The Act of Illumination

I absolutely loved having the opportunity to workshop and attempt to make my own historiated letter. It really put all of our discussions of illuminated manuscripts into perspective when I realized the time and detail that went into a single letter, much less an entire illustration. It is such an involved process that much is left to the discretion of the illuminator. What struck me the most was the experience of applying the gold leaf. The process required a great deal more precision than I had anticipated but really transformed the entire work immediately. I was able to pick up the illustration and move it to see the light reflect off the gold leaf and it reminded me again of the movie The Secret of Kells in which the entire movie had been drawn in the style of illustrations come to life. The workshop has given me an entirely new appreciation for illuminated manuscripts–I could not imagine illuminating an entire manuscript, much less in the scale of the Book of Kells or the one of the pocket prayer books. Especially with the knowledge that the illuminators of the past would have been illustrating on parchment without the technologies like electricity.

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