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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The beard album

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The idea of miniature men with beards has consumed me for the last few weeks, beginning with the ones drawn on drafting film with a brush pen (see here). This book was conceived to be like a Victorian photo album, full of serious looking people sitting very still. These are serious looking men, some from the modern era, some from earlier days, with their only link being that they have beards. Their beards are clearly an important part of their identity, often worn with a swagger, and generally beautifully kept, trimmed and neat. The modern ones may even use beard balm – a product I have only recently come across.

The book is made as a concertina, with windows decorated with punched holes to surround each face. Each drawing was as crisp as I could make it. The ones inside are 25 x 25 mm and the one on the cover is a little larger, being 30 mm deep. They are drawn with graphite pencil. I do my initial drawings much larger, spilling out of an A4 sketchbook, then I scan them, reduce them to the size required then redraw from that.

The album pages are paper with a marbled texture to them, and the cover is red leather, with punched holes and gold thread stitched and woven around the aperture. The cover is very simply made, simply cut to size with a very sharp knife, the folds for the spine made with pressure from a bone folder pressed along the edges. The drawing for the front was taped in place, then a piece of the same paper as the concertina glued on top, then the concertina glued to the back cover. The black leather straps for closing the album are inserted through small slits cut in the spine of the book, and then wrap around to be tied at the back.

This album will be submitted for the miniature art exhibition which will be held in Sydney in May at Juniper Hall in Paddington.

Circle of Life collaboration

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Almost a year ago I embarked on an artistic adventure with three co-travellers. We didn’t know each other, but we all knew one another’s work through our blogs. Each of us was to make a book, roughly A5, with 12 pages and choose a theme. The first page was to be a page of shared images, then the next four double page spreads were to be filled by each of us, the final spread being shared, then the last page was for summing up.

As we each completed our own part, the books were posted on to the next person. Two of us are in Australia, myself in Sydney and Karen Bailey in Melbourne, and two in America, Cathe in Minnesota and Gale in Oregon. It was never intended to be rushed, we all needed time to think and plan, then there were interruptions caused by travel and illness, but now all four books are done. I am overwhelmed by the success of this small idea – four artists who did not know each other have become good friends. Everyone committed to these books with great respect for one another and dedication to making them as good as they could be. I think we all had doubts about our own contributions to the others’ books, no-one wanted to let anyone else down, but maybe this frisson added to the quality of the final outcomes.

To see the others, go to Karen Bailey Studio, Amaryllis Log (Cathe Jacobi), and Sticks, Stones and Paperstew (Gale Everett). Also, there are progress blog posts on my blog here for Karen’s book, here for Cathe’s book, and here for Gale’s book.

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This is the inside cover (the full cover is shown at the top, it was several etching and drypoint prints overlaid, with images inspired by nature, the paper printed on both sides), with more of my prints on the inside cover. Page one is imagery from all of us. Even though we have used different media and our styles are different, this page has a beautiful balance to it, with Gale’s budding cactus, my Christmas Bells in bud and flower, Cathe’s peony buds and Karen’s pumpkin seeds. All show the beginning of the circle of life.

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The first spread is my drawing, showing the Christmas Bells plant after the flowers have gone and the seed pod starts pushing through the dried petals. The imagery is exaggerated, but still with the essence of the plant.

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Next is Cathe’s peony flowers – so delicate they could float off the page.

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Now for Gale – these gorgeous exotic cactus flowers.

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The last shared page. Such different subject matter, but they all speak to one another across the page, from Gale’s delicate, withering cactus blossom, across to Cathe’s peony flower, redolent of the end of summer, with its hidden surprise of a frog below, to Karen’s autumn bounty of pumpkin, and my dry, withered seed pod.

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And the final page, where we each added our thoughts and inspirations for this book.

I can’t express how delighted I am with this book, the generous, considered contribution from each of the other artists. There was a great sense of trust between us. This is an adventure that will take me forwards, and remain a valued memory.

The last book – water

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The final book in the collaboration series came to me a week or so ago. The theme is water in all its variations. A little daunting for me, it is not a subject I have ever tackled, so required a fair bit of thought before I started to make marks in Gale’s book. I am the last contributor, and the work done by the other three artists, Gale, Cathe and Karen, is wonderful, exploring the theme in their own unique ways. Above is the front cover, created by Gale but added to by all of us – decoration on the strap by Karen, a title tag from Gale, H2O watery tag from Cathe, and a little jellyfish from me.

