History of the World in a Box - A Work in Progress

"Cromwell, I charge thee: Fling away ambition, for by that sin fell the angels." I don't remember what Shakespeare play that's from, but I think about it a lot lately.
   I'm busy working night and day on a sacramental keepsake box as part of the 2nd grade class basket to be auctioned off at the school gala. There is so much to say about this box and quite frankly I'm too tired to right now. I spent an awful lot of time doing research, and planning. Everything from the colors to the symbols to numbers and formations have been carefully planned to coincide together. Let's start with the top- inspired by the Garima Gospel of Ethiopia. This is the oldest illuminated Christian manuscript, so it seemed fitting to start with artwork that gives a nod to it. No, it's not done. But that's why this is a WIP.
Here's what it looks like now:
 Apparently the theme of this year's 1st Communion/Reconciliation is "The Prayer of St. Francis". Since this prayer doesn't actually have anything to do with St. Francis, he's not on here. I did put a tiny dove and olive branch (separate, not together like from Noah's Ark) in the top left corner to represent peace.
  Here's my original color plan:
 The gold is shell gold and the pearls are actually Martha Stewart stickers that we usually use on Valentine's. It was ok, and I liked it I guess, but it somehow wasn't as perfect as I wanted it.

 Some other color variations, all with the same color scheme.
I decided I was intrigued by the gold version, and made a slightly more detailed mock-up with my trusty pantone markers:

 And then the red version:

 Which won out. So I drew the design full scale on tracing paper (for easy transfer; there was no master for me to trace and I swear this is all my work)

 I had/have tons of notes on how everything ties together. Here's a glance at some of them, but basically each sacrament is represented on a side of the box (not marriage, religious vocation, or death, just the first 4). Each has a special color with a meaning that is featured on its side only, in addition to the 4 basic colors (red, blue, light blue, gold), a symbol (separate from the symbols that represent the concepts in the prayer), and a style from a certain country or time period.

 But back to the box. Once I had my design, I traced on the back of it with a soft lead pencil, then placed it on the box and burnished it on with my agate burnisher. I didn't use carbon paper, which would have been faster, because of the smearing. And my skills are not sufficient that I felt I could draw and plan directly on the box without lots of erasing, which would change the surface of the wood.

 Then I got to paint. And you already know the outcome of that :)
Afterwards, it was time to start the next segment : the first verse/Communion. I came up with a sketch based on medieval Italian style:

 Sorry I forgot to rotate the picture. Just turn your head if you really care. :)

To get the script just right, I drew, then wrote over it in calligraphy ink with a pen and nib. That's why it's pearlescent purple-blue. A close-up of the chalice, representing both communion and "pardon".

The other side features the shield of St. Constantine, representing "faith".

 I wont' go into how many times I re-did this side, and how I really wanted to give up after I made almost the whole thing too big to fit on the box and had to start over. The painting wasn't a picnic in the park either, since I had primed and then sanded the box. The primer made the paint not stick very well so I had to do multiple layers. Just imagine it has the goldwork done on it and this box will look like a very crazy person made it.  Because when I look at it, I keep thinking how crazy I am to be doing this. Every time.

 Don't believe me? Look closer:


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