Monday, 30 April 2012

two books meet ...

This afternoon my daughter Pip, who is visiting from Sydney for a couple of days, and I visited Fiona to bring our books together for their photo shoot.  Fiona and I have created two magical books this week to celebrate World Book Day.  Not perfect books, but magical.  I chose this word quite carefully as there has been a sense of wonder and unexpected surprise, a gorgeous alchemy of our thoughts, words, marks and effort as our books began, merged and finally unveiled.

The light in the studio was luminous and even so, it was quite difficult to capture the books together .  Fiona's long and lean, crisp and rigid, mine rectangular and softly bound, mellow, not wanting to stand.

Of the many taken, a few images stood out for me - these really just show the structure of our books and not the content.  They actually blend together tenderly with their threads and markings, tracemarks and  images echoing each other's and yet they remain simultaneously individual.

shadow play

My completed book although this photo was taken before I titled it 'In Between the Mountains'.  There is a story about this which I will share at the end of this blog.

Fiona's words concealed through scratched transparencies 

etchings  and pierced translucent paper

hidden etchings - the transparent layer lifts to reveal these in detail

Fiona's white pages and thread from our day working together 
My last page bringing all the ideas I had together 

Fiona's delicious threads

This shared collaborative experience has been both intriguing and absorbing.  Throughout, our sensibilities have been in tune with each other and I think this remained so right until the finishing touches were being made on the books.

I must share this story with you ...........

I brought along my book, with eight pages, to be worked into by Fiona.  All I had done was make two of those pages from some of my etchings and suggested was that I was doing a soft cover book which I wanted to be read in landscape format which meant that the binding was on the top of the pages, not left or right.  Fiona introduced her beautiful words to my book, though did so on tracing paper in order that I could conceal them in my mountains, or let them peek in between.  She also worked two of my pages with smaller white pages secured under thread lines.  Beautiful.  Once I began to work back into the book I decided I really wanted to have Fiona's words visible between the mountains and I pondered hard over whether I should just copy them or trace them onto the page.  Somehow it didn't seem right so I asked Fiona if I could bring my pages back for her to rewrite the words onto the page ..... and of course she was more than happy to oblige.

It was not until I was home again, fiddling with the last touches, that I realised that Fiona had actually written a second verse instead of using her initial verse twice.  She had absorbed what I had worked into my pages, into the story I was telling, and I think tied it all together in the second verse. By so doing she had supplied my book with the cohesion it needed.

Here are the two verses that Fiona has written in my book (the first verse written by Aaron Siskind and lent to me!) because you can't read them without holding the book, taking back the transparent layer and looking closely 'In Between the Mountains' ...

'if you look very intensely
     and slowly
         things will happen
                 that you never dreamed of before'

'in the hollows
      and the voids
             between the mountains
                    quiet dreams of beauty are born.'

That says it all.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

the beginning of something wonderful ...

I couldn't wait until tomorrow.
Have been smiling all week
and totally absorbed.
Sometimes it only takes a nudge in a different direction
to help you realise something you have
been trying to say.
Thank you Fiona.

Just  a small glimpse again at some of the images formed in my 'our' book.  Tomorrow will be such a celebration of what we have done this week when the two books meet again for their photo shoot!

Friday, 27 April 2012

paper love ... paper camera

How delicious are these images.  I could post them on a 'Wordless Wednesday' and not have to say anything about them but I want to speak a little about computer imaging and its relationship to my art.

I remember back in 2001 doing an Adobe Photoshop course through the Brisbane Institute of Art - Adobe for the artist, not the techno person. Perfect.  I had enormous fun ..... as we all do and every time I played with an image using one of their 'effects' which rendered my initial image in some magnificent way I remember thinking that I was cheating.  That these images were not mine but some form of magic that took my marks, or my drawings and made something hugely exciting from them.  Felt like cheating to me and I confess, when I see images like those I have just posted I experience that sense again.  I can look at these images and say 'aren't they delicious' because it is not like I did them at all.

