Illuminated Manuscript


The Book of Kells is considered by many to be the ultimate source of Celtic Knot imagery. The book contains the four gospels of the New Testament and some related texts and tables. It is believed to have been created around 800 AD in the Columban Monastery located either in England or Ireland. The Book of Kells is often considered one of Ireland’s national treasures.

Many of the pages include initial capitol letters to begin the texts. These letter often included animals woven in and through the letter using Celtic knot-work rules.

Assignment 1 – Knot work practice sheets (provided). Small rectangle study and edge-work study. Complete 1st sheet – all rectangles of knot work should look the same. On second sheet complete border as shown.

Assignment 2 – Research a northern Minnesota 4-legged animal and draw it – full figure.

Draw it a second time in the shape of the animal’s first initial. Below I have an Otter. I drew it in the shape of an “O”.

Write two to three sentences, in your own words, about your animal. We will use them in or Illuminated Page.

Assignment 3 – Complete two larger Celtic knot-work medallions (from sheets provided) on dotted practice sheet.

Assignment 4 – Layout of your page

Step 1: In your sketchbook create a border the width of a ruler – using a H – 2B pencil.

Step 2: Create another “channel’ the width of the ruler (see example). In the upper left quarter of your page draw your last initial. Allow for some space in the upper right side – it does not have to go to the top but is can if your design calls for it.

Edge Knot work Border – Fill the border with Celtic knot-work except for the upper left quarter.

See diagram on the whiteboard and to the left

Initial Cap – Using your last name for your “initial cap”-* In the upper left 1/4 of the page Include a “fantastic animal” based on your last name initial. (“O” for otter, “L” for lizard, “M” for mink, “A” for aardvark, etc.) See example on board. Include two symbols that represent you. Look at these lists and choose two items.

Click her for a list of animals and their symbolic meaning.

Click here for a list of plants and flowers with their symbolic meaning.

Click here for symbols of Minnesota

celtic4Step 3: Create another “channel’ inside the “knot work channel” as a margin. The margin will separate your knot work from the lettering inside. Fill the border with Celtic knot-work. Be sure to braid the entire length including the corners. Optional braided knot work including the animal in the Initial Cap.

Step 4: Write three or more sentences describing the animal used for the initial cap (What are their habits? Where do they live? What do they like to eat?). Look up this information on your iPad.

Create lines inside your knot work to write the words on. Leave margin between lines – Do not overlap words. Make sure writing fills the space and are at least 1/2″ tall. Stay inside the margin created.

Once the pencil is complete use gouache paint to fill the Initial cap with color.

Step 5:  Paint in the knot-work with using primary colors – each strand analogous to one of the primary colors. The background a contrasting tint.

When dry clean up lines with fine black sharpie. Add metallic marker to embellish the initial cap.