Next collaboration book – Garden Life

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The international collaboration is moving on another step. I received Karen’s concertina book from Melbourne about a month ago and have now completed my contribution, so today will be sending the book on its way to Rebecca in Sweden. From there it will go to Gale in Oregon, then Cathe in Minnesota. (Click on their names for links to their blogs. All of us except Gale are also on Instagram at Anna, Karen, Rebecca and Cathe.)

Karen’s theme was Garden Life, which encompasses all kinds of plants, animals, birds and insects, but I decided to stick with the Bird of Paradise flower which was in full flower at the time I was looking for inspiration around the garden.

This plant is huge and very old, it was well-established when we moved to this house 35 years ago, so is probably over 40 years old, and it dominates the front garden. I feel it has been a constant companion for that time, watching over us, seeing our girls grow from babies to mothers themselves, so it is significant, as well as being exotic and beautiful. The seedheads have a form that fascinates me too, see here and here for recent drawings. I did this drawing in coloured pencil.

Karen has done an amazing amount of work on this book, making not only a front page cover but a box as well. It is created in her typical style, strong, beautiful forms and rich colours, it is a real pleasure to look at!

So now it will be heading towards Sweden for Rebecca to add her hand to the book! I can’t wait to see what is next!

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The front of the box
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Front cover
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Karen’s spread
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My spread
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Collaborating across the world

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Minnesota, Oregon, Stockholm, Melbourne and Sydney – five artists who have never met are collaborating across the world on a set of handmade books. In 2015 four of us collaborated on handmade books, and we overcame distance, trepidation and time to have a hugely successful result, and forged firm friendships in the process. So, we have decided to do it again, and this time invited one more artist, Rebecca from Stockholm to join us.

To make it a little different, this time each of us is making a concertina book, with a double page for each person, encased in a cover of our choice. The image on each spread will spill just a little on to the following one, for the next person to incorporate into their drawing or painting. The closed books will be approximately A5 in size, 210 x 150 mm, and the paper weight around 300 gsm, heavy enough to take whatever medium we apply. After a couple of initial hiccups, where we found some papers simply collapsed on the fold when watercolour was applied, we have all taken different approaches to solving this, reinforcing the back of the folds, or changing paper. I have decided to join the pages at the end when the book finally comes back to me, so have supplied the other artists with sheets of unfolded paper to work on.

We each chose our own theme for our book, but agreed to keep the themes within the realm of plants or animals (I think dogs will feature largely as I am the only non-dog owner among us, but I like to draw dogs so that will not be a problem!) My title is ‘Eat Me!’, and will be portraying any kind of edible plants, in any way that works! The title from Cathe in Minnesota is ‘A Dog’s Life’, Gale from Oregon has chosen ‘Yard Friends’, Rebecca from Stockholm is taking us on ‘A Walk in the Woods with a Friend’ and Karen in Melbourne is featuring ‘Garden Life’. All these titles conjure up so many ideas, I’m looking forward to them all. Karen’s book is with me, ready and waiting for the first mark. We each start our own books, then post them on to the next person, who will do her page, then send them on again, until they finally return to the instigator.

The cover of my book is made from a monotype print that I made just recently, it felt as though the imagery spoke to the idea of edible plants. The drawing was inspired by the display on a stall at London’s Borough Market, a treasure trove of interesting food, I loved the different shapes of the mushroom varieties, with the big red chili on top. It is mainly graphite pencil, but highlights of coloured pencil were added to enhance certain areas.

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To see the works as they progress, all of us (except Gale) are on Instagram: karenbaileystudio, cathejacobi, rebeccacaryandersonart, and me anna_warren_portfolio, Gale is at sticksstonesnpaperstew here on WordPress.

Strelitzia seedhead – large

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The dry Strelitzia seedhead offers me lots of opportunities to explore its wonderful intricate and messy form. This drawing follows on from the smaller one I did recently (see here for images). I have used a different angle, more front on, and enlarged it by about 2, maybe 3, times. The drawing is relatively faithful to the actual object, but I couldn’t resist exaggerating some of the tendrils and dried petals, they were asking to be taken on a journey. I love the abstract qualities of this seedhead, and the eccentricity of it. The glossy black seeds are embedded in bright orange fluff, the only colour apart form the tones of brown.

