Friday, October 27, 2017

Artist book, junior division

Just came across this crayon artwork, created by Handsome Son, aged about eight.  He used to make a lot of artwork at home, just his own ideas, nothing to do with school.  And this is a form of book -- note the faux spine drawn down the back.

Back view

Front view

Better grasp of perspective than many adults I've taught, and good color balance, too.  All in all, a mom gives it a thumbs up!  Just thought you'd like to see it.   I had never talked with him about artist books, anything like that.  This is just what he fancied doing, and there's a narrative behind it which I don't know, since he also did long serial comics about various toys doing various adventures, and this is probably part of one of them.

Just a little tangent off the usual mad dash of this blog.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

More adventures with donated materials

Today's practice used some lovely grey card stock, or heavy paper, between the two, donated by Kate H., and the pens donated by Judy T.  Between them they created a great combo of materials to use.

These are sized for greeting cards, and I have envelopes, not matching, just appealing Kraft ones, on the way.  I may yet get back into my mailbag.  Look out!

Anyway, I tried some faintly remembered Chinese strokes from years ago, three strokes, a Buddha's eye in there, thrown ink for the effect of blowing leaves or petals.  All different.  Newly ground ink, nice and dark, and I used all three pens.  All at different angles, different pressures.  I really love the line and shape that result.

This is the kind of thing you keep doing, like weaving stars or something.  And blogistas may see more of these at some point. 

They can also be the covers for small notebooks.  Stitched.  Hm. Must get onto that.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Ink practice

Today's hour was about process and experience, rather than output.  Though in fact I did get a couple of bits of work that I can go on and use elsewhere, but that's a bonus.  The picture is just a fraction of my practice sheets for today.

I ground my ink, and tried all four pens, and several brushes, in turns, on rice paper, tracing paper, very nice glassy surface that, and newsprint.  Just to get practice in how all the tools feel and work in my hand.  I'm getting bolder with the pens now that I have a feel for how they flex.  And it's good to swop out with brushes, just change the pressure as practice in being sensitive to the tools. Interesting that the more delicate lines and shapes are done with the pens, not with the brushes.

And, whatever I do, honesty keeps breaking through, this is all a bit of displacement activity.  I got a note this morning asking me to set up the book exhibit Wednesday of next week. I was think there were weeks more before November,but noooo.  So now I have to do the bit I don't like at all, labeling, planning, writing a blurb. 
Interesting how my ink practice was better when it was an escape from something else..this fits in with that Messy book I was talking about

where sometimes good stuff comes when you're supposed to be doing something else.  I can definitely attest to that.

I wonder if Tolstoy was supposed to be painting baseboards when he was writing War and Peace. Or if George Eliot was supposed to be pruning the roses when Middlemarch happened.. always like to put myself in good company.  And I'll bet Leonardo was thinking about a new traction engine design while he was painting The Virgin of the Rocks.  

Art is not about planning and executing and concentrating on One Thing Till It's Done.  Hard for beginners to accept, really, since the virtue of hard work is instilled in us at an early age, and it doesn't always apply in this context.

On the subject of Messy, he does make some good points, rather drowned in a sea of detail about workplaces, one of them being that it's good to be in a situation, or to find a situation, in which you come across unexpected ideas or objects.  Your mind tends to carom off them into great new work. 

Long ago, friend Stefi and I wanted to see if we could make a couple of gadgets we had work together to make art. I had the Gocco printer, she had a thing that if I remember correctly, transformed slides into something else.  

Anyway, we never did solve that question, but in the course of trying, came up with a couple of years' worth of really good collaborative art as Unified Field.  Got into some very good juried venues, exhibited together, sold pieces, generally did very well, without having actually planned any of it.  We developed a terrific, and very unusual, art partnership.  Very different artists, but the work Unified did was different from either of us.  Very mystical, really.   Nobody directed the other, we just decided on what materials, and went from there.  All done by intuition.

After a few years we were ready to move on with our own work, which had been going on all along, but we both needed to give it more attention, and we were both teaching, so Unified became a nice bit of history.  Tim Harford would probably say told ya!

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Divine Miss J does it again

Another exciting parcel from my New England friend Judy T., and here's the latest, all sorts of goodies related to rug making, also some suede and leatherette fabric, which will definitely have a use chez Boud, and in a lovely tin, too.  Two jewelry pieces intended for presenting to Handsome Son, who's always making stuff.

Not wasting a moment, after she advised me that some of these items, not shown here, see below, were calligraphy pens, and where to see more info about them, I got right into grinding more ink, to do more play with pens. 