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Coloured pencil was my medium of choice, and maybe not a good choice as the paper is heavy, cold-pressed watercolour paper with a distinct texture, but once I had begun there was no going back! On the combined first page I added drips running down to Karen’s splash and Gale’s droplets on a leaf (Cathe will add her bit later).

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For my main page I decided to plunge under the water and explore the world of jellyfish – such wonderful, odd and beautiful creatures, delicate yet potential killers at the same time.

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The next combined page offered me a clear subject – clouds. Mine are top left, Gale’s top right with Cathe’s delicate watercolour bottom left and Karen’s rain falling on the bottom right.

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Gale’s glorious ocean started us all off. I think she has captured the flow and motion of the sea’s constant movement so beautifully.

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Cathe moved from the Pacific North West of Gale’s inspiration to France, giving us her elegant, beautifully drawn swan on translucent water.

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Continuing the travel theme, Karen’s painting took us to a serene lagoon in Bali, with a wonderful fleshy lotus flower.

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The final page, inside the back cover, gave us all an opportunity to say a little about our own inspirations and journey through this book.

The experiment is almost done – the four books will be soon making their ways back to the original maker of each. I have gained so much from this – I have been challenged, daunted, inspired and stretched in so many ways, and gained from the insights of each of the three others. So, thank you and kudos to Gale, Cathe and Karen for coming with me on the journey – there will be more!

The collections book

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Cathe’s book came to me a little while ago, and I couldn’t wait to get started on it. The theme is collections, and I have many, although mostly objects found on my travels – gum nuts, seed pods, shells, skulls and so on. The big decision was what to include. Due to other pressing commitments, I wasn’t able to start straightaway, but that did give me more thinking time. Cathe and Gale had already done their part and their work was beautiful. It’s a little intimidating, that blank page, knowing that the work needs to measure up, and no-one wants to spoil someone else’s book!

In the end, instead of drawing some of the objects on my desk I decided to use my ephemeral collections – that is, objects I have collected but no longer have, as they have returned to the earth. So, a sprig of leaves found in Orange, NSW, a bunch of senna pods with their flowers that were found in Bladensburg National Park in Western Queensland, a grasshopper that ended up on the grille of our car after driving through a dense cloud of them in western New South Wales, near the Weddin Ranges (where the bushranger Ben Hall had a cave, but that’s another story), parrot feathers from Bourke. Then there was a cicada shell found in the Bald Rock National Park on the New South Wales-Queensland border, and a beautiful iridescent beetle from the Victorian High Country.

The reason I could use these images is that they are all from my travel sketchbooks, with notes of where each was found. Wherever I go I draw what I find around me, especially things that won’t last – flowers, leaves, insects. I take things with me too – the yabbie claws on the first shared page I still have, but they quickly lose the beautiful rich colours that they start with. Most of these are completely white now.

So you could say these are not conventional collections!

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This is the cover of Cathe’s book – made with hand-made paper from Thailand and tied with a gros grain ribbon. Cathe has added some of her collectibles which gently swing around the book – feathers, seeds and shells. For more details about Cathe’s process with book, go here.

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The first page was one we all add to – Cathe painted the jar and brushes, Gale added marbles and I have added a couple of galah feathers.

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The first spread is also a joint effort – Cathe painted rocks and a feather, Gale contributed the skulls and I did the yabbie claws – the space left is for Karen, who will get the book next.

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This is Cathe’s page – it is beautiful, she has a very light but sure touch with watercolour and a wonderful design sense, this page is very satisfying to look at. The winding hand written labels add to the charm of it.

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Gale’s page has intriguing objects, every one requires a closer look, she has chosen objects with wonderful shape and form which show off her great drawing skills. The composition of this page is a delight. For more of her work go here.

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This is the last page – Cathe has drawn a lovely old pair of shears, and we each add some little notes about the media we have used. Now Karen (for more of her work see here) will receive this book and I will receive Gale’s book from her to do my page.

We are getting near the end of this wonderful experiment, and I will miss it a great deal. But maybe there is something new we can do together … there will be discussions!