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.

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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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Odds and ends at the end of the year

Over the last few weeks I have been working on a range of different artworks, in a somewhat disjointed way. I have had the (totally delightful) distraction of the unexpectedly early arrival of my first grandchild, a little girl called Lumi. She was tiny, but is thriving, clearly a determined individual! And now the lead-up to Christmas provides other distractions.

On one day last week I heard that I had made two sales, very different artworks in different places. One was a painting, sold through Bluethumb, an online gallery. I have had work there for about a year and a half and had previously sold two paintings to the same buyer, but that was all, so this was a nice surprise. The other sale was one of my miniature hand-made books which was in an end of year group show, this too was quite unexpected. Neither work is new, but I had faith in them both, so it is good to know people liked them! The painting is called ‘Enigma’ and is oil on board and the book is called ‘Sleeping Beauty in Short, a book in a box’.

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Etching is a print medium I have always loved, but have done little of in recent years. It is time-consuming and heavy on equipment, so when a printmaker friend who is also a magnificent teacher said she was going to conduct two mentor workshops in using aluminium plates (as opposed to copper or zinc which I have used in the past) I seized the opportunity. We had a small group of wonderful artists, it was an enormously pleasurable experience and I was reminded of the scope within etching, and how much I enjoy it. There are a few fundamental differences with using aluminium – the acid for etching is very gentle, and easily accessible from any hardware store, and there is no need to go through the complexities of applying aquatint in order to create tones, as when areas of the aluminium are left exposed in the acid, it bites leaving a texture on the plate. The darkness of the tone can be controlled by how long the plate is left in the acid – it can be pulled out and blockout applied to the areas to be kept lighter. The downside is that it can be unpredictable, and it is more difficult to obtain the clear, fine lines that are possible on copper or zinc, but this unpredictability is what I am hoping to exploit when I make more plates next year. The first image below was comparatively controlled, the second one is the same size (10 x 15 cm) and was more experimental in the way I blocked out areas, then wiped off bits of the blockout in an almost random way.

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Drawing into my monoprints is continuing – a never-ending source of surprise and pleasure! The image below is a small part (about 20 x 20 cm) of a larger piece, with a ghost mono print underneath, worked into with coloured pencils. I am now thinking of simply taking the elements that work from these larger pieces and treating them as small finished works. I haven’t come up with a title for this one, so any suggestions welcomed!

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I am so grateful for the continuing support from the people who visit this blog, and who follow me on Instagram and Facebook. So many developments and new directions have come from the intelligent and thoughtful comments that you go to the trouble to make. I am constantly inspired by seeing the work of artists I follow too, so thank you, have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas, and looking forward to an inspired and productive New Year!

Monotype miniature book

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With a miniature art exhibition coming up, I decided to continue making monotypes, using the same approach I took in making larger works to make some miniatures. Using smaller stencils and a similar colour palette, I made a set of 16 prints, each 7 x 11 cm. Two of them happily stood alone, so I have framed them, and I decided I would like to make a miniature book out of some of the others. As usual, I went through a number of ideas and approaches before I decided on a concertina. I wanted to keep the torn edges of each print, so made a backing  from a drypoint print, printed in ochre on brown paper (see below), then folded and glued 8 of the prints down. The imagery suggested to me the views you see in Central Australia – bright blue skies, red dirt and huge monolithic rock formations, so I have called it ‘Mapping the Road from East to West’. Once the book was made, I felt it needed more depth and intensity, so with some trepidation decided to overprint it using the drypoint plate that made the texture on the back. If it hadn’t worked, I would have had to abandon the whole thing, but all was well, and I think it has enhanced the imagery, and the sense of Central Australia.

Once the book was complete I made a tag to contain all the details (the colophon), then had to decide on how it would be held together, whether a box, or a tie of some kind. The final solution was to make a slip cover, open at both ends, like the cover on a box of matches, from two of the remaining prints.

The title of the exhibition is East Meets West in Miniature – this is open to broad interpretation, so I decided to make it where East meets West in Central Australia.

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The individual prints
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The book with slip cover. The colophon tag is just visible underneath.

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The back
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The book in its case, with the colophon
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The two individuals before they were framed.

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.

Connections – a concertina book

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Time to reflect, absorb, think – this is a key ingredient in developing ideas. The drawings that I have been working on over the last few months based on blots made from Liquid Pencil are moving into the next stage of development. From the beginning I had an instinct that they wouldn’t feel finished as framed artworks. I have framed one and realise that it is something that should be examined closely, if looked at from across a room it says nothing at all, the delicacy of marks are lost.

The artwork demands an intimacy that largeness of scale cannot provide, so I decided to take elements of the drawings to concentrate on. First I started with the drawing I called ‘Blot Series No 4’, see here for details. I made a 10 x 10 cm mask to choose elements from the drawing that had an integrity of their own. I found 5 pieces, cut them out and, once I had chosen the arrangement and rotation of them, glued them lightly to a length of heavy watercolour paper which I had folded into a concertina. The next step was extrapolating some of the marks at the edges of each piece, extending and developing them across the support to link the individual pieces. I may extend this piece with more panels.

The concertina is 14 cm high and 70 cm long, each panel being 14 x 14 cm.

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Rogues Gallery – a miniature handmade book

 

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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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