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I was going to title this post “Simple White Vine Borders” but when looking at the range and complexity of white vine work in manuscripts “simple” and “white vine” began to sound like an oxymoron.

Here are a few examples from the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts showing examples of simple to complex white vine work:

Burney 180  f. 130v – simple white vine in initial and partial border
Harley 2571  f. 2 – simple white vine border

Harley 2764  f. 1 – a little more complex partial border
Harley 2649  f. 1 – a variation of the above

Burney 244  f. 2 – 3/4 page border
Harley 4960  f. 1 – full page white vine border

I’m going to break this down into simple steps, but it should be considered an “intermediate” or “advanced” level of border work.

If you’ve followed the steps in some of my other borders – particularly the Full Spiral Border – then the steps in this border will be familiar.

We’ll be doing a variation of Harley 2764 f.1 because it can be “deconstructed” into simple elements.

Let’s get started!

Drawing the Border

What you need:

  • pencil
  • eraser
  • graph paper – 5 squares to the inch.  You can print out a free PDF graph paper file from Incompetech.com
  • tracing paper

Although initially the border seems very complex, we can look for common repeated elements that are essentially “mirrors” to each other.

Step 1

The most obvious element we can see is that the vines loosely follow an “8” shape with intersecting lines, so let’s draw that first on the graph paper.

Basic Shape

Basic Shape

I’ve left “breaks” between the lines to show where the overlaps occur – you can plan it out like this or simply draw a continuous line and erase the overlaps later.

Step 2

Next we’ll pencil in lines around the basic shape so we have an outline.

Basic Shape with Outlines

Basic Shape with Outlines

Step 3

Now we can erase the center line and clean up the overlaps.

Basic Outline Shape

Basic Outline Shape

Step 4

Tracing paper time!  Trace the outline onto a piece of tracing paper.  Flip the tracing horizontally, line up over the first outline and graph paper, then trace it as shown in the example.

 

Example of Horizontally Flipped

Example of Horizontally Flipped

Continue moving up the graph paper with a horizontal flip and trace over the last outline.

Horizontal flip over second outline

Horizontal flip over second outline

Continue tracing and flipping for as many as you need for your design requirements.  Two or three should be enough for practice.

Step 5

Once you have the tracing completed, we need to “clean up” the drawing by having the vines move over and under each other by erasing extra lines.

Cleaned vines drawing

Cleaned vines drawing

Take your time cleaning up the drawing. Follow the vines one section at a time, making sure that if a vine is “over” a section it will be “under” the next section.

Over and Under

Over and Under

Step 6

Pencil in some leaves and buds around the outside and inside of the vines.

Simple Leaf Construction

Simple Leaf Construction

Try to keep the shapes simple to start – you can always add more details later.

Simple Bud Construction

Simple Bud Construction

You can draw one or two, then use your tracing paper to “populate” the vines.

Adding Leaves

Adding Leaves

I’ve kept the leaves and buds relatively simple and used tracing paper to copy/rotate around and inside the design.

I made a few minor adjustments attaching the stems so that the leaves and buds fit around the spaces, then added larger leaves at the top and bottom to finish the ends.

Once you are comfortable drawing leaves and buds, I’d suggest drawing them freehand around the design to give the border a more organic, lively feel to it.

Looking at examples from British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts will provide plenty of inspiration!

Step 7
Transfer your final drawing to watercolor paper for painting.   I used Gouache with Ultramarine Blue, Viridian Green with a touch of White and Cadmium Red.

More information and basic instructions on tracing and painting can be found at the “Painting a Simple Initial” post.

Outline the design with either a light brown ink or paint with a small brush. You can also add in some small lines in the leaves for a little detail.

Outline and Painting

Outline and Painting

Let the paint dry, then lightly sketch about an 1/8″ pencil line around the outside. Fill in the outline with Ultramarine Blue, then you’re done!

Blue Outline

Blue Outline

A very nice step-by-step example of an Illuminated Letter with White Vine can be found at Kathryn Finter’s Contemporary Manuscript Illumination site.

 

A simple border of pen sprays with a few touches of gold can be an effective, elegant frame for an illustration whether it is drawn in pen and ink, a grisaille style, or painted in color.

