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Illumination - First Try


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I've always toyed with the idea of illuminate some of my works but never give it a try until yesterday when I say a YouTube video [1] quite funny which shown a fast-timed "see how easy is" decoration on manuscript illumination and, hence, I had to try it.


I wanted to send something different to a friend in Turkey. So, I gave it a try and were 4 hours on it.


Here's the result of all-first-time: first drafts [from video showcase], inked with iron gall ink using Esterbrook 355 over them, pseudo-gothic letters... invented as go [first time with an stiff nib... painful], watercolored except gold [ink] and capital letters' silvered [ink], first time writing in arabic [bismillah... sorry if it says otherwise... I really tried but it's strange], etc. all in crappy (truly, crappy) cheaper-impossible paper but surprisingly it holded the gall ink and the watercolors perfectly without traspassing it...


Oh, almost forgot, the paper size: an A5 (half A4). Click HERE to see it at 600dpi (~3400x5000px, 1.49MB, JPEG)


Just a final note: as it was all over a draft, I didn't try to keep lines horizontal, spacing and other issues. After all, it all begin with a pencil and was meant to be nothing else, but who can resist retouching this and that?





I hope you found it interesting, at least.




Edited by franzrogar
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That looks like a good start. Are you going to change anything in the final layout?


The Bismi-Allah is readable as such. It is usually written at the top though. The layout would look much better with all the verticals spaced evenly across the circle.


BTW drawing guidelines and measuring things is not cheating :-)



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Thank you very much for your reply and kind words :-)


Yes, I'm OK with changing it fully (after all, it was just an sketch but ended representing almost a final product).


I realize, as you wrote, that the bismillah was suposed to be at the begining just when I started inking it: suddenly remembered "In the name of Alah..." and saw nothing followed it so I thought it was not properly placed. Thank you for confirm it. It will also improve the layout, being on top.


Thanks for the tip bout disposition of the letters in the bismillah. I also add (now that I see it with new eyes) that the vertical should be "vertical"... right? I wrote it with Esterbrook 354 and the final seems a bit thin. I'll try with the squared cut nib (sadly, I don't have any qalam) and we'll see what comes from it.


I don't feel ashamed of using guidelines and measuring things... but there's something on it that makes me feel, not cheating as you say it, but unplesant. Like: "hey, other people can draw a line straight and you need to use a rule..." hence I keep trying to do by hand and my lines keep looking as done by a drunkard.


Two parts that need reworking before starting in the goatskin parchment are the top branches (differenciate between branch and leaf) and the "freestyle" lettering... I think gothic lettering is the best kind to be used in such composition (Spencerian, Copperplate, seems a bit out-of-style here).


What I will have to discover is how to ink/paint over the golden/silver ink 'cause I tried but ink/watercolor seems to be too liquid and form drops.


I was tempted to include the Turkey flag somewhere but being all-red with crescent and star in white, I found hard to include. The only possible place is in the banner leftside, in the red part. I don't know.



I forgot to add the video link in the OP, so here it's with some other info about the design:

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You are most welcome Franz.


I'm not sure that the composition you chose for the Bismi-Allah is the best for your application. I think the Kufic style will got better with the Gothic lettering. It will also be easier to draw being a geometric style. Something like this might work (without the arabesque patterns): http://www.nmhtthornton.com/bismillah_ar.php.


As for the use of guidelines, check out this certificate rough by Lester L. Fields: http://www.iampeth.com/artwork/Fields_certificate.jpg - he not only uses as many guidelines as needed but also wrote the text out in pencil first. Nothing wrong with that in my book :-)


In Illumination, the Gold would be applied first and then other colors/patterns filled in around it with a small brush. It is painstaking work but well worth the results. You'll probably get best results with the same technique. Gouache might work where you must write/draw over the golden paint/ink.


I'm looking forward to seeing how this progresses.



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Thanks for your reply. I hope you like how it evolves.


Thanks you very much for recall on classical scripts as I completely forgot about them. I've been looking for other compositions on other scripts but finally found another Kufic that might be fine. I made a mockup of the new disposition with the different bismillah (mockup at HQ):



But, then, I thought: "If I'm going to redraw it, why not change all that I want and try different things?". Also, I received today the "The Bible of Illuminated Letters" by Margaret Morgan (wonderful book and clear and neat) which shown ottonian and carolingian script. Hence, give it a turn around: added crescent and start on top of branch, some leafs, ottonian initials with carolingian script, and Haiga Sophia at bottom right (probably I'll make it smaller...) (draft at HQ) and I'm aware that "K" and "U" have their places shifted and the "a" is too close to the initial:




That's the technique I applied in the first try: pencil, then outlined with ink, apply gold/silver ink [properly it should be gold/silver leafs but I wouldn't waste them in a draft], then painted around all other colors.


