Another group of people eager to learn the traditional skills and techniques of mediæval illumination and miniature painting gathered in Kent, UK, in May 2021. This was a group who had planned to take this course in 2020 but the pandemic got in the way, so everyone, including me, was very excited to be able actually to take the course.
Everything is provided on the course, no-one needs to bring anything with them, and it takes quite a while to ensure that all the tools and materials are clean, pencils sharpened, erasers ready to use, and there are no scratches on the burnishers. Those who have been on my courses before will recognise the wet boxes and the dry boxes!
Each participant has their work station set up for them so that all they need is ready to hand; no-one has to share tools etc and wait for someone else to finish using them. There is also plenty of space so those working don’t feel cramped.
After practising applying gold and burnishing to already laid gesso, gesso is made for participants to take home to make more illuminated miniatures, and gesso made earlier is applied to their own choice of miniature. But first everyone cuts their own quill from a swan’s feather to apply the gesso.
Vellum is prepared and the outline traced and transferred to the skin. Gesso is then laid ready for gilding.
Applying real gold leaf changes the pink gesso into what looks like solid gold.
Everyone is delighted with the magical effect, even if some gesso is a little smoother than others. Turning it in the light really does look as if the miniature is illuminated.
After practising painting their miniature everyone sets to painting their ‘proper’ one.
A great deal of concentration is required for this, and while people are busy painting, I explain about the types of skin to use, and also show and talk about the traditional pigments.
Everyone was delighted with their results and said they learned a lot. I hope they continue to do more as they were a very impressive set of illuminations. And no, most people had never done this before, and many had very little painting experience either.
Genuine comments from the course include:
It was great, relaxed but very informative. Lovely day, uninterrupted painting. Perfect. I loved it.
Excellent instructions and I loved how passionate and knowledgeable you are about your subject. I learnt loads and my confidence built up over the duration of the course. I am looking forward to trying my new-found skills at home.
Very enjoyable, very well done. I was very happy with what I managed to achieve all thanks to Patricia.
Everything was very clear and thank you for your individual support on any questions or problems. A wonderful course. Thank you so much!
Really clear instructions, explanations, etc, and brilliant being able to ask as many questions as possible. Had an amazing time, thank you. Will be definitely going home and continuing my painting. I had lost my enjoyment of painting any illuminations as I had just become frustrated not knowing what to do and the techniques needed. Thanks.
Expert teaching of intricate techniques very well explained and demonstrated. The course is very well paced. Enough time to really focus on a good painting.
Brilliant, even for a beginner with no knowledge of the craft. Best course ever – would wish to do another. Experience shines through gently. 10 out of 10.
A model example of thorough preparation, micro and macro management of a complex subject. Delightful outcome of a memorable three days. Bravissimo!
(NB, the comments don’t necessarily match the person creating the miniature!)
****One person on the course had a Dystonic tremor which affects the whole body, and also has MS which affects other parts. Painting the practice piece was done in the afternoon and the hand wasn’t so steady, but painting the best piece started in the morning and they found that ‘with so much concentration, I was hardly shaking. It feels since the course that my self confidence has taken a huge boost as well’.
So don’t think this course isn’t for you if you have no experience. Illumination involves technique, and that is what is taught. And if you, too, have a tremor or a physical challenge, you may well surprise yourself and what you can do in three days!