Ink and Gold border - raised gesso gilding, ink on vellum

Raised gesso gilding, ink on vellum (c) A. Lucas 2009

This type of border is often used in illuminated manuscripts to enhance an illustration or set it apart from blocks of text.

I use this type of border most often for my own work, particularly for a painted miniature with just a few words of text.

Here are a few examples from the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts:

Harley 1319  f. 12 – ivy leaves, pen sprays, painting
Lansdowne 1179  f. 4v – ivy leaves, pen sprays, drawing
Yates Thompson 10  ff. 12v-13 – ivy leaves, painting

Drawing the Border

What you need:

  • pencil
  • eraser
  • graph paper about 4 square/inch (refer to the Calligraphy Resources page)
  • fine point pigment pen (Pigma Micron, Staedtler Mars Professional, etc.)
  • a gold leafing pen, gold gel pen (or something similar), or gold gouache
  • final copy paper (e.g. 90 lb Hot Press Watercolor paper)
Gold pens, gold gouache and pigment pens

Gold pens, gold gouache and pigment pens

We’ll be using just a few, simple basic shapes – a leaf and two variations of a hook:

Basic shapes - leaf and hooks

Basic shapes - leaf and hooks

The leaf is a simple oval shape with a little inked-in detail at the edges.  The hooks are similar except one terminates in an open circle, and the second one has a filled-in circle.

Step 1:

First we’ll layout the design on graph paper with pencil and then transfer it over to the final copy paper.

Draw a box about 3-5/8″ x 2-1/4″.  Draw a second box about 1/8″ inside the second box.

Step 1: Drawing the border box

Step 1: Drawing the border box

Step 2:

Draw a few stems with leaves attached around the outside border box – you can make these as simple or complex as you like!  Note that I’ve combined 3 simple leaf shapes to make a “flower” at the corners.

Step 2 - Drawing the stems with leaves

Step 2 - Drawing the stems with leaves

Step 3:

Add a few “open hook” shapes to fill in the spaces.

Step 3 - Adding open hook shapes

Step 3 - Adding open hook shapes

Step 4:

Draw a few, smaller “closed hook” pen sprays around the leaves and open hooks.

Step 4 - Drawing the closed hook pen sprays

Step 4 - Drawing the closed hook pen sprays

Step 5:

Transfer your drawing to the final copy paper.  It’s usually a good idea to complete the gold areas before inking in the lines, or just inking in all the lines except around the gold leaves – this might depend on what you are using for gold – genuine gold leaf, solvent-based gold paint, gold gouache, gold gel pen, etc.

Test your gold on a scrap of your final project paper first to determine if you should ink the lines around the gold first or ink the lines after the gold is applied.  Note that solvent-based gold paint (such as the leafing pen) might leak into the paper fibers, so it might be best to ink the lines after the gold is dry.

Step 5: Transfer to final copy paper and apply gold to leaves

Step 5: Transfer to final copy paper and apply gold to leaves

Finish inking the border adding the leaf details.

These are a couple of examples using a gold gel pen and a gold leafing pen:

Gold Gel Pen

Gold Gel Pen

The gel pen is quite easy to use and produces a nice, soft gold effect.

Krylon 18k Gold Leafing Pen

Krylon 18k Gold Leafing Pen

The gold leafing pen produces a very nice, shiny gold effect.  It’s a little more difficult to use than the gel pen because of the flat shape of the tip (which also makes it great for lettering), and the solvent wants to soak into the paper fibers but it gives a more “authentic” look of gold.

Now that your border is complete, you can paint or draw an illustration inside!

A Look Back….

The Calligraphy Pen blog had it’s first “birthday” on December 8, and I want to thank everyone for their encouragement, support and kind comments over the past year.

I hope these posts have been informative and inspirational to those who love the art of calligraphy as much as I do, just as it has been inspiring to me to watch my little calligraphy blog grow from that one, lonely view in December 2008 to over 30,000.

In the spirit of “looking back”, I recently found a “stash” of my early work.  It’s always fun to look at early work as it’s a visual documentation of one’s learning process and progress – and it’s always encouraging to see that practice really works!

