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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Everything I thought I knew is wrong...(edited text for clarity)

(Edits in purple text and strikeout + link - Bridget, I like the new Blogger editor!)
I'm having to readjust my brain after a concentrated scribing session over the holiday, as several familiar truths have proved wrong.

I've been re-reading The Illuminated Alphabet by Noad and Seligman (one of my favourite how-to scribing books, even if it does spend way too much time on gilding), and I learn something everytime I read it.

For instance - there may be a place in the world for waterproof ink, if you're inking a figure before painting - waterproof ink won't bleed into wet paint.

To date, I've avoided wp ink that contains shellac: partly to keep my nibs clean, partly from fear of spilling it partly believing non-waterproof ink it was more authentic than waterproof ink.

On top of that I'd thought the working sequence was always sketch > paint > outline with ink.

But in one of the book projects it's clear the inked border comes first, even before gilding.
This might explain a couple of exemplars I'd puzzled over, where it appeared that the ink would have to come ahead of the colour/gilding. I'll have to look at them again!

Oak gall ink - that I'd thought was non-waterproof, and have cheerfully recommended to others on that basis, in fact becomes waterproof when dry. (www.kalligraphie.com has a great intro on its English-lang shop area)
Further - it actually benefits from being exposed to air to help it oxidise. I've kept lids and corks on all my inks to keep them from evaporating, and apparently oak gall prefers 'en plein air'.

Tracing: I've always felt that tracing figures was akin to cheating - pretending to be better at drafting than you are. To date I've stuck firmly to designs I could draw myself.

But almost all the projects described in the book involve working out the design, then transferring it to the page by tracing, rather than freehand copying.

And as I look at some designs, I wonder - where is the evidence of grids, measuring points, tentative erased lines on finished pieces? Without a 'graphite' pencil, how much freehanding could an artist do on the real work?

I know that modelbooks existed in period - but I was never certain if these were actually for tracing, or only standard layouts and instructions for 'prentices.

Does anyone have evidence one way or another?

Still so much to learn.


Merlyn said...

I tend to be with you on the tracing part. But I think it probably was quite period both the copying part and the tracing it part.(not that I have any evidence of the latter)

However the ink part...it's been my experience that ink when it hits paint ( dry or otherwise) tends to spread and bleed out. I've had horrible experiences with that when ever I tried it. I almost always pencil, calligraphy, ink-outline with oak-gall ink (because it doesn't bleed or smudge that much once it's dry) then paint and then go back and touch up what needs outlining with paint rather than ink.

I highly recommend not ever using a shellack based ink because it does horrible things to pens but oak-gall does all the cool things and more and it is period.

I'm all a twitter as I just got a bunch of new scribally books ot poke at including a very nice one from Marie Lynskey, Illumination for Calligraphers: The Complete Guide for the Ambitious Calligrapher. This is a wonderful back to basics book for anyone who is into this stuff. I actually own a couple of back to basics books form this woman and they are worth owning.

Ari said...

My order has always been (courtesy of my Laurel) sketch, ink, gild, callig, paint, reink.

Kells has blatant evidence of working on grids, etc., but that's the only one I know that does (and maybe Lindisfarne). I've never seen tracing/charcoal evidence on anything later than Celtic.

Leaving the lines for callig is evident in many places, however; especially if they're inked in red. I'm not practiced enough yet, though, to be able to write between the lines rather than on them (if that makes sense).

I used to callig and then gild; however, I find that especially with oak and iron gall inks, they tend to get covered with flecks of gold, which, if you scrape them off, ruin the letters.

Ailitha said...

I do both tracing and freehand when it comes to my illumination and I have also seen both in books but have to look up these examples. I start first with the general outlay of the scroll then do the calligraphy, sketch the illunination, ink the outlines, then gilding, painting and finally if realy realy necessary reink the outlines. For me using the iron gall ink works best.
I started my own modelbook adding and substracting parts of the model drawing in the actual scroll illumination. It saves me a lot of time and is fun. I love my modelbook!!!

Franchesca said...

I too have long been taught that you sketch first, ink in your border, then transfer.

You can visually see that scoring was done to manuscripts to keep lines straight.

I hope one of us can find the written detail evidence you seek. :)