I received my copy of "Medieval Ivories and Works of Art in the Thomas Collection" this week. It is co-written by my wonderful Courtauld tutor, John Lowden. He commissioned me to do an illustration representing the anatomy of an elephant tusk and skull and how ivory sculptures were harvested from the tusks. In his opinion, it was to be 'the definitive representation of how ivories were carved from tusks.'
This illustration sums up why I love my craft. Though I had helped John Lowden research some of these ivories whilst studying with him, I realized that I had no practical knowledge of how the anatomical structure of a tusk worked. I called the Grant Museum of Zoology and asked for their advice. They humored me and my ignorant queries generously and sent a diagram of the Elephantidae skeletal system.
As an illustrator, one never knows what one is going to learn next!
It was a difficult and involved commission, but it turned out wonderfully. The book is beautiful. It is full of colour photographs of the statues and objects, and even has several pull-out sections of ivory diptychs. Stunning. I am so happy to have been a part of the project.
These ivories resided in the Courtauld Institute in London for many years, but they were actually owned by the Canadian collector Ken Thomson. He decided that they should be relocated to and exhibited in the Art Gallery of Ontario. Thus the book was born. The irony is that they should find a Canadian illustrator to illustrate Canadian ivories which were both residing in Britain at the time. Talk about synchronicity!