About a year ago, I completed this special project. 2021 to early 2022. It was a gift and the recipient had not yet graduated from law school. His kindly friend and wife recognized the great potential that this young man has and so wanted to gift him with some very special words to hang in his law office. The theme is about MERCY. He chose the real deal, calfskin, which is a delight to work on, although you need to know how to prepare it. This skin was purchased from Pergamena, NY. Read below to learn more about this very special project.
First, a close up of the capital letter. My client was a dental surgeon, not an artist, so in his mind, he was imagining black and white. His wife talked him into a little crimson. After the word MERCY was hand lettered, I felt it was much too plain, so we discussed putting some illumination and decoration in the counter spaces of the M. My handmade gesso is always painted on first. That is the light pink stuff that you see inside of the M below. The leaf is laid on the left, just laid on the right, but not yet cleaned up. Typically, I lay the 23.75k gold leaf first, but it was an afterthought on this project. I teach a workshop on laying gold leaf, if you are interested…contact me.
The thought of MERCY for a lawyer or a judge is surely one to be considered. I thought of Les Miserables while I was creating this. Remember how the priest gave the silver candlesticks to the thief Jean Valjean and it changed his heart? The entire piece contains a reminder at the top to ‘Remember who you are and what you stand for’ (i.e. a decent, fair and just man), a scripture from the Sermon on the Mount, the main body – a memorable speech from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and 3 more Bible verses about Mercy towards the bottom. My client wanted legible and traditional, so I used a Lombardic style at the top and a more modern Bookhand for the body, plus Italic for the small red phrases at the top.
Above is the completed project. Below is the client presenting it to the younger recipient. Notice that this large piece (about 4′ tall, 3′ wide) was placed in an Airfloat Systems box. You can ship frames in these foam lined boxes or just present the art and hold on to the protective box for a future move. This was the largest piece of calfskin that I have worked on to date, so I was able to create both projects out of one. Visit my next blog to see the companion piece.
Until the 14th century, manuscript miniatures were painted mainly using glair, made from egg white. It was used as a glossing or waterproofing agent in the paints. In my calligraphy studio, I use glair to reconstitute Cennini Gesso, to dilute Liquid Gesso (J. Tresser’s), and as a binder for gouache or powdered pigment.
Crack eggs (4), strain off white by toggling yoke between shell halves leaving whites in mixing bowl
Put yolks in a separate bowl, set aside for some other use.
Beat egg whites to stiff peaks – like a merengue.
Tip mixing bowl on its side and let drip into another bowl overnight – (or let it settle in original bowl).
Pitch foam and reserve liquid.
After about 12 hours, strain (get rid of unwanted stringiness.)
It can be used 2 ways. Try both!
Dilute with glair/water > 50/50
8. Save capped for 1-2+ yrs (stays clear). Date the container. Restrain after it sits for awhile
TIPS: • Stinky if stored room temperature. That’s okay. Traditionally called ‘la putrido’.
• Preserve in refrigerator or out. (lasts longer in the frig).
• For certain gilding purposes, glair must be aged. As glair ages, it becomes an adhesive.
• Glair becomes waterproof in 24 hours
ADD GLAIR TO:
Titanium Dioxide Liquid Gesso – 1-2 drops should do it, but you can thin liquid gesso with glair to the consistency needed. Fresh glair is fine.
Cennini Gesso – Holly’s measurement to reconstitute powder > 1/8 tsp powdered gesso to 15 drops glair. 6-9 month (aged) glair is best for this recipe.
Dried Pigmentor Gouache– Add 1-2 drops full strength or diluted to dry pigment or gouache. Clove oil or honey can be added to make colors richer/shinier.
**Glair, a natural product can be added to a variety of art mediums
Last month, when I lettered on the church soffits, I laid genuine 23k gold on the walls. (Scroll down to the capital “O” in my last post). So I thought it a perfect segue into an explanation of some of the gold methods that I use.
One of the easiest methods I use to add gold to a project is the application of shell gold or gold powder. Mixed with distilled water and a touch of a binder, I typically paint it on fine art/hand made paper or calfskin with a miniature brush, burnish with an agate stone and voila! Instant impact! This kind of gold is excellent for achieving tiny details. You can even tool tiny designs into a field of the gold with a very pointed burnisher.
Powdered gold lies behind the clover
There are many imitation golds, but the brilliance of the real thing drives me to be a purest. I use this method when a client wants gold, but doesn’t want the cost of the raised gesso with gold leaf, when I want to contrast the raised gold with the flat powder on the same design or when one of my prints needs a touch of elegance.
I will be teaching weekend retreats from my studio. Lodging available. If you are interested, let me know!
This past Saturday I had the privilege of hosting the Cincinnati Book Arts Society (CBAS) and the Greater Cincinnati Calligrapher’s Guild in my studio for a show and tell! I demonstrated a gold leaf technique and showcased two of the handmade books I’ve been creating. The Book of Hours –as mentioned in an earlier post and a Baby Book (that I’ll feature in a later post).
Pictured below is my dining room table – where I displayed some of the vellum off cuts I’ve been using to work out color and painting techniques for the book.
Book of Hours -Hour Glass Border in progress. See Portfolio > Books for finished work
Below I am laying gold leaf. (My glasses broke the day before–looks almost like a monocle.) I lay my homemade gesso on fine art paper or calfskin, let it dry and then blow on it to humidify. Then the gold is quickly laid on the gesso, touched up and burnished.
These are a few of the guild members that came to see my studio! I would love to have you too…..come and visit sometime!