To my calligraphy friends near and far! Here is a little update on the Modern Book of Hours that I am working on. It is a book about the Passing of Time, Seasons, Seasons of Life on into Eternity. The pages shown below are pages 90 and 91. In this blog post, I will give you a little glimpse of the process. More in future blogs. As some of you might know, my client commissioned a 144-page book project, that has taken me quite some time. Each facing page is to match and be as intricate as possible. It is a picture book, where each design can stand alone. (Reproductions are available). I will be making a Collection category of The Book of Hours images on my website in the near future. A few are posted in my SHOP now.
Now for the process…
The first image is the completed page. Calfskin with tiny strokes of watercolor and 23k gold powder applied and burnished.
My client typed the wording that he desired and indicated whether it would go on the right or the left page. It was my job to imagine the creative layout for the illustration and calligraphy.
A pencil rough was the first step of the process. It took 2-3 years to conceive of all of the designs. In their intricacy, I would email them to my out-of-town client and he would ask for adjustments, I would rescan and when we settled on the design, I would file it away in my computer for future reference….it would then be transferred onto calfskin for the final gold and color work. On the right, below, is a sample of the pencil sketch with it’s final on the left.
Below is what the calfskin looks like when I purchase it from Pergamena. It’s manuscript vellum, which I prefer for book projects. It is much finer than what I call Parchment (which I use for Broadsides or work that will be framed).
Once the skin is prepared, I attach it to a board so it will lie flat while I paint it. By the way, the tape on the upper page/board, is typically not there. The skin had pulled away from the staples, so I taped it with Artists Tape. One mistake on my part was to have the pages cut down too small. As you can see, there is only about 1/8″ margin where the staples sit. I would have liked to have 1/2″ or more margin, which would later be trimmed off of the page. I thought I could get away without hydrating and mounting the skins, but after painting page 3, I realized that stretching the skins would give me a much better result in the end.
Initially, I made a little paint chart, which helped me to stay on track with my colors. I’m not using all of them on the chart, but these little floret porcelain pallets will show you how I can go back and repeat similar colors on subsequent pages in the book. Using the same blues and greens, etc. gives some continuity, to a unique book.
Below is page 91 in progress. Lettering still to be lettered. The 24k gold powder, which was burnished to give it some shine, was also debossed to create shiny little dots on the gold. The more detail the better!
The little container with the lid, on the right, is the liquified 24k gold powder. I add distilled water and then a tiny drop of clear Elmer’s glue to help it adhere to the page. Pictured is one of my miniature Kolinsky hair brushes. This one is a 4/0. Very tiny. There is a line of ‘miniature’ brushes in the Series 7 line, which I found to be extremely helpful in getting the detail. (Many other pages have raised gold on a gesso base).
And here you can see the agate burnishers. I use any of the 4 on various projects, but on this small page, I used the curved burnisher that is the second one down and the pointed one on the bottom for debossing the dots.
And once again, below, is the final page. You have to angle the light just right to catch the glint of the gold. The pages will be removed from the boards and I will flip them over for pages on the opposite side. On to the next pages, which will have lettering to resemble Hebrew, wording from the Song of Solomon and the bust of a man and woman facing each other in ornate cloaks. Stay tuned!