Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Black Hours Pleides

This illumination is an experiment from the Kleinodienbuch der Herzogin Anna von Bayern or for everyone else the Jewel Book of the Duchess Anna of Bavaria, p.11.  The manuscript is an inventory of the jewelry owned by the duke and his wife, Duchess Anna, a member of the Habsburg dynasty and a daughter of Emperor Ferdinand I. It was commissioned in 1552 and is simply a spectacular manuscript.  I wanted to try out the lovely black paper that was in a laurel prize basket that I won, and I thought that this particular illumination would be an excellent choice for experimentation.  It was not terribly complex, yet it had an elegance that just drew the eye. 

Yes I did write it in German.  No I do not speak German. Yes there is a spelling error, I noticed it after I wrote the word and then went...'crap I don't know how to fix it in this medium."  If you wish to correct my translation do feel free! 

My thoughts:

Some of the colors are hard to lay on black.  If you don't lay white underneath you risk not seeing the color...However if you DO lay white underneath you risk a pastelling of the color.  I clearly had that problem with the purple.  I prefer mine to the original, based on the appeal of the color itself, and its appropriateness to the recipient. There is a happy medium that can be found, but it is annoying to reach. 

White ink.  Not cool.  Simply not cool, clumpy and sticky and generally hard to deal with. I found that dipping the pen first in water, then in the ink and THEN writing worked for about 10 words before I would have to rinse my nib completely. The white ink looks amazing however so I think I will fiddle with it more just to see what I can figure out. 

Gold gouache on the black:  Simply epic.  The way you can just make it leap of the page with a minimum application of brown gouache as shadow was delightful. 

Pearls:  They have the tendency to look like rock crystals instead of pearls unless you lay the white on heavy.  Next time, I will shade it with blue and purple as well as the grey to see if that mitigates the effect some. 

Note to self: Next time, try a very thin gold gouache in place of ink and see how that works.
I do have a few other illuminations from this book in the works, and it is rapidly joining the 'go to for amazesauce sources' list.


  1. This is truly one of the most beautiful scrolls I've ever seen, and I am still stunned that it will get to live on MY wall! I will have it framed properly once I corner our Baroness for her signature. I'm so glad to see the thought process behind it, as well as the inspirational image.

  2. pearls are a pain to paint, my suggestion is to study pearls and only pearls in different light, paint them and draw them etc.. When shading pearls look for the contrasting / complimenting colours rather than grey. Off-white, greens, pinks, yellows, and so on pearls, because of their make up, layers upon layers calcium carbonate, they have a depth and a luster and contain all these colours which the eye interprets as white, a lot like snow. Instead of shading with flat greys try experimenting with a mix of pinks, yellows and greens. Use fine and thin layers to wash and build up the colour palate on the pearl, they eye will interpret this as shading.

  3. Nice, however, I wonder why you did not do the rest of the lovely gold scroll work and details from the original on your version? It would add so much to it. Also, black hours calligraphy is 99% done in silver not white! I think you would have had less issues if you had used silver and if you are doing Black Hours stile, you might want to stick to how they did it and use silver and not white! As for the color not standing out well at times, try 2 or 3 layers of the color, no underpainting of white needed.

    1. Next time I would most likely do the little flowery bits on the sides. However, I didn't have a lot of notice on this particular scroll and being in Nursing School at the same time as trying to play in the SCA does not leave one with infinite amounts of free time. I thought it was elegant enough without it, so I left them out. They are pretty though. I do not have a silver ink- I did however have white, so I used it. Now if you have a recommendation for a good silver ink, I would be happy to take it. The reason why I would want to experiment with Gold, and not white is that ALL of the words in this manuscript are in gold. None are in silver or even in in black.

    2. I think it is Speedball that has a really great, easy to use ,good flow Silver ink. You might look in to it.
      And having short notice and little time is the best excuse, I understand all to well. Like I said, my comments where just to maybe help you make it even better next time. :)

    3. I've not seen a speedball silver at my store, but I shall look harder next time. :D I have no issue with constructive comments, none whatsoever.

  4. Lovely work! I have found that using titanium white gouache worked better for me than white ink, but your mileage may vary. I've also had a lot of luck shading pearls with pale blue rather than grey. They're tricky buggers. I love seeing people stretch their skill by trying new mediums and techniques. Awesome job!

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.