Of course there is the profound reality that it is from the marks we make, and the design we put into play that these images are formed.  Those below were taken whilst waiting in the car, I had these writing drawings of mine beside me, incomplete as they were, and I remembered Fiona had mentioned the application for iPhones 'Paper Camera' in one of her blogs (or was it an email?).  I played for a few minutes with some of the different settings and this is the result.

These images could certainly be worked over again by hand to make them seem more like mine ..... but in the meantime, I enjoy having a toy with which I can have the occasional frivol.

On a much more serious note, Fiona and I have both been very busy on 'our' books and the experience has been extraordinary.  Both of us having a wonderful time working our artwork into the images that were handed to us after our day working together on Monday.  A few people have left comments for us saying how difficult working in this way can be but I must say that after that initial fear the night before, the process has been challenging, absorbing, thrilling and deeply satisfying.  We met together briefly this morning as we needed to emboss our marks on the back pages of the books before we sew them.  It is quite easy to forget this along the way....

Both of us are very close to resolving and binding our books and I could not resist the chance to photograph the gathering of  'stuff'  as I was packing up my pages to bring home.  Now I will sit down and finish the book because from now until Monday when we have committed to having our books completed, I have friends and family coming, surrounding and distracting.  Wouldn't change that though.  So, till Monday ... this is a quick peek.

Monday, 23 April 2012

World Book Day - a pas de deux

I don't dance though today it felt as though I was.  Dance isn't really the right word for what happened today and I think pas de deux (steps of two) may come close to the mark.  It is World Book Day today and Fiona Dempster had suggested the two of us spend the day working collaboratively on books.

This was not to be a collaboration in the normal sense of designing and creating a book together but something a little different.  We each began a book making choices about papers and sizes, the content we wished to incorporate and so on and so forth without any consultation with each other - the idea being that the other would then work into that book for the day before handing it back to its 'creator' to complete. 

The delightful relationship and likemindedness we have between us was evident before we even began.  I asked Fiona if I could call by on Friday morning and show her what I was planning in order that she might have some ideas about introducing her steps into my book.  I presented her with some etching work on absolutely gorgeous white linen Johannot paper, a couple of sheets of soft grey paper and transparent paper. With a knowing smile and the hint of a nod, Fiona placed her book papers on the table ......... gorgeous white paper, worked with grey tones, and transparent paper!  With all the choice each of us has in our paper drawers, we both had resolved on almost similar combinations. A perfect start.  Great excitement and anticipation of our day together.  Until last night. Panic. How on earth was I going to be able to bring my work into Fiona's book.  What could I contribute, where would I start, would this be the end of a beautiful friendship ......... yes, almost a Casablanca moment.

Of course Fiona has been feeling the same way but we both realised that the whole purpose of this collaboration was to bring our own voice to the others' book - not just an echo.  The first challenge was finding my own rhythm in Fiona's pages and ensuring those steps felt like mine.  I was presented with eight pages - all of them already covered with crisp, very graphic grey/brown rectangles dancing across the page. No blank pages (I had only worked on two of my pages - fairly dominantly I admit).  Each page had a corresponding transparent page upon which no decisions had yet been made.

I had seen a couple of these pages last Friday and my thinking was along the lines of incorporating embossing and paper piercing and cut outs so I brought along some fairly graphic embossing plates I had at home and which I thought may complement the work.  Fiona had some of her beautiful thread from New York which I picked up and played with momentarily before discarding.

It is a wondrous thing to have the honour of working into someone else's artwork and I think both of us were mindful of the book as a whole, and not just trying to overpower it with our own workings.  In all of our thoughts and those that we ended up incorporating in the books, consideration was given to the balance  of the book as a final piece.

I juggled around many ideas trying to bring a cohesion to the floating fragments and realised that I had to ask Fiona for some rusted or aged paper.  My comfort zone I think ..... and once I had some of that to hand my ideas began to form.  I had decided to work only four pages of the book leaving the others completely open for Fiona to work back into. One of the many delicious things that happened repeatedly throughout the day, was coming to a decision point in the creative process and being able to say - ah, I will just leave that for Fiona to resolve. Quite honestly, I think I could become very partial to collaborative work!