These are brass pens, in four sizes, and I tried them all, to see how flexible the nibs are, how to hold them, how to lean in on them and so on.  They're like the posh version of carpenter's pencils, in a way, in that there's a wide flat face and corners you can use.  The reservoir behind the nibs holds a surprising amount of ink, considering how big a stroke you make with it.  They're a lot easier to clean than brushes, as an aside.

Then I went on to try an actual image

There are many flaws in this, just showing you a bit of playtime.  I went from knowing zero about what these even were, this morning, before the mail came, to playing with them in a very short time.  I love this!  I know more than I knew this morning.  This is why I keep getting up each day..

More will happen with this new set of toys.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Positively the final stage for the silk book and the exhibit selection

So finally, I think the last book I'm doing for the nonce is finally done.  After the pix I showed you recently, I added in the beading I'd been thinking about, an Indian necklace.  

And liked it a lot for about three seconds.  Then realized the color balance was all off. Shape fine, color too heavy. And went back and painted the beads with a metallic gold.  

And liked it a lot better.

In rl, not seen so well in pix, the gold has echoes all over the place in this piece. And the texture works nicely, the heavier beading sort of holding down the flyaway perception of the cover. There are some threads coming out of the edge of the cover, the way silk wants to, a bit rebellious.  The shape of the beaded necklace also offsets the masses of curves and anchors them.

Pleased with this.  It's got hand dyeing, using various colorings including natural ones I made, drawing with a needle, stitching, beading, papermaking, who knows what else.  A lot of fun enclosed in this little artwork.

I'm now thinking I should name the books, since they are artworks, based on the concept of the book.  And literal books do have titles anyway.  So I'll think about that before I have to make labels.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Beaded, dyed silk posh book, iris pages

I guess this book is pretty much high end.  It's silk I dyed and beaded, with iris pages.  Currently the pages and cover are under pressure to dry the glue holding the spine edges together, and there will be a bit more stitching and maybe beaded, at the spine after that. Meanwhile just wanted you to see a work in progress. 

Front cover

Back cover

The clips on the far side are holding the spine together, but will be gone once the adhering and more stitching is done. Here you can see the pages in place.

The new iron is doing okay, managed to adhere the stiffening stuff without melting anything, a real concern with a new iron in contact with stuff such as silk and beads.  Though glass, they're tiny, and might just collapse under heat and pressure.  Like the artist, in fact.  But all was well.

Thanks to all the lovely blogistas who have been in touch lately with encouraging words, and cards and tokens of friendship.  Can't tell you how much it means. Especially you, Asha.  And do get your own blog up and running again.  When you do, I'll give you a shout out in here, with a link.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

StItched and beaded pages in progress

Showed some stitcher friends a couple of artists' books at a meeting last night, and while I was doing that, I realized that the beaded, dyed silk things I've been working on at stitch ins were actually pages-to-be for another artist book I've had in mind, with fabric pages and covers.

I plan to incorporate various stitchings, dyed silk, dyed cotton, and interesting items like that into it.  So, pausing only to order and await a new iron since my 25 year old one up and died this week, today I've been ironing that stiffening stuff, name escapes me, onto a couple of silk pieces.

Here you see a few of the items I've been assembling.  If you see a bit on the left of the top one, of a stitched fish, I can not claim that as my work, it's by dogonart, my sister Irene, and has been used in various incarnations for years.  Now on the side of a bag, now on the back of a jacket, and possibly has a future in a book!  I have several of her small artworks, the Canadian doll, a little pursy thing, other dolls, artist trading cards, all carefully out where I can see them.

The black stitching is of a line drawing I made in ink on mulberry, of a tiny weed I saw at the labyrinth.  The drawing is small, but is still several times lifesize.  Then I stitched it, using the drawing just as a guide, but still freehand.  Stitching, after all, is drawing with a needle.

The larger piece is a monotype, in silver ink, of a half cabbage (!),  and printed on a dyed cotton square then stitched.  The interior of a cabbage looks very much like the branching form of a tree, which is what it became in the stitching.

And on the back of the black and white stitched piece, the trail of white glue, making an accidental art piece in itself. 

But now it's brayered down onto the backing, a piece of stamped and dyed cotton.  This is likely to be a book cover.   If I can find the original line drawing, I'll include it in the book.  Note to self: rent backhoe to excavate moraine of old drawings.

One of my stitcher friends asked where I get all these ideas, and I vaguely said, oh they're in here somewhere.  But really that's not a good answer.  Every artwork you make opens the door to the next, and if you keep on opening doors, the supply of ideas is just about infinite.  But you have to open the doors!  I can show you where they are, as I do a lot in this blog, but still, you're the Opener in Chief for your own art. I've been opening doors for well over 70 years, so ideas are available all over the place.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Chinese calligraphy goes on, tiny steps

So today was a good time for an hour's calligraphy practice.  I found another really good guide, which I have out from the libe as an ebook, and once again my policy of looking for books for kids proves useful.

