Monday, 7 March 2022

mother of crows .....

Recently I have been examining what it is that makes an artist's book, how to tell the story effectively, wondering whether words are needed and so forth.  I don't know that there really is a definitive answer.  Some books just work well and then others seem to miss the mark.  I doubt there is a formula for the success of an artist's book because, as it is with most artwork, the success or not is in the eye of the viewer and is purely subjective.

Sometimes work just resounds for someone and the person standing beside them may have no emotional response to the work at all.  The last time I posted I was showing a book that for me just did not work.  There seemed no reason visually or otherwise for it to exist as a book.  It worked as a print though  somehow did not break down to tell a convincing story.

I like to think that this version of a 'mother of crows' book leads the viewer through a more comprehensive story.  It is made from an etching which has used before but I have taken apart and rearranged this one differently, adding more layers and words.

This book was made as a demonstration for what I have been teaching of late so I may have over loaded it a little but it stands up nicely to tell its story in a slow reveal, rather than reading the whole story laying flat where all is revealed and there is no mystery.

It is a personal story of the crows in our garden.  We are on top of a hill so mostly we are looking down on crows even though they are flying high.  One spring a couple built a nest atop a tall tree in the garden, high up from the ground but for us, we were able to watch the process at eye level.  Enchanting.

I have used black thread to sew this book which is a version of a concertina or accordion book.  I think the thread suits the book and makes me think of fine twigs.

I don't often do artwork on both sides of a book but thought this print on fine tengucho paper added to the work.  I also demonstrated and therefore made for myself a simple folded and glued box to protect this book.

and now it is neatly tucked away .....

Sunday, 30 January 2022

telling or creating a story .....

What is it that makes an artist's book a success?  For me there are two elements foremost on my mind when I plan a book - how I will present it visually and what story am I telling.   This is not a strict rule in my making but I do prefer to ponder these issues before I begin creating an artist's book.

As I am about to start some teaching I have been beavering away in the studio creating further examples of my artist's books to share with students.  Next week I will post on a book which was conceived with a story inbuilt, whereas this book is very much about trying to create a story from a couple of etchings that I found in my drawers and which I had never particularly liked.

There were two prints, very graphic though using one of my favourite techniques in the printmaking arsenal, sugar lift.  I love the free flowing forms you can give your work with the sugar lift process.  With these two prints I had experimented with different colour ways and obviously was not happy with them as they have been buried in a bottom drawer for years.  I decided that as they didn't work as prints, I would take them apart and create a story with them.  You can see in the photographs below that I cut them into a favourite landscape shape and then decided to use some ink solutions to change the work into something I preferred.

The problem arose when I was trying to construct some kind of storyline for my 'artist's book' and I ran into all sorts of problems as I could not find a way to present the pages in a way they came together to tell their story.  I thought I could mount them onto a Fabriano 640gsm paper and emboss around them.  Still I could find no story to tell.

I thought that I could include further mark making work in behind each image to see if I could find storyline.  No luck.

Somehow this way of presenting the work and trying to fabricate a story was never going to work so I almost gave up.

Finally, I realised that the pages only made sense when I laid them out as a landscape book - a long thin story line of marks both subtle and bold which tramped their way through my landscape story.

And so after much playing around and juggling the eternal 'I could do this' or 'I could do that' I had made a decision and went ahead and sewed my book using a grey blue thread which actually brings out some of the lovely blues still present on the pages.

I now have a seven page little landscape book, 24cms x 5cms and the truth is, I really don't think it works that well as an artist's book.  And that is how it happens sometimes - you start with no plan and really try hard to pull a story together and it just doesn't work.  Other times, especially if you begin with a story in mind before creating the artwork, you find a story line which comes together very easily and rings true.

So now I have quite a cute little book which you can hold up close and examine closely, finding all the embossed marks I created before the book was laminated and sewn and though I have accepted (or have I ....) that there is no story here to tell, I can just enjoy a wee visual adventure.


Friday, 7 January 2022

a very welcome new year .....

I love that time of year when a new year turns the page and all the weariness of the end of the last year fades away, or begins to fade away as the new year strides along.  We are already one week into 2022 and I have been giving the studio a big clean and sort in readiness for some teaching to start here in February. Exciting.  It is always such a joy to teach artists the joy of making books and sharing my books to show that there is an abundance of opportunity to turn their work into something quite unique.

I have not worked in book form for a while - though skipping back through my posts and not looking at the dates you would wonder if that were true.  When I was working on my self imposed 'book a week' project I stopped after 26 books as the discipline had done what was required - it got me into the studio and anxious to work.  I became absorbed in drawings rather than books and though there is little shown on my blog about these drawings, they do exist and I may pull one out everyone and then for show and tell.

Now that I am back posting to this blog, I am reminded of my reason for starting trademarks in the first place.  It was to record my studio activity and keep a digital visual diary of what I was doing - rather than the effort of keeping up a 'drawing a day' which was another way I recorded visually for some years.

I should really have taken some photos of the clean desks before I filled them with work.  Next week I have a few artists coming here for show and tell before we begin our lessons.  I have tried to break my books down into four categories/techniques which I tend to employ more than any others.  The plan is to begin with a commitment to four lessons after which I will see who is still keen to continue and who is not.

Well I for one am excited - and busy practising stitches, or variations thereof, which I haven't used for ages. I am out of practice taking photos while I work but I have just completed a small coptic binding with a header stitch which I undid three times before I was happy that I remembered it well enough to teach. I kept looking at a wonderful postcard Fiona Dempster made which reads ...