In the book I got, it shows something I didn't knew: the black lines were "painted" at the end. What I did was "avoiding paiting over the ink", giving to the lines their final width at the begining. It's, obviously, much easier to draw their width at the end.


Any suggestion is truly welcome :-)

Edited by franzrogar
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Wow - this is evolving very nicely. The crescent is a great idea.


I agree that the Hagia Sophia should be smaller. It'll look better centered IMO. The two extra pillars don't do much for the composition though :)


This is inspiring stuff. Please keep sharing. Rest assured, I'm not the only one enjoying these updates to your project.



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My bad, my bad, I meant the Blue Mosque (hence the six minarets and why Grand Mosque had a 7th one). I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote Hagia Sophia (Logos)... well, probably I thought "Istanbul Mosque" and automatically wrote Hagia Sophia. My surprise when you wrote I could remove some of the minarets :-D Sorry for the mistake.


I choosed the Blue Mosque because it's still used as mosque, meanwhile Hagia Sophia is a museum; and also because Blue Mosque was built as mosque, meanwhile Hagia Sophia was an orthodox church in its origins.


Everything has a purpouse. For example, number 4 rules the design: 4 swirls in the top branches, 4 thorns in the trunk, 4 full size rounds in the banner, 4 words of the bismillah, (luckly) 4 letters name and 4 family name. Of course, if I had use Hagia Sophia would be great (4 minarets) but I didn't because of what I've just wrote.


I've fixed the proportions of the mosque (too tall and thin) in the draft and I've finisheed inking the composition (with further modifications) on elephant hide. Here's the result:


Thanks for reading.
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Thanks both of you :-)


Here's the result. It's an A5 (14x21 cm, 5.8x8.3 in). In the forum, it's shown almost at real size. In HQ, you can see its imperfections but most are barely noticeable on sight.


The paper is elephant hide and it's very similar in color to parchment, but when scanned, all that is lost and seems like plain white. Also, there's shadow in the Blue Mosque but it's almost burn in the digital image.


The golden part is obvious, but there's also silver in the banner and in the "U".




I hope you like it :-)

Edited by franzrogar
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To get a greater sense of depth in the scroll work on the left you could try dulling the color as it recedes into the shadow area by adding a little of the complementary color. For example, on the blue portion of the scroll as it curves away from the center add just a little bit of orange to the blue to dull it (it will darken a little, too). This will make the blue at the center of the band appear more intense by comparison and three dimensional. Nice work by the way. I teach students how to make patterns like the one you have at the base of your illumination when we study the ancient Celts. Keep it up. It looks great.

"A man's maturity consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child, at play."


Friedrich Nietzsche



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@irish_monk, thanks for the remainder (I knew I forgot something). I did it in the first sketch and forgot to redo it in this one.


Instead of adding the proper orange one, because of gold and silver inks in need of darkening alonside, I had to mix blue and payne's grey and pray to avoid disturbing the underlaying blue (as it's watercolor). I think the result, though not too strong, it's better.


Also, I made some other additions: flowers in the branches (not the gothic ones 'cause script is carolingian but flowers afterall), pattern to golden strip in banner and in carolingian chars, red overlay in ottonian initials, and border painting in bismillah, as main modifications.


Truth be told, I should paint all borders but the design is so small that, IMO, it'd ruin it. For example, each initial is as big as my pencil sharpener; and the black border of the bismillah was done with a triple-zero brush.


Just as sidenote, I knew paper (elephant hide) resisted water quite good. I did a test and it can be "washed" without wrinkle O_o It's good to know 'cause, using watercolors, I might wash it and start again keeping only the inked parts :-)


EDIT: I forgot to comment about the celtic pattern. I had some complex designs in mind when I changed the layout but, as soon as I decided to include the mosque, I discarted them all 'cause the branches would be too thin and I couldn't "grew" the minarets from them. In fact, the knots as way bigger in this version than in the first draft.


Back on topic, here's the result (and I do appreciate your feedback :-) )



Edited by franzrogar
Thanks for reading.
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