Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Final Details

From start to finish, my project took 41 days! I started with the desire to really enter the working methods of the Boucicaut Master, an elusive and anonymous French Illuminator from the 15th Century. My portion of the border is far larger than the original. I worked at a size of 2 1/4" By 10 inches and I dramatically enlarged the image I found online to study the details. The purpose of studying this way and copying this manuscript was to see what I could absorb of the Boucicaut Master's attention to detail. I was not disappointed! By enlarging the original, I could see every detail. From the individual seed pods in the acanthus leaf centres, to the veining drawn on the stalks of the cornflowers to the curls and the part in the angels' hair! I learned how the shading was applied to the acanthus leaves. I could see several shades of lavendar and blue in the violets and I could see that how he painted the curves of the violet leaves, in fact he painted a ruffle on the violet leaf!
I invested over 30 hours in the project. The piece is almost entirely painted with a 000 Winsor Newton Series 7 Brush. Some of the larger areas were done with a 00 or 0 brush. It took 4 layers of watercolour to build up a jewel tone effect. My working method throughout the piece was moist brush rather than having a lot of water on the brush. One of the techniques I discovered was in the facial features and in the hands. Usually, I don't outline my work before painting. I save the outlining until the end if it is necessary. At first glance and even enlarging and studying this piece, I felt that it had not been outlined except in a few areas. But as I continued to study and magnify the image, I could see that the facial features and hands hand been outlined, with the features fully drawn and then a light wash of pigment was placed over top of the outlining. They white of the vellum was left for the eyes.
A great technique to remember. The final reward of this piece was the filigree work.
When I gilded the piece initially, it is hard to see a pattern or any sort of sense in the placement of gold. The gilding pattern in the filigree is random rather than repeated. But the Boucicaut Master took care to make sure each gilded leaf or orb was attached to a stem which in turn was attached to another part of the design. This gives such a continuity in the filigree. My illumination teacher always treats the filigree portion of a miniature as the reward for working through the piece. I felt very rewarded as I applied the filigree. I did not reference the manuscript for the filigree work. It is very intiuitive. In the end, the piece yeilded up some discoveries that would have remained hidden if I had not embarked on this journey. I enjoyed the study and the peace it brought over this festive season of the year. Although I invested time and energy, this piece feels as though it does not belong to me. I added one little touch ( other than adjusting the pug nose on the lower angel). Where the Boucicaut Master had further ornamented his filigree work with tiny drawn dots, I filled the dots with my Sakura Stardust pen! A little twinkle from this century, reaching back into his.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013 Christmas Video Up

Wishing all of my friends, students and colleagues a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for all of the encouragment and inspiration. Hope this holiday season is filled with peace for you all. The video reflects my usual practice time...with Oscar either perching over top of my work or very close by. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mid-December Morning

There are mornings when the thought of writing wakes me up and I have to get into the studio to play. This morning as the sun rose slowly, I found a blue/grey piece of Canson paper and a Tennyson quote that has been rolling around in my head. The house is quiet in the morning and I can work in peace. I mixed a new batch of ivory ink and wrote the words.
My straight holder was nearby and the Esterbrook 128 still has some life in it. December is an odd month for me. Lots of holiday tasks to take care of. I love to visit the shops to see their Christmas displays. My classes wind down for the end of the year and I find time to breathe. This morning the quote helped me reflect on those who I have met this year. So many wonderful students who have become my friends. I am so grateful for my experiences, my family, my friends, students and colleagues. Grateful for time spent working with the pen. Grateful that I still have so much to learn.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Image Emerges

I have spent my first week with the Boucicaut Master. I have spent 7 hours this week in the underpainting stage of the image. The underpainting stage consists of a light wash of the colours of the design. Traditionally, I paint the foliate features first but I started this miniature with the two features that will cause me the most trouble, the angels! Remembering that I enlarged this image quite a bit, I marvel at the skill of the Boucicaut Master. The first surprise that came to me was the angel at the bottom of the border. Without a doubt he is painted with a pug nose!
I will not include that nose on my little angel, but he brought a smile to my face when I saw that little nose. The top angel is painted in profile which is always a challenge for me. Each finger is accounted for. At least on the original.
I am struggling through the facial features and the finger positions, but I still have room to capture them properly. The underpainting stage is done to help capture the design before the details are painted in. The hands and faces of the angels are painted in Holbein Jaune Brilliant 1 and Jaune Brilliant 2. The underpainting was done in the following order and colors, Yellow Ochre, Olive Green, Cobalt Blue and French Vermillion. I am limiting my palette to my Senellier Pan colours and my Winsor Newton Pans. At the end of the week, I am still nervous about the angels but I am hopeful that I will find lots of joy in painting the foliate work!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Enter the Project

I spend a profound amount of time in the illumination world. Next to my Ornamental Penmanship and Offhand Flourishing, studying and illumination take up the greatest portion of my time. This week, as I was going through my files, I had a crazy thought about trying do a portion of a manuscript that I loved. I wanted to do a Nativity or an Annunciation scene to mark this festive season but I soon found myself in the world of angel borders and settled on a small border.
Early in my illumination studies, we were taught how to transfer an image from an old manuscript and do our best to copy the design while bringing some of ourselves to the piece. I worked using that method from 2007 until 2011. In 2011, I started creating my own illuminations. This year's Christmas Card, The Gift Bearer is one such design. Based on techniques I learned in my illumination studies, but now drawing my own little creatures and foliate work.
But for this larger project based on the work of the Boucicaut Master, I wanted to capture the lines of the of the original illuminator and truly enter the piece. I have already made some discoveries about the piece that I wouldn't have found by observing it online. The first thing I did was enlarge the image to discover the treasues that it held.
Observe the little jewel like centre of the acanthus leaf! What a treat and a surprise that is lost in the small scale of the piece. I am still trying to confirm the original dimensions of this manuscript but my research is pointing to a size of 160 x 115 mm. Pretty tiny! The project I am working on is the angel border found on the right hand side of the manuscript. I enlarged the image to 2 1/4 x10 to explore the image. I am amazed at the intricacy found within this border. My first challenge has been to transfer and now gild this piece. I gilded this piece with Miniatum ink. I am using a piece of 140 LB Arches Hot Press paper.
As I paint it, I hope to update you on my trials and my discoveries as I try to enter the project. The thoughts I had at this transfer and gilding level were constant wonder at the eyesight capabilites of the original illuminator. How did he see those tiny little elements of his design. How did he apply the gesso so cleanly? He captured detail within detail brilliantly. As I transferred and gilded this morning, I worked in silence, surrounded by a sense of wonder and awe at the skill of Boucicaut Master. I hope to discover more about him as I continue to enter the project. Although I am using modern supplies to work on this project dating back to 1420, I will enjoy exploring this peaceful project. Might take me some time to complete but I will post my observations!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Paper and The Pen

Thanks to the Penworld article a few months ago, my Mom phoned the local paper! They came for a visit last week and I had fun showing them my pens, nibs, inkwells, treasured envelopes and my work. Nice to have the mention of cursive handwriting!!!You can view the link here if you like!