I recently sent off a commission for two more wonderful Celtic saints - and some more vermilion as it happens, always a passion of mine. Everyone knows of St Kevin, ascetic and abbot, hermit in the Irish wilds for many years. He is feted in verse in the immortal but irreverent Dubliners song ("There was an old Glendalough saint, renowned for his learning and piety. His manners were curious and quaint, and he looked upon girls with disparity"): and in the beautiful poem by Seamus Heaney which meditates on the legend of the blackbird which laid an egg in St Kevin's oustretched hand as he prayed. The poem reveals this parable of Christian self-sacrifice and suffering more eloquently and completely than I ever could either in paint or poetry.
St Melangell's life in Wales is well attested though less written on than Kevin's. Her shrine is still to be visited in Powys and was restored in 1992. St Melangell's legend is of a hare pursued by a hunting nobleman which bounded up and took refuge from the hounds in the folds of her cloak. Reputedly the hare runs fastest uphill and so symbolises the ascent of the human soul escaping the powers of darkness. I am mentally incorporating these two in my 'some day' iconographic project on the new creation.
I just viewed another wonderful video by Attila Gazo of www.masterpigments.com about the production of blue pigment from mineral azurite. Find it here on YouTube by cut and pasting the link in your browser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcMCGNNzxtk.
A divine colour, azurite, as important in later medieval western art as lapis lazuli. If I could afford to, I would splash it on all over. I love it in its purest grades, as in this tiny illuminated letter T (back of a pendant jewel I made for my daughter): -
- and just as much in its lesser grades, as the greenish shade I used for Christ's robe in this icon of the Confession of Thomas.
I once harboured ambitions to make my own pigments, but just looking at the equipment and repetitive processes involved in Attila's work is enough to make one come over faint. Quite a risky business too, given the toxicity of some of these pigments. Check out his videos on the production of lead white and cinnabar.
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.