The decision to add colour was made at the beginning, but its something I still feel unsure of – there are hints of brown in some of the shadows, but the main colour is in the fluff surrounding the seeds. Now I am wondering whether this was a good idea, I think it was, but maybe the colour should be more intense … what I don’t want is for it to look gimmicky, the colour should be a natural addition, not something that is noticeable for its oddity. I will be interested to hear opinions on this! Below is a photo of the drawing on my desk before I added the colour, and a detail while the drawing was coming together.

I used 2B and 8B graphite pencils and a 2B 2mm clutch pencil, which I can sharpen to a needle sharp point. The image is about 32 cm wide and 38 cm deep.

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The Kimberley in July, Part 2

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Twelve drawings are now complete, so the next stage will be working out how to put them together in a book. I think it will be a concertina, as this gives the opportunity to see the sequence of the images.

See the previous post (here) for more background to where the imagery for these postcard-sized drawings comes from. Below are the final six.

The Kimberley in July

For almost 20 years we have travelled through Australia, top to bottom, all around and through the middle. To the wild and remote places that most people never go. On every journey I take a sketchbook, waterproof pens and a travel watercolour set and I document our journey, in words and in drawings. The drawings are mostly of the objects I find, feathers, shells, leaves, bones, occasionally a bit of landscape. I take photos too, but it is the sketchbooks that really keep the memories fresh.

The drawings are also a resource for works that I create later. I redraw loosely from my original drawings, sometimes altering them a little to suit my new purposes, but the essence remains. My present project is using drawings from a 2009 trip that went up through the centre of Australia, through the Kimberley, down the Western Australia coast and home to New South Wales via the Nullarbor Plain between July and September.

I cut sheets of watercolour paper to postcard-sized rectangles 150 x 105 mm and started, choosing images that worked with the shape, and adding the handwritten notes that I put in my sketchbook. The intention is to make these into a book, possibly a concertina that will show the progression of images, but that will evolve later. I’m not sure how many drawing I will do either … so far I have completed 6 and one is in its pen and ink stage, before I add the colour. I have included it to show how they begin.

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Deconstructing strelitzia

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The Bird of Paradise plant, or Strelitzia Regina, is a strong, powerful plant, with long, paddle shaped leaves and exotic flowers that resemble a bird’s head. When the flowers finish, they dry out and swell, twist and split to reveal glossy black seeds sitting in a bed of bright orange fluff. The seed heads are a bit like an alien being, complex and elaborate. Irresistible to draw.

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There is so much going on in the seed head it isn’t necessary to draw it all, I refine the messiest parts to glean the essence of the plant, and sometimes exaggerate the twists just a little … I decided to work only in monochrome because I can get a better feel for the detail, and also remove myself a little from reality.

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This was drawn with just an HB and a 2B graphite pencil, on Arches watercolour paper. The image is 36 x 23 cm.

A small PS – the drawing in my post in November, ‘In the Air’, has been accepted into the Adelaide Perry Drawing Prize, here in Sydney. It is one of the most prestigious drawing prizes in Australia, and it has been an ambition of mine for a number of years to get a work in. This is my third attempt. These prizes are very much a lottery – this time 43 works have been selected out of almost 500 submitted, so clearly there will be many good works that didn’t get in, but somehow my drawing chimed with the judge. I am ECSTATIC!!

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Miniature sketchbook

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The sketches I made on my recent trip to Tasmania have proved a valuable resource for further artwork – I made a large drawing using some of the elements (see here) and now have made a miniature version of my sketchbook.

In creating this miniature book, I scanned and reduced the pages from the sketchbook, then re-arranged the drawings to suit a small format, going from an A4 sketchbook down to pages that are 10.5 x 9 cm. All the drawings were redone from scratch, I felt if I traced the forms I would lose the original loose quality of them, and the painting was often reinterpreted too.

Once the drawings were done and the labels added, I glued the panels onto a long strip of mulberry paper, a thin but strong Japanese paper which has small pieces of organic material embedded in it, which felt like a nice accompaniment to drawings of natural objects. The front and back covers were made of card with mulberry paper pasted on, and the decorative corners and the panel beneath the title plate were made from offcuts from my recent prints.

This little book, along with the portraits in my previous post, and a small oil painting will be submitted to the Annual Awards exhibition of the Australian Society of Miniature Art. The exhibition is not until June, but I wanted to have the work complete well in advance.