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Atelier: Medieval Illumination

My work painting medieval illuminations is a great treasure for me to experience and share. I have learned this art from the master illuminator, Renaud Marlier and his delightful wife, also a master. He has taught me to use the techniques and materials which were used in the medieval period.The process of painting an illumination is a journey of discovery which is one that must be followed with discipline, carefully heeding, with utmost patience, what the lines and colors teach. It is a meditation which cannot be rushed it the beauty is to unfold in luminous clarity.I begin with preparing the parchment. This is done by making it supple in water and then streching it to dry on a board. The first lines of the design are transfered carefully from the sketch onto the parchment. If there is to be calligraphy in the work, this is done first. The gilding follows. I gild mostly on a base of gum ammoniac which comes from a tree native to Iran. It is also possible to do a “mirror gilding” which is achieved by laying the gold with fish glue over a raised base of gesso then burnishing it with an agate or hemitite stone. When the gilding is complete, the first layers of colors are painted. I use all natural pigments – organic and inorganic, stones, plants, earths etc. – and use an ancient recipe to bind them of gum arabic, honey water and egg glair. Since blue and red (lapis and minium) were considered the noble colors (being at that time the most expensive – except for true purple – they are applied first. The layers are built up very thinly and transparently to keep the colors’ jewel-like qualities. When sufficient colors have been applied, shading is done and highlights added using white or shell gold (a mixture of fine pure gold powder and gum arabic) are added. Finally, black lines are drawn to bring the composition together.Music: Therese Schroeder-Sheker Queen’s Minstrel
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