Finished Ketubah

When Hannah and Dann first started planning their wedding, they told me that I didn't have to do the ketubah for them because it would take so much time, but of all of the things I could do for the wedding this was the one thing I wanted to do most because it meant so much and it would be a gift that they'd have forever. It was also the project I was least sure I was able to complete.

We started by researching texts in English and Hebrew, and Hannah already had suggested entwined trees for the imagery. Once they decided on a text to use, we verified the translation, filled in the "blanks" in both versions, and then I had a good friend type up the Hebrew for me in a Hebrew word processor. I wanted to have the editable text so that I could fit it in the layout and move it around as necessary. I sketched out the designs and enlarged it to size—a whopping 22" x 30"—and fit both the English and Hebrew texts inside the layout.

I haven't had a lot of experience painting with watercolor and doing this kind of calligraphy, so I allowed ample time for redos if necessary. Once I started painting it went fairly quickly and I was very pleased with the progress. That is, until I almost got to the end. I left the quote at the top for last and unfortunately, really hadn't thought it through. The lettering didn't match the rest of the art and the color was much too heavy. I had no other choice but to start over. But, I wasn't concerned. I was prepared for the possibility and started right to work. This time the painting went even faster—I'd learned a lot from the first time through and found smarter ways of doing it.

After the watercolor was finished, I added white line work accents in an acrylic ink with a crow quill pen. Then I set out to do the calligraphy. I was determined not to wreck it and have to start over again! I wanted to work over the layout I'd created with the text, so I got creative with what I had. The coffee table in my living room is glass, so I put my photo lamps under it shining up to create a huge light box. Then I taped down the text and the 300 lb. hot press watercolor paper over it. It wasn't very easy to see through the weight of the paper, but it worked.

With a brown gouache I mixed up, and a left-handed calligraphy nib, I set out to do the Hebrew calligraphy first. No one was allowed to talk while I was working on it! It went surprisingly quickly and after that I started the English, which was surprisingly more difficult. The text fit more snugly in the layout and was harder to do. I think all of those vowels that weren't in the Hebrew made the text more dense! Using an oblique pen holder and a pointed nib loaded with the brown gouache, I made it through the English with just one mistake that I was able to retouch. Mission accomplished.

I am so happy to have been able to create this piece of art that Hannah and Dann will have forever.