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just make things up, your artwork has to be a combination of various forms of information e,g; archaeological digs, historical documents/books, site visits, contemporary artwork etc (though the combining of such evidence (ie the guessing) is where you get to add the art part), though sometimes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 direct tower house 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 which I preferred the most was Kilcrea castle, a field away from the more famous friary with the same name.
I didnt chose Kilcrea just because of its how intact it is but also how it has many of the typical features of tower houses. I have visited Kilcrea three times, once just to see it, second time because I knew I was going to try and remake it, and third time with Sceitse just for fun (and to collect bits I had missed in the first two runs). 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. One gets great enjoyment from hanging out in ruins, trying to re-imagine them and then going home doing just that. The tower house itself in the image is nearly entirely based off Kilcrea, both internally (coming soon!) 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, it was modest in size and grandeur, middle of the road but it didnt have everything, like a second chimney, and its wall walk battlements were completely gone, so I made some minor alterations to make sure it more representative of tower houses.
Besides Kilcrea, I made a few other additions, majorly in the wall walk area (the top), as I just mentioned, most of that was gone from Kilcrea and it is usually there that tower houses had most their bling. From Blarney Castle, I got the Irish form of Machicolation(an extended battlement from the wall walk with slot holes which allowed defenders to drop stuff on attackers) and also from Blarney the Bawn battlements shown in the illustration. Most of the Bawn walls design though is from Barryscourt castle, including the slight Batter at the bases of the towers (an extension at the base of towers and walls to defend against battering rams, may also have been to give structures better support) and the Irish form of Battlement on the tower house is also from Barryscourt. Finally, Ballynacarriga castles' Sheela-na-gig is on the wall and Dunlough castles' bawn tower also influenced one of the towers
While site visits are paramount, 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 don't survive archaeologically
The images on the left of the image I believe are from Barletts Map, these were early English Maps from the early 17th century, they mostly helped design the cob walled 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 gardens from other European countries Medieval manuscripts.
Alot of the houses are actually based off or influenced by archaeological excavations and historical/archaeological 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.