Saturday, 8 February 2014

First Steps in Illumination

This week I found myself with an unexpected couple of hour gap in my schedule. I felt it was important to do something with that time, so I pulled out my paints and attempted something I've been putting off: Medieval Illumination.

Drawing is something I used to do a lot when I was much, much younger, but never practiced. So I've tried, but generally put it off because things have never worked out the way I wanted. Even when I'm designing clothing, I tent to skip straight from idea to sewing without doing up a sketch, because that one step trips me up more often than not.

First step was to sketch out my chosen image, a Scitalis or serpent from Medieval bestiaries. The particular image I've chosen is the one which appears in the Aberdeen Bestiary.

I've harrassed my more experienced illuminating friends for a while about this, so I knew which basic materials to use. The inial colours of my scitalis were completed with Reeves gouache colours, a 12 colour set, so lots of blending was involved. The original image I believe had a gold background; a little too advanced for begining with (plus I couldn't find my gold leaf), so I went with a yellow cold colour wash. This was also fabulous for covering up the stray pencil marks that my cheap rubber couldn't erase.

So here's my finished attempt, with the original below for comparison. I'm quite pleased with it. I've an awful lot to learn about blending and painting with gouache paints. I'm very pleased with how the face turned out, less pleased with this attempt on the body. The wings please me too, even if they are simpler than the original. I imagine practice will make my hand steadier, otherwise I'll have a hard time convincing people that my wiggly lines were just an attempt at making an extremely faithful reproduction of the original's not perfectly straight lines.

I've picked up a few supplies now to help me along with this (the difference decent brushes can make!), and I'm looking forward to trying it again instead of letting it intimidate me.

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