lutrell fantasy, thoughts and progress

I think what I’m actually about to do is talk about my creative process. I know I don’t normally do anything that deep and meaningful, so brace yourselves.

I’ve resolved two quandaries with this first section over the past week, which is why I’m posting now, whilst the thoughts are in my head, rather than when I get to the first milestone of finishing the blocking.

My first problem was with the outlining colour. My original preference had been to use the dark brownalmost but not quite black that I dyed a few years ago for the antependium project, but theres only about half a skien of that left, nowhere near enough to do all of this.

Now I’m planning a big dye-a-thon over easter, and another multi-layered deep brown will be one of the primary aims, but theres no guarantee it will in any way match what I already have – I don’t want to start with one colour and end with something radically different.

I briefly considered just blocking in all the colours without adding any details and then going back over it with the new dyed brown after easter. However, not only would that get pretty boring but I’d have to re-dress the rolling frame twice as much as I otherwise would. Dressing a frame is never fun, even less when it’s such a big frame, and also I am very very lazy, so I very quickly unconsidered that idea.

My second thought was that I could just do the whole thing in the dark hard blackety black that I overdyed last year, but I feared that could be a bit overpowering.

The third option was purple, but that wouldn’t be dark enough for some bits.

Then I laid a few strands of each option on top of the work so far…

lutrell border threads

…and realised I hadn’t considered using all three at once. I hadn’t done this becuase I want the dark edge to unify the different visual…I want to say elements, but “things” is probably closer to the mark. There are a lot of  “things” going about thier business in the composition and they need a common grounding. But the three dark colours together blend quite nicely, I think they’ll add a level of depth I wouldn’t otherwise get, and the white groundcloth and highlights will bridge everything.

My second hesitation was over the leaves in the background of this lower border. In the Psalter the leaves are parti-coloured and I had been finding that quite visually noisy, so I’d been toying with the idea of making them all green.

lutrell border colours

as you can see, I didn’t, and for two reasons.

I realised that one of the things I both most enjoy and find most challenging about working with my own naturally dyed threads is working with, and exploiting the potential of the relatively narrow range of colours at my disposal. I’ve actaully come to love the fact that I can’t choose from a thousand subtly different shades of DMC or Appletons. I find it soothing in it’s simplicity. The scribes of the Lutrell psalter were working within similar constraints of pallete, so keeping the mi-parti leaves seemed somehow truer to them.

I secondly realised that there is a visual rythm to this border that would have been lost if I’d made the leaves one colour. It’s a rythm that goes back centuries to the ancient celtic manuscripts like the Book of Kells. I love that sense of continuity.We seem to have lost so much of the joy of colour to the murky depths of good taste and minimlism. It can be easy to dismiss the exuberance of medieval colour as guady and tastelss but it has it’s own language that we’ve almost forgotten how to read. Picking apart and re-working this border step by step has helped me see the rythm and understand it.

The more I look at this border the more the flying monkeys look like they’re dancing to the rythm created by the repeating colours.

I have always wanted my own flying monkeys, and flying monkeys who can dance the can-can would be doubly awesome- imagine how my foes would cower as my personal army of winged apes did their rythmic haaka prior to attack!

I will get flying monkeys eventually. Gareth assures me that when he worked as a genetic engineer all they ever used to do in the lab was make flying monkeys. He has been promising to make me some for years with his mad scientist skills, but so far a remain bitterly disappointed…

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~ by opusanglicanum on February 2, 2015.

8 Responses to “lutrell fantasy, thoughts and progress”

  1. Always so interesting to read someone’s creative insights and it’s amazing how problems usually seem to resolve themselves somehow – mixing those colours is a great idea!

  2. I totally agree with you about the medieval colour aesthetic. The more I study the patterns and borders of book illuminations the more I see how colour patterns are vital to the whole design energy. I also like the challenge of working a limited palette, I try to limit my paints to red and green oxides, earth based yellows, ultramarine, white and mars black. Its amazing the depth of colour you can achieve with just those simple tones. I also like to throw in some red lead and carmine, just a little, as accents.
    I hope you are going to blog the dye process. Really looking ford to hearing about it. Hopefully my plants will be big enough by next summer for me to begin my own experiments.

    • I usually just blog the results as dueing itself is very dull, its basically no more complex than making chicken stock most of the time. I buy my dyes as herbs rather than growing them, my gardes too small!

  3. I’m always interested to read people’s musings on their creative process.
    I think you are right about using all three colours. Isn’t it also what the medievals would have done?

  4. I think creative processes are really interesting – well they are to me anyway! I agree that working with a restricted palete often makes things much more interesting as you have to think of new ways of doing things…

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