A modern illuminated manuscript
Step 1: Research
Research illuminated Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. Illuminated manuscripts were created throughout the Renaissance era. Your search may take you to numerous examples from the East and India as well as examples created by monks in the West. In addition, search museum databases such as the Smithsonian Institution using the keywords “illustrated poem” and “poem” to get a modern perspective on the artistic potential of embellished writing. You may find inspiration in any work of art that combines words and imagery. As you do your research, consider the following questions: What stories or poems would would a modern day manuscript tell? What media would it be done in. To whom would it be directed?
Step 2: Studio Project
A modern illuminated manuscript would combine art and writing, but the inspiration behind it can be entirely personal. Think of a story or poem you would like to embellish. The appearance of the words themselves should be decorative, so you may want to handwrite your text, but you may also find inspiration in the use of fonts from your computer in Artforms Chapter 9: Graphic Design.
Once you have your printed matter on your page, complete your modern illuminated page by embellishing the poem or story with personally significant drawings, paintings, or other decorative elements. Be creative! Consider “illuminating” part of the work with metallic details. This is a modern work that should be meaningful to you. Recommended materials include a sturdy Bristol Board or heavy drawing paper, watercolors, pencil, India ink, and metallic acrylic paints.
Insert an image of your final work into a document file, and answer the following questions in short essay format (500-600 words). Do not simply answer these questions. Weave your answers into your writing.
Did you find that the words of your story or poem became more meaningful through the embellishment process?
Do you value the message the poem or story sends now that you have paired the words with narrative, symbolic, or decorative imagery?
When your work was complete, did you want to share it and the text’s message with others?
Why do you think the practice of embellishing spiritual material with beautiful imagery was so important in the medieval era? Would this have been a good way to convey the messages of the “book-based religions”? If so, why?
What did the poem or story mean to you, and, on a personal level, has this project increased the meaningful content of the text itself?
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