This is Chinese Brush Painting by  Caroline Self.  Really written for children, it's just about at the level I need right now.  I'm not selling this book, just mentioning it. Very approachable, with cultural and historical info woven in, and an approach that really brings you along.  My other book is fine, but I need to work a bit before I get into it further.

So, Self is not too rigid about what brushes, ink, and so on, and I find that my Western brushes are actually not so bad after all.  And she encourages beginners to mix a series of shades of the grayscale.

She says eight, but I thought, hm, three will about do it for me right now.  Especially since I'm grinding the ink, not pouring from a bottle. I really like the grinding, to get into the frame of mind for the brushwork.  But it's labor intensive to make more than a small amount.

And she recommends three containers of water, for brush cleaning. So I made my setup, ink: blackest in the stone, less black in one saucer, even less black in the other.  This is really a color range, since brush painting, and calligraphy, are not all one solid color of black.  And I set up my water, clean, inkier, inkiest.

Duncan liked the setup pretty well, sampling all the waters in turn, just checking.

And today I worked on several shapes, which turn out to be useful to write the word for eternity.  Several pages of tries. Now I'm not sure if the writer was being ironic, but in my case, yes, it could take an eternity to get this word looking like anything a Chinese reader might recognize.  

I'm guessing at best it looks like murbleflop, or bangcrash, but here and there I'm getting the feel of the brush.  I tried three different brushes in the course of this session, and three different shades of ink.  Here's the cleaner, inky and inkier water, behind the blackest, blacker, and black ink supplies.

It's a great way to regulate your breathing, and calm down, and just be in the present.  In fact, she does explain how you breathe as you work, it's part of it.  All in all, when the student is ready, the teacher appears, and she seems to have appeared just right for this student. 

And my leftover ink is now in a little jar, waste not want not. After that I went and swept leaves off the deck, feeling like a good Chinese artist, attending to life as well as art.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Miniature artist's books, many media

Just doing some foraging in the studio, because I had an idea for  miniature artists' books, and had just the things to use.

Here's a group of prints, which I ran off on my Gocco printer, long ago, said printer now being in possession of another artist, and which I printed on needlepoint canvas. 

I'm showing you the exploded book, pages all separated, and the the beadweaving which will be used to secure it all.  I wove the beads on a little cardboard loom I made.  Sold a few pieces of this sort of weaving, usually for jewelry, but had several hanging on the wall until I found a home for them.  Which I now have.

And then the assembled book, about three by three inches.


And this is a set of four image transfers on sheer nylon, pix of studio interior and artworks, shot with old Polaroid, and the emulsion lifted off the resulting pix and transferred and reshaped, onto the nylon.  

Other parts of this adventure found homes in mixed media artworks, a number of which are in buyers' collections in various parts of the country.  But there's always a supply which needs a home, as here.  

The cover, on the left,  is an image transfer onto silk of a mixed media stitched piece, now in a buyer's collection, the original, that is.  These pages are all about three by three inches. I have to decide how to assemble them, and what sort of back cover will support without overwhelming the pages.

 Other small books I already had in my collection, like these little notebooks, saddle stitched or assembled using paper fasteners. I painted the middle one, a landscape rendered in marbling, and the others are adaptations, one of a program from a historical sampler exhibit, the other a greeting card.  

These are more functional, useful to go into your purse, and I make notes for people all the time in them. Lot of low tech friends who want me to Write it Down, not email it to them.  The book with the paper fasteners is easy to refill, just pop out the fasteners, cut paper to fit, poke little hole, slip fasteners back in. Done.  I'm including them in the exhibit to encourage people to try it out.

Then there's the bigger book, here the red onionskin paper, bound with a red beadweaving.  Onionskins largely donated by Girija J, who cooks with them a lot.  I may add a stamping or a stenciling, not sure yet.  It's still drying and pressing.

Just as well I made a lot of paper in the summer.  It's coming in handy now.

These are all going into my November exhibit, if there's room in the case, it's getting a bit full, with my ambitious progress.  And I have to write up a little something, explaining the art form. More fun for people to get the gist of what they're seeing. 

With the exception of an accordion book, most of my show is about signature books, left bound or stitched, because the materials, rather than the form, are what interest me at the moment.

I have a binder with samples of my handmade paper explaining what the materials were, iris, daylily, oriental lily flower and so on.  I'm wondering if it will be a good idea to make an actual artist's sample book, too. That could work nicely.

