Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Illuminated Alphabet

Another awesome book, subtitled An Inspirational Introduction to Creating Decorative Calligraphy. Calligraphy by Timothy Noad. Text by Patricia Seligman. Similar to yesterday's presented book in many ways--introductory chapters on tools and methods; sections by Celtic, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Modern Revival.

Both books offer exercises as well as pieces of scroll, animal, and plant ideas for building one's own work. What I have grasped in a general way is that one can study examples of the past but the thought is not to reproduce what has been done but to use the past as inspirational launch points for one's own creations. Loosey-goosey, that's what it's all about.

I'd like to quote a bit of Gretchen's recent comment, seconded by Threadspider:

A bit overwhelming isn't it, when one delves into the calligraphic arts-such a rich history and influenced by so many cultures. Each individually formed letter is a story unto itself, let alone the stories they tell can when combined onto the page to form words and sentences.

That sure seems so very, very true for me. History, cultures, religions--an incredibly fascinating world that I have stumbled into.

I am taking a baby step into this world with the first exercise in the Celtic section of The Illuminated Letters. My scanner is not catching the wonderfully glistening coppery-gold finish of the W&N gold gouache that came in today. That stuff is so cool. If I'm understanding correctly, traditional Celtic illumination did not use gilding, only gold colored paint. Works for me as I don't have any gilding supplies. (In fact, I've not yet written up my shopping list. And no worries, as I suspect I can live in the Celtic world for quite some time.)

The before and after pine cone drawings were enthusiastically accepted today, and my blog as a recent screen shot graphic will also be included on the "Meet John Perry" slide. I'm not expecting to hear any more for a couple of weeks--Marcia's off on an international junket.


  1. So compelling! Nice job on that Celtic letter. I'm taking a class on Versals soon and am waiting for my supplies to arrive, will be fun to watch you and also get pulled into this myself. Better than plants, I love the written word. This could be dangerous. - Joyce

  2. I am honored!
    Here's yet another title that you might check out if you have a chance. I believe it is still in print, and has been a wonderful resource over the years:
    "Celtic Art- The Methods of Construction" by George Bain. Your wallet will be grateful to learn that it is a Dover publication and available for less than $10 on Amazon ( I've had my copy for so long that the original price was $5!)
    Also, experiment with different manufacturer's gold/gouache. They all have different characteristics. Some are more yellowy gold, some are browner. Sheen/sparkle varies as well. I keep several on hand. Right now I am addicted to the entire line of M. Graham gouache. Schmincke's gold watercolor ( not gouache) seems to be popular with calligraphers too, but I have not tried it.

  3. Thanks, Joyce, I've been itching to get back to my letter--it's green and red tonight. I need smaller brushes. And more gouache. And, and... Too bad work gets in the way. ;-)

  4. Thanks for the book recommendation, Gretchen. It's on its way along with a copy of The Book of Kells: An Illustrated Introduction to the Manuscript in Trinity College Dublin by Bernard Meehan.

    I must check out all the different golds. Also wondering what would happen if I tried to mix in a bit of yellow watercolor. Experiments to come! I need gouache colors and more brushes. I guess it's already time for another dickblick order. :-)