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Sketch by Chandra Brooks.  The fruits and trees were inspired by a Roberto Caruso oil painting. I was experimenting with using color to create architectural space with perspective.
Sketch by Chandra Brooks. The fruits and trees were inspired by a Roberto Caruso oil painting. I was experimenting with using color to create architectural space with perspective.

Despite all the underlying humanitarian objectives beneath the surface of my work, it’s still my vision. And my vision is one stemming from my love of books. I love nature, people and trees and the best product to ever come from a tree is a book. The best way to learn, create imagination and consequent visualizations begin with books. My ideal theatre is a narrator in a comfy chair with some cookies, a hot chocolate and a gigantic book projected behind them. For all these things to happen, this project begins and ends with books!

Study of a rat and ornaments by Chandra Brooks
Study of a rat and ornaments by Chandra Brooks

When I began this project, it was meant to be digital. I went to France, expecting to find an illuminated version of La Rate Blanche in the Bibliotheek Nationale in Paris. I thought that I was an idiot and that the reason I couldn’t find it in the University of Amsterdam’s library was bad research. It wasn’t true. I couldn’t find an illuminated version of it because it was an oral tale and not the content that would’ve been captured in the Middle Ages.

Detail from "Le Nuage" from La Rate Blanche.  By Chandra Brooks.
Detail from “Le Nuage” from La Rate Blanche. By Chandra Brooks.

What I could do was to forge a believable digital version from existing manuscripts. I’m a fantastic researcher. I love whiling away my days in libraries exploring with the assistance of willing librarians so I quickly found my direction. It takes a lot of study to even begin to understand the psychology of a Medieval book. In the process of understanding this era’s book arts, I gained greater insight into what remains of that in today’s. Calligraphy, alphabets, miniatures and illuminations began rolling around in my head creating awkward synesthetic effects. The clouds from a miniature I was in love with began to replace the flavors of the Dutch Masters funsickle with a blue I still can’t describe which was peppered with metallic flakes.

Detail from "Le Nuage" folio by Chandra Brooks.
Detail from “Le Nuage” folio by Chandra Brooks.

I gather my thoughts by staring out the window at trees. I trace the patterns of bark with my eyes when I have a thought to unravel. As I stared at the leaves, I’d find myself elongating their tips and fleshing out the narrow spaces between the vein’s leaves to make them more symmetrical; like the ornamentation in a manuscript.

Detail from "Le Nuage" by Chandra Brooks.
Detail from “Le Nuage” by Chandra Brooks.

Individual leaves that were graceful became repeats throughout the trees so they’d work better as border ornamentation. I began seeing, tasting and smelling the elements of the manuscript in daily life. A griot speaks their words, I paint mine or cut their images out of paper.