Friday, April 9, 2010

The Celtic Design Book

What a fun book! :-) Or perhaps better said books, as this was originally published as three separate volumes--A Beginner's Manual, Knotwork, and Illuminated Letters. Written and illustrated by Aidan Meehan.

Here is a "step pattern" from the Book of Lindisfarne. The initial grid layout and penciling in took a couple of hours. Next up is the inking in and for that I'll try to pick up a black 0.25 mm Pigma locally. I'll also be poking around the web hoping to find an image of the original manuscript for realistic coloring. Not doing well there...perhaps this step pattern is a little piece on a page? Perhaps I need to extend my library? :-)


  1. Hello John!

    Try this:

    which I hope is the close-up, or else:

    and click the image, then click again to see the close-up.

    It's only one page but shows lovely, lovely colours which in the step-pattern panels oddly enough reflect your photos of nature's knotwork the other day: the russet, grey-green and pale gold are all there along with a light greyish blue and darker sepias.

    Isn't ochre wonderful? :-) I'll be interested to hear what Gretchen's recommended brand is like. The transparency of the colour really affects the look but it seems to be one of those old colours like sepia and vermilion which varies a good deal from maker to maker.

    Very much looking forward to your coloured version. The steps are beautifully constructed. They will show off the best of any subtle variations in the watercolour.

  2. This might sound obvious but do make a simple black and white copy of this just to keep as a master/template! Then you can slip the copy behind your paper and trace this grid over and over for future pieces, using either a light box or placing it up against a sunny window. It saves an incredible amount of time especially when you are anxious to get to the inking and painting!
    Katharine- you will be surprised to learn what my favorite yellow ochre is! It is a pan color from the cheapie Pelikan opaque water color set (24 colors). This yellow ochre has an unmatched warmth and glow when used in glazes; it does not muddy things up and makes some of the most beautiful clean earthy greens-I could not live without this color. I really love these paints and use them quite a bit. I did a light fast test with them ( placed painted samples of all 24 colors in a full sun/south facing window ) for 2 years and only the only color to show even a slight color shift (none actually "faded") was the magenta.
    Pelikan has discontinued some of their original colors and added a few to their newer box/sets that I do not have, but I have every reason to believe that the newer colors will perform as well as mine. Do not be afraid of the "opaque" label on this set- I find the colors to be as rich and strong or as subtle and transparent as you wish and prefer them to their "transparent' set! You can even mix these colors to an inky consistency to use in your dip pens.
    My other favorites (these are tubes) are m. graham's yellow ochre (gouache) and I also really like Winsor & Newton's yellow ochre from their Cotman line- I actually prefer it to their artist quality for the same reasons I stated above for the pelikan paint.

  3. Katharine, thank you so much for the links! Perfect! :-) You know, I think my sepia colored Pigma will be fine with these colors. Besides, now I don't have to venture out on this terribly rainy evening.

    I think I will add a nice border to this design. Oh, this is going to be a lot of fun! More soon...

  4. Great idea, Gretchen! :-) Oh, now I want a light box!

    Okay, I'm off now to plan out the colors and my general approach. I am slowly learning to start out gently, leaving room to build. Helps to keep me out of trouble that way. ;-)

  5. Gretchen, that's very interesting! I usually use gouache and just don't know enough about watercolour brands. The Pelikan range sounds interesting: opaque watercolour would make lovely ink ... I picked up a Daler Rowney ochre pan recently as it advertised a very clean transparent quality. It's a thinner colour than my Winsor & Newton gouache but mixes better. The gouache, even though it should be opaque, is wonderfully glowing in thin washes.

    John, I'm so glad the links helped! I agree with Gretchen about the tracing. Your early scans of these pieces might be useful for tracing too if printed -- the knotwork, for example -- you could experiment with new breaks without having to do all the layout first.

    Getting lots of good ideas for more of my own artwork here. At the moment, not enough time to do them. John, you are the 'designated proxy creator' for the next few days. Make sure you are having enough fun for at least two ... probably more ... :-)

  6. I saved a scan after inking and before the first wash. I must remember to do this regularly. I could end up with nice library.

    Yes, good idea on the knots. In fact, I was thinking about snipping up pieces in Photoshop to explore designs. Also, that might be a way to get a handle on knotted corners.

    I will try to live up to my designation. ;-)