In the first months of this year, twenty Dutch artists with a background in comics devoted themselves to the early medieval songbook Utrecht Psalter. They had received an assignment from the Utrecht University, who have custody of the book, to illustrate one given psalm in their own, modern style. Their orientation material was the ancient text and accompanying ancient drawing, each filling about half of the surface of the Psalter’s parchment pages, giving the book, at first sight, a strong resemblance to a modern graphic novel. Also, upon closer study, one learns that the illustrations sometimes follow the Psalms, stanza after stanza, in elaborate non-linear compositions. Every one of them drafted in a flexible but accurate, clear style that is emotional and almost cartoonish.
The artists were asked to add to their work no, or minimal text, for that would be placed integral next to the image in the final publication; and if they designed a serial structure for their narrative they were asked to do this without frames. For their content no restrictions were imposed, contrary to the original illustrator team – monks who then had to operate within the church hierarchy- so any religious or political connotations would be the artist’s individual choice.
This resulted in a broad variety of works that were publicly displayed in the landmark Utrecht Dom cathedral in April 2016, and bundled in the ‘Utrechts Psalter 2016 AD’ album (which can be obtained through www.de-inktpot.nl). (Information on the original Utrecht Psalter can be found at http://psalter.library.uu.nl/)
You can read below how, in this task, the creative process from six out of these twenty artists has run. (Albo Helm)