I was asked by the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, a lovely gem of a church in Doylestown, to create an ‘illumination’ around the Lord’s Prayer, which a friend had scripted in calligraphy for him. (I was happy not to have to letter it, that’s not my forte!) The illuminated piece was to be given as a gift to a retiring churchwarden.
Traditional illumination uses symbols and design elements to decoratively frame a piece of writing, like this one from the 1400s. Many illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages onward were created by monks copying the Bible, and so contain many examples of religious imagery, as well as animals and plants from nature. Since the printing press was not in general use then, hand-copying was the only method of reproducing the Bible.
To design my illumination I placed a print out of the calligraphy on 11″x 14″ paper, which was the size requested, and since there was a good bit of room near the bottom of the page, I drew a decorative border of lilies on the sides, leading to an illustration at the bottom of the page. I reread Matthew:6 and thought a Sermon on the Mount illustration would fit well, so I penciled in a drawing of Jesus speaking to a gathering crowd on a mountainside.
This design was approved with minor changes by the priest and others in the parish he consulted. I filled in a quick color version using colored pencils –
I had my local printer, Cortineo Creative, print the calligraphy file on 4 different types of paper, to see which would best take the color washes I planned to use. Once I decided on a linen-weave paper, they printed the prayer centered on the 11 x 14″ sheet, and I transferred my drawing using a lightbox, and drew and painted the finished art.
The framed art made a beautiful and meaningful gift for the churchwarden, and I am thrilled to use my God-given talent to memorialize this beautiful prayer.