Thursday, May 9, 2013

In The Studio

And you thought all I would need would
be a pen and ink?
The afternoon session of my Artist in Residence du Jour was spent in the studio. The book had been prepared ahead of time for its use as a canvas. The last line of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne had been selected as the text. "On a field, sable, the letter A, gules" This is the blazon (the written description) of Hester Prynne's coat of arms. I had hoped to scribe the text on the last page of the story, but the book didn't naturally stay open on this page. The pages were painted with gesso with a touch of Titanium Buff to keep the look of the original aged pages. The edges of the book were painted with gold acrylic to simulate the gilded edges of old books.

The text was scribed using a 2 mm. Brause nib and Ziller Glossy Black ink.  In the book, the text was printed in uppercase Times New Roman. I'm working on my Romans and wasn't confident enough to use them in this piece so Uncial was chosen as the hand  or script I would use. (When talking about calligraphic writing the term "font" is never used. Font is for type, typography. Hand or script is the correct term for calligraphy. But you already knew that, right?) Uncial is a majuscule hand. There is no "lower-case" so this would approximate the uppercase text used in the book. The text was scribed on the verso page and then a large, modern illuminated A, in the style of Sherrie Kiesel, was drawn on the recto page and would be upside-down to the viewer.

A paper doll base was prepared ahead of time. The dress was a page from an old Worcester Museum Class catalog. It was painted Payne's Grey and folded with modification into an origami dress. An articulated arm was made, and a collar and cuff was glued from a scrap of eyelet trim.

While waiting for the ink to dry, I painted another tiny, illuminated A in a traditional style on a 1/2" square of black Canson Mi Tientes. When dry, the scarlet letter was pasted to the doll's dress. Baby Mary and Elizabeth's head were cut from the cover of the book and the doll was assembled. A wire stand is glued to the back. "Hester" will be positioned at the top of the recto page. The paper doll is roughly in the shape of a capital A and casts an illuminated, scarlet A shadow which is also Hester's coat of arms.

The day ended with the project 3/4 complete. The rest was finished at home. The illuminated "A" was colored with various red shades of watercolor pencil to simulate stained glass. The black field was painted with ivory black acrylic. 24 gauge, gold wire was bent and glued with PVA to form the flourishes of the illuminated initial and represent the mantling of a coat of arms. A small pearl bead was glued to represent Hester's daughter, Pearl.

Measurements: 8 1/2 in. x 7 in.x 5 3/4 in.


  1. That looks awesome....and a whole lot of fun!!!

  2. I second AWESOME! :) (PS Like the new blog layout too!)