Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Elyas Tigar Laurel

When asked to do the Laurel scroll for Elyas Tigar, an absurdly talented potter and illuminator in his own right, I got excited at the opportunity to play with gold leaf and do something a bit different than I've ever done before, because I was on a timeline that allowed me a little wiggle room in case it utterly failed.

As background, I should share that I have used a faux gold leaf in the past - I believe it was aluminum based, and it was very sad and frustrating, and the outcome was bland and uninspiring as well as sloppy. No bueno. I have stuck to gold gouache and Finetec micah pigments in place of gold leaf out of fear. However, real gold, and quality binder? A WORLD of difference. I'm no longer afraid!  (See, even experienced peers and artists have stumbling blocks!)

So I'll start by posting pictures of the final piece, then I'll share my inspiration and process. Click to enlarge!

This is done in the style of late period European patents and grants of arms. I specifically tried to seek out inspiration of English pieces, such as this marriage deed for Jane Seymour to Henry VIII c.1536:

And this stunning Ref: Add. Ms. 2605 Illuminated initial letter with portrait of Henry VIII from Letters Patent to Thomas Bowyer of London concerning the Manor of Runcton in North Mundham, 21 April, 1540. Unfortunately the original source I found for this image is missing, but it is available on Pinterest here.

Then of course there are the multitude of sources and text samples found on this website on Fifteenth Century English Patents of Arms. Go there and visit it! Great stuff! I was particularly inspired by the Grant of arms for Eton College (about halfway down the website referenced above):

Incidentally, Eton College still exists today, and claim to have their original grant available in their archives for viewing, but they don't have a digital copy on their website that I could find - pity.

A few things were clear in my design choices. I wanted a giant ornate cadel, and the first line to be a larger size nib, with additional capital cadels and flourishes. I wanted the rest of the illumination to be all about the display of arms. Mostly because Elyas's arms are gorgeous, and the supporters were chosen (not by me!) to be very personal to him. I modeled the pottery on his crest after the puzzle cup he made and baffled many an Artemisian with.

Finally, the cadel "D" was inspired by a letter from John Scottowe's book Alphabet of Ornamental Capitals c.1592 (I hope). I found this cadel on Pinterest, which I both love and hate because it can be so inspiring, but links and references can end up dead or circular. It took me some time to find a viable source of this image - and even then it's a partial guess because I've yet to find an actual copy of this book to make sure it's in there. Stylistically, it fits, but I could be perpetuating incorrect information. I'll keep digging for the truth, and if you find I'm wrong please let me know!! 

I did this piece on pergamenata with Pilot Iroshizuko Take-Sumi ink, Winsor and Newton gouache, and 23k loose leaf gold. I used minatatum ink as the binder for the gold. I tried to apply it using a dip pen, but it refused to flow at the angle in which I was working. Due to the size of the piece, changing that angle was non-negotiable. I switched to a cheap paintbrush and carried on. I applied the gold almost immediately, but in theory it should have remained tacky for about 24 hours.

Incidentally, the mermaid's jewelry is gold gouache, not leaf, because I'd already applied paint near there, and I didn't want to accidentally get gold sticking where it shouldn't be.

So what is my favorite part of this piece, aside from the wicked long text? It's a tossup between the tiny ermine spots on the mantle, and the red tiger's white beard.