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"Hey, Artists! Learn How Archery Works!" Topic

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Action Log

25 Feb 2018 5:24 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Hey, Artists! Learn How Archery Works, *$&^-it!" to "Hey, Artists! Learn How Archery Works!"

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512 hits since 25 Feb 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2018 3:24 p.m. PST

Here's a clue: The arrow rests against the side of the bow. That's why some bows have a notch called an "arrow rest." DUH!!!! So if the bow is angled towards the ground, the arrow can't be on the DOWNWARD side of the bow, because GRAVITY. Yes, if the arrow can't actually rest on the bow IT WILL FALL OFF. That's how gravity works. The archers hands do NOT hold the arrow upright and straight; they simply hold the arrow LOOSELY against the bowstring; the archer pulls and holds the string, not the arrow!
Oh, and about that bowstring? It's NOT elastic. A bow is NOT a slingshot. The BOW is the spring and the source of power for the shot. The wood or bone (or metal, in a crossbow) of the bow is BENT BACKWARDS by the archer pulling on the bowstring, which does not stretch, placing the wood under tension. When the archer releases, the tension on the bow is released and it returns to its normal shape…but keep in mind, that a bow is already bent and placed under tension when it is strung (which is why you can know the string is not elastic; if it were, the bow would NOT have its classic bent shape, because the string would stretch to its maximum as the wood tried to return to its unstrung shape). An unstrung bow is NOT bent backwards; it is instead either a nearly straight pole (a longbow) or is bent forwards (in some Middle Eastern and Asian designs, radically so). Again, this is because the bow is a spring. (No, not like water; like metal under tension. Google it.)

Back to the arrow. In the classic Western draw (as in Western European, not Texas), the bow is held in the left hand, the string in the tips of the right three forefingers (sometimes two, but never behind the knuckle and NEVER in a fist) with the arrow loosely between the lower two fingers, with the shaft resting on the LEFT side of the bow. LEFT, as in the archer's left, the same hand holding the bow, OPPOSITE the draw hand. The bow will therefore be at a slight angle down to the RIGHT so that the arrow WON'T FALL OFF THE FRICKIN' BOW.

When you paint it any other way, it just looks STUPID. The arrow's NOT a magnet that clips to the side of the bow if the bow is tilted the other way.

Now, yes, other cultural techniques may involve an arrow resting against the same side of the bow as the drawing arm. That's fine IF THE BOW IS TILTED THE OTHER WAY. The arrow STILL has to rest more or less against and ABOVE the bow.
Again, gravity, gravity, gravity!!!!

Jeez, do some research, will you? Or at least watch a decent filming of Robin Hood, or even Orlando Bloom as Legolas. They all depict an arrow being shot more or less properly, because otherwise THE BOW WON'T WORK AND THE ARROW WILL FALL OFF. Yeah, I know you flunked Physics. But still…
And art directors, you're complicit in this. It's your job to tell your artist when they've SCREWED UP. Yeah, we gamers notice. We're GEEKS. You expected that we don't know about archery? Yeah, your typical fan of celebrity reality TV won't have a clue, but they don't buy your product. No, trust me, they have no idea who you are or what you sell, Game of Thrones not withstanding. (Heck, even GoT has archery right, because PHYSICS.)

This rant brought to you by Wizards of the Coast's new Xanathar's Guide to Everything, which has the above described art error TWICE in the interior artwork (and that's just on first glance). Fortunately, one of the archers is depicted as being unable to hit a target about 20 feet away, which is an unintentionally accurate depiction. But the rant also fits Mantic (Dungeon Saga: The Adventurer's Companion cover art), and way more professionally published rules and supplements than you would expect, although almost always in the fantasy genre. Yes, GW has made the mistake, too. A hobby artist making such an error, I understand. But a professional??? Not at all.


Okay, I feel better now.

Cacique Caribe25 Feb 2018 5:11 p.m. PST

Do archers know that much about painting then? :)

I agree though. Research can't hurt.


Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2018 5:46 p.m. PST

This one does (art and scene design classes in college).
If I did illustrate a scene, I'd try to get the basic details correct.

Seriously, the art in Xanathar's depicts archers with the arrow somehow "resting" underneath the bow!

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2018 6:14 p.m. PST

I've never learned to use a bow, although I have a
compound bow I bought years ago after using a
cross-bow for a few years in my SCA days.

The cross-bow was much easier to learn to use than
I thought a longbow or a recurve bow would have
been, much less a compound bow.

FABET0125 Feb 2018 6:18 p.m. PST

Actually, The notch and arrow resting on the left side are a modern sports invention. It was thought to get a better line of sight down the arrow shaft.

Historically the arrow rests on the RIGHT side of the bow. They're usually shown firing that way on medieval art as well. Check out the archers on the Bayeux Tapestry for example:

Why? Loading on the left means dropping the bow down to nock the arrow, or once nocked, releasing the arrow to turn your hand over. Don't believe me? Try loading your air-bow both ways.

