Rogues Gallery – a miniature handmade book

 

Rogues_book_final_web

The mug-shot drawings on cigarette papers eventually came together as a miniature book, to be exhibited in the Australian Society of Miniature Art Annual Awards. To my delight it was awarded First Prize in the 3D and Handmade Books section. The judge’s comment was ‘This book of mug shots perfectly invokes a time and idea. No doubt they are all called Bugsy or Shorty or Babyface’.

The book came together over a period of time, and as is generally the case in projects like this, didn’t always conform to my intentions, several changes of direction and approach were required, which was fine, because it meant it took on a natural character that developed from the evolution.

The cigarette papers were the starting point, and became an appropriate medium to depict the strong faces inspired by the mug shots from the Police and Justice Museum in Sydney. There is more about them in my previous post which you can see here.

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After much thinking and experimenting, I decided to present the 12 drawings in small frames, using a dirty-brown lightweight card and keeping them open from both sides, so that each image was visible from front and back. I rubbed black and brown pencil around the edges of each frame to give them a grubby, well-worn look. I wanted to give the impression of a small book that one of these men may have kept in his pocket – maybe to remind him of friends long gone, or for more sinister reasons, maybe revenge or retribution.

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The next step was to put the images together. I decided on a flag book method – you can see the concertina-folded black paper in the photo above. One fold for each framed image was made in a sheet 38 x 6 cm, each fold 1 cm in depth, with a 6 x 7 cm panel left at each end to make the basis for the cover. Then came the really tricky bit of placing the drawings inside the frames, folding and gluing, then gluing each frame to the front edge of a concertina fold.

Then came the cover – several mis-steps here. First I put a dark-brown leather cover on, but as the glue dried it curled the covers, not a good look. So, I found an off-cut from an etching I had done some time ago which just had some patterning and tone on, and drew another face directly on this, then hand-lettered the title. The back cover just had another piece of black card attached to strengthen it.

 

The final element was the slip case for the book to go in. I made this from another etching off-cut, drew another rogue and the title on a cigarette paper and glued it on. You can see it in the picture below, in the gallery – I forgot to photograph it before it was exhibited, so that is the best pic I have.

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I had a total of four works in the exhibition: a drawing of three of the convicts on complete cigarette papers, this time full torsos, the three placed together in one frame, attached just by the glued edge of each paper, so they fluttered a little. The next was another drawing, coloured pencil on drafting film of cherries in a bowl and the last was a piano key, painted in oil – for this I was given a Commended, so all up this has been a very good exhibition for me!

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27 thoughts on “Rogues Gallery – a miniature handmade book

  1. What a process, eh! And when I saw the cover of the book, the very first thing I noticed was the ‘dirtiness’ of it so I’m glad you brought that up. Of course it is pretend dirt – but very effective indeed in adding a sense of aged atmosphere.
    I like the judge’s comment about the supposed names of these guys, “Bugsy or Shorty or Babyface”. That made me laugh. (Great to see a judge with a sense of humour.)
    Being you, there had to be something sinister – ie the comment about why one of these guys might be carrying this little book around in his pocket. Get even.
    Fantastic, Anna. So inspiring. So utterly different. I’m always delighted with the way your creative mind works…(not like anybody else’s that I know).

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    1. The judge was very good, interested, conscientious and thoughtful in his choices, and yes, with a sense of humour! I’m so glad you like this piece – I like to have a story happening, it somehow adds to my own experience of the piece, and hopefully that transmits to the viewers too. The dirt and sinister qualities were important in the gradual development of the idea. For me, the IDEA is a fundamental element to making the artwork come to life. Thank you so much Julie!

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    1. Thanks Sue – the patina of age was an important part, I knew it need to be there. If the leather covers had worked, I was intending to rough them up and make them shaggy and worn, as if the book had been knocking around deep in a pocket somewhere …

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  2. Fascinating. I like the idea of one of the men carrying it in his pocket, for who knows what purpose – and it getting grubby through handling (again, who was handling it, and where, and how, and why?) A beautiful thing, and magical.

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  3. Congratulations Anna, such a great back story to the art work and so many parts to it, each so carefully thought out. I also like the three portraits on the cigarette paper, very cleaver mounting. Your process is so interesting as you are never sure where your art will end up. Karen

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    1. You are right, I’m never sure where my projects will end up! For me, it just adds to the pleasure of watching something bring itself to life. I’m glad you like the three (I called them ‘Three Smart Rogues’, in that era men were always well-dressed, three-piece suit and tie!). They came along a bit after the ones in the book as I decided I wanted to show more of them than just their faces.

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  4. The book looks wonderful and it’s great to hear the story behind the construction. I imagine that glueing those cigarette papers must have needed a great deal of patience. I love the idea of a book of retribution.

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    1. Thanks Anne – gluing the papers was tricky, they were a bit crumpled already, I had deliberately not flattened them, but the glue made them cockle too … all part of the process I guess, I’m learning with every step! So pleased you like the idea of the back story.

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