Monday, December 26, 2011

On the wing

Milkweed, a monarch caterpillar and a monarch chrysalis painted on the wings of a monarch butterfly.

I started with a base coat of white acrylic paint that had not been thinned. The tiny scales on the butterfly wing are hydrophobic and cause water based paints to bead up. Thus, acrylic (which is my least favorite paint medium) provided a good base coat. I used watercolor gouache and gold paint to execute the rest of the miniature. Not terribly detailed, to be sure, but hey: it was a first attempt at a new and really challenging substrate.

The most difficult portion of this is that you cannot sketch on the wing without putting the graphite straight through the wing so I sketched an image to scale and then free painted everything on the wing.

Additionally, you can’t hold on to the butterfly to keep it from moving without damaging the wing edges. I used a few small flat-bottom glass pebbles placed around the butterfly to help hold it still. Don’t attempt this is a breezy room or on an evening when you don’t have a lot of patience to spare.

In future attempts I plan to work on to of a piece of Styrofoam so that I can pin supports all the way around the edges of the butterfly to hold it in place. With the challenge of "the damn thing just keeps moving!" resolved, I should be able to execute a more detailed miniature.

Disclaimer: No butterflies have been or ever will be harmed in the process of me turning them into art. I grow butterflies for a living and have a somewhat unending supply as they only live about 2 weeks to a month. All butterflies, both whole or in part, have all lived their natural and happy lives of flower sipping, mating, whizzing about and egg laying before they died of natural causes, mostly just plain old age.

Saturday, December 24, 2011



Commissioned by Jill S.

Time to execute: 90 minutes

Materials: watercolor pencil, watercolor gouache, bristol board

Size: 2 in x 3 in

Friday, December 23, 2011


con trails; image
streaks of incandescent light
smeared across
a pale sky
where the swollen sun
falls away
more orange than citrus.

and the radio
swells notes of karma
like god talking
in whispers
beyond the windows,
streaked with dirt
and insects,
fields stream by
in swaths of green

i note the geography,
the failing light
tracing the macadam
and ascending markers
counting off the miles.

i read the distance
i create.

it separates me slowly
into layers,
traces meridians
and parallels
in my faith.

somewhere deep
i close my eyes
and pray to return
by the old roads.

turn me southeast
and run me from this sunset.

to the home
i love best.

April 10 2005

Kristen Gilpin

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A wrought iron horror

Crouching on the corner of Highway 17 and Highway 40, there is a place of strange wonders where a giant iron rooster slowly rusts in the Florida sunlight. The devil’s mariachi band, a herd of license plate armadillo, a lonely carousel horse, broken pottery and more pieces of kitsch wait behind the gates. This shop has always caught my eye so I finally stopped about a year ago and roamed around with my camera.

I love roadside attractions. I bought a bottle of water and a jar of gallberry honey but I took away a memory.

Little Bird

Within the cage ofDscn0023
bone and breath, 
my heart:
a small and fluttering thing
of quick movements;
staccato rhythm.

Descending depths unknown,
I let it lead;
my small canary
with nails clipped short.

When breath leaves
it will fall quietly;
sing my warning
with silence piercing.
No perch left
to hold.

I can taste
the racing pace
of fear,
coppery and strange.

my heart,
through years and ages;
a single candle
to light
the endless paths.

until you cannot;
move unhindered
beneath deepest layers
of earth and sky
where fingers of rock
curl and rise
in half light
like hands
of gods forgotten.

little bird,
only at the last,
and within that pool of light
beside your empty cage
I will know:
how the air
has grown strange,
how the path
has led me astray,
how the day
has ended.

Go before me
and I will know.

Jan 19, 2005

Kristen Gilpin

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Know Me

is where I keep
the heart
that is not
on my sleeveDSCN0323
and soft
as babies.

Creamy pages,
napkin tatters,
thick journals.
will know me

are places
where I speak
where I weep
in characters
and symbols
during late nights
when headlights
play across
the blinds.

Rustling papersPeacock 2
will remember me

My heart
will be found
pressed between pages
some day
long hence,
dried like beans,
like wedding flowers,
like butterfly wings.

I hope
that it is
your soft hands
that recover
these moments.
Collect them
like relics
and gather them
to understand.

Know me
even when IPeacock
have forgotten
the tenor
of tears,
the breath
of living,
the miracle
of survival.

know me.


April 19 2006

Kristen Gilpin

Monarch Metamorphosis

Commission for Jill S.

Time to execute: Image panels less than 2 hours per panel. Calligraphy panel about 5 minutes.

Materials: Watercolor pencils, watercolor gouache, ink, bristol board.

All images based on photographs take by Jill S.

Chedai’s AoA

What do you do for an award scroll for a Mongolian persona? About ten years ago I wasn’t sure either. Mongolian manuscripts are rare, especially ones with images or illumination. The script is very unique and there aren’t many examples to peruse.

My friend Beatrice and I were at a loss so we went with something that felt eastern to middle eastern in appearance.

Recipient: Chedai Negai

Time to execute: Miniature 2 hours. Calligraphy 45 minutes.

Materials: watercolor gouache, gold paint, ink, parchment paper.

Artists: Illumination- Maol Mide ingen Medra / Calligraphy- Beatrice de Winslow

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Old Groves

In old groves
the rows still run straight,
but that is all.
There can be no more chases
down the open lanes,
no more games.

Palmettos wave
and wildflowers bloom a carpet
when once the dirt
was kept clear
by constant feet.
Tall weeds grow
as kings unchecked
winding up
to strangle
in the crooks
of old limbs.

Once, all that was native
was tilled under
to nourish trees
that had no business
growing here.
Creeks were
to rush water
at thirsty roots
and there was prosperity
for a time.

