St. Patrick's Prayer: Celtic Knotwork

March 07, 2011

Guess what I spent an entire weekend on? Art!

This is my latest project (man, I haven't been doing very many "big" art projects lately... must work on that).

It is "St. Patrick's Breastplate" prayer, calligraphied with a handdrawn celtic knotwork border.

Read on to see the in-between steps-- I went camera crazy!!!

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

 (click to enlarge)

I began by drawing the knotwork on a piece of Bristol Board.

Let's just say this took forever and a day.

First I had to draw a grid. You've no idea how long it takes to draw a million little dots, all spaced perfectly and just the right number! NO IDEA!

Then I criss-crossed the grid. (Picture #1) I "split" the knot in the middle, to add some contrast.

Next, I traced the cross-hatch pattern with over-under-over-unders. (Picture #2) This is when I began to freak out. "Real" knotwork uses only one strand of rope. As you can see in the second picture, I somehow managed to make 3 strands? I'm not sure how I managed that. I'm sure it has something to do with math... the number of dots I used or something. Anyways, I finally convinced myself that no one would notice. :)

Next came the fun part-- watching the knotwork actually "take shape." a.k.a. Tracing over everything I just did, only in pen this time. (Picture #3)

I wanted to make sure that the calligraphy would actually fit before I wrote on the nice paper. And boy, am I glad I did so!

Long story short, all of my calligraphy pens were too big or out of ink. I stopped by Micheals and spent $10 on a new pen set... Only to discover that the "fine tip" was too thick to fit the prayer on the page!

I found a smaller pen in Mom's scrapbook stuff. It wasn't ideal because the ink smudged, but hey! It fit!

So now I have three pages in my sketchbook with this prayer calligraphied and then X'ed out because they were too big and I was mad at it!

^ Here I laid a calligraphied sheet of paper on top of my artwork, to make sure it fit.

The next step was to trace guidelines and center the lines.

...and then to calligraphy it!

So I got all mad at myself again. On the left you see the artwork as I actually calligraphied it. Some of the ink smeared, the lines were not centered, and it doesn't fill the whole page!!!

On the right I just messed with the image on Photoshop so I could show you what the artwork is supposed to look like.

Next plan of attack... COLOR IT IN!

Another forever and a day project.

Quite nice to listen to the Celtic Thunder station on Pandora, though. :) 

This picture shows the "three strand" problem I was talking about earlier. Everything in green is one single strand.

Because I am, really and truly, crazy.

We had a beautiful, unused frame that was intended as a Christmas present for someone who got something else instead. Since it wasn't in use... why not?

The artwork was not big enough to fill the mat, so I taped it to a background.

Can you guess what it is?

It's one of those file folders!!! Hey, it was the right shade of green, and bigger than scrapbook paper!

All nice and pretty on our otherwise bare mantle!

"...and having on the breastplate of righteousness;” -Ephesians 6:14

I always think of that verse from Ephesians when I think of this prayer.

Also known as the "Deer's Cry" or the "Lorcia," the "Breastplate Prayer" is attributed to St. Patrick

I love it's simplicity. It is a prayer asking that God be with you in everything, and that you may recognize Him in everything. A prayer that God be your protection, your breastplate-- and that you be His soldier.

There are several translations. What I calligraphied is just a small section of the "I arise today" version-- read it here. I have to say I'd never heard the full prayer before!

{ Here } is another version, a literal translation that's a bit amusing in word choice! Lots of cultural context there!

Another translation/version/whatever has this beautiful verse:

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of
every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of
every one who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye of
every one who sees me,
Christ in every ear
that hears me.

Here is the prayer set to song:

...and another version of the song, which I'd never heard before.

So there you go! I'll get my Irish going real quick (well, I don't have any Irish, except for a relative a few generations back, but Wikipedia has the original Irish!)

Críst limm, Críst reum, Críst im degaid
Críst indium, Críst íssum, Críst úassum
Críst dessum, Críst túathum
Críst i llius, Críst i ssius, Críst i n-érus
Críst i cridiu cach duini rodomscrútadar
Críst i ngiun cach oín rodomlabrathar
Críst i cach rusc nomdercadar
Críst i cach clúais rodomchloathar.

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  1. It is so beautiful and lovely! I love it! I love celtic things. :)

  2. That is insane. I don't even have the patience for shading most days! I can't imagine sitting down and putting that much detail into one piece. Don't get me wrong I love detail! Love it love it! ...if I don't have to draw it :) I can't even do much for dress patterns :/

    Anyway, your calligraphy is a million times better than mine and your knotwork is fantastic.

  3. Amazing! That looks so professional. I remember the first few chapters of geometry being so much fun because you had to mess with drawing geometrical patterns. :)

  4. I love this! I'm collecting things to feature on a post about St. Patrick's Day as a religious holiday, and would love to includue your post and a small graphic of the calligraphy you did. May I?

    ecarian at yahoo dot com

  5. Thanks everyone! Even though I had a few 'freak out' moments, I really enjoyed making it!

    Gale-- yes, you may. Just be sure to credit me and link back. :)

  6. You are amazing!
    I am having my calligraphy students try at least part of the "Christ Before Me" quote.
    I wish you could come demonstrate!


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