Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Book Boxes

I always like my books to be presented in a book box, and usually this is a black card slipcase. I worked out a pattern for making them many years ago, after reading a book on Japanese gift boxes and adapting one of them, and I've been adapting and adjusting the formula ever since.
I use Canson card, which is fairly heavy (300 gsm I think) and I've always believed it was acid free, but I've since read an article saying that black card and paper can never be really acid free, so I'm no longer sure.

For the last few days I've been working on book boxes and it has been a bit of a challenge to get the pattern for these particular boxes just right, as I do everything by making and adjusting. This box is for my first BAO edition of books, and as it is an unusual shape, it's taken me a while to design the box and pattern to fit. Once done though, it was a breeze to make them up.
They're all done - 15 of them and the books are inside too! I've been working consistently on this project even though I usually don't do too much at this time of the year when it's so hot, and I wanted to finish it early before moving on to something else. I have been surprised how much I enjoyed making the edition and enjoyed working with the streamlined methods of production.

I will add a post about the making of the books at a later date, after they've been distributed and received by the members of my BAO group five.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Ink Sgraffito

I was working on my book for BookArt Object and was looking for something to combine with a black line drawing in pen and ink on white paper, but reversed - white lines on black, and I didn't want to use printmaking with the pen and ink drawing.

Those old scraperboard illustrations used by graphic artists popped into my mind, so I searched on the internet to see if I could buy scraperboard anywhere. It seems it is difficult to find and expensive. It has a layer of white clay under the black surface and it was usually imported from the UK. This had been stopped by Australian customs because of the clay content. I think some suppliers may import it again now, but it was starting to seem all too hard for a whim and this small piece.

I chanced on blog post called Make your own scraperboard here. The author pointed out it was not the kind of scraperboard you can make perfect highly detailed illustrations on, but great for loose marks and textures - well that sounded like just the sort of thing I was looking for, the look of a loose rough quick drawing.

I sort of followed the instructions - I used a piece of boxboard and painted it with two coats of white acrylic paint. When it was dry I applied some wax furniture polish twice and left it to dry overnight. I coated it with about three coats of Chinese Ink until it was well covered and then when it was thoroughly dry, I had a great time scratching into it with an etching needle.

The surface is quite fragile, so it needs to be scanned before it starts to deteriorate or get damaged. I'm very keen on easy, ready at hand, inexpensive, homemade, non-toxic solutions and I can imagine I'll use this technique. It could be just the thing for abstract calligraphic markmaking too. I prefer to call it ink sgraffito, as that is exactly what it is - scratching into ink.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Bloggie Award

is for ronnie (also known as Rhonda Ayliffe) who blogs here. Much to my surprise I am the recipient of one of her blog awards - such a nice gesture on Valentine's Day, and especially to someone new to the game and not that efficient so far. I'm still working on setting up the blog, and she didn't even qualify it as a 'newcomer trying hard' award. So thank you ronnie for thinking of me!
I'm awarding only one blog award (for five reasons) instead of five awards and yes, you guessed it, the award goes to ronnie : (1) a fantastic artist working across a range of media, including artists books and book installations - you can also check out her website here (2) a scholar working for her PhD, whilst juggling her artwork with study, family, running a farm, other work and being involved in her small rural community. (3) her expertise as a blogger - everywhere I've travelled in blogland I see ronnie's blog listed on that site because of her fun, informative, and artistic content. (4) her friendship and helpfulness to me personally since the day I met her in 2007 and (5) her willingness to share her knowledge by way of posts or her wise and fun comments.

So here's to you ronnie, have a great day.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

A man who loves books

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore is a charming animated short film about a man who loves books. This film has been nominated for an Academy award in 2012.

You can view it on vimeo at

Post script: 27th Feb 2012 - it won the Academy award for best short animated film!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Working on Structure

I had never read Milan Kundera's book The Unbearable Lightness of Being and my first response to the title That Unbearable Lightness was to think of vertigo - the light-headedness, the spinning sensation, the wobbly feeling, losing balance and falling over. After getting hold of the book, I was quite excited to discover a piece about vertigo, not the physical kind, but a psychological vertigo suffered by those whose goal is to attain 'something higher' but who are inevitably tempted and lured to fall into the emptiness below. I liked the idea of combining these physical and psycholocigal aspects of vertigo.

I love it when the subject matter lends itself to using structure as an integral part of the artwork, in the same way illustration or text contribute to the meaning. I needed a structure that could suggest vertigo - the spinning sensations and falling over - a bit like a spinning top. I remembered a Chinese circular folded hanging structure I'd seen a few years ago which could possibly work. First attempts at making it were rather dismal and it was much more complicated than its simple exterior suggested, but perseverance paid off and after several attempts I eventually worked it out. Paper and its weight was an issue and thinner oriental papers were not successful. With all the folds, I couldn't use thick watercolour paper and printmaking papers have a softness that wasn't really suitable either. I had the best results with a crisp Fabriano paper of 160 gsm.

Now to turn it into a book! Parts of it had to be glued, so these became a kind of 'perfect binding' and then I added a soft flexible leather spine that could turn itself 'inside out/outside in'. The covers were added to the spine piece in the style of a simplified binding.....and after two attempts it worked! Now onto the illustrations......

Friday, 3 February 2012

Book Art Object

is for books. Welcome to this first post on this new book blog.

I decided to join BookArtObject for 2012, a collective of artists working on an edition of artists books, you can read about it here. Members are based worldwide but mainly in Australia. I am joining the fourth edition based on Sarah Bodman's artists book An Exercise for Kurt Johannessen.
Sarah's book was a response to Kurt's artists book Exercises (2001) a book of performative texts, one of which was his suggestion to write 100 stories and bury them in a forest, which she did. Her book now lies decomposing in a forest in Denmark. You can read about it here. Each of the sixty plus artists who have signed up will work with one or two of the 100 titles in Sarah's book (with her permission). I really liked Sarah's book and this project with its referential nature. Sarah Bodman will receive a copy of the full edition.

I usually work with unique books or small editions of 3 to 5, so making an edition of 15 will be a learning experience for me and will require a much more organised approach. I'm working on two titles this year, #73 That Unbearable Lightness and #56 Unchartered Democracy. I've been taking advantage of all the wet indoor weather we've been having to start work on Number 73. I will post reports about the making of this book in the coming weeks.