In January of 2012, the local medieval reenactment group decided to learn Calligraphy and Illumination. Since then, I have immersed myself in books, websites, videos, CD’s, and DVD’s to learn all I can about this art. The first thing I have learned is people pair Calligraphy and Illumination, but they are both incredibly involved individually. As I learned this, I switched my focus to just learning illumination as I love to draw and paint.
I am learning to create what is called a scroll. It can be used to create an award, document a historic event, or display any story one chooses. Scrolls did not exist for awards in the medieval ages. They were called manuscripts and were a page out of a book, such as a Book of Hours. A Book of Hours, in its’ most basic form, is a pictorial to shows events from the Bible. The pages were made of vellum or parchment and were tightly bound to prevent the vellum or parchment from curling.
In my endeavor, I am only learning the techniques of creating a single page so they may be used as awards to be distributed by the Kingdom which I reside in.
My first scroll was inspired by the Book of Kells:
This scroll was a good start, but my outlines were thick and poorly done. The paper was bumpy, fibrous, and otherwise hard to work with. Overall, I had a lot of learning to do!
My second scroll showed improvement:
Also inspired by the Book of Kells, this scroll had better detail and was produced on Bristol Vellum. Although an improvement (and I am not saying this is bad at all) I had to include white work and better understand the dimensions artists used during the time that book was created.
I really enjoy geometric shapes and design, so Celtic (Kells) design was a natural place for me to start. However, to be a “good” scribe, I have to be able to create a scroll from any time period between 500 and 1600 AD. If a member who portrays a 14th century Italian, chances are they are not going to be interested in a 7th century Viking or Celtic scroll.
So I began practicing “late period” scroll making:
This is inspired by the Breviary of Louis de Male, fourteenth century. One sign it may be French or Italian is if it has a lot of blue and red, or if it has a lot of gold work in it. The gold work is harder because there was an emphasis on gold work all through the medieval ages, but the French and Italian manuscript workers amped it up. In this piece, you can see the white work I previously referred to.
A piece in progress:
This has proved to be a more difficult one. At the Mont Saint Micheal in Avranches, many half-done manuscripts were found. This one was just a line drawing called “Gifts to Saint Michael.” There was more in the center but I removed it when I redrew it to make it a scroll blank. The difficulty here is, although it is known that this was drawn between the 6th and 9th centuries, techniques changed over three hundred years. With this, I am choosing to resemble earlier period. In similar miniatures from the 6th and 7th century, the painters did not seem to blend colors. Instead, they took a liner brush and drew very fine lines with or without curvature to show depth, shade, and light. You can see I am attempting to do this with this particular piece.
Most people consider the white work to be what “illuminates” the painting (or miniature), therefore the term Illumination. Though some do argue that the “illumination” is the gold work. Either way, both add an extra level of depth and wonder to any miniature, so I personally consider both to be illuminating.
As I produce more scrolls and learn more information about producing them, I will post the information here. If you have any questions, feel free contact me.