|Trying out transparent vellum for the first time by painting a female Emperor Moth, Saturnia pavonia , a British resident moth and sole member of the Saturniidae Family in the UK. This vellum really is transparent but here it's laid on top of white paper yet still maintains a beautiful soft finish which differs from other vellum. The image appears to float on top of the surface giving a beautiful effect.|
|Detail showing stipple which suits the effect of scales of the wing but this can also be smoothed with additional work if a softer finish is required. I worked using a x2.5 magnification to ensure the 'dots' were fine.|
A bit about Cowleys
There used to be 52 vellum and parchment makers in the UK but now only Cowley's remains. The family business has been established since the 1870's, started by William Cowley and continuing for 4 generations. Old photographs of the family can still be seen in the office today.
Cowley's recently they made the news headlines when the tradition of using parchment for documenting Acts of Parliament came under threat of being replaced by archival paper. However vellum won the day and the tradition continues. There can be no doubt that vellum will out live paper and this was evident when I viewed in the beautiful paintings on show at the Fitzwilliam Museum recently,see my previous post on the Fitzwilliam.
Manager Paul went to great lengths to make me very welcome, making lots of cups of tea and providing Black Jack and Fruit Salad sweets! He had taken out a large number of skins for me to view in advance and the store room was full of the rolled skins lined up on the shelves with scraps covering the floor. But he proceeded to bring down more and more skins until we got to the transparent vellum! The cut vellum was carefully stacked in different sizes and types. I haven't posted many of my photographs as Cowley's are quite protective of their business but there are lots on their website.
Before I left I was allowed to try out the process of preparing the vellum, and tried my hand at shaving the skin smooth. This is a highly skilled craft and each skin is completely unique, the amount that the skin is shaved determines the final appearance, many look like works of art in their own right.
|Preparing the vellum by shaving the surface whilst secured in a stretcher....it would take me a very long time to prepare a skin!|
The more I paint on vellum, the more tempted I am to completely abandon paper, no other surface matches it and given all of the problems with Fabriano papers it's becoming even more appealing.
When I left I signed the stretched skin at the entrance, which has been signed by other artists, calligraphers and film crews.
With a head bursting with ideas, I carried on my journey after leaving Cowley's and visited the wonderful Chelsea Flower show on the Saturday, so the vellum trial had to wait until I returned home on the Sunday. Ironically on the way home I received an email saying that my large Fritillaria imperialis ' Rubra' painting on Cowley's Kelmscott vellum had been accepted into the ASBA 19th Annual International Exhibition and will be shown at the New York Design Centre in November this year....so a good weekend all round!
|Fritillaria imperialis 'Rubra' on Kelmscott vellum|