For this year’s Christmas Card I have used a Half-Uncial lettering style based on the script used in the Book of Kells. Although this style in now associated with Ireland, it was in fact used throughout Europe in the middle ages.
I used an “Automatic Pen”, a wide dip pen used for large lettering such as posters. I wrote out the required letters a number of times and scanned the best. The digraph ae was particularly difficult as in this script the left hand side of the a and o look the same, therefore ae and oe are identical. So I was pleased to find some alternate characters in one of Arthur Baker’s Calligraphy Manuals. The initial G is decorated in a later style, which I drew separately in felt pen. All was then scanned into Photoshop and put together with the pale background colour.
So what does it mean?
Glæd Geol is the Old English for Happy Christmas (literal translation Glad Yule). The word Cristesmæsse (Christ’s Mass) was not used until the eleventh century.
It’s always difficult to find the right wording or image for Christmas, not too religious but without becoming completely secular and forgetting that it is a religious festival.
This year I’ve used a poem by one of my mother’s favourite poets, Seamus Heaney. The Last Mummer also connects with me. Since I was at school I have performed a Mummers’ Play in Sussex every Christmas.
I’ve used a letter style that is traditional but not too formal. A sort of Black Letter script. I started by using a broad nib pen to write out the words and watercolour to paint a background colour. Both of these were scanned and taken into Photoshop. I then outlined the letters and cut them out of the colour area and hey presto letters made up of shaded texture rather than solid black.
As the cards were digitally printed I had no choice in the paper stock’s colour so added a tint across the whole card to make it off-white.