Sometimes it can be a little intimidating moving from just practicing lettering forms and painting to working on a complete, final project – but go ahead – jump right in!  Nothing should be considered a “failure” or “waste” because one can always learn not only what works, but just as important, what doesn’t work, or what might work better the next time.

Here are a couple of pages from my very first, complete illuminated manuscript book, “Legends” on genuine vellum and bound with a beautiful, thin leather:

"Legends", A. Lucas Gold/Palladium leaf on raised gesso, patent gold, shell gold, ink and dry pigments on vellum

This is also a “sneak preview” of the next border post I’m working on, so get yourself a nice, gold gel pen, gold leafing pen or a tube of gold gouache!

Once again, a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read the posts and comment on my little calligraphy blog!

Scatter borders are beautiful decorative elements utilizing naturalistic flowers, berries, birds, animals and insects in an illusionistic or trompe l’oeil style often painted on gold backgrounds.  The finest examples of scatter borders are found in French and Flemish manuscripts dating around the late 15th- to early 16th-Centuries.

These are just a few examples of scatter borders at the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts:

Harley 2443  f. 2
Netherlands: Violets, strawberries and butterflies
Egerton 1147  f. 71
Netherlands: Roses, moths, fly and deer
Egerton 2125  f. 216
Netherlands: Roses, snails, butterflies and peacock on light blue background

Two excellent books on the plants used in borders are:

The Medieval Flower Book, Celia Fisher, The British Library, London 2007
Flowers in Medieval Manuscripts, Celia Fisher, University of Toronto Press, 2004

Although the books focus on the identification of plants and flowers in manuscripts, both contain wonderful detailed reproductions of scatter borders and are recommended as references for further study.

Drawing and Painting Realistic Plants

Now is the time to get a sketchbook if you don’t have one already!

If possible, draw your sketches from live specimens rather than from photographs found in books or on the internet.  Aside from copyright issues, photographs tend to flatten and distort images and your plants will look dull and lifeless unless you are familiar with compensating your drawing and painting to correct these distortions.

Here are a couple of pages from one of my rather tattered sketchbooks:

Pages from my Sketchbook

Samples pages from my sketchbook (c) 2009 A. Lucas

Sketching and drawing will also be more beneficial when it comes time to paint as you can be selective with drawing details that might be lost in a photograph alone.

Photographs can be used in conjunction with your sketches.  Taking your own photographs of specimens you have sketched will be handy references of what you have seen and will greatly assist in the realism of your work when you begin painting.

One of the key features of scatter borders is the illusion of elements scattered around the page, but painting complex elements in a realistic style will take a little skill and painting experience – there is no fast or easy method to substitute for patience and practice.

An excellent book on how to draw and paint plants for illustration is:

How to Draw Plants The techniques of botanical illustration, Keith West, Timber Place Incorporated, 2005.

Finding Elements for a Scatter Border

Scatter borders can be simple or complex depending on your design requirements.  Any type of plant, flower, berry, insect, etc. can be incorporated into the design, but consider using foliage indigenous to your location to give your borders a unique “local” flair.

Wonderful flower and insect specimens can probably be found in your own backyard or garden – you don’t have to pick them – take a few quick sketches and make notes about the color and other details.

Don’t have a garden?  Try sketching and photographing flowers in a local park (make sure you don’t pick any plants or flowers), or perhaps a greenhouse will give you permission to make sketches and take pictures (remember to ask for permission!)

Purchase an interesting flower or two from a florist.  Make your sketches while it’s still fresh, and take a few photographs from different angles.  Observe how the plant grows, what the leaves look like, colors, etc.

Any type of plant can used – don’t have any access to flowers?  I’ll bet you’ll be able to find weeds growing somewhere!  Even a humble dandelion or thistle will make an interesting and colorful border.

Or how about a trip to the grocery store to purchase seasonal fruits, berries and fresh herbs?  You can always eat your grocery store purchases after making your sketches and photographs!

Keep your eyes open and a sketchbook and camera ready and you’ll soon be able to build up a library of elements to use in your scatter borders!

