Midsummer Magic

Since today is Midsummer’s Eve, and fairies and their ilk are very likely abroad, I’m revisiting an older piece of mine. I’ve been preparing for a rather large commission calling for text with traditional illumination and decoration, and so I pulled out some files of old projects. Then I espied the working papers for “Midsummer” from lo these many years ago.

I began this piece by trying to make a watercolor painting to write on. I made several and always had a soft spot for the one shown above. Despite its obvious problems (did I *tape* a mask to the paper?), it still gives a watery moony feeling. But it wouldn’t do, so into the reject pile it went.

Since I was going to paint lots of flower and trees, I mixed lots of colors. Sometimes this is my favorite part of any project, the potentiality!

Midsummer_watercolor mixes

When I finally settled on an agreeable landscape of a creek bank under a moonlit sky, it was time to play with the letters.

Midsummer_calligraphy trials

Many many lettering trials were made.


A mask cut from acetate, to apply the resist before painting the watercolor, leaving the white paper for the moon and clouds.

Midsummer_pencil sketch

Above, a detail of the pencil sketched border. Poppies are not mentioned in the text, but my yard was full of them! Below, the finished piece.


Wishing you all some dances and delight, and if you encounter a fairy, I hope it is a friendly one!

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine
With sweet musk roses, and with eglantine.
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight,
And there the snake sheds her enamelled skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.

-A Midsummer’s Night Dream by William Shakespeare

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Patrick Ferraro 06/20/2015, 11:13 pm

    Happy Mid-summer. Thanks for illuminating Wil’s word smithing.

  • Meridy Migchelbrink 06/21/2015, 8:32 pm

    Cari, thanks so much for sharing your process toward that beautiful final product! And Happy Midsummer and Blessed Litha to you and yours! xoxo

  • Patti 03/23/2018, 2:21 pm

    When I was little, and stayed at my grandparents’ house, this quote was by my bed. It was illuminated in a border of these flowers, on a linen tea towel that my granny had got from Stratford upon Avon. I remember loving the words and the rhythm even then, 35 years ago, and the comfort of being in bed there. I am hoping to plant a bank of these flowers in her memory. Your work is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

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