Medieval Illuminations

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We began this lesson discussing how, prior to the advent of the printing press, medieval texts were illustrated and drawn by hand. Incredibly detailed and ornate, these miniature masterpieces often had gold leaf or real jewel embellishments and were treasures reserved for royalty or very wealthy patrons.

Each student began their design by creating a one inch border on their square paper and sketching a single letter, (one of their initials,) in the center box.  The border and background artwork was drawn with sharpie pens and we used watercolor pencils to add the color effects. Emphasis was placed on the fact that the border should act as a frame for the central design and should show symmetry and balance.

For the center area behind the letter, we discussed how to create a realistic landscape using horizon lines to show layers of land as well as size changes to show whether something is closer or farther. (Closer objects appear larger and lower in the picture plane.)

One of the major color goals of the project was to incorporate different blending and layering techniques that we learned. (Watercolor pencils are wonderful for creating painterly blending effects, but provide more control than standard watercolor paints.) We also had a special design challenge: To draw something in our picture that touched, overlapped, or interacted with our letter in some creative way! As a final touch, students had the option to add touches of glitter glue or metallic pen to their design.

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