Designing and Painting a Simple Scatter Border

We’ll start with one of the simplest forms – berries.  Berries are generally round, circular shapes and easy to find on common shrubs or grocery stores.  Any type of round berry will be fine especially they have a little stem attached.

In this demonstration, we’ll use simple berries with stems to scatter around a border with a gold background.

The red berries I’m using are from a common High Bush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) shrub as the berries are easy to find – even during the winter.

Here is my reference photo:

High Bush Cranberry Reference Photo

High Bush Cranberry Reference Photo (c) 2009 A. Lucas

Layout

What you need:

  • graph paper
  • pencil
  • eraser
  • ruler

Painting

What you need:

  • round brushes (medium and small)
  • flat brush (1″ or 2″)
  • mixing palette
  • gouache paint (Opaque White, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber)
  • paper suitable for water-based media (90 lb Hot Press watercolor paper works well)
  • drafting tape

Drawing the Scatter Border

First we’ll work out the design on graph paper and then paint a practice berry.

Step 1:

On your graph paper, using a ruler and pencil, draw a 5″ x 7″ block with 1″ borders on the top, left and right sides, and a 1.5″ border at the bottom.

Border Layout with Margins

Step 2:

Now that we’ve established the area for our margins, sketch in circles for berries.  Draw a few in clumps (use the reference photo for ideas) and a few single berries to fill in the larger empty spaces inside the border.

Layout Sketch with Berries and Butterfly

Layout Sketch with Berries and Butterfly

I’ve added a butterfly in the lower corner just to make it a bit more interesting.  I found this photo of a Painted Lady butterfly I had taken last summer – one more reason to always keep that camera and sketchbook handy.

Painted Lady Reference Photo (c) 2009 A. Lucas

Remember, this is a scatter border so don’t be afraid to “scatter” the elements around the page.  Sometimes it’s helpful to cut out the various elements from your sketch paper and move them around the layout until you find an arrangement that works best for your design.

Painting the Scatter Border

First we’ll paint in the gold background, paint a practice berry, and then finish the berries on the border.

Step 1:

On your final copy (watercolor) paper, mask the inside area lines of the border with drafting tape.  Refer to the post Calligraphy Layout: Designing a Certificate for more information on how to mask areas for painting.

Step 2:

Mix up a bit of Yellow Ochre with a touch of Raw Umber for a yellowish gold color.  Use the flat brush to paint the border area.

Wait until the paint is completely dry before removing the drafting tape.

Step 3:

Transfer your layout sketch to the painted border.  Refer to the Painting a Simple Initial post for one method of transferring a drawing.

Painted Border Background with Transferred Design

Painting a Simple Berry

Before beginning to paint on the gold background, try painting a few practice berries especially if you are unfamiliar with painting or painting with gouache.  Your practice paintings can also be used a reference for the final painting.

Painting a Simple Berry Steps 1 to 5Step 1:

On a piece of watercolor paper or sketch paper, draw a circle with a stem.

Step 2:

Mix a bit of Yellow Ochre with Cadmium Red to make an orange color, and using the medium round brush, paint in the berry.

Step 3:

Clean the brush, then use Cadmium Red (not mixed) to paint around the berry as shown.  Clean the brush again, then use a little clean water to dampen the brush (don’t soak it) to soften the edges of the red into the orange.  You can also use the small brush with a bit of red to draw tiny lines to fade into the orange.

Step 4:

Mix a little Cadmium and White to make a pink color, and paint this in between the red and orange.  Use clean water (or tiny brush strokes) to blend the pink into the orange and red areas.

Step 5:

Let the berry dry and little, then use Opaque White to add a little highlight.  Use clean water to blend the edges of the highlight.

Mix a bit of Yellow Ochre with Ultramarine Blue to make a light green color, and paint a line for the stem.  Add more Ultramarine Blue to make a darker green, and paint this on the side of the light green.  Use clean water to soften the edges light and dark green.

Step 6: Adding a Shadow

Step 6:

Mix a little Raw Umber and paint a bit of a shadow under the berry.  Use clean water to soften the edges and blend into the paper.  If it looks too dark, add a little white.

