...also known as illumination on short notice.

Weeks ago, a lovely lady I work with asked if I would be interested in doing a commissioned illumination.  Her world is infused with the written word.  Her husband is also an author, among other things.  She has been trying to think of a suitable text and recently asked if I could get a “little something” done as a gift for her husband for Easter.

With a very short lead-time, I decided to adapt an existing illumination to the new text.  Taking elements off my FROM RANGER TO KING, found on my Illumination album, I began to compose the new piece.  With luck, the first letter of both was an “A”.  Deciding on the image for the capital was easy.  The dawn sky with crosses silhouetted was the logical choice.  I know a lot of artists do tons of thumbnail sketches and play with the design.  But often I can only see one way to do things in my head and it just seems a waste of time to do any other version.  Making them pale so they don’t overpower the rest of the painting was an essential part of the design.

Next, I laid out all the components and added a crown of thorns in the upper right to give some balance to the overall layout.  The time consuming part was the inking.  But I get lost in that phase….it relaxes me.  I adore the little squiggles and leaves and ornaments.  If I had time, I would have done little miniature scenes in each of the open circles….scenes of the disciples…the cross…the crowd, etc. 

Here’s an example of how to save something that goes a bit wrong.  I had traced down the lettering in order to paint in each character with brown paint to imitate aged calligraphy.  Black can look far too bold and new and this was to have a “medieval” feel to it.  When I finished the entire text, the lettering appeared far too pale compared to the rest of the piece.  Laboriously painting over the text would not solve the problem as it would be impossible to match the outlines perfectly and more likely look worse in the end.  I had often shaded letters in the past and decided it might be a good solution here.  I visualized the shadows on the bottom and left of each letter and painted them in with a script liner brush.  It took a bit of time, but I think it saved the piece and gave it a unique look.

Painting the border elements came after, followed by the white gel pen I used for detail.  For imitation gilding I have tried many different kinds of gold paint but have found metallic gold model paint gives the most lustrous appearance.  It doesn’t photograph well, but has a lovely shimmer in real life.

In the end, I spent 11 hours on this piece.  I did the entire job in one day.  I had no idea it would take that long.  Usually I’m doing little bits here and there, never all at one shot.  It’s good to get that sense of time for the next estimate I do for a commission.  What makes it all worthwhile were the tears that welled in my friends eyes when she saw it.  Sometimes that is all the payment I could want.  To know my vision is appreciated, that my art can touch a soul and be meaningful to someone’s life.  If my work continues to speak to people and adds a little bit of beauty to this world, I can consider myself successful.


on 23/04/11
Posted on 04/23 at 12:56 PM
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