Fortunes were made here
where the orange fruit
of a dozen seasons
now hangs unpicked,
mouldering away.
Brilliant hues
fade dusty
and sun washed
in the dry air.

is the only knowledge
of a tree.

Still they hunch
with limbs spreading
and spill
into the tumble
of weeds
and furtive rodents
as nature rolls back;
a wide wave
of unstoppable green.

one must look close
to know
the past of this place.
One must remember
times long gone
to taste sweet fruit,
to see proud trees,
and to know
the harsher, less certain
life of those
newly come to this land.

Tumbledown trees
are the only pioneers
that remain,
their orange memories

The smell of the river lingers
in this bend of orchard
now bisected with macadam
and patch-worked out
for emerald lawns
of new homes
that will look nothing
like an old farmhouse
that crouches still
in the distance.

Cats have taken
up root there
and gone feral
where the roof pours
sunlit pools upon
an ancient hardwood floor.
They lounge,
in a breeze of
orange and river
ever rolling
through the yawn
of broken windows
to carry the rumble
of a freeway
in the distance.

March 4, 2008
Kristen Gilpin

Blue Woman

The grackles on a wire
are puffed twice their size
beneath slate skies
that promise a cold
that climbs into your bones
and curls in the sinew.

Winter days
and I am a blue woman
in a blue sweater
struck with memory
that coalesces
with my breath.

Ice on the panes
and a memory of snow
on sepia streets
and I am far away
in another place,
another time,
with a blue girl
who dreams
of the sub tropics.

I want to reach back,
reach in
to that blue girl
with a hard heart
that still can be broken.

The southern winds
will thaw you,
the sands burnish you smooth
and the tropics will
slip around
quiet as a prayer.
The sea shall
take these memories
like an offering.

But blue girls
and black birds
all fare the same
on cold days.

On frozen mornings
there are grackles on a wire
too chilled to fly
and I am a cold woman
with a blue heart
too sad to remember.

Jan 12, 2010
Kristen Gilpin

Forget me not

 PICT1407Commission piece for Jill S.

Time: 2 hours

Size: 2 inches by 3 inches

Materials: watercolor pencil and watercolor gouache on Bristol board

This is number 4 of a series that I painted as part of a commission. The other pieces in the series had subject matter of other flowers like amaryllis and coneflower. I was pretty keep on the amaryllis and hope I can get a photo later.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Azrec’s Ring of Chivalry

Recipient: Azrec del Aragon

Award: Ring of Chivalry from the Barony of Wyvernwoode

Time to execute: 4 hours

Based upon: Can’t remember which manuscript I saw this border in but it was simple and attractive.

This award recognizes those who have exhibited outstanding courtesy and chivalry. It is voted upon by all of the ladies of the Barony of Wyvernwoode.

Breakdown: Aluminum leaf is still not fun. It is like gilding with tin foil. On the upside, it won’t tarnish in 2 hours. Also, I could really use some more calligraphy time. I feel like I am getting rusty.

Duncan’s Duchy

Recipient: Duncan Arthur Ross the Black

Award: Duchy

Time to execute: About 100 hours

Artwork Based upon: Border work design based upon the Codex Vindobonensis 1856 a Burgundian manuscript that dates to about 1470. The color scheme was converted to a blue and silver base to be more Trimarian and the new colors are based more in the style of the "Black Hours," for Rome use. Belgium, Bruges, c. 1470 (MS M.493). The center vignette of ships departing comes from the Chronicle of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem

Calligraphy and Illumination: All me on this one. Which is crazy when you look at the picture below of the framed and finished piece sitting on a regular length sofa.

Text: PICT0084

Twice has the valiant and noble Duncan Arthur Ross the Black won the Crown of his Lady Love, Larissa, bringer of love and beauty, who inspired his Chivalry.  Twice has he won the Crown for this Lady who inspired his sword and shield to great speed and strength. Twice has he ruled with wisdom, strength, and courtesy.  Now his reign is ended and his people clamor that such worthiness is rewarded. Our wish is to make it known now and forever that  We, Ari Tyrbrandr and Sibilla Dane, King and Queen of Trimaris, hearby name Our good Duncan Arthur Ross the Black as a Duke of Our Realm, accompanied with every dignity, honor, joy and burden thereof. In Accordance, We place our hands to this document in joy and celebration to declare this to all assembled

 PICT0097 What are those tiny, tiny words?

Tiny writing on the flags and pennants on the ships can be seen in some photos. The latin text translated by Master Octavio reads:

Decedam a te numquam

Dero te numquam

Ero desultor aio numquam

Efficam te lacrimare numquam

Vale dicam aio numquam

Mendacium nocere tibi numquam dicam

This can be roughly translated into English as:

Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

Yep, I’m that kind of friend.

Breakdown: This page took much longer than expected and the execution time crept up over 100 hours. I did get to listen to two entire audio-book novels which really helped me to make it through rather than dousing the page in kerosene and cackling as I burned it on the driveway.  The border came out better than I expected but it was insanely tedious and I kept losing interest in portions of the vignette and had to keep jumping around to stay enthusiastic and interested. The imagebest part was the rick roll. That was the part that made all the effort worthwhile.

The only other good part of this experience was the look on Duncan’s face when he  saw the scroll as it was presented in court. I have to admit, that pretty much made my day (ok, that and the Court Barony didn’t hurt).

The frame weighed a ton but I decided to hold it up myself so I could watch his reaction. I mostly couldn’t feel my arms anyway after all of the hours of painting.

The lesson gleaned from this piece seems to mostly be: Never again work on a scale this large.