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March is the mont of St. Joseph in the Catholic Church and March 19 marks his glorious feast day. He’s the patron of the Church, the patron of laborers, of those dying, and a model for all those who would bring Christ into their lives. He’s also the patron of our school fundraiser (donate.smac.edu)!
Last year was a year of wood. Our school principal was Fr. Wood; March was the month of St. Joseph, who earned his livelihood from wood, and in honor of that and in honor of our principal, many students gobbled up a song, “The Soldier and the Oak,” and finally a poem written by my colleague’s brother, who is a timber framer. Finally, a friend was getting married to a carpenter, and I had no clue what to make them for their wedding present. She didn’t like poetry very much, but loved calligraphy.
Then it dawned on me! Ahah! I could take poem, “The Timberframer,” and illuminate it! She would love the calligraphy, and he would love the fact that I thought about his talents.
And so gradually this piece was born.
The wonderful piece, while it reflects on the noble work of the timber framer- truly an artisan trade- there is a parallel within the poem, likening the tradesman to Christ, “Who longed to burn, and break and bend, But yearns to build and raise again,” the temples of our hearts.
I conceived it almost immediately in my head, the man working, running his hands along the huge piece of wood. The style was strongly influenced by statues seen on the Gothic cathedrals. He was also influence by the characteristics of the author’s brothers.
In pencil, it was all drawn out. And I did the calligraphy first. It was with a dip pen, using my grandmother’s nibs, and a carolingian and celtic inspired font. As you can see, I need hours and hours more practice with my pen!
Gradually the painting started. I used gouache. Originally I conceived the huge beam running across the page, but this proved to busy and distracting.
Pardon for the poor lighting! I had only one small room to work in and didn’t think about my lighting!
The acorns on the arch symbolize the oak- a wood known for it’s strength and itself a symbol of nobility.
Behind the Gothic-inspired arch, one can recognize the leaves of the burr oak -a large and beautiful mushroom-shaped tree. One of them dominates a corner of our quad on our campus.
Beneath the tree is a building that is meant to be a Church, but it is actually Theotokos Hall, built for St. Martin’s Academy. The poet’s brother built the massive frame of the beautiful structure.
I loved how the timber framer’s head turned out.
His hand running along the massive beam of wood turned out just like I had imagined it would, Deo Gratias.
I loved too how the tunic falling on the pants and the pant legs and the feet turned out. He probably in real life would have had protective boots one, but it seemed like a nice nods towards the poet and his family’s personal style.
And then, it was finished, Deo Gratias! I took it and scanned it, and framed it for my friends. It now hangs proudly in a cozy library and office area of their home.
I do believe this is one of the works of which I am most proud and grateful to be able to produce.
Not long after finishing this work, I was able to meet both the poet and timber framer. How proud I was to give the poet an illumination of his own work!
What did you like best about this piece?
Replica’s are available for purchase; inquiries are welcome!
Please share your thoughts below and pass this beauty on to celebrate the feast of St. Joseph!