Blog Archives

Two More Image Resources

Image taken from page 685 of 'A magyar nemzet tortenete. Szerkeszti Szilágyi S. [With maps and illustrations.]'
My brother has just alerted me to two more digitised image collections.  The first is provided by the British Library – see this article for an introduction.  The image above is from this collection.  I have no idea what it says, I just liked the illumination.  The second collection is part of the Polonsky Foundation Digitisation Project which aims to digitise the collections of the Oxford Bodleian Library and the Vatican’s Biblioteca Apostolica.  The latter seems to be related to the Digital Vatican Library which I already have in my resource list (see menu above).  See this article for information on the Polonsky collection.  I will add the appropriate links to the “Other Resources” page on my menu above.


Interesting Art Experiment

What happens when you let ordinary Internet users from around the world collaborate on a piece of art?  War!  But the results are fascinating.  See here for the story and here for a close up of the result.  I love it that the Welsh flag appears at least twice even though it is a difficult one to draw small with pixels (see below).  I also love that the Union Jack appears in a heart with the Italian flag.

Approved Version

This version of my Holy Face design has been approved by the person who requested it.  I’m happy with it overall but I think that the face itself and the lettering might need tweaking.


Almost Done

Just some spiral patterns left to do, and a bit of tweaking here and there.

(The pencil underdrawing won’t be in the final version.)


Tree Progress


So I got all the lettering done except for the initial “G”; the first draft anyway.

Please don’t ask me what is up with the animal head coming out of the “d”. I don’t know why his tongue has got knotted up with his mane. It’s just one of those things that happens in this kind of art. I guess the monks that spent so many hours of their lives making themselves blind doing this stuff liked to have a bit of fun with it. That, or they drank too much homebrew. Monks were/are pretty good brewers, or so I’m told.

Gradual Illumination

Here’s the latest update to my Tree of Life design:


I’ve tidied up the sketch a little, and continued with the illumination on the “G”.  I’ve left the bottom spiral in an intermediate state so that you can see how the design evolves.  It doesn’t just pop out of my head and onto the screen.  I have to keep changing it and tweaking it.  I’m still using George Bain’s book for inspiration but now I’m also using Aidan Meehan’s book on illuminated letters.

If you’re wondering why these letters seem to be tipping up to the right, it’s not a mistake.  The old manuscripts that I’m trying to emulate, like the Book of Kells, often have the first few letters of a passage illuminated in decreasing order of size.  However, the rest of the letters in my sketch in the previous post are tipping up to the right, by mistake.  It often happens to my writing if I don’t follow guidelines.  I will have to remember to draw guidelines on the sketch before I finalise the rest of the writing.

Tree of Life – Sketch

Today is the day Catholics celebrate the cross with a Feast that used to be called Rood Mass.  One reason we celebrate the cross is because it demonstrates God’s great love for us.  As Saint Catherine of Siena says:

Nails were not enough to hold the God-Man nailed and fastened on the Cross, had not love held Him there.

Or, as John’s gospel says:


This is the sketch I made for my Tree of Life drawing that I mentioned in an earlier post. The body of Christ is traced from a photo of a crucifix.  That’s why it looks better than the rest of the sketch.  🙂

Key Pattern and Bees

First the bees.  Please could you take a minute or two to help keep a bee-killing insecticide out of Ireland?  Here is a link to the petition.  Thanks in advance to all those who take the time to sign it.  😀

I’ve got two art projects queued up at the moment.  I plan to do a painting based on the Holy Face drawing I did recently.  The other project is a digital drawing which I’m calling the Tree of Life.  These are both intricate works which will take a long time to finish.  For that reason I’m going to share progress reports as I go along rather than waiting to show you the finished pieces.

So far, all I’ve done for the painting is to set up a drawing board to prop the painting up.  I’m going to be painting on an MDF board that I prepared last year (or maybe even the year before that, I can’t remember) with several layers of (sanded-down) gesso.  I’ve never used this kind of surface before so it will be interesting to see how it goes.

I’ve done quite a few embarrassingly crude pencil sketches for my Tree of Life design.  Here is the first tiny piece that I’ve polished up in the digital version.  It is a panel inside one of the first of the illuminated letters I’m going to use.

The hard part was the grid, shown in green in the left-hand image.  It took me four tries to get it right.  It’s based on a design in George Bain’s book on Celtic Art that I mentioned in a previous post.  His design is in turn based on what he calls a key pattern found on a Pictish cross-slab called the Nigg Stone.  According to Bain:

The evidences available [Bain is writing in the 1950’s] show that the key patterns of Britain and Ireland arrived many centuries before the Romans, and that the peoples who brought them made contacts in their migrations with the tribes that later became the makers of the Greek Empire.

P.S. There’s a scheduled power outage in our area today so I won’t be able to reply to comments until the evening.

Art History Resource

Here is a great resource provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – MetPublications.  There are pdfs of more than four hundred of their Art History books available for free download.  I’ve just downloaded one that is out of print,”The Arts of Byzantium”, and the pictures look great.  (I haven’t had time to read it yet.)

Back to the Art

Given that my blog has a new flavour, I wanted to draw a new background for it.  I produced a Celtic version of images that are important to me.  The Holy Face is represented with a consecrated host, i.e. the Blessed Sacrament in which Jesus Christ is present under the appearance of bread.  These two images appear on a Catholic medal associated with devotion to the Holy Face.

There is a link between the Holy Face and consecrated bread that goes all the way back through Old Testament times.  The Bread of the Presence, or the Bread of the Face, is first mentioned in the Bible when, during the exodus from Egypt, God instructs Moses on how He is to be worshipped.  In the time of Jesus it was the custom for Jewish men to visit the temple in Jerusalem three times a year for the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.  On these occasions the Temple priests would bring out the Bread of the Presence and raise it up for the men to see it.  In this way they fulfilled the instructions in the Book of Exodus: “three times a year shall all your males see the face of the Lord”.  For more on this see Chapter 5 of Brant Pitre’s book called “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist”.


The letters “IHS” are a Christogram.  I used to think they stood for “In His Service” but they are actually the English versions of the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek.  The bar over the ‘h’ is meant to indicate an abbreviation.

The spiral designs were inspired by George Bain‘s book on “Celtic Art – The Methods of Construction”.  The book was first published in 1951 but it is still in print and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this art form.  My copy was given to me by a dear old neighbour of mine in Wales, on a trip back home a few years ago.  I was admiring the love spoons my neighbour had carved for his wife, now sadly deceased, and we began discussing our mutual interest in Celtic art.  Unfortunately, he is losing his eyesight so he is not able to do any more carving, and he passed the book on to me so that I could make use of it.  I’m very grateful, it is a beautiful book.