Make room for paper-oh wait you don’t have to (Survey 2: 0-1450 CE)

Lecure summary.

In our lecture today, we discussed how ideas travelled from China, Europe, the Middle East and the rest of the world. It’s amazing how kingdoms were connected and how ideas came to develop especially when the Silk Road was prevalent. For example, paper didn’t make much of a breakthrough until around 105 CE in China, but before that the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and many more relied on Egypt’s exported papyrus. Parchment made its appearance around Egypt and spread to the Middle East by the Silk Trade route in the sixth century and was used in Europe from the 6th century throughout the fourteenth century. Printing also originated in China and soon made its way to India where they excelled in fabric printing from the medieval age onwards. Parchment was further evolved in China when Cai Lun kickstarted the paper-making industry. From there, paper was improved in Europe by using water mills to make pulp for papermaking.  Illuminated manuscripts were also making their way around the world. In the east, the Quran was decorated with gold leafing making the pages look illuminated along with intricate designs which would border the holy text. This enamoured and inspired those in the west where they also integrated gold leafing into their text. The Celtic Psalter contains Arabic-styled script which most likely came to be during the Christian crusade. It’s very interesting to see how ideas evolve as they’re adopted by other cultures and kingdoms; from paper-making to printing, globalization spread ideas far and wide and provided solutions and new technology.



From God to Gutenberg: science and tools

Papyrus was used in Europe until around the 7th to 8th century when it was replaced by something more efficient and foldable: parchment. Papyrus (fig. 1), made by pressing the papyrus plant found in swamps and the valley of the Nile, was replaced by parchment for its practicality and quality; it was foldable, making it possible to efficiently store and find information in a compact way in the form of a bound book called a codex and was thicker and more durable.

Fig. 1: A receipt for a donkey on papyrus.

Some early examples of parchment books are the Magna Carta and the Doomesday Book. The Romans and Greeks relied on Egypt’s papyrus until Ptolemy Epiphanes, the king of Egypt, banned exports of papyrus in fear of Egypt’s library rivalling with Alexandria’s. Parchment is stretched and dried animal skin such as calfskin, also called vellum, goatskin, or sheepskin and became common in the middle east by the 6th century and commonly used in Europe from the 6th to 14th century. Animal skin was skinned of hair and fat from the inside then soaked in water with a chalk, or flour, and salt mixture, giving a smooth writing surface. Then the skin was soaked in tannin (gallic acid) made of oak-gall in order to preserve it. Since parchment was hard to glue and roll into a scroll, unlike papyrus, books came to be around 50 CE as a solution!

Paper, believed to have originated from China in the 2nd to 3rd century BCE, was exclusive to China until it spread to the Islamic world in the 8th century and Europe around the 11th century. Cai Lun, the first in the paper-making industry, came up with a recipe in 105 CE inspired from tree bark. He combined chopped mulberry bark, hemp rags, water, fish nets and hammered it flat then pressed out water to leave out to dry in the sun.

Fig 2: The Diamond Sutra of 868, the world’s earliest complete and dated, printed book.

The advantage of paper was very apparent; it wasn’t erasable since it absorbed ink, making forgery difficult, which was beneficial to banks, businesses, and traders of the Silk Road. In the 11th to 14th centuries Europe used automated pulping by using water mills to hammer and break down materials into pulp for paper-making. In Mexico, the Aztecs used agave plant fibres to make paper and long folded codices in the 1400’s (fig. 3).

Fig 3: From the Codex Xolotl, Huitzilopochtli, the deity of war, sun, and human sacrifice, is depicted on paper.







Judy’s lecture + notes

Blog post 2

Similar yet different than the masters Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Raphael was the third of the trinity of great masters of the High Renaissance. He spent some time in Northern Italy painting frescos in churches and later spent time in Florence which enabled him to develop his style. In Florence, Raphael’s figures became more dynamic and a portrait of his had similar composition to the Mona Lisa due to Leonardo da Vinci’s influence. Raphael didn’t shy away from using Leonardo’s compositional techniques in his own work and giving it his own twist. He combines da Vinci’s sfumato technique with the soft clearness of his mentor, Perugino, to create his own style. In 1508, Raphael lived in Rome for the remainder of his short life where he also ran a large workshop of about 50 pupils. There he was commissioned by Pope Julius II to complete a fresco in the Vatican Palace and after Juluis’ death he was still commissioned by the next pope, Pope Leo X. His work was not only influenced by Leonardo but also Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel ceiling painting which is evident through his work on painting the “Stanza della Segnatura” in the palace.


Blog post 1

Simone Martini followed Duccios’s lead by revolutionizing Byzantine forms instead of completely breaking free as Giotto did in Florence. Martini, a master of Duccios’s school in Siena, learned and executed the art of composition drawing from medieval tradition. However, unlike medieval artists who carefully arranged compositons of their work, Martini and other Sienese artists didn’t ignore shape, proportion, and space. Martini incorporates objects receding into backgrounds and places objects in relation to his characters. He also incorporates light and shade showing that he probably studied objects from life. Martini also helped pioneer portraitures since he studied objects from nature; he painted a well-loved portrait of a woman named Laura for his friend, a famous poet named Petrarch. Simone Martini, a diciple of Duccio, helped update the way Byzantine art was previously depicted by adding elements of the real world and pioneered the art of portraiture.