And there may be a book created from those transfer images I made earlier in the year, some of which have been exhibited, but not all.  It carries on that earlier interest in image transfer, this time using electronic rather than physical means to do it.

With the exception of the little notebooks I write in, all these artworks are for sale, and I'll be glad to quote to anyone who wants to own one.  Or more.  You know the old joke about fund raising: we will accept any donation, however large!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Tao of Painting

Still going on is the self teaching of Chinese calligraphy, needing to be patient with myself.  Grinding the ink is a meditative process, very calming, and I just have to accept my total beginner status at using the brushes and forming shapes.  Mine all come out a bit like bread rolls.  But I'm getting the hang of holding the brush and it's starting to feel more natural.  All I'm doing at the moment is very simple copying of shapes, surprisingly challenging.

But today I thought I'd spend half an hour in this wonderful book. The Tao of Painting.  Based on an ancient manuscript, it explains the fundamentals of Chinese painting, the structure of it, and history.  Since the shapes I'm learning have meaning way behond their physical appearance, I needed to simply know more.

And to my surprise, the writer emphasizes that the painter does have to find a way to be creative, not just using rote strokes.  Evidently the masters both observed the tradition and departed from it, all at once.  This is very Chinese!  Tao more or less means way, or path, but has a lot of metaphorical overtones, too.  But it does not mean rigid copying, which I was happy to find out.

If you can get your hands on this, do.  It's a wonderful adventure into Chinese painting, with a kind guide to lead you through it.  
The chopmarks (seals) you see on Chinese painting not only indicate the original painter, but all the collectors through whose hands the painting has passed.  It's a kind of provenance that travels with the work.  Some of the pieces in this book are simply the best there ever were, now in museums.

One of the reasons I spent a lot more than half an hour on this is that I got engrossed in the paintings.  A lot of them are extremely long horizontally, like this one, 88 inches by 13, and are scrolls. That long calm shape is amazing for your peace of mind.  There are poems on a lot of them, some by the painter, some by collectors paying tribute.  This book translates the poetry for the non Chinese reader.

 I rested this double opened page onto a bench in the sun, where the shadows of a twenty first century cherry tree can mingle with the painting of a 12th century plum blossom branch.  

And where the fallen leaves are a partnership with the acceptance in art that everything, including the painter, has a season, and dies to make way for more life.

As you scan back and forth, getting into the work, you enter into another place.  These paintings date back many centuries, and are as lively now as they were when painted.  In fact chi, the life force, is supposed to be apparent in good painting, movement and the sort of energy that never dissipates over the centuries.  Paintings of bamboo in the wind are full of movement and suggested sound, never static.

Here's an autumn scene, with leaping frogs, butterflies, all kinds of lively insects, and this one has color. 


Color is considered a separate issue in Chinese painting, a lot of which is in gray scale, from black to grays.  And the color has to carry meaning in the painting, beyond just a graphic sort of value.

So when I finally, after about two hours, got to my own practice, I felt the way I did when I learned to spin, as if I was carrying on a humble part of a great tradition of art.  I may never get to be a great calligrapher, well, there's no may about it, but the process of entering into the practice is what it's about.  Flow starts to happen in just a few minutes, that great feeling of being at one with the materials.  The output is not important at this stage, but learning to be with the process is.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Lily and iris book added to exhibit

Moving along with the artist books, I finished another this weekend.  This has pages from the iris paper, and the covers are from the lily flower paper.  

Simple stitching to secure pages to back.  The spine is a strip of hand dyed silk, dyed with natural materials.  

And there are a couple of stencils, one of an iris to honor the producer of the raw material, one a general floral, because flower heads went into making the cover.

Simple construction but complex meanings in this book. All the materials for the paper and the dyeing came from my immediate surroundings.  Three local gardens, including mine.

All my books are available for sale, and the eventual owner can either just enjoy them as an artwork, or add to the pages with your own drawing, writing, stamping.  As you go along let me know if any interest you, and I will quote a price.  I like to price art where people can actually own it, so don't be shy about asking.  

Most of the books will be in the November exhibit at West Windsor Library, and if any are sold, I will ask the buyer to allow me to ship them at the close of the show, usual arrangement when exhibited work is sold.   Nearer the time I'll post a complete set of pix of the books for you to see.

And, as always, I encourage you to try your own hand!  it's great fun to make your own, too. 

I have individual sheets of handmade paper, approx 8x5 inches, which you can buy if you want to embark on a project yourself.  This is paper which can be drawn on with marker, or pencil, or fine pen, or stamped, stitched and stenciled.  Not for use for waterbased media, though, it will melt!  Can be incorporated into your collage work, too.  I'll make a post with the sorts of paper and how much is available, and prices, if you're interested.  Give me a shout if so.