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Illuminated manuscript. One of the oldest and iconic styles of art history dating from the 16th century of the Middle Ages. Almost every continent has contributed in some away or another this part of history.

Among some of the famous manuscripts – The Lindisfarne Gospels, The Book of Kells, and many more across Eastern Europe from the Byzantium period.

As such I decided to explore and as part of one of my History of Art lesson, provide my students with a small demonstration on one of the techniques used during that period of time. This technique is called gilding – a technique that requires the use of gold foil or leaf. In ancient times, it was a technique only mastered by very few due to the tedious and intricate designs. The gold leaf used are actual 24k gold that is hammered into extremely thin pieces and later applied as filler to alphabet or border outlines, or used as background.

Similarly, I used the gilding technique. So to start of, I made some simple sketches and from there started to make a simple grid to draw my letter. Once I was happy with the vines and the little bee which is the Greek representation of my name, I mixed a little gesso with water and painted over the alphabet. This was to create a little emboss effect. Once that was dried, I took it over to my History of Art class and provided them with the gilding demo. This was accomplished by brushing a light layer of adhesive and slowly laying a sheet of gold leaf. Gently tap the leaf down so it may stick to the adhesive and later I used a brush to remove the excessive leaf to reveal an illuminated alphabet.

However, there was one minor issue – instead of using a sponge brush to apply the adhesive, I had used a paint brush. The disadvantage of this was there was an excess of adhesive left over the letter that somewhat had smudged around my intended area. The results… MESSY! Anyway here are some shots my attempt:

So let me know what are your thoughts on this attempt or share a picture if you plan to attempt your very own illuminated alphabet!

#artsyworkshop #gilding #arthistory #illuminatedalphabet #illuminatedmanuscript

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