|Trying to overcome a distaste for brown. Sorta worked.|
|Looks more Chinese than Celtic, but so what?|
Here are directions in case you're feeling the desire to follow your inner medievalist.
1. Trace the designs (from a variety of sources...lots of copyright-free line art out there) onto 90lb hot-press Arches watercolor paper with a light table and a dip pen using waterproof India ink. If you don't like dip pens, you can trace with waterproof artist pens. But I like dip pens...they make me feel like a medieval monk.
2. Paint the design with Windsor & Newton gouache, which is opaque watercolor. (If you decide to try this, DO NOT go cheap on the paint. You will deeply regret it. Trust me. Get the W&N.) You'll need a couple of small round watercolor brushes for this. (Again, don't go cheap on the brushes...they shed hairs into your paint and make you swear. Get sable for life or plan on replacing the mid-price brushes frequently.)
3. Finally, go over the inked lines with a very, very tiny brush and black gouache to clean up the lines.* This was really hard and took a very steady hand. I practiced A LOT before I made this book. Fortunately, if you screw it up, you can paint over it again. Gouache is pretty forgiving.
Some designs are fairly simple and quick, and others are hugely complex and take days just to trace. My best project was a Psalter for my mother. I made a complex Japanese stab binding with mat board covered in black Canson paper and a recessed illuminated medallion in the center. I copied ten psalms in calligraphy using Carolingian lettering and embellished each with a different small illuminated knot and random little embellishments (such as a little lizard from the Book of Kells). It was the last calligraphy/illumination project I did. Took three months and by the end I really, really, really needed a break. I took up stamping, and the rest is history.
*Funny story. My mom is a serious watercolor artist who kept all her drawing and painting talent to herself and passed none on to me, a person who stoops to tracing on a light table without shame. When Mom saw my tiny, tiny outlining brush, she got all snooty about it, calling it useless. She deigned to paint an illumination with me and when it came time to do step three, she tried to use one of her larger brushes. It didn't work. She kept moving to smaller and smaller brushes until she asked to use my tiny, tiny brush. I may have gloated.