The morning was ticking along quite quickly and though I had introduced some dark papers into play, I still had not really resolved anything satisfactorily.  Way too many things were happening on the page and so I let go of the embossing and the piercing I was planning across the page. I had thought it would complement the braille rusted Paper Fiona had given me. At this stage every idea or concept I had had prior to working today, had been set aside.

We stopped briefly for lunch, with Barry and the view. And what a view. For me it was a timely break as I felt I had sorted out the white pages and now had the fun of working into the tracing paper (note my blog name tracemarks).  I confess to having had a love affair with transparent paper, who am I kidding, with ALL paper for years, and years, and years.  I can hear all you paper addicts smiling and nodding ........ you know.

I am chuckling now as I look at some of the notes I made about the work I would do after lunch.  Work into the transparent paper - probably marks in white ink and lead pencil, piercing, track marks, writing marks, cutting out and revealing .......  Hopefully I did not mean I would actually do all of this! As it was I decided to use sections of the transparent paper instead of the whole page.  It has the effect of dulling down some of the heavier tones I introduced and I worked very minimally into it using pricking, not really even piercing through the paper, and also scratching lines into the paper instead of using white ink.

The resulting pages are still very busy - but a different kind of busy from those dancing fragments that were handed my way.  The lovely happenstance now is that these pages return to Fiona who will bend them back and shape them to her purpose.  My way of seeing and marking will remain and be very much part of the book, but I do love the fact that it is returned now to Fiona who will know how to finish it beautifully.  My hope is that she will enjoy and embrace some of the input I have made in this collaborative book.

I have spoken largely about the process of working with someone else's concept partly in place but really the joy I had in today was not only about making these books together.  There is a harmony between us and  a consideration which I think is quite rare.  I have often thought it would be a fine thing to work collaboratively with a fellow artist now and then, and I cannot imagine that being anyone other than Fiona. Today was my first experience of dedicating a day to work jointly, not just alongside but in a pas de deux.  I am still smiling .....

Next week we will be able to show you our finished books. In the meantime you can see what Fiona has said about today here.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

dAd - drawing a day visual diaries

It is a beautiful thing - a visual diary.  Someone's record of their day, infused with meaning that often only they understand.  I began my first in 1998 through a project coordinated by Adele Outerridge from The Studio in Brisbane which she shares with Wim de Vos.  There were eight of us, Australia wide, this first year.  Artists who committed to doing a drawing a day - not a work of art, but a visual record of what we did that day, what we felt or saw.  Maybe a suggestion of what we had been working on in our studios that day - a smear of paint, a torn up etching, an embossing ... one of my drawings was done with chocolate and wine after a lovely dinner party which left me with no desire to draw!

1998 dAd book - susan bowers

1998 dAd book and 2006 dAd bound in 12 monthly books

complex coptic binding using tabs

first foray into mark making 

I love using transparent overlays

rusting pages helped with drawing into them

my first embossing

transparent paper and ink

dabbling with monoprints


The dAd Project is now world wide and hundreds are involved.  Adele still coordinates and she and Wim have continued to draw each day.  My discipline has been sadly lacking - it sounds so easy but it is quite a difficult thing to maintain.  In the first year we all found it very difficult initially, then addictive and absorbing.  I have begun and stopped almost every year since 1998, some years only one or two pages have been done.  I do not mind - those pages that were done are a lovely reminder of what I did, or what I thought about that day.  This year I began again, stopped some time in February and decided that this blog would take place of the drawing a day.

The blogging experience is turning out to be  like my daily drawing - difficult, now a little addictive and hopefully soon, absorbing.  Not so much so that I do not move forward with my art practice, but as an addition to it in maintaining a certain discipline, and using it as a record of my creative processes.

Monday, 16 April 2012

studio stacks ......

                                                                  a blog for Jennifer 

No need to caption all these photos - these are just some of the stacks sitting on table tops around my studio - not taking into account stacks in cupboards and bundles in drawers.  Delicious bundles waiting for completion, or commencement, for inspiration or to be sewn together.  Quite honestly,  as one stack is turned into something creative, I am sure another bundle or two will appear in its place!  This is how we all work - or is it???