I have visited Trinity College and the Book of Kells exhibit several dozen times, and I never grow tired of this beautiful place and this magnificent exhibit. I love learning, I love history, I love to hear other brains buzzing, I love the spaces that accommodate and encourage learning and thinking, I love libraries, I love books, I love art and mark-making, I love paper, I love painting and drawing, I love making paper and handmade books, I love language, I love writing. Trinity and the Book of Kells are heaven to me. Going through the exhibit with students this time, I was keenly aware of the palpable wonder that this type of immersive travel/learning/cultural experience inspires. It was just great to watch their processes, and afterwards, to discuss and begin to contextualize what they saw, what they thought, what they felt, what they learned. Just fabulous.
I do love this exhibit – from a strictly creative and artistic vantage point, it is good for my soul to be reminded of these things – ogham stones (ancient system of writing, designed for the Irish language), monastic life and the sheer focus inherent in that remote and removed type of living, pocket gospel books housed in leather satchels and carried across great stretches of geography, materials and methods involved in preparing the velum (calf-skin), writing and binding materials, artistic materials and methods (inks and pigments), symbols and marks, and the scribes (as artists, with individual techniques and personal creative styles).
The brownish gallo-tannic ink (iron gall ink) was mixed with iron sulphate and wine or vinegar to create yellow, purple or red writing. Pigments were made using minerals and other organic sources; blue was created not from using lapis lazuli but indigo dye extracted from the woad plant; white was created from using gypsum; green was created from using vergent (a mixture of orpiment and indigo); yellow was created from using orpiment (yellow arsenic sulfide); and purple was created from using a dye made from an orchil lichen plant mixed with white to create pink. Pages were accentuated and decorated with red dots made from red lead.
Photo source – An Illustrator’s Inspiration