The Wedding of the Robin and the Wren

An illustration based on the old Scots poem of the Robin and the Wren.
The pair are sitting safely on the sill of the church, whilst the predators the robin meets on his way make up the imagery on the stain glassed window. They are frozen in time and therefore unable to pursue the robin or his new bride.
The composition allowed me to re-use or adapt a number of previous works including the red kite, the foxes, the cats and the robin previously used as a Christmas card.
The original image was produced in watercolour with detail using coloured pencil.

Interlaced man and beasts

Bird, serpent, beast and man fill a small square on a page in the Book of Kells, created over 1200 years ago. Bain made this large detailed drawing so his students could see the skill of the original scribe. He even shows the original size of the drawing so that the amount of enlargement is clear. It looks as if it is about 20 times that in the manuscript. The monk who created this complex image did so without the use of a magnifying glass or artificial light. It was too dangerous to use candlelight in a scriptorium. 

The scribe used interlacing to connect the figure to the entwined creatures in the design. He also interlaced the man’s long golden hair, with a strand wrapping around his waist like a belt. But this isn’t just art. The beast makes the letter C, the man forms the letter I. They are part of the Latin words IN PRINCIPIO (‘in the beginning’), the opening words of St John’s Gospel. Grappling with the beast represents the Christian message that good will overcome evil.

Bain’s notes around the artwork show that he wanted his art students to understand its intricate craftsmanship. He encouraged them to think for themselves and share ideas as to the meanings of the images.

See: The Book of Kells, TCD MS58, folio 292r, Trinity College Dublin (detail centre left)

A trial design

This drawing by George Bain appears to be an unfinished design for a Celtic rug.  It could be based on knotwork elements in the Book of Durrow.  George Bain acted as Celtic design consultant for carpet manufacturers Quayle & Tranter.  It is uncertain whether this design was ever submitted to them.

Decorated letters

A fascinating aspect of early medieval gospel books is the intricate design of some of the capital letters. The Book of Kells and Lindisfarne Gospels have numerous examples.

In this drawing George Bain has chosen two A’s and a B for study. He has created his own decorated F, based on elements from various capital letters in the Book of Kells. What really enhances the designs are the elaborate zoomorphic animals and intricate knotwork.

Two of the letters have the added instruction ‘Reverse for transfer’. Bain is highlighting their potential use as embroidery patterns.