Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why I love period materials

I've been painting with period replicated materials (or as close to it) for the last few years now, not all the time, but certainly for various bits of research or commission work or what not.  I generally also try to extend that to other areas of interest; at the moment that happens to be embroidery but the extension applies to most of my crafts and arts at this point.

There's often a question of *why* I do this, particularly when I clearly have no aversion to modern materials and in fact get quite a kick out of using many of them (3-D plastic pens? awesome.)

The answer to this was never clear to me until recently.  Part of it is simply because I *should* as a re-enactor and studier of history and, more recently, as a laurel.  But that was never really what got me hooked on period materials, their complexity, the endless variations and books.

It didn't hit me really or really gel until recently when the husband and I took a trip to London. On a side trip to Glastonbury, there was a case of monk's artists tools in the abbey museum, among them an oyster shell filled with ground up verdis gris.  I felt tears spring to my eyes and then immediately had to explain to my poor, non-scribal husband why I was crying over an oyster shell and some ground up copper oxidization.  Poor man.



The simple truth is, period materials and the exploration process around them make me feel connected to the past in ways that even the artistic process does not.  Art styles change, even when replicating period style.  Formats of art change, even the rooms or spaces we create in change.  The materials, however, are one of the basic fundamental pieces that can get us closer to what our historical counterparts experienced than anything else.  I could feel that connection resonating, knew precisely what that monk did to make that pigment, what time it took and what he used it for. I knew precisely that he knew he couldn't paint it next to orpiment because the touch points would destroy the page - even if he didn't know why. I knew the soreness in his wrist and arm from the grinder and muller and the acid tang of oxidized copper.

Sometimes it seems like the search for period materials or to replicate what they used in period is  snobbery or elitism but its not.  It's a search for that connection, a suggestion that yes that goauche paint is great but if you want to get what the artist did - really did - you *gotta* try this.

And admittedly, it's always nice to add to your zombie apocalypse skill set.