It’s been a tough week. One friend died. Another is on hospice. I’ve also completed two commissions for holiday gifts and delivered them. So my bandwidth for writing this blog barely registers on the scales. Please forgive me. I’m still playing in my sketchbooks I just find it is easier (and soothing) to actually *be* creative than it is to talk *about* being creative.
A very happy highlight this week was when I was asked to sign books for two twin 4yr old fans of my work!
They had come over to my studio to see this book several times while I was making it! (Their grandparents live nextdoor) The kids are both quite helpful editors! The first time they saw my original artwork in progress I had done perhaps half of the book. I read some of the poems out loud to them. They seemed pleased! However there were blank pages. They pointed at the blank spots. “You’ll do a something here right? And here, and here, and here? A something?” I said that I would. They came back over the very next day. “Did you finish our book yet?”. I explained that these things take time to do, sometimes months, but that I was working as fast as I could. A month or so later they came over for a visit. “Did you finish our book yet?” This time I said that I almost had and would they like to see it? They looked at it with me and took turns very gently holding my original book (it’s the size of a credit card) and opening it carefully. The covers were still blank at that time. “You’ll do a something here right?” I said yes, and that it would become an ebook and a printed book too so even after I finished the original book covers there was still work to do before it was ready. “But there will be a something everywhere right?” They asked. I said yes.
Here below is a look at the printed book Patchwork Poems. It’s much larger, 8 x 11 inches, than my original artist book which is 2 x 3 inches. As per both of my 4yr old editor’s suggestion I made absolutely sure there is “a something” on every page! The magazine style format lets me do that so that’s one of the reasons this book is so much bigger than the original artwork.
Thank you in advance for sharing any of the above Patchwork Poems related links. Thank you most of all for staying as healthy and as happy as possible. I’m glad and grateful to you for reading my work and for your comments!
Recently a friend asked if I had made a book about my hearing experiences. Yes! In 2003 I made a one-of-a-kind book titled “Book Of Days And Ears”. It measures 3 inches tall 6 inches wide and is one inch thick. When fully opened it is a smidge more than 12 inches wide. The leather covers and the pages are hand sewn together with a Coptic stitch. This book binding style allows for page expansion, letting me sew additional elements into the binding and do thick collage applications on the pages themselves while still enabling the book to close.
Book of Days and Ears begins July 31 2003 and ends Oct 10 2003. It is a diary or journal style book with the date stamped on each entry. The entire book took place when we lived in Oklahoma and the main content, the overall “plot”, of the book is dealing with my hearing aid issues over the span of 3 months, trying to contact the hearing aid company and fussing with the mean dragon lady who worked there. The other staff were nice (nicer than others I’d encountered in Oklahoma) but during visits I had to get past dragon lady first. Here are just some of those pages.
Part of how I dealt with the hearing issue saga was through various art projects which I recorded in my book: paper marbleling sessions of which I sewed samples into the binding, letterpress and block printing project samples were glued onto the pages, art exhibits were documented by collaging parts of the event announcement on a page or actually sewing the event flyer into the binding. Here are a few of the art project related pages.
Of course in and amongst the pages shared above there are visits with friends, the death of a mentor/friend (the book artist and author Shereen LaPlantz), visits to bookstores and restaurants. And board games like backgammon which are ways to interconnect with people that don’t rely solely on the spoken/heard word. Here are a very few examples of this kind of page entry.
Here’s a video flip through of Book of Days and Ears https://youtu.be/2It3Vjl_Eao and me talking about it. You can see some book pages not pictured above. Did I mention that I talk about the book in the video? No, I couldn’t hear myself talking. I showed the video to my wife for sound checking prior to putting it on YouTube. Brave and cheeky of me eh? 😆😁
Fast forward away from 2003 Oklahoma to present day 2022 in Washington state and as I wrote last post… my current hearing aids stopped working and I visited a local hearing aid center, Vancouver Hearing Aid Center. Things are vastly better now: there is a button and a window in the hearing testing area, there are zero dragon ladies to deal with (Wow! An absence of mean dragons!!!), my supportive spouse is allowed to be with me and clear time tables, contact information etc details are given in written form! It’s almost as if they recognize that their clients might not hear well! Imagine that?! Anyway, I am still profoundly deaf just as I was in 2003 and as I was at age 8 see the hearing test chart below.
My Odditerrarium exhibit is humming along nicely at the Caplan Art Designs Gallery! This week was another busy week and I’m grateful to have a Gallery collaborator who helps keep things going in many ways including with posts like this! What a nice way to show the pets that inspired the portraits in my exhibit!
Since I knew this week would be another busy one I carefully carved out some time to sketch. Because I’ve discovered I enjoy sharing step-by-step how I create my sketches I documented my sketchbook session and posted it here on my email newsletter. In the post I show the art supplies (like the NIL-TECH watercolor pencil set) and how I use them as well as how I got the idea for my sketch.
As you know from earlier posts I’ve been working on a new illustrated poetry book for Storyberries.com. Knowing I wouldn’t have much time to work I did “need to let it dry” kinds of tasks: I spray-fixed the pages and glued the still-raw boards for the book covers. In the last photo you see the small credit card sized book just before I set it up interlaced with wax paper and paperweights to dry while life happens.