The time lost may not mean much to a sportsman, but in a combat in could mean everything.

altfritz25 Feb 2018 8:42 p.m. PST

I found the Osprey book on the Composite Bow very illuminating! Soooo much more to archery than I imagined. It is making me re-think how archery skill progression in RPGs (and other games) should occur.

Next, I have to get their Longbow book. Both written by the same archery expert, IIRC.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2018 9:07 p.m. PST

I honestly don't credit the Bayeux tapestry with necessarily being an accurate depiction of archery technique at the time. It's not like the ladies who made it were at the battle, or even striving for illustrative realism. And the same holds true for much medieval art, which was often stylistic in nature, without much effort placed on accuracy anyway.

But as I said, I don't have a problem with the arrow being on the draw side of the bow. I do have a problem with the arrow being somehow suspended in the air on the underside of the bow! And, of course, depictions that show the bow as a static shape with the string somehow magically lengthening like rubber. Or string and arrow held in a fist, or with the palm, or inside the knuckles, or…well, I'm gonna wind up ranting again. So I'll stop.

Oh, and to writers, especially screenwriters, nobody ever gave anyone an order to "fire" a bow. You don't fire a bow; you "loose" the arrow. "Fire" is an order from the early days of firearms (note the term), in which some source of flame or spark was applied to a touchhole or pan on the gun to ignite the powder. The command to "Fire" was just a shorthand for applying the flame ("the fire") to the touchhole. The use of "fire" for shooting a bow is a case of the newer dominate term for the eventual favored common technology being applied to a less common older technology simple because of the familiarity of the new.

Tacitus26 Feb 2018 1:04 a.m. PST

I used to hold the bow at rest with the arrow on the bowstring while I thwacked it up against the bow repeatedly (letting gravity bring it down) while I was bored waiting for my friends to loose their arrows. It just takes a finger (the index finger of the hand holding the arrow and string) to magically suspend the arrow on the bow from underneath. But then, I was taught to hold the arrow and loose on the right side. Never seen anyone use the left side. But then again, it was a long time ago when I was just a teen. I do agree about bent and unbent bows on miniatures however.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP26 Feb 2018 2:35 a.m. PST

My pet bow peeve is that bows are a "girl" weapon that doesn't require any real physical strength, unlike a sword, which on average appears to weigh around 40 pounds. You just pull back the elastic string and you can kill any opponent without running the risk of ruining your finger nails.

That and people who hold their bows drawn indefinitely. Somehow the magic arrow has the force to go through plate armour (Crom, it's the massive boot of unthinking assumption kicking the puppy of common sense !) but requires zero effort to keep drawn …

Old Wolfman26 Feb 2018 7:51 a.m. PST

I've used a device wrapped around my wrist,which also has a pincers for the bowstring and a trigger release mechanism which when squeezed,releases the string and lets the arrow fly. I also have a fiberoptic sighting tool on my compound bow. Bass Pro ,I believe carries the items

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP26 Feb 2018 10:24 a.m. PST

I used to hold the bow at rest with the arrow on the bowstring while I thwacked it up against the bow repeatedly (letting gravity bring it down) while I was bored waiting for my friends to loose their arrows.

Yeah, but you didn't do that at full draw, did you? I really don't care what the situation is at rest (hard for an artist to muck that up). It's the full draw errors that drive me batty.

Roderick Robertson Fezian26 Feb 2018 11:30 a.m. PST

Oh, and to writers, especially screenwriters, nobody ever gave anyone an order to "fire" a bow.

With the Hollywood propensity for flaming arrows (just about every movie, 'cause it looks cool), saying "fire" makes sense. Not Historical sense, maybe, but Hollywood sense.

Tacitus26 Feb 2018 5:29 p.m. PST

Ah, you are correct, Parzival. I was at full rest, no resistance whatsoever.

altfritz26 Feb 2018 8:30 p.m. PST

One interesting thing from the Osprey Composite Bow book was the suggestion that Horse Archers would typically have more than one bow. One would be strung ready, the others unstrung, and would be rotated out. But how many miniatures give archers or horse archers more than a single bow?

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2018 9:15 p.m. PST

Looked at the images again. Not only is the bow angled the wrong way, and the string gripped inside the knuckles, the actual arrowhead is positioned against the bow! That means you've painted the shaft to be too short for the bow, you daft idjit!

I really need to let this go, don't I?

Old Wolfman01 Mar 2018 9:17 a.m. PST

Then there's the "Mongolian grip" technique(a bit different from the European or North American Native grip style),and I've read a bit on different bow grips in certain magazines such as American Frontiersman,Backwoodsman,Survivor's Edge,and the like.

CeruLucifus02 Mar 2018 12:40 a.m. PST

There's no question the arrow rest is a modern invention. I shot bows at camp in the 70s that didn't have them.

You guys have seen Lars Anderson's videos? Some of his trick shots are edited practical effects, but he demonstrates clearly you can shoot effectively from either side of the bow. YouTube link

Last Hussar28 Dec 2018 2:53 a.m. PST

"nobody ever gave anyone an order to "fire" a bow. "

Yes they did. 14th or 15th century works have that command.

I'll see if I can find my source, but don't hold your breath, its been a few years.

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