Trying my Hand at Illuminations

I’ve always had a vague urge to try my hand at some illuminations. Not the calligraphy part, mind you; I tried that last summer with a quest book as part of the Queen’s Guard, and, well… I can barely write legible English now, let alone write pretty.

Anyway, I’ve been painting wargaming miniatures on and off since about 1996, so I figured this can’t be all that different. I was right.


I’ve decided to do the “Alphabet Challenge”. I’m going to illuminate one scroll with each letter of the alphabet, then turn them over to the heralds to make into scrolls. Here is my B, which I just finished:


A quick rundown of what I’m using so far, for those that are interested in trying it themselves:

Windsor & Newton #0 Kolinsky Sable Brush:

Hot Press Watercolor Paper:

Holbein Artist’s Gouache:

And, if you’re going to pay $15 for a single brush, make sure you take care of it:

There’s lots of books around to help you get started working with gouache. The only real suggestion I have is to use a wet palette. I’m sure you can buy expensive ones, but all I do is fold a paper towel in quarters, lay it on a saucer (I use a disposable plastic one. Been using it for years.), put water on it until it can’t absorb any more, then cut a square of parchment paper the size of the saucer and lay it on the wet paper towel.

This will keep your paints nice and liquid for a day or so, depending on heat and humidity. When they do dry out, the dry paint flakes right off the parchment paper, and you can use it again. So nice for keeping you working and not messing around mixing more gouache all the time.

Unless you have a flawless hand, or are only doing originals, you’re probably going to want to trace things to get the outlines. For this, you need a light box. I have one my dad made years ago, but they’re fairly cheap these days:

Finally, this thing is essential for keeping your brushes wet, not letting the paint dry out in them: Just remember to never leave your brushes in it overnight. The wood will swell, the ferrule will rust, and your brush will be ruined shortly.

Anyways, that’s what I’m up to. Two down, twenty-four more to go!

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