When I first visited the archives I was fascinated and excited about getting started on a project based on work I found there. I have always been interested in old artefacts and things that have history behind them.

Example of calligraphy by unknown student, 1929, BCU Art & Design Archives

Example of calligraphy by unknown student, 1929, BCU Art & Design Archives

During the archive visits, I have found several types of subject matter incredibly fascinating. One of them was the calligraphy that had been done by hand. The process of this involved writing out the text in ink and embellishing it with different media. These included a paint-based product called gouache which has many similarities to water colour in its activation and consistency. However, gouache is more opaque than water colour and therefore gives a more vibrant finish in terms of colour and line. Another way of embellishing the script was to gild the first letters with gold using either metallic ink or gold and silver leaf. This stood out against the rest of the page due to its sheen against the dullness of the paper and the ink. Some scripts are also illustrated with small botanical drawings or drawings of architectural features. Quite often these images are taken across the length of the page to sit alongside the text and act as a border.

Jess Skidmore, Christ and Mary Magdalene, lithographic print, 2017.

Jess Skidmore, Christ and Mary Magdalene, lithographic print, 2017.

 

Although my first interest was calligraphy, this quickly changed as I was no stranger to working with old lettering and I wished to try something different. I found the religious imagery that past students had done very interesting so I felt that this would be a good avenue to take. My first task was to research these items. They come in different forms, including both work that is unfinished and completed designs ready to be made into something else, such as a mural or a stained glass window. When looking at these pieces, I was drawn to those based on different biblical themes. This has inspired me to create my own drawings based on similar subjects, such as Christ and Mary Magdalene.

This inspired me to learn a new skill in the print room, namely lithography. I chose this as a way of paying homage to the age of some of the pieces in the Archives and of exploring what effects the ageing process can have on a piece of work. I used different papers for a variety of colours and textures, but I felt that the exploration of religious imagery could be taken further.

Harry Foster Newey, Triptych presented to Frank Jackson (second master) on his retirement in 1898, BCU Art & Design Archives.

Harry Foster Newey, Triptych presented to Frank Jackson (second master) on his retirement in 1898, BCU Art & Design Archives.

My next task was exploring the religious imagery in and around Birmingham, particularly the Margaret Street building where the archives were originally housed. I was influenced by an old triptych that had been given to a former master for his retirement in 1898, and became interested in the way that images and texts were displayed in this form. This was something I thought I could work with in creating my own religious images based on what I found around me in the building and in other historic areas of the city.

Jess Skidmore, Triptych with religious imagery (final piece), 2017.

Jess Skidmore, Triptych with religious imagery (final piece), 2017.