When a hand has struck a chord (Survey 1: 35,000 to 0 CE)

Lecture summary.

When a hand has struck a chord.

In our lecture we began with rock art as a key artistic influence which has been found to go far back as 4000 CE. The two types of rock art are petroglyphs and pictographs, found in Africa, Australia, and the Americas. Petroglyphs, or rock carvings, also found locally around Vancouver Island, as we discussed, is a great example showcasing a glimpse of the lives of these inhabitants. Rock art of fish and other water creatures perhaps showcased their diet or pinpointed areas of fishing or migration. Pictographs, or paintings created by scratching off a pigment powder, located in caves, are the second type of rock art. I found examples of pictographs to be especially intriguing when I saw a painting of a hand which really gave a sense of mystery. I couldn’t help asking myself who this person was and what they were thinking; “Was this done by a child? Was she simply playing around like when I was four and drew pictures with markers on my walls?”, “What was his or her motive?”, “Was their purpose similar to a time capsule like I did in elementary school where we would see how we’ve grown over the years?”, “Was this person afraid of disappearing off the face of the planet and so they made their lasting mark or was this person embracing their customs and performing a ritual to enter the afterlife?”. I’ve had so many questions because these pictographs were so human, so similar to me, and I felt as if they were trying to speak to me from the past.



Handprints and handwriting: Object pattern and design

My research of pattern and design has taken me across the world. In Asia, in the Tarim Basin located in China, is the Sampul Tapestry. It depicts a possible Greek soldier holding a spear with a centaur above him. The depiction of Greek mythology and the blue-eyed soldier shows that Greek influence after Alexander the Great’s death, referred to Hellenistic Art, reached even the far northwest corner region of Xinjiang in China. Hellenistic art is an example of the influence of the kingdoms in Central Asia and northwest China coming into contact.

Along the Yellow and Yangtze River valleys are Neolithic ceramics dated from 6000 to 1000 CE. These are thin, painted ceramics with intricate shapes used as ritual vessels, jar for ashes, or storage before Bronze Age. These were hand built, showcasing craftsmanship, and were grey, black, or red in colour. The Yangshao culture, emerged in the central plain of the Yellow River Basin, would stack moulds of clay into desired shapes and smooth it with paddles or scrapers. Ceramics used for funeral rituals were usually red and black unlike those used for typical use. Early uses of lines which suggested movement made the fundamentals of art in Chinese history. Along the Yangzi River in the south, the Hemudu, Dawenkou, Longshan, and the Liangzhu cultures, primarily used gray and black on their pottery, probably from influence from central China. The distinct shapes were different than linear compositions of the central regions. Some pottery was painted, while others were mostly burnished and incised. Jade carvings were a unique part of China’s culture which was exclusive to eastern China.

The Mesopotamian cylinder seals, invented around 3500 CE, were hollow in the inside and strung on fiber or leather as a necklace or bracelet and worn by merchants, soldiers, scribes, servants, and many others including slaves and kings. They were carved out of limestone, marble, quartz, bronze, copper and even gold or silver. These were used as signatures by rolling them on soft clay since they each had unique designs. Rank and even the name of the owner could be read by looking at the character, gesture, and other elements. The importance of cylinder seals is they were the first example of early branding, tagging, and advertisements. They also showcased which trends were popular according to the time period they were made. Found around Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, these stones reveal a glimpse of the owner and the life of a Mesopotamian.



A common two-handled jar from the Majiayao culture (3300–2050 B.C.), located in upper Yellow River region


the Sampul Tapestry


A Mesopotamian cylinder seal and it’s depicted elements on clay





Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals

IDES 141 yearbook spread

I wanted to communicate key words like daydreamer and bubbly by making my spread look “friendly” and not dense looking to create an easygoing theme. I made the layout flow from the left side, where my photo is placed, and run along the page, similar to a gust of wind. I used colours associated to nature and forests such as green, blue, orange, and yellow. This gave a natural and refreshing look to my spread which helped portray my friendly and easygoing personality. I used elements of nature such as leaves to list my 5 key words. The natural yet lively colour palette helped capture my bubbly personality. Leaves and greenery helped depict a forest and create a sense of exploration which relates to my key word, “curious”.

I would give myself a mark of 7out of 10. I feel like my intention was shown on my spread through the use of layout and colour, but could be improved. The layout from my picture to my 5 key words flowed through the page but could also be emphasized by adding variation in size. Perhaps cleaning up my spread by making colours less “muddled” and making my background more dynamic and eye-catching would emphasize the “daydreamer” I’m trying to communicate. I would keep the colour palette the same, because I want it to stay modest yet friendly at the same time.