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This work was done by Beth Paul.
“Celtic Circle”

Materials: Colored Pencil, Miniatum Ink, 23k patent gold on Artistico Fabriano.

This piece developed one decision at a time. I did not have a clear vision of what I wanted unlike my usual way of working. I have been fascinated with celtic knotwork for several years, and I have had the opportunity to learn from Bill Kemp and Joy Daniels over the past last year. I learned several methods of creating complicated celtic patterns, and I wanted to use these new techniques and skills to create something different than the usual look.

In my studies, I noted that many of the historical examples used knotwork as borders, however, I wanted the patterns to be the focus of the piece. I started with the fun part, a circular technique I learned from Joy Daniel’s class. I worked on tracing paper to make sure the pattern fit correctly: adjusting size and making sure the circle kept its shape.

The next section I worked on was the triangular patterns revolving around the center point. This was a more difficult process, however, I used tracing paper to ensure it was balanced. From a design standpoint, I knew that there needed to be a third circle, but it had to be something different from the two patterns I had done previously. With that in mind, I chose to do a simple braid.

The lettering took a back seat to the design for the most part. I considered lettering in a square shape surrounding the circles, or perhaps doing a kind of spiral interweaving through the patterns. Of course, when I picked up the tracing papers with the circles on top of each other, it was obvious where the lettering needed to go. In uncial of course.

Up until this point, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to letter. I went through my favorite writings and quotes, I searched the internet for famous phrases and passages, I even thought about writing my own verses. Then, I picked up a bookone of those that have a poem or thought for the day - and flipped through it. On the very last page was the poem, “Auld Lang Syne.” Though it’s a bit late for New Year’s, the words of the song that never ends fit perfectly within the circles and the author, Robert Burns, of course, was Scottish.

So far, the decisions had built on each other and the production of the piece proceeded nicely. However, what media to use became an issue. I felt that gold had to be a part of the design. The piece was starting to have an “old world” feel that I liked and wanted to maintain. I didn’t like the way watercolor looked when I tried it and I didn’t want metallic paint or acrylics.

I decided to experiment with colored pencil. I watched YouTube videos on how to mix colors to look like metals. I decided on a golden color for the inner circle pattern, bronze for the center triangle patterns and copper for the braid outer circle. Deciding on color pencil combinations was the longest part of the process. I tested swatch after swatch of different shades because I knew once I started adding the color, I couldn’t change my mind.

I began with the center triangle patterns, which turned out well, so I proceeded to the inner circle pattern. The gold look for this section presented its own difficulty as I had to go back and forth multiple times to keep the shades equal around the circle. When it came time to do the outer braid, I knew right away the colors I had picked for the copper would not work with the other two sections, so I decided to go with the bronze shades I used for the center triangle pattern.

It was time for the lettering but I still hadn’t fully decided how the lettering should be done. I knew what I was going to write but not what I was going to use for the media. I originally thought the lettering would be black, however, after the circles were done, I knew that would be too harsh. I tested gold lettering on black circular bands which would be pretty dramatic but that did not go well either. I decided that the piece should have some gilding regardless. I laid out the lettering and wrote with the miniatum ink in uncial, hoping I didn’t misspell anything. The gold leaf went on quickly and gave the lettering enough presence to show up and not overshadowed by the complicated patterns. I stepped back at this point and pondered on what else the piece needed, including outlining the patterns, or maybe filling in the background. In the end, I decided to stop where I was.

I have always started out with a complete vision of what I wanted, so this process of preceding a step at a time was new to me. The project developed over a period of weeks rather than days and I became frustrated at times for taking so long. This piece has taught me to have patience with myself and enjoy the process.


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