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.

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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A rogues gallery

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In the Police and Justice Museum in Sydney there is an array of mug shots of criminals from the early part of the 20th century. These faces each tell a story, whether it is of violence, or petty crime or a life lived in poverty and desperation. Each is unique and powerful. I have used some of those faces as a loose reference for these drawings, trying to get a little insight into the characters behind the faces, choosing men in hats as being typical of their era.

The drawings are in graphite on cigarette papers cut in half, so are very small, about 3.5 cm square. The cigarette papers seemed like an appropriate surface, as something that would have been very familiar to these men. It wasn’t easy to work on, very flimsy, so the drawings are a little scratchy. I have kept the glued edge on the left hand side of each drawing, and will probably make use of it when putting them together to make a book or album of some kind, I haven’t quite decided yet what it will look like, but with another miniature exhibition coming up in August I will need to make some decisions fairly quickly. I will do another post when the final is created! Below are the individual drawings.

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.

Bearded men in miniature

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The impetus behind these drawings was an upcoming miniature exhibition. The title is “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” and it will be held in Juniper Hall, a beautiful historic house on Oxford Street in the centre of Sydney. Oxford Street and Paddington in general is an area where the young men you see are frequently beautifully turned out, with immaculate, chiselled beards. When I started thinking about subject matter, I realised that if they were simply reclothed in the outfits of a bygone era, they could easily travel back in time a hundred years and no-one would bat an eyelid, yet still be part of today, and even tomorrow.

The more references I found, the more fun it became – I did large, loose drawings, not trying to be too literal, then scaled them down and redrew them till I was satisfied with the character that emerged. Only one is intended to represent a real person and that is the one at top right (above), who is based on an old photo of Ned Kelly, one of Australia’s most notorious bushrangers.

Three of them will be framed and submitted for the exhibition – in the main image, the top left (1916), bottom left (2016) and probably the top middle for 2116, but I’m not quite sure about that yet. I thought about adding colour, but in the end have pretty much decided to leave them black and white … I think … (Click on the images below to see more detail.)

The next development of the idea is to draw them again very large, bigger than life size, with a lot of detail, and maybe let them develop into something more abstract.

I used a Pentel brush pen, with permanent ink, on drafting film. It glided on beautifully, very satisfying to use.

Miniatures with a Japanese flavour

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The next miniature exhibition is approaching, so I have been gathering the works I intend to submit. I can put in two framed works and two three-dimensional works – one of the 3D works is in the miniature awards exhibition at the moment, but can be exhibited again as the two galleries are not close together.

The exhibition is called ‘A Brush with Japan’ so all the works will be inspired by Japan or Japanese gardens and will be held at the Gosford Regional Gallery. The gallery has a long cultural connection to Japan, and is surrounded by the Edogawa Garden which is laid out in the Japanese horticultural style.

My works are not Japanese in any literal sense, more representing my feelings and impressions of Japan. These ideas have suffused most of the work I have done this year. Above is my favourite piece, more of the piano keys. I have now painted eight or nine of these, and I have selected the three above to work together in one frame. The title for these is ‘Three Obi’, and I am very grateful to my blogging friend Julie Podstolski for suggesting it. Julie has a long and deep interest in all things Japanese – see her amazing drawings here.

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The second framed work I made when I was experimenting with encaustic earlier this year. The support is Ampersand Gessobord, and there are layers of oil paint, Neocolors 2 – which are water-soluble oil pastels – and wax. The layers are built up and scraped back to reveal colours hidden below, a process of discovery and surprise. To me it suggested windswept snowfields, so that became the title.

This three dimensional work has been shown on this blog before, but a little more work has been done to it, just general tidying up and refining. I have another wonderful blogging friend, Poppytump, to thank for the title of this one, ‘The Hidden Secrets of the Geisha’. She came up with it when I last showed this, and to me it sums it up perfectly. There are little objects hidden within each part, and these are all stored away in the shelves. For some of Poppytump’s wonderful photos, sketches and poetic words, see here.

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The last piece is ‘Architecture in Japan’ which I wrote about in my last blog, made from interlocking pieces of prints.

The works will be submitted at the end of this month, then I will be off on a long camping trip. I will be taking my sketchbook and my camera, so will do blog posts as and when I can. So please come along for the ride!

Miniature art awards exhibition

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Last Friday was the opening night of the Australian Society of Miniature Art annual awards exhibition. The society is based in New South Wales, but we have members from all over Australia. There are generally two exhibitions a year, one for members only which is held in a different gallery each time, and the awards exhibition which is open to non-members.

This year there were 151 works in seven different categories – drawing, watercolour/gouache, printmaking, oil, acrylic, mixed media and 3D and handmade books. The judge, who changes every year, was Cherry Hood, an Australian artist who is well-known for her large scale portraits in watercolour. Judging is a big job – each section plus ‘Most Innovative Work’, ‘Best Traditional Work’, a special award that has a different focus each year, this time was for a work depicting the human form, ‘Most Imaginative Drawing’, and of course ‘Best in Show’.

I submitted four works, all of which were accepted. Two in drawing, one 3D and one – the piano key I have shown before – in oil. To my delight I was awarded a Highly Commended for the piano key. The judge’s comment was ‘An extraordinary concept – oil paint on a piano key. Very enticing and exquisite.’

At the top is one of my drawing entries, which I called Convict No 4. It is done on scratchbord, which is a board covered with black paint over a white chalky surface, so I create the image by scratching into the surface, revealing the white. Thinking in reverse is tricky at first, but becomes second nature after a while. I started this one a long time ago, and kept coming back to it, getting a bit braver all the time, taking off more of the surface. He is part of a series of Victorian convicts in miniature – you can see more here that were done in pencil.  He is 6 x 8.5 cm.

The second drawing is called ‘The Invisible Man’. It is a commentary on how tattoos sometimes seem to take over the entire person, and become more anonymous over time. It is 9 x 8 cm, drawn with liquid pencil, graphite and coloured pencil. I drew the silhouette of the body builder, then placed it randomly over the previously prepared background to create the man’s body.

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My 3D work is intended to also go into the Japanese-themed miniature exhibition in August, so I am hoping it doesn’t sell in this exhibition! It is a miniature version of a larger work I did earlier this year, but using different original prints, cut up and assembled into a structure of interlocking panels that suggested Japanese architecture to me, so I have called it Architecture in Japan. It is 14 cm tall.

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