Friday, 27 April 2012

Life's Journey

My books Time Travel (courtesy of Artspace Mackay)

and The Battle Within (courtesy of the State Library of Queensland)
will be on display in the exhibition
Life's Journey: Artists Books from Queensland Collections
at the Redland Art Gallery, Cleveland, Qld
from 6 May to 17 June.

The accompanying exhibition is Mind Mapping by Jack Oudyn, a fellow BookArt Object member.  You can read about Jack's work on his blog here

Monday, 16 April 2012

Making 'That Unbearable Lightness'

These books were posted out three weeks ago, so it seems timely to post now about the making of my first book for BookArtObject.
The book structure and the cover are intended to represent the physical symptoms of vertigo and the illustrations address the ambiguous psychological vertigo described by Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Once I'd decided upon the circular structure, representing something like a spinning top, I hoped for the best that I'd somehow be able to put it into book covers.  I envisaged that the two sides of the structure would show the ambiguity and oppositions of light/dark and lightness/heaviness of existence in Kundera's book.  It was obvious to make the upper side 'light' and the lower side 'dark'.  The upper pen and ink drawing represents the vertigo of looking skywards surrounded by tall buildings, and the lower 'dark' ink sgrafitto drawing, the vertigo of looking down from tall buildings to the street below.  The two were put together on an A4 page and copies were printed onto Fabriano 160 gsm paper on my inkjet printer.
The pages were folded into a concertina structure and the ends were guillotined and glued up in the manner of a perfect binding.
The next step was to glue a soft flexible leather spine (lined with paper) to the glued ends.

The covers were made with very thin board as they needed to close together when the book was displayed. The printing on the cover was designed to be 'falling over' (helped also by the closed book's structure).

The soft leather of the spine allowed it to become completely concave and turn tightly so the book could form a circular structure.

This allows the book sculpture to be displayed fallen to one side, as if it has spun and fallen like a spinning top.

A bespoke box was made to fit the unusual shape of the book with its slanted spine and wedge shape.

I enjoyed the experience so much that I'm looking forward to tackling a second book for BAO, #56 Unchartered Democracy, in Group 10.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Getting the right look

I recently posted about an artwork of mine called Botanical Books, a little installation of fifteen books whose structure and binding related to the appearance of the various plants.
This post is about how I achieved the look of the illustrations.  The fifteen books were intended to look like specimens in a museum display case, and I wanted the illustrations to look like very old simple line botanical illustrations that would be in keeping with the medieval material I was using, calfskin vellum.

I kept thinking of some beautiful old illustrations in red chalk that I'd seen by Leonardo da Vinci in an exhibition at the QAG back in 1984, (Leonardo da Vinci Nature Studies from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle) and I can only tell you that because the catalogue lives in my bookcase. This illustration of Dyer's Greenweed by Leonardo was just the look I was after, and I experimented with lots of things before I came up with a solution.

Leonardo da Vinci

I ended up making drypoint plates and engraving the drawings onto scraps of perspex and polycarbonate and this had a lovely raised burr.

Unfortunately for me, I don't have a press at home, so I was forced to be more creative.  I also wanted a very soft look that I could control.  I made rubbings of the plates with a soft brown Conte pencil onto tracing paper.  This was then glued to pieces of vellum and the images were cut out and sewn to the little books in different ways.  The tracing paper disappeared and became invisible, leaving the images looking as though they had been made directly onto the vellum.

In the end, I was pleased with the result as it approximated what I had intended.



Monday, 2 April 2012

Birth of a Book

irth of a Book is a short film about the creation of a book at Smith-Settle Printers in Leeds England, using traditional commercial printing methods, i.e. before desktop publishing and e-books.

Nice to recognise the same stages handmade books go through, and to see some real people working on these different stages, and to see a bone folder!

You can view the film at