Irish I could draw like this: If looks could Kell

Ahhhh St. Patrick’s day…where the images of shamrocks and leprechauns dance in your head. We often forget that more derived from this beautiful country than Guinness and potatoes and I’m here to tell you about it. (unless you don’t care, which in that case you can go back to your cold beer.)

A greatly overlooked part of Irish culture is the art of illuminated manuscripts. Gorgeous, intricate, religious drawings in the form of letters or illustrations on hand-made paper were an art unrivaled by any other at the time and still today. Before the printing press and before typography became the norm, everything had to be done by hand. Books were incredibly rare to come by and thus little of the population knew how to read. The pictures depicted in the book, along with the tradition of the stained glass window, helped the common man of the time comprehend the stories of the bible and otherwise.

Irish or not, this art of manuscript AND illustration all came from the handwritten bibles that derived from western Europe. The earliest manuscripts can be dated as early as 400 AD!! However, they were more abundant from the 1300’s to the 1600’s. In its heyday, one of the most popular of the books produced was the “Book of Kells” which told the story of Jesus’ life.

Below is an example of some of the original pages from the book of kells:




A recent movie (one of my personal favorite animated films) adapted the inspiration and style of this seemingly lost art into a modern marvel. It is appropriately named “The Book of Kells,” creating a modern twist from the original book. An irish boy trys, rather unsuccessfully to explain to his uncle the importance of the book and that finishing it is imperative. It is as gorgeous as it is moving. I highly recommend it for all ages.

Here are a couple stills from the movie. As you can see, there is a huge impact on the flat nature of the animation that gives it a truly unique, yet familiar feeling:





We all have a story to tell, written, visual or otherwise. Looking back on these great mavericks of storytelling, you can really start to see the beauty and grace that went into every stroke. Hopefully, this will inspire you to add that little extra effort into your work….whatever that may be.

I hope you all have a great St. Patrick’s day…don’t get too green! 😉