Friday, March 5, 2010
The Gospel of John
My Senior Studio project when I finished by B.A. a few years ago was an illuminated gospel. It's a fairly traditional subject, so there was plenty to draw on, but I could do it my own way, especially because it's purpose is not to transmit the text but to decorate it. A huge amount of effort went into this project. It started with research into the symbols that would decorate the book, designing an English font that would mimic the original Greek letters, and creating an overriding theme and layout for the book.
The book is completely hand-written and illustrated. The lettering was all done on a light table with the layout underneath. The images are done in ink, watercolour, and gold leaf. Many of the pages, including the cover, are gilt. I also used mulberry paper, frosted vellum, gold gouch, pencil crayon, and even coffee stains for the backgrounds. The imagery all illustrates the story and follows the progression of the plot, becoming more and more involved as the story evolves.
Unlike an original illuminated gospel the purpose of this work is purely artistic.Therefore I was much freer to blend the art and text then I would have been had I been one of the original scribes, having to recopy the text for posterity. There are several points at which the text completely disappears into pictures.
Aside from research and preparation crafting the book took approximately five weeks, working anywhere from four to twelve hours a day. The final project was then bound in leather with Spanish cedar covers.
These photos are of the cover as is is right now, and the opening. I want to rebind this because I think I've learned quite a bit lately and can do something considerably nicer now. The second photo is the opening to the book. It's actually the first lines of the Nicene Creed, not John. It's done in gold gouache on mulberry paper. It's a sort of.... dunno... prologue? before the text starts.
I'm going to post a few pages with explanation every day, so check back!