Tuesday, 4 January 2022

2021 tick .....

For many, and I suspect most of us, it is wonderful to be saying goodbye to 2021 and welcome this New Year which we hope will be brighter, more gentle and more connected.  By that I mean that we have the opportunity to connect with those we have missed over the last couple of years, or places that we miss and have been unable to visit because of restrictions.  By no means do I think our troubles are over with this pandemic, but I hope this year allows us all more freedoms to spend time with those we love, and enjoy the places we love to spend time.

This drawing below is called 'hope' which is apt I think.  So many of my musings have begun with I hope this or I hope that.  This was not the only inspiration for this work.  I drew upon Emily Dickinson's poem

'Hope' is a thing with feathers - 

that perches in the soul

and sings the tune without the words

and never stops - at all.


This series of five drawings are all done on architectural drafting paper which gives them a luminesecence which you cannot tell with the photographs.  And they are quite large - 900mm x 700mm.  It is one of those bodies of work that comes from that place where you let go and something else takes over.  I do not often work with this kind of emotive work, never comfortable with wearing my heart on my sleeve, and it is a deviation from the work I had been doing largely last year.


I am hoping (there I go again!) that the work speaks for itself and speaks about the various aspects of feeling vulnerable and protected simultaneously over the last year.



I spoke in my last post of the exhibition 'Red Threads - Holding and Connecting' which was being held in Fiona and Barry's wonderful Deckled Edge Press Studio and which you can read about in Fiona's post.


I am happy to say most of my work, large and the smaller ones too, found its way to other homes.  I had very lovely feedback from visitors to the small showing that they just stood in front of my work and gazed.  Lovely supporting words to hear. I think every artist wants to know that people take the time to really stop and look at their work.

Though there is much to say I am now preparing for teaching a few keen artists who want to explore the art of making books.  The studio is ready for show and tell next week and soon thereafter we will commence.  It will be great fun for me to revisit the techniques and design of artist's books as I have not made any for some time.  

Wishing everyone a much happier year this year.  I will add that my year was pretty easy and not that much different from other years.  We live on ten acres where every day I look down through the trees and along the coastline of the Sunshine Coast and am so thankful to live in such a gorgeous spot.  Not too difficult to isolate here - though I have missed that steady connection with family and friends.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

the red thread ...


A showing of recent works by

Susan Bowers, Fiona Dempster, Stephanie McLennan and Tory Richards.

A collection of prints, mixed media drawings and artists' books

The theme 'The Red Thread' has given us all the opportunity to explore in our own way what it means to have threads holding and connecting us to each other and the world especially at a time when the world has seemed very strange indeed.

Sometimes it takes an exhibition or in this case a 'showing' of work to motivate you back into the studio, and back into the blogging world where I am quite shocked to realise it has been years since I last posted to tracemarks.  I have missed it. Now that I am here over three years later, not only has the format for blogging changed by I think my work has too.  Certainly I have been exploring concepts that have seen me wearing my heart on my sleeves a little and I will be posting more on that, and on the works that I am submitting for show, at a later stage.

I am including below one of the images of a series of five large drawings - 900mm x 700mm - which have been done with the idea of spiritual connections.  The intangible forces that surround us and hold us. As is often the case in a small version of a large work the detail is lost.  As you may have read in previous posts of mine that I have not been able to work with intaglio etching and since then have been searching for a way to reproduce the plate tone I so loved with copper plate printing.  This is the closest I have come to realising that effect with drawing.


Friday, 6 July 2018

26/52 'my little black and white book' and 27/52 'tis not always black and white' ....

The two books are simple - no artistic content but are lovely playthings.  Both are small as they are part of the collection which will fit the perspex compartment box I have.  This one, pictured above and below, has a greybeard cover and I have used a zercal bookmaking paper with beautiful tengujo paper which I have printed with engraved plates.  The paper is so soft and delicious but very slippery to sew.

As is often the case, the photographs of objects can become a thing of beauty themselves and sometimes the photographs are way more beautiful than the object one is photographing.

This book is way more graphic than the first and is made up of remnants of etching proofs and rusted and then white ink printed papers.  I have also included some splattered papers and so the whole effect is more sculptural and graphic.

A digital play - just because I can!  The shadow reminds me of a butterfly.

catch up ..... three of my 52 books

23/52 'deep landscape - an inner journey'
24/52 'landscape scars'

I really enjoyed making these two books and in fact, once the project is over, these two books will probably be fixed open and framed.  Steve claimed the darker one and I am partial to the lighter version, so happily they will be visible upon our walls at some stage.  I very rarely do this as I am such a lover of the artist's book in its own right.  However, every now and then I like to think of the books fully revealed and visible.  I have been meaning to frame one of my magpie books as well so may do that at the same time.

The pages for both these books were made from left overs of the landscapes series I did for the exhibition at the Noosa Regional Art Gallery.  They are rich with texture and yet the colours and markings are very subtle.  The inspiration for this body of work came from flying over Lake Ayer after the wind had whipped up all the salt and it look almost like a coastal landscape.  I have also flown in helicopters over other parts of the Australian outback and those visual images of our land from an aerial perspective are my favourite.  The land is flattened and distinguishing features of the landscape often become mere marks on a flat plane.

 25/52 'longlines'

This book is incomplete but of all  the books made  thus far this year, this one has fed my imagination and so I see this as a mock up of various ideas which I wish to explore at some other time.  I will explore the idea of ancestry and various branches and endings, intertwinings and overlaps.  In fact I am contemplating make my first digital artist's book with this idea and will post on it should I ever bring my idea into reality.