Recently I completed an image of a tower house, and I want to do a few posts about the making of the tower house, and perhaps give you a glimpse into the background work that goes into archaeological illustration., One of the harder aspects of archaeological artwork is you cant just make things up, your artwork has to be a combination of various forms of information e,g; archaeological digs, historical documents/books, site visits, contemporary artwork etc (though the combining of such evidence (ie the guessing) is where you get to add the art part), though sometimes you need to fill in the blanks too when there isnt enough evidence or you cant find the evidence.
Thankfully because of Sceitse (a sketch group I run) I have visited many, many tower houses over the years (and sketched them) so I have no shortage of the site visit type of reference. At the same time I often visit these kind of places on my own if they are near a place that Im travelling to or when the fancy comes to me. But while there are many fine examples, the one that is the best that I have visited is Kilcrea castle
I have visited Kilcrea castle twice, once just to see it and the second time because I knew I was going to try and remake it. One of the best aspects of the work I do is I get to spend a day in a place like this, really really getting to know it, inside and out, I love hanging out in ruins and trying to reimagine them. The tower house itself in the image is nearly entirely based off Kilcrea, both internally and externally . The idea of the image was to make a tower house that represented tower houses as a whole (or atleast a representational amount), which Kilcrea fit the bill well, while it didnt have all the normal features it was modest in size and grandeur, middle of the road. Especially the array of windows it had, it seemed to have nearly every window type found in tower houses.
Besides Kilcrea, I made a few other additions, majorly in the wall walk area (the top), as most of that was gone from Kilcrea and it is usually there that tower houses have the most bling. From Blarney Castle, I got the Irish form of Machicolation(an extended battlement which allowed defenders to drop stuff on attackers). Also Blarney is the Bawn battlements, and most of the Bawn walls design was from Barryscourt castle, including the slight Batter at the bases of the towers (an extension at the base of towers to defend against battering rams) and finally with satellite imagery of Barryscourt I got the overal layout of the Bawn. Outside of that Ballynacarriga castles Sheela-na-gig is on the wall and Dunlough castles bawn tower also influenced one bawn tower.
While site visits are paramount as its reading and researching another great reference is actual reference from the time. These have their pitfalls too, as the artists at the time could have been just winging it at times or biased or had an agenda of their own but they are the best evidence for the physical look for aspects that dont survive archaeologically
The images on the left I believe are from Barletts Map, these were early English Maps from the early 17th century, they mostly helped design the cobwalled houses in the image. I even used this map for reference of the bridge, such things rarely survive archaeologically The bottom right is a 17th century map of Carrigfergus, note the Creats, a type of late medieval Irish circular/oval house of just thatch and wattle, you cant see it well in the image but there is one in the bawn of my illustrated tower house the last house in the yard before the horizontally situated bawn house. Not just Irish illustration evidence was used though, the right top two were examples of medieval from other European countries Medieval manuscripts.
Alot of the houses are actually based off or influenced by archaeological excavations and historical documents/books as well as the contemporary illustrations shown here. But thats a post for another day.... perhaps.... hopefully ill be able to show the various ways I went about making the image in the coming weeks/months.