Friday, September 15, 2017

FULL CIRCLE



by Martha Slavin



My mother loved the illustrations of Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane, artists who lived in the Victorian era. Their delicate and detailed drawings for children's books remind me of illuminated manuscripts. The two artists used common motifs and design elements, such as letterforms, stars, flowers, leaves, swirls, repetition, and awareness of positive and negative space. My mother painted similar designs on the delicate ceramics she made.





This last weekend I felt like I was channeling my mother while I took a workshop called The Enchanted Letter led by Heather Victoria Held, a calligrapher and illustrator, who paints illuminated letters. She kept us enthralled with her mastery and knowledge of illumination, which harks back to the Middle Ages, when monks sat at their desks hand lettering religious books. The books done by monks were used for liturgical purposes, but other artists began using the same skills to illustrate books for wealthy patrons. The artists filled in many of the spaces with filigree, leaves, flowers, animals, and insects. The hand-made book became obsolete with the advent of the printing press, but the beauty and appreciation of these books never died. In the Victorian era, artists such as Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane, created children's books using many of the design techniques of the illuminated manuscripts.



by Martha Slavin
In the workshop, we worked on drawing the acanthus leaf that can be found in many designs dated back to the Ancient Egyptians. We learned how to shape the leaf around "S" forms. We placed leaves around borders. We added gold-leaf or gold paint. We colored the shapes first with watercolor pencils, then we dampened the color to smooth out the shading. We added watercolor to bring out highlights and contrast. We drew filigree between the shapes, added shading with pastels, and, finally, we glued on tiny crystals to add a little bling.  As Heather said, "A little bling never hurts." Much of what we did during the weekend workshop, I used to do in college and for several years afterward. I had put aside this type of work for other things. I gave away some of the reference books I no longer used. But now I am back full circle, enjoying the pleasure of this detailed, delicate work.



by Martha Slavin


If you travel to Europe and want more inspiration, you might want to look at the Lindesfarne Gospels in the British Library, or visit the home of Carl Larsson in Sundborn, Sweden, or travel to Bayeux, France, to see the Bayeux Tapestry, an extraordinary piece of embroidery using similar design techniques to relate the history leading to the Battle of Hastings.



by Martha Slavin


One of my favorite artists, Sara Midda, uses many of the techniques of the Victorian era to illustrate her charming books. Look also in the children's section of the library or bookstore for artists, such Graeme Base, Elizabeth Doyle or Edward Gorey, who have all completed an abcderian book worth looking through.





Check out these websites for more information about

Illuminated Manuscripts    http://www.illuminatedpage.com/history.html

Bayeux Tapestry     http://www.bayeuxmuseum.com/en/la_tapisserie_de_bayeux_en.html
Sara Midda    https://www.workman.com/authors/sara-midda


Dover Publications, a great reference resource   http://www.doverpublications.com/about/

4 comments:

  1. Absolutely exquisite work Martha!. When I am in London the British Library manuscript room is one of my favourite haunts. As well as the gospels there are some very beautiful illustrated books by Persian artists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Pat. What a treasure the British Library must be! I need to visit!

      Delete
  2. I love decorative drawing and think that I might have been one of those scribes or monks. A psychic once told me that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! that would be an interesting past life!

      Delete

Thank you for commenting! I love hearing from readers. I answer each one.

I do not post Anonymous comments because of problems with spammers.