These days the synthetic materials used are stronger and weather-resistant, so archers don't have to worry about the damp wrecking their string.
The crossbow, another weapon with its origins lost to history, is possibly a descendant of a foot bow, a bow that is braced with the feet with both arms drawing the string. It doesn't take much imagination to see how an innovative person could attach a stock and the other required pieces to make a workable crossbow. Whatever its origins, crossbows had the benefit of having a higher draw force (and thus arrow range and force) for its size, but the disadvantages of being heavy and hard to reload quickly.
Anatomy of an Arrow
An arrow is quite complex for what is essentially a flying stick. Contrary to typical belief, due to the way the string acts when it is released, the arrow does not fly straight from the bow. The arrow flexes, bending first one way then the other, before eventually straightening out.
There are different arrowheads for different purposes. For example, a hunting tip for large game is called a broad head; this tip had multiple sharp edges. For smaller game, such as rabbit or birds, a tip that is flat, called a "blunt," is used. A blunt is also easier to recover, as it won't bury itself into a tree.
The fletching of an arrow, or the "feathers" or fins at the back of the arrow, is an important feature, as it adds stabilization to the shaft. The minimum is three; any less and the arrow flies erratically. The fletching, individually called a fletch, can be made of feathers, or plastic, which is called a vane. These are attached to the shaft, at a right angle to the notch is called the index feather. Usually this feather is a bright or different color from the other two, and is referred to as the cock, and the others as hens.
Fletching, along with the crest, can be used to identify what tip an arrow has, since it seems likely that an archer would have a selection readily available. The blunt arrowhead is often used in conjunction with a fletching called flu-flu, which is designed to fly short distances.
The quiver, or the case for carrying arrows, is another essential piece of equipment. The back quiver is the one most known and illustrated, but there is also the hip quiver, which attaches to a belt. Some modern hunting bows have quivers built into the bow itself.
Archery in Illustration
Many characters in fantasy have bows, and, while it is easier to have the character holding their bow by their side, having them interact with their weapon adds interest to the portrait. Since when doing a character portrait the face is an important aspect to see, consider any of the intermediate positions before or after letting an arrow loose.
While many illustrations of archers are depicted as holding the string with two fingers, the index and middle, in reality most archers use a three-finger grip, the one I show is the Mediterranean draw, but there is also the pinch draw and the Mongolian draw. They also utilize a shooting glove or a finger tab to protect the fingers from blistering, an arm guard can also be used to hold loose clothing and protect the forearm of the bow holding hand, though if shot correctly the bow string will not touch the forearm. The thumb and pinky finger do not touch the bowstring; the first knuckle remains unflexed, and the wrist remains straight. While one thinks that the arm is the main force that draws the string, in reality it is more back and shoulder muscles doing the work. When the bow is drawn, the arm holding the string will make a straight line from the elbow to the tip of the arrow.
For the hand that holds the bow, the wrist remains straight, and the hand does not grip the bow tightly; in fact, the hand isn't supposed to grip the bow at all except when nocking the arrow and after the release of the string. Keeping a relaxed arm is important to the true flight of an arrow.
The anchor point in archery refers to the place on the archer's face that hand is placed with the bowstring fully drawn. Using the same anchor point each time gives the archer consistent results. There are a few different anchor points commonly used. With the low anchor, the index finger is placed under the chin, and the bowstring touches the nose and chin. The bowstring in this position should gently touch the chin, lips and nose. The high anchor point is under the cheekbone, and another, called the side of face anchor, is a variation on the low anchor; the string touches the side of the mouth rather than the middle.
There are different foot stances used when shooting, though for things like hunting stance it depends on the terrain. For regular target shooting there are three or four, depending on your sources. The main three are square, open, and closed. Square is feet lined up, shoulder width apart, open is left foot turned outwards, and the rear foot forward, and closed is front foot turned outwards, but also forward of the back foot.
This only touches the tip of this subject, and it is interesting to learn of the different ways people shoot arrows. Archery poses can be tricky with the foreshortening that goes on; it is tempting to depict an archer from the side view alone, but consider the adventure of different angles. In the resources section I have included several books that have great references for archer poses. There is also reference stock available in Deviant Art galleries.
Archery (Sports and Fitness Series) by
Wayne McKinney and Michael McKinney
Archery: Steps to Success, by Kathleen Haywood and Catherine Lewis
Beginning Archery - New Revised Edition (Wadsworth Sports Skills Series), by Roy K. Niemeyer
"Nika Attempts To Explain Why This Picture Is An Eyesore To Any Archer That Sees It."
Archery photos - syccas-stock on Deviantart
History: The Bowmen of England, by Donald Featherstone
Crossbow Hunting, by William Hovey Smith
The Book of the Crossbow: With an Additional Section on Catapults and Other Siege Engines, by
Ralph Payne-Gallwey )
Jenny Heidewald is one of those self-taught artists that has been drawing since she was little; she remembers the exact moment she decided that she wanted to be an artist. Interestingly enough, it was while watching her mom draw the hand of God reaching from the clouds to His followers. Jenny was floored, it seemed to be magic, an image appearing out of nowhere. She thought, "I want
to do THAT!" In addition to writing for EMG-zine, Jenny is a prolific artist who has worked in many mediums. Her current favorite technique is working with colored micron pens, and coloring either with watercolor or Photoshop. Jenny lives in Maryland with her husband. Please check out her Sketchfest, Portrait Adoption, Deviant Art, and Elfwood pages.
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