Posts Tagged ‘Vellum’

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!

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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!

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Not to be confused with paper products named “vellum”, vellum and parchment are natural support materials manufactured from calf, sheep, or goat skins.

This is the support material traditionally used in the manufacture of books in medieval Europe before paper become common.  Today, this prized material has virtually disappeared.  Severely limited manufacture and prohibitive costs affect quantity and quality. Yet the particular beauty of vellum remains unchallenged for traditional and modern manuscript work.  All of my Fine Art Illuminated Manuscript work is produced on vellum.

The following information is an excerpt from my article on “Raised Gesso Gilding.”  The complete text can be read at Natural Pigments.

A vellum skin contains two distinct surfaces: the hair side and the flesh side.  The hair side refers to the outer surface of the skin, and presents the most beautiful working surface.  The flesh side, although workable, is uneven and greasy. Selection of a skin is dependant on the nature and purpose of the work. Two-dimensional works require selecting only one appropriate surface of a single skin. Codex (or book) works requires the hair and flesh sides of several skins.

The limited supply of vellum becomes apparent when searching for matching surfaces.  Compromises are necessary in order to balance codex requirements with vellum availability.

Preparation for the acceptance of gilding, painting, and calligraphy involves coaxing the surface to a soft, velvet-like finish.  Skins arrive from the manufacturer with a hard, shiny surface attributed to modern production methods.

Three treatments satisfy normal requirements. First, sand the skin by hand to raise a nap or tooth on the surface. The skin should lie on a flat, smooth support, preferably a double- or triple-ply acid-free board.  Wood surfaces displaying a distinct grain will imprint this pattern on the vellum.  Sanding begins at the center of the skin, working with the grain.  The grain will vary at the spine and body areas, and careful examination of the surface is necessary to locate each direction.

The second treatment addresses the natural greasiness of skins caused by incomplete fat removal at the manufacturing level.  A light dusting of finely ground pounce will remove excess surface grease and inhibit the migration of inner oils.

The last treatment prepares skin areas reserved for calligraphy. Ground gum sandarac will expedite ink application and assist in the execution of crisp lettering.  Excessive pounce and gum sandarac applications will interfere with the acceptance of ink, paint, or gesso.  The optimum level of preparation depends on the condition, thickness, and purpose of the skin.  A skin selected for painting and gilding might not require the same tooth as a skin used exclusively for calligraphy.  Experience will determine the required surface for each medium.

Lost Portrait (dry pigments, gold leaf on vellum)

Lost Portrait (dry pigments, gold leaf on vellum)

Vellum is available in small pieces (4″ x 5″, 8″ x 10″, etc.) or full skins from John Neal Bookseller.

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