A place for Drachenwald's scribes to hang out, learn, discuss and critique each others work.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

tips for whitework

Over the weekend I completed the first scroll that I did both the calligraphy and the illumination for. The two borders are both taken from early 15th century Dutch manuscripts; the more I see of Dutch illumination, the more distinctive it appears. (A century of Dutch manuscript illumination is a very wonderful book.)

The thing I'm least happy about is my whitework. Does anyone have any tips? I have trouble keeping my hand steady (and hence the wavering of the lines), and by the time I water my gouache down sufficiently so that I can add a thin line of it, it isn't a very vibrant white any more. Do I need a smaller brush? Should I paint each line twice? Advice for a white-work novice much appreciated!


Merlyn Gabriel said...

I have a hell of a time with white work and some days it's good and some days i think i should just throw my paints away.

What I do is...I keep my gouache the constancy of warm honey, It shodl flow easily from the brush tip without being too watery. I don't use the tiniest brush around because they don't hold enough water/paint to be useful for lengthy lines so i use a 0 or sometimes a 1. Make sure it is a brush with a really good point or else you will just get frustrated.

To quell the shaky hand you can practice breathing out slowly and gently while you paint, this is a photographer's method for getting rid of camera shake. Holding your breath will make the shake worse, believe it or not. ( at least this is what I find)

Another thing you can do is find something rest your wrist on like a rolled up tea towel, that sometime takes the pressure off the hand and helps to stop shake.

For me the bottom line was just practice practice practice until you get the right combo of fluidity in the paints and brush to go with it.

There are scribes out here that are just so much better at white work than I am who I am sure can add to the list of things...

Nice piece and good to see people posting

Though 1 suggestion I would make would be to add a black outline around the Gold A.

- cheers

Anonymous said...

Bridget has a lot of it right. Don't water down your paint too much... and you need one that will hold the paint well so you can really load it with the pigment. I don't use a small brush, per se, I use a thin long bristled one. It also takes more than one layer to make the white pop. Put down your initial lines, let it all dry completely, go back and do it again. It takes less layers on red than it does on blue, but I often wind up going back 3 to 4 times to get the white as sharp as I would like.

I sometimes use a roll to steady my wrist, but I have learned that if I breathe out slowly as I lay down the line I have a steadier hand. I also take very frequent breaks to let my muscles relax.

Now, having said that! You did a lovely job! Keep at it, with practice and trial and error you'll get the white lines you want!


Aryanhwy merch Catmael said...

Thanks for the tips. I'll try them all out the next time I do some whitework!

I agree about the needing of the black around the letter; unfortunately, by the time I realized it, I knew that there was no way I could outline the letter with a steady enough hand. (The other things outlined in black? I did the inkwork first and then painted it in). I'm going to do the outline-then-fill method the next time I make an initial capital, so hopefully the next one will turn out better.

Nerissa said...

As Mistress Bridget said, breathing out is the key to smooth fine lines. I'd also encourage you to use a ruler with your brush to paint the straight lines. It's less scary to do, faster, and looks neater.

Hard to explain, but I'll try: paint brush in right hand, ruler clutched in a fist in your left hand. The left knuckles rest firm on the table, leaving the ruler tilted, and ruler edge floating above the artwork. Metal part of your paintbrush runs along the ruler edge, and so does your right index knuckle while you grip the brush. The only thing that moves is the 'left to right' as you paint!

Also, do you have some gold leaf? I like using transfer gold leaf as its easier to deal with - it doesn't fly away with the smallest breeze.


Aryanhwy merch Catmael said...

I use the ruler for my penwork and drawing all the lines that are going to be filled in with paint, but never thought of using it while painting, thanks for the tip!

I don't have any gold leaf, I've never had a chance to work with it in any form. I figure I'll enjoy my gold paint for awhile and then work my way up to leaf.