Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Drawing on Real Parchment

A few years ago I needed to buy two goat skins to make parchment straps for the binding of an edition of 125 books.  I had about half of one skin leftover, so I made a sketchbook out of the parchment.  And then I made two or three sketches in the book but felt like I needed to save this book for something worthy of its sumptuous pages;  so the book has sat untouched on a shelf in my studio for seven years.  Today I needed a new book, and my eye fell on the spine of the parchment book.  Why on earth not?  And truly this is the most lush and pleasant surface ever.  These two facing pages are made with the flesh side as opposed to the hair side of the skin,  and they're softer and empty of all pore marks.  The verso, which I'll draw on tomorrow, will be the beautifully marked and slightly harder hair side.  I felt compelled to squash things up a bit, don't want to waste any of this material.  I may experiment with scraping off mistakes in the manner of a medieval manuscript illuminator, drawing right over any palimpsest that remains after the scraping.

I didn't bother to prepare the surface at all, no sizing or gums rubbed in, no smoothing.  I'm not even sure how to do that.  Ink and watercolor sit nicely on this unprepared surface, but I will research the traditional preparation and if I can, will try it out and compare.

The drawings are of an acorn planting itself, its inside coloration turned caput mortar;  and more of those elaborate terminal buds: those column tops and finials and Baroque pulpits, those reliquaries and ciboria.


  1. Should be caput mortuum. Thanks autocorrect

  2. ah, i love reading that you USED the vellum. good on you! i've worked with it (as binding, dyeing it and sewing on it) a bit and it IS different. your botanicals look perfect on it! i can't wait to see how the other sides work out.