Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmx DOT com

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Saturday, 19 March 2016

Acanthus leaves (ridiculously curly things that appear in William Morris-style crafts) in art and heraldry

Image from page 153 of "An illustrated dictionary of words used in art and archaeology. Explaining terms frequently used in works on architecture, arms, bronzes, Christian art, colour, costume, decoration, devices, emblems, heraldry, lace, personal orname

Big fan of idealised acanthus leaves. Big big fan. They're absolutely everywhere yet it's only recently that I realised I'd not come across much instruction on how to draw them from scratch. I assume designs would have been passed on to apprentices and so on, although I'm sure plenty of clever / lucky people can draw them freehand.

As far as I'm aware most reasonably complex artforms, particularly those that are designed to fit in a particular space, are designed from the ground up with an underlying 'scaffold' upon which the final form is drawn. This is how (it is believed that) Celtic knotwork was created, or at least it is possible to reconstruct this type of art using simple mathematical grids, building up to a full pattern. In fact I did this myself a couple of weeks ago at a 'crafternoon' with friends, using George Bain's 'Celtic Art: the methods of construction' (the edition linked to is a later one than mine) to create a copied pattern from scratch. It was the scaffolding that was actually copied, measured and scaled up to fit a particular space, then the final pattern emerged from the gridlines. You can see the photos of the work in progress and its final form on my secondary blog here.

I've not found a user-friendly equivalent of the Celtic knotwork book for acanthus leaves, though there is a detailed digitised book of yore that explains how it was done. I've not really got to grips with it. Some examples of acanthus leaves in art and heraldry are below, taken from the amazing Internet Archive Book images of out-of-copyright image resource, click on the image below to visit its page on Flickr and there are further links there to see it in its original context.

There are a couple of instructional drawing videos below and 'how to draw' books and blog posts I've found so far. More examples of acanthus art are further below.

Acanthus drawing instructions

How to draw the Acanthus, Part I // Part II // Part III / Part IV, Surface Fragments blog

Guide for the drawing of Acanthus, and every description of ornamental foliage
(1843), James Page
Google Books // Google Play (same thing, formatted differently, probably suitable for Android!) / Internet Archive version

Calligraphy design: acanthus leaves, Calligraphy Pen blog - simple instructions for turning a slightly wiggly line into something rather lovely. And another method for Acanthus Drawing

General guidelines for drawing an acanthus leaf (PDF) from Mary May's woodcarver journey blog on 'acanthus leaf step by step' - this one is the multi-lobed straight leaf form.

Acanthus leaves
Twirling Ribbons and Twirling Acanthus Leaves
Painting acanthus leaves: Instruction from the Göttingen Model Book
Using freestyle acanthus leaves

art+works blog series
 How to draw an acanthus leaf - picture from V&A collection, not actually that instructive





See also this heraldic stone carving time-lapse video showing acanthus leaves being carved from portland stone for the Holywell music room in Oxford.


More acanthus examples

William Morris 'Acanthus' wallpaper, example from V&A collection

Acanthus A5 sketchbook, from William Morris gallery shop

Filigree, flourishing, mantling - a reference on Pinterest 

Wikipedia - Acanthus (ornament)


Image from page 122 of "The Decorator's assistant" (1847)

Image from page 70 of "The Decorator's assistant" (1847)

Image from page 226 of "The standard cyclopedia of horticulture; a discussion, for the amateur, and the professional and commercial grower, of the kinds, characteristics and methods of cultivation of the species of plants grown in the regions of the Unite

Image from page 309 of "Armorial families : a directory of gentlemen of coat-armour" (1905)

Acanthus leaves feature very heavily in heraldic mantling (the bit next to the crest which is above a coat of arms) though other similar-looking stylised leaves are also involved.




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