Optional: Not all berries ripen at the same time, so some might have a little green.  It might be difficult to see in the photo (which is why observing the “real” plant is always best) but a few berries with a little green will be more convincing than just all red berries.

Once you have painted a few practice berries, paint the berries and stems on your border.

Final Scatter Border

We could keep adding a few more elements such as a flowers, leaves, insects, etc.  If we were adding calligraphy, remember to do the calligraphy first before painting the border.

It is much easier to correct a painting than to correct calligraphy!

It’s amazing what little treasures one finds when sorting out art supplies….

Since I prefer to use dip pens more often than calligraphy fountain pens, these two little gems had migrated over to my “Art Supply Overflow” storage box.

I expect both these items are now obsolete, but still great calligraphy tools:

Pelikan Graphos

Primarily targeted for engineering and drafting, the Pelikan Graphos pens and nibs were available in a wide range of styles to accommodate lettering, drawing and sketching.

Pelikan Graphos Pen Set

Pelikan Graphos Pen Set

It’s been so long I don’t remember exactly what originally was included with this set as it has a variety of nib styles ranging from straight cut (“T” series), oblique cut (“N” and “Z” series), ruling nib (?) (“A” series) and what looks like a sketching nib (“S” series).

Variety of Pelikan Graphos Nibs

Variety of Pelikan Graphos Nibs

The pen holders are designed to easily slip the nibs onto the front of the shank and have a “hole” in back for loading ink.  As I’m guessing the original Pelikan tube ink has gone the way of the dinosaur, ink can loaded by removing the plastic insert reservoir and loading directly with a dropper instead of through the “hole.”

The nibs produce very sharp, crisp letters (“T”, “N”, “Z”) and the sketching nib is flexible enough for drawing.

While the ink cartridge is quite short and will not hold a lot of ink, and the nib must be removed from the pen before attaching the pen cap (I suspect this is by design), the overall quality is worth grabbing up a pen holder and a few straight/oblique cut nibs if the opportunity presents itself.

If you enjoy a well-designed nib and don’t mind a little extra maintenance work, the Pelikan Graphos pen might be found treasure.

A review of this pen (in Spanish) can be found at the estilograficas.net website.

Reform Calligraphy Pens

This set was given to me as a gift so I’m not sure where or when they were originally purchased.

Reform Calligraphy Fountain Pens

Reform Calligraphy Fountain Pens

The nib sizes included are 1.1, 1.5, 1.9 and 2.3 – suitable for most calligraphy lettering projects.  Each nib contains two vent holes and are marked with the nib size, “Italic Reform” and “Germany.”  Nibs can also be unscrewed from the pen holder if necessary for cleaning or replacement.

The most interesting feature of this pen is the piston filling system – no ink cartridges or converters required!  Simply turn the piston forwards, dip the pen nib into the ink, and turn the piston back to the starting position.  No mess, no fuss!  The clear “window” section shows how much ink is left so you don’t run out in the middle of letter.

The nibs produce very clean lines, the pen is comfortable to hold and handles very smoothly.  The pen caps contain a seal and are screwed onto the pen barrel to keep the ink from drying out.

The “Instructions” paper lists Calligraphy, Lettering and Sketch pens.  I have not seen the Lettering or Sketch pens, but I would love to try the “Extra Fine Sketch Pen” if one turns up somewhere.

A very nice addition for a Calligraphy Fountain Pen “collection” if you happen to find one or better yet, find an entire set!

Spiral borders can be an interesting enhancement for lettering, particularly certificates.  They can be a little tricky especially at the corners, so this is one method of laying out a spiral design that wraps continuously around the border area.

What you need:

  • graph paper (about 4 squares to the inch or refer to the Calligraphy Resources page)
  • tracing paper
  • pencil and eraser

If you have not drawn a spiral design for a border, refer to the Calligraphy Design: Simple Drawn and Painted Borders post.

Step 1:

Draw the basic spiral shape about 3 squares high and 5 squares wide.

Starting Spiral Shape

Starting Spiral Shape

Step 2:

Starting at the bottom of the border, copy the shape onto tracing paper, then transfer the shapes in a row flipping the tracing paper to alternate the design.

