I made a brief visit to the Lake District the other week. More lake than district there as ever, and walking slightly hampered by alternating sideways rain and hail showers. I spied this detail in the beautiful east window of Jesus Church, Troutbeck. The window was designed by Burne Jones on the theme of the new creation in Christ. The angle was awkward to photograph and the sun was streaming in, so I don't know how easy it is to make out the detail which delighted me - the leaping fish in the floodwaters either side of the Annunciation. A little further along Noah appears, clutching a model of his Ark.
The window as a whole is very large and elaborate in conception, and there are more expensive stained glass windows lining the nave, though Troutbeck is such a tiny place you could blink and miss it - Troutspeck, even. I guess the grandees who commissioned the many fabulous Arts and Crafts or neo-gothic holiday palaces in those parts were gracious enough to share some of their worldly excess with the local yokels who joined them for worship in these little village churches.
I don't think the effects of myopia - or even astigmatism or cataracts - on a person's life have been given proper credit by art historians. Most illuminated manuscripts have details so tiny that the artist must have had magnifiers or have been naturally shortsighted to paint such tiny detail so perfectly: reproductions in books tend to be enlarged so one doesn't get a true impression of how tiny they were. I've always been very short-sighted myself, and when I take off my glasses I can see in glorious magnification provided I have my work no more than an inch from my face. Anything further away is a miasmal mist, so that I have to line up my pigment pots in a special order and locate them by feel. I am exploiting my own weakness by choosing to paint small, but if I wanted to go larger it would have to be as a latter-day misty Impressionist or a new Jackson Pollock. Easel painting would mean constantly juggling with three sets of eyewear.
Getting back to Gutenberg and his printing press, the Museum was very empty when I visited so I was lucky enough to get a turn printing a page of St John's gospel on his very machine. So exciting! The machine actually started out life as a wine press, which Gutenberg adapted to the purpose. An incredibly heavy contraption to turn- his assistants must have been a brawny bunch.
The view from my desk
Current work, places and events, art travel, and interesting snippets about Christian icons, medieval art, manuscript illumination, egg tempera , gilding, technique and materials.