Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Celtic Calligraphy, by Kerry Richardson. Review.

Celtic Calligraphy

Calligraphy, Knotwork and Illumination

By Kerry Richardson

Search Press 2014

Hard-cover, spiral-bound; UK £12.99, US/CAN $24.95

ISBN 978-1-78221-001-6

Star rating: *****

A  frosty January is the ideal time to take on a new craft. Celtic Calligraphy is a thrifty candidate, since little more is needed than paper, pencil, and a selection of calligraphy felt-tips.  But it is the fascinating nature of the craft that is the main attraction.

I was charmed by Kerry Richardson’s Celtic Calligraphy book – it is like an evening class – or a wonderful workshop weekend. Clearly a labour of love, this book packs lots and lots of attractively-presented info within its 96 pages. The author’s voice is friendly and conversational. She is sharing the secrets of her beloved artform.

Not only (knot only!) do you learn how to write the beautiful Celtic Uncial letterforms, controlling the pen to create thick-and-thin lines, but you also learn how to draw continous braidwork borders, and decorative floral motifs - and put them all together to make an illuminated artwork: words and pictures.

This book is extremely user-friendly. The calligraphy is taught using felt-tips – so there is no pen-dipping beginner’s anxiety to tackle. The alphabet is taught pen-stroke by pen-stroke, with the usual numbered arrows.  A foolproof method (practice makes perfect). The Knotwork section is fascinating. It de-mystifies how to create complex-looking braided borders (easy when you know how).  There’s a section devoted to Knotwork Corners – a chance to go wild with ornate embellishments. The section on Colouring Knotwork is a revelation – you’ll learn tricks of the trade for turning 2D designs 3D (of special note – the Colouring with Feathering pages).  

When it comes to the illumination, those of us who cannot draw are often timid about creating decorative embellishments. Here, you will find step-by-step pics  showing how to draw a variety of floral embellishments: Bluebell, Sweet Violet, Wild Rose, Daffodil, plus fruit and foliage (oak and acorn, always a favourite).

The fantastical aspect of Celtic Calligraphy is a distinctive feature. At the back of the book you will find hybrid floral motifs – flowers with knotwork stems (love the Dandelion), and zoomorphic letterforms.

There are a couple of step-by-step projects at the back of the book to tie it all the acquired skills together, but the book’s strength is teaching the new skills (Celtic calligraphy, knotwork, and illumination) clearly, conscisely, and attractively. The spiral-bound format makes it very handy to keep a page open as you are learning.  A very giftable title (maybe to yourself).

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