Thursday, 12 March 2015

Feeding the five thousand - fish and loaves

An acquaintance of mine has recently learned how to make paint icons. My daughter's former guitar tutor, Milly, explained to me that painting them was a very different kettle of fish (and you'll see why later) compared to using her usual art medium of watercolours. She particularly advised me that the application of gold foil was very tricky indeed. Obviously you wouldn't want a draught breezing through the room when you were applying sections of lustrous and impossibly thin, hammered gold leaf with a sable paintbrush!  Here is the first icon she ever painted.


Now this has got me checking what animal provides the hair for a sable brush, it is in fact a marten. These increasingly rare creatures occupy the northernmost forests of Europe and Asia. Although, it does seem that the most famous and sought after paint brushes are made from hairs from the tail of the kolinsky, a species of weasel rather than an actual sable. No poor (paw) relation that weasel then! The kolinsky is now on the CITES list of endangered species so international trade is problematic and Kolinsky "red sable" paintbrushes will be as rare as hens' teeth!

Another paintbrush with animal association crossed my mind yesterday while I was watching the 2014 film “Mr. Turner” about the later years in the life of J.M.W.Turner, one of my favourite artists. In one scene a pig’s head is bought and then prepared for cooking. Very medieval in fact! Although presently MedievalMorsels models only  boars’ heads.
MedievalMorsels one inch scale Tudor food - boar's head


1:12 scale dollhouse miniature food for a medieval feast

Medieval/Tudor dollshouse food - 12th scale boar's head
Turner’s father was a barber and was expertly shaving the whole pig’s head - I seriously wondered if he was going to recycle and tie the bristles into a painting brush. This did not happen - but I am not so mad to imagine it. Hog bristle, though rare and expensive is apparently the best natural filling material for a wide variety of bristle brushes, with “excellent durability and water resistance”. So there you are.

Getting back to Milly, she was kind enough to give me printed postcards of several copied icons that she has had printed. So I needed to reciprocate….

I made her five loaves and two fishes, wrapped in fine muslin and placed in a shallow basket. Whilst I did not photograph them, I did go on to produce two new fishy lines for MedievalMorsels and here they, inspired originally by the parable (the only one recorded in all four Gospels) of the feeding of the five thousand.

And here are some full size loaves for the modern or period dollhouse table or dresser!