Calligraphy – illuminated letters and monograms with Cathy Stables

Ref: SWE32971

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Places available

About this course

Learn the processes involved in gilding and painting an illuminated letter, produce your own interpretation and design a monogram.

Course Description

Explore simple gilding and painting techniques to design, draw and paint a beautiful capital letter based on historical examples. There will be an overview of the various styles of illumination from early Celtic to present day contemporary designs. Time will also be spent on designing a monogram.

The course will give an insight into the processes, tools and materials used by the medieval illuminator to produce beautiful rich colours and intricate detail, combined with the spectacular effect of gold leaf. The different processes involved in gilding and painting will be covered, experimenting with several different gilding techniques, using real gold leaf transfer. The most suitable weight and type of paper for this work will be discussed. Learn skills such as laying down flat colour and then applying intricate detail with a fine brush.

The course is suitable for calligraphers who want to combine it with Illumination or those who appreciate detail and precision. The tutor will give group demonstrations and encouragement and advice on a one-to-one basis. There will be plenty of time for practical work.

Course Materials


  • On this course the tutor will supply some of the gilding mediums and gold leaf. Other materials including: tracing paper, good quality cartridge paper and hot pressed watercolour paper (300gsm) are also supplied for the course.

What students need to bring

  • Any Designers’ Gouache paints in any colours that you may have
  • Watercolour palette for mixing paints
  • Kitchen towel
  • Pencil (propelling pencil preferred), ruler, eraser
  • Brushes for mixing and water pots
  • Any fine sable brushes you have – size 00, 0, 1, 2

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Designers’ Gouache – colours to be discussed
  • Brushes: 00, 0, 1
  • Watercolour palette – plastic is fine
  • Pencil (Propelling), ruler, eraser
  • Available from tutor:
  • Gilding mediums
  • Gold Leaf
  • Duplicating paper

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio. This includes stout covered footwear, i.e. no open-toes or sandals, and safety boots, if specified.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

General Information


Cathy Stables, heraldic artist at West Dean College

Cathy Stables

Cathy Stables has a BA Hons in Graphic Design from Exeter College of Art, later studying Calligraphy, Illumination and Heraldic Art.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.