Then a wonderful visit happened over three days with family! There were two college soccer games to attend in support of one family member. We ate in a number of locally owned restaurants. We went for a hike in a park. We played games of dominos well into the night. I didn’t photograph everything and I never managed to get everyone in the photos at the same time but this photo below was the most successful.
One family member was on the field being a goalie. Other family members were along sidelines taking photos of the action on the field. There were so many reasons we were seldom in the same places at the same time for a family photo. The games were active occasions!
The outdoor soccer games were also unseasonably warm and sunny, for the Pacific Northwest, as you can see below.
I wear two high powered hearing aids and have since I was 8 years old. My right ear is a bit better at hearing with hearing aids than my left one. I know well from past experiences that hearing aids are sensitive to heat, moisture and interference by hats – among many other things – so I try to be careful. I even remove my hearing aids before I use spray-fix on my art projects just in case.
Well, during the first soccer game I was enjoying listening to family members and the noisy hubbub of the game when suddenly everything went quiet as if a switch turned the sound off. My right ear was completely silent and I could barely hear, with the hearing aid in my left ear, the loud drums and shouting from the crowd. Immediately I told the family member who was talking to me that something had happened to my hearing aid. I told my wife too and excused myself to go to the car to see if I could replace a battery, adjust a setting that was knocked off by my hat or do something and get my hearing aid back on again. No such luck.
So I went back to the stadium and told my family that I’d be more deaf than usual the rest of the day. My hearing issue was no problem for anyone else, some sign language, repeating things patiently, and my lip reading skills could compensate. It was me that had a problem. In such scenarios I have FOMO, a Fear Of Missing Out. My family loves me and includes me in everything- I can trust and rely on that – it’s that they are all such good storytellers. They’re good storytellers in the literary sense of building suspense using nuances of wordplay, of voice tones and inflections, of playing shared family knowledge like a violin (in kind, gentle ways) while building towards a punchline. To miss some of the words or sentences means a high probability of missing the joke! If you know me at all you know how I love a good story so I had a serious case of FOMO!!! I didn’t want to miss any clever turn of phrase that would be said!
To cope with the FOMO I did my best to focus on the bigger picture of just enjoying their physical presence and to appreciate the things I did hear and let the rest go…and to just trust myself and them! I did my best to “catch the conversational drift” and add related stories of my own now and then. I tried to be as much a full participant as possible. It was hard at first to keep my FOMO from dropping down like a barricade between us but I leaned on trusting myself and everyone else. I imagined the conversation was a happy-accident style painting where an artist just trusts the creative process. I reminded myself that I like surrealism and nonsensical poetry – that I would be fine with things not being comprehensible. I recalled the art college essays I wrote about the artists John Cage, Rene Magritte, Joseph Cornell and Ray Johnson. I also remembered reading about Surrealism and Dadaist poetry and storytelling in addition to the art styles.
Later that day when we had dinner and as the evening cooled off my right hearing aid fluttered to a little more life. Not back to it’s normal power but I was glad of a wee bit more sound. After we were home I got out the hearing aid instructions and fiddled with the settings. During breakfast the next morning I fiddled with the settings some more and the second game day had a bit more – not normal but better- hearing in it. Still I practiced “just appreciating what I did hear” and “just trusting and loving”.
Here are some photos from the second soccer game of people I was just loving and trusting.
Our family soccer goalie is in the middle behind the fence. The 4 others are also family members.
And I found myself just enjoying our meals together and didn’t take photos. Except for this one at happy hour.
Stories got told over our domino games we had at our house till after midnight! In our quiet house I heard a bit more of the stories but it’s obvious that these hearing aids need repair! Will visit the hearing aid repair place asap!
So I learned this week that it really is true that “A little nonsense now and then is valued by the wisest people”, that art can help – even when it’s memories of art history essay papers, and also that just loving and trusting can lead to some of the happiest of experiences! What a great time I had with family!!!!
I hope your week is filled with love, trust and happiness too! See you next Monday.
My Odditerrarium fine art exhibit opens this Thursday Oct 6 from 6 to 8 pm at Caplan Art Designs! It’s been fun to think so much about what dogs and cats might think about! I hope others are amused too.
I’ve enjoyed titling paintings in ways that refer to aspects of mental life. Sometimes, like this painting below, I’ve been rather straightforward. This painting is titled “Intellect”.
Here’s a look at the exhibit in the process of going up on the wall at Caplan Art Designs. The gallery kindly sent me these photos. You can see more about my entire series here on my portfolio and I’m still very proud of the nonsense poem book related to my exhibit! Yes, copies of my book will be available at the Gallery and also available online here – with a full preview of the entire book too.
On another gallery wall there are 3 of my other paintings from other series.
Here’s a kid looking at one of my paintings before it got moved to a different place in the Gallery.
On my email newsletter recently I shared a few of the sketchbook pages where I’d thought, with a pen in hand, about thinking.
Over on NIL-TECH they wrote a really nice thing about my currently in progress drawing marathon…please click here to see it for yourself. It’s so nice! <blushing>
Progress has also been happening steadily on my 3d 8 inch cube that I mentioned in my last post.
Progress too this week on the illustrations I’m doing for a cookbook by Chef Kim Mahan. I propped a spