Two Inticing Paint Color History Books Reviewed

Yesterday I was going through my books preparing for the coming Book Arts RUSH and found again my current published books on pigment history. They are both books about early art material production. These books interest me because Medieval artists or their staff made their own paints. Knowing that paint production history enhances your color use when recreating illumination art. These two books present you tantalizing background stories and trivia about the complete color creation processes. The first book is…  Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay  In this book, you read varied, interesting stories describing Finlay’s quest for the world’s historical pigments and dyes. Written as a travelogue through color history, her book takes you from Afghanistan to the Australian outback, to China’s ancient caves, and Spain’s saffron harvest.  You read vivid stories, anecdotes, and adventures about the colors themselves. About Cleopatra’s saffron use for seduction. Historically expensive ultramarine blue production from lapis lazuli extracted from an Afghan mine. And how carmine red, still used today in lipstick, is made from the blood of insects. I liked Finlay’s book for its intriguing historical information, especially the extensive notes in the back. Unfortunately, I lost interest and only skimmed through her detailed personal travel descriptions. Instead, I jumped to the color fact chapters labeled by their names. Better yet is the next book I recommend … Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color  by Philip Ball  This book tells you about western art history through the physical substances used to create color. […]

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Testing – Which Gouache Brand Rewets Best?

I often read James Gurney‘s blog the Gurney Journey. Gurney is the Dinotopia guy. His art is amazing and his posts inspiring.  Recently, I found a post of his I think you’ll find interesting. Some gouache tests his associate Cathy Gura ran comparing gouache brands rewetting behaviors. She also compared their consistency and of all things their smell. I was intrigued because […]

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Enrich Your Calligraphy, Book Review

When I had two peerage scrolls on my calendar I surveyed my C & I supplies for missing necessities. I ordered them on John Neal Bookseller’s website. I’m a sucker for books so I also looked for their’s on clearance. I found Enrich Your Calligraphy by Diana Hardy Wilson and decided to take a chance on it. Hardy’s book is not an introduction to calligraphy or a “how to” guide. It does not cover scripts or their ductus. It has a niche topic that stimulates and encourages scribes, graphic artists, and modern calligraphers to advance to their full potential. The book is filled with detailed inspiration about scribal topics including developing your creative process and visual awareness investigating spatial relationships developing and reviewing a reference collection I particularly like the information and encouragement on developing visual awareness. While Hardy writes for calligraphers the information on seeing details applies to illumination as well. Enrich Your Calligraphy is an easy to read book for the calligrapher who has more developing and exploring to accomplish, which is most of us. It’s a unique book for a devoted calligrapher or lover of lettering.  Related Prior Post:  How to Select a Calligraphy Guide Book

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The Best "How-to" Decorative Letters Book

If you’ve looked at the stunning art in medieval manuscripts and wondered how they were made then the main book you need for learning illumination is The Illuminated Alphabet: An Inspirational Introduction to Creating Decorative Calligraphy by author Patricia Seligman and calligrapher Timothy Noad.  As SCA scribes know, illumination is a unique craft with its own techniques. It is not watercolor or acrylics. It’s not even illustration. So ferreting out its methods is tricky. The Illuminated Alphabet is the best book to help you learn methods to re-create historic illuminated letters.  The book begins with a brief illuminated letters’ history, describing artists creating them and their patrons. It then delves into basic illumination techniques and a materials’ list.   paper and vellum  brushes, pens, and pencils  paints and inks including gouache, egg tempera, and watercolors  gilding techniques such as the combination of gold leaf and gesso My favorite explorations in the book are Noad’s illuminated letter adaptations from period masterpieces. They cover five individual manuscript styles:  Celtic  Romanesque Gothic Renaissance  Modern Revival Each style includes upper and lower-case letter designs, borders and decorations, materials used, gilding instructions and a gallery. The examples featured are: the Lindisfarne Gospels  the Book of Kells  Emperor Henry II’s Periscopes the Lincoln Psalms a Bestiary Lion  Books of Hours Whitevine Lettering  William Morris a Horoscope Initial The Illuminated Alphabet has detailed instructions for each project and how they were adapted from original sources by the book’s artist. Step-by-step photographs and instructions include tips on […]

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The Art and History of Calligraphy, Book Review

Do you have Patricia Lovett’s book Calligraphy and Illumination…?  I often refer to it.  When I learned she published another book I went online cyber-Monday and bought myself a Christmas present. Her recent book The Art and History of Calligraphy, published last year by the British Library. Since the author is a British professional calligrapher and illuminator you won’t be surprised the book emphasized historic manuscripts’ lettering.  Her first chapter shows the high-value of calligraphy shown in her book. There’s a chapter on historic manuscript production including quills, vellum brushes, pigments, and gold. And a section on how the letters are made.   The last, most beautiful section traces writing through the ages. It features 50ish detailed pictures of lettering and manuscripts from the British Library’s outstanding collection.  You’ll like the pictures of enlarged few lines showing the letters’ tiny elements. There are many photos without illumination, one of writing in shell gold ink on black dyed vellum.  The book’s historic manuscripts include information or pictures on the Bosworth Psalter, the earliest surviving manuscript of the ‘New Hymnal’ from England the Lacock Cartulary with its wonderfully flourished letters a two-page spread picturing one page of the Luttrell Psalter.  Lovett’s book doesn’t stop with the Italian Renaissance but continues modernly including recent renaissance-style calligraphic art by William Morris Shiela Waters “Roundel of the Seasons” a present-day work by Stephen Raw of Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “Light By Sunlights Glance” Lovett’s book clearly describes and photographs the artistic skill creating medieval manuscripts.  I am very pleased with my cyber-Monday […]

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Unique Bibliocraft Book Find

Yesterday I went to my favorite bookstore, Half Price Books. It’s so close to home, I’ve walked to it. I always check out their $2 sale section.  This time I found something unique. BiblioCraft: A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Jumpstart Creative Projects, by Jessica Pigza. I bought it just for giggles, without looking it over. Was I surprised. As a SCAdian and a scribe, I’m well aware there’s amazing wealth in libraries. I thought I’d become an expert in searching them and online. This book’s author is a librarian and she beats my ability hands down.  Pigza’s book tells how to develop projects based on library resources, just like we do in the SCA. It’s intended for all creatives whether hobbyist or professional, basicly anyone in the SCA.  For us Part I may be the most important. In it Pigza tells how to find and use what libraries’ have to offer, online or in person. From the library’s branch, research, or special collections; to how to find the right library for you; to how to plan a library visit the proper way; and how to search. There’s amazing information there. Part II includes 20 projects inspired by library resources. While these projects are not historic recreations, the resource information within them is relevant. I was excited to read Pigza even includes stuff on illuminated manuscripts, penmanship, the history of type design, bookplates, decorative book bindings and the art of heraldry. Topics a scribe might […]

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New English Translation of Cennini

New Broecke Translation There’s a new English translation of Cennino d’Andrea Cennini’s “Il libro dell’ Arte, by Lara Broecke, a professional paintings conservator and artist. Amozon’s webpage intriguingly describes it as establishing: more precisely what Cennino actually wrote, by correcting more than 400 errors in Thompson’s text…In addition, the author’s most informative introduction places Cennino in context and accounts for the genesis of the libro dell’arte by r eference to the society in which it was produced. With all those errors some may explain the problems some have recreating Cennini’s recipes and techniques. While Broecke’s book is lauded as a “landmark text” for art history students and professionals it is just the kind of book many SCA scribes will drool over. And maybe for a long time because $90 for 248, 6.9 x 9.7 inch, pages is steep. Especially since Thompson’s 80-year-old version is cheap on Amazon and free on the web, although it takes effort to access on Notebook. Before you buy it, you may be interested in the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Work‘s extensive review.  With my retirement budget, my option to read this book will be interlibrary loan from my local library. 

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Beginning Illumination, Book Review

Queen’s Prize in Calontir, September 2016 Checking out the calligraphy and illumination entries at Calontir’s recent Queen’s Prize Tournament I saw a copy of Claire Travers’ book Beginning Illumination. I was intrigued, so I ordered it. While only 80 9″x11″ pages, it is worth the reasonable $19.97 hardcover cost.  Travers first introduces the reader to the materials and basic techniques. Then using photos she guides […]

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Bang Up Book: "The Art Of Teaching Craft, A Complete Handbook"

Wandering through my local 1/2 Price Books I came across  the The Art Of Teaching Craft: A Complete Handbook by Joyce Spencer and Deborah Kneen. Written in 1995 it is just what I’d been searching for to help me prepare for my calligraphy and illumination classes. It is a practical guide to teaching small to medium classes, in your own home, your studio or at another venue. It details how to set up your space, plan your class, provide teaching aids and keep records. The authors also include multiple check-lists to summarize each section. I find it’s very useful for lesson plans. Written in 1995 for those living in Australia, it still applies to teaching crafts in the U.S. today. Although if you are starting a business you would want to confer with a lawyer on legal things.  An easy to read book and well thought out. However, I would love to see it updated. One that would include the use of internet media such as Pinterest, Facebook, eVite and Google Doc, Sheets, Slides and Forms.  So much has changed in internet media that are useful for small group teaching, but may be unknown to some.

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Article Review: Starting and Maintaining A Scribes Guild

As I am planning things for the coming scribal classes, I found an excellent handout about starting and maintaining a scribes’ guild. While my intent for our classes was to continue on from the information provided at the recent Barony’s scribal introduction class, not to form a guild, the information in Hillary Rose Greenslade’s article is relevant and helpful.  She includes topics that are organizational, financial, and resourceful. Written for use in the SCA, its concepts could apply to any start-up art group supported by a broader organization, such as a church or community center. Her article cheerfully guides you through all operational stages and could serve as an entry guild leader job description. If you are reading my blog and want to start a local scribal group, within or without the SCA, Hillary’s article is just what you want to read. Be sure to check my Scribal Resources Page for recent additions.

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