I chose ‘Illuminated’ as my keyword for my research and practical artwork modules for the MA. This was taken straight from my original statement during my application, and formed the basis of my research practice as outlined the previous blog post.
After some reading and research on the subject I understood the term ‘Illuminated’ to mean the embellishing of books with strong colour and inks, especially with gold and silver leaf.
I decided to ‘illuminate’ a contemporary book. In this case a fiction book, one of my favorites as a child, ‘The Martian Chronicles’ by Ray Bradbury.
This book has already been widely illustrated, however I was looking to capture a different aesthetic, influenced by the hand-worked aspects of illuminated artwork without ignoring the substantial art movements that have been a factor since the printing press arrived.
My direct influences in a contemporary sense included graphic novel illustrator Ian Miller (for his extremely detailed, anarchic and archaic take on science fiction, see above), and also Frances MacDonald,
a Scottish artist profoundly influenced by the tradition of illuminated manuscript, especially the Celtic examples such as the Book Of Kells.
I looked at numerous examples of illuminated manuscript, Byzantine, Irish and Scots Celtic illuminated texts, as well as more recent artists that were influenced by this long standing and historically fascinating artistic tradition.There are numerous classifications for these texts. Late Antique, Insular, Carolingian, Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance manuscripts.
I have been looking at a number of online resources for illuminated manuscripts and examples in this tradition.
I much preferred the Celtic tradition of illumination, which fused a number of different influences into on tradition.
Although the images themselves can seem somehow rough, askew and over complicated they also have a particular beauty in their detail and human touch which I enjoyed.
I even got a book about how to make illuminations and a letter stamp set to experiment with, as well as light board, as much of the images I have worked on so far have been reworked on tracing paper.
I settled on this basic design (see left) which shows one of the more moving passages in the book, in which an alien Martian confronts a human astronaut that has colonised his world. They soon realise that to each other they are ghosts. The Martian sees a vibrant, alive culture and beautiful cities. The human sees only ruins and emptiness, an ancient civilization long dead.
The pencil drawings below initially showed both the Martian and the human, however as it has developed only the Martian dominates, fused with his strangely organic city, a ghost merging into the structure itself. After finishing the basic design I now looked at ways to illuminate it. I decided on gold and silver ink after thinking about LEDs and back-lighting. I also did some outlines in pen, however I am not sure if I can make this work for a whole illustration.
These drawings and designs are still very much a work in progress so please watch this space. Any comments are welcome.