To celebrate Her Majesty’s 60th year on the throne, heraldic artist Neil Bromley created an ornate family tree, detailing the royal line of succession since 1066.
Set down in elegant calligraphy and decorated with intricate heraldic artwork, we can see the Royal Line unfold through history, from William the Conqueror in 1066 to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2012. The work also includes the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
Where do you start on a project like this?
We recently spoke to Neil and he explained to us the different stages in producing this wonderful piece of work.
The actual text is fairly commonly known and through a number of resources I was able to follow the different houses that make up the Line of Succession and to place them in an order from which I could work from. It was important to make sure that as many Royal arms were incorporated as possible and so the only space left to work from was the outer edge, this determined my layout.
The original work was to be produced on finest manuscript vellum. Due to its size and the length of time it would take me to produce (seven months in total) I decided to stretch the vellum on a frame. Vellum does have a tendency to move with the different temperatures and moisture, so the stretching would keep the work flat. Once stretched, I then proceeded to design the basic layout.
All preliminary work is carried out on tracing paper and once I have a rough layout and draft, I am then able to redraw the entire work once again on trace to create a finished clean line example of what will be drawn up on to vellum. A process which takes time but is worth it as all good work comes from good design.
I tend to use a 4h pencil for most tracings and when it comes to drawing up on vellum I use a 9h for clarity. The trace is redrawn (every detail) on vellum using a slip of tracing paper backed with Armenian Bowl, a reddish pigment which has a tendency to brush off if not careful and so the entire work must be redrawn!
From here I like to create the colourful parts (it may be down to personal choice) and so gilding is the first and most important of orders. Gesso is laid where the Gold Leaf is to sit. I have already made this myself using the traditional method and this is laid in the evening usually all at once. The next morning (depending on weather) the Gold leaf is applied. A combination of thin and extra thick 23C gold leaf is applied. Once burnished, I am then able to work on all the painted gold. This is again a combination of shell gold as well as imitation Gold Gouache. For me it works well and is of course much cheaper!
Adding the colours
Once this process has been completed I work on the colours. I lay the blues then the reds and from there build up each layer with a darker tone and another darker tone to create shading before outlining the work in a deep red/brown. All colours are Windsor and Newton Gouache. Any highlighting may be applied once completed.
Once the main border has been completed I may produce any hand lettering. Again a combination of Shell Gold, Gold powder mixed with Gum Arabic and water or just simple gouache will do nicely. This then leaves the main bulk of text to written. For this I always use William Mitchell nibs and mix Chinese stick ink for any Calligraphy. It gives a wonderful aroma when mixing and sits on vellum most beautifully, just resting on the surface. If any mistakes occur then let it dry and use a size 10 scalpel blade to very gently scrape off as vellum is non-porous and will take the blade. Paper is not so forgiving!
Any coloured ink is usually gouache mixed with gum Arabic to ensure it stays on the page.
Visit Neil’s website for more information