Design Traced for the Bottom Row

Design Traced for the Bottom Row

The length of the row can be whatever size fits your design requirement, just make sure the last spiral transferred curves inside as shown.

Step 3:

Working up the right side of the border, rotate the tracing paper and continue transferring the spiral alternating the design and ending with the last spiral curved inside.

Border Up Right Side

Border Up Right Side

Step 4:

Continue along the top and down the left side, making sure the corner spirals are turned inside.  Flip and rotate the tracing paper as needed to continue the alternating design.

Spiral Border Outline Showing Corners

Spiral Border Outline Showing Corners

Step 5:

Now that the outline is complete, add in the details and the design is ready to be transferred onto watercolor paper for painting.

Full Border Ready for Painting

Full Border Ready for Painting

The size of the spirals and lengths of the borders can easily be adjusted or scaled to match any design requirements.  This border was drafted for a paper size of 8 1/2″ x 11″.

Try to leave at least a 1/2″ or more from the outside edge of the border to the edge of paper.  It is better to scale the border and leave some white space to give a bit of additional space for framing!

Zoomorphic initials are fascinating drawings and paintings of animals, hybrids and fantastical beasts shaped to create letters in manuscripts.  Although the most arguably famous examples are found in the Book of Kells, zoomorphic initials decorate illuminated manuscripts from many regions, countries and periods in art history.

Reference examples in this demonstration are from the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts – for more examples enter “zoomorphic” in the search box.

A cursory look at manuscript zoomorphic initials reveals an astonishing range of styles and techniques that can be loosely grouped into three categories:

In this demonstration, we’ll construct and draw a very simple full zoomorphic dragon initial “C”.

Zoomorphic Initial C

Zoomorphic Initial C

Manuscript Zoomorphic “Dragon” References:

What you need:

  • graph paper
  • pencil and eraser
  • tracing paper
  • fine and medium point markers (e.g. Sakura Pigma Micron, Staedtler Pigment Liner)
  • paper suitable for pen and ink drawing

Step 1:

First we’ll use the graph paper and pencil to work out the basic outline and then transfer the design onto drawing paper to ink in the details.

Draw a “C” on the graph paper.

Step 1: Drawing a Letter "C"

Step 1: Drawing a Letter “C”

Step 2:

Draw lines around the center “C” line – this will be the dragon “body”.

Step 2: Drawing the Dragon Body Lines

Step 2: Drawing the Dragon Body Lines

Step 3:

Sketch in a large oval at the top for the dragon head, a smaller oval for the tail, and a large oval down the side for a wing and foot.

Step 3: Sketching in Head, Tail and Wing

Step 3: Sketching in Head, Tail and Wing

Step 4:

Draw shapes for the head, tail, wing and foot.

Step 4: Drawing Head, Tail, Wing and Foot

Step 4: Drawing Head, Tail, Wing and Foot

Tip: Use the graph squares to help the draw the shapes by following the lines in the example.

Step 5:

Erase the construction lines, then add a few scallops to the bottom of the wings and extend the lines.

Step 6: Wing Lines

Step 5: Wing Lines

We now have a basic outline to copy onto tracing paper and transfer to the drawing paper.

Basic Outline

Basic Zoomorphic “C” Outline

Step 6:

You can either ink in the outline first, or do that as the last step.  These steps do not necessarily have to be done in order – whatever fits your drawing style.

Starting at the back of the head, ink in the body to the end of the tail leaving a border on each side.

Step 6: Inking the Body

Step 6: Inking the Body

Step 7:

Add as many or as few details to head, wing and foot as you prefer – I’ve added a few details lines to the head and wings, claws to the toes, and a few head details including teeth:

Step 7: Adding Detail Lines

Step 7: Adding Detail Lines

Step 8:

Use the fine marker to add dots in the border area, and we’re done!

Once you have drawn out a basic structure, try experimenting with various details, patterns and colors to recreate a particular style, draw inspiration from manuscripts, or create something completely unique!

Basic Structure Modified to a "Celtic" Style

Basic Structure Modified to a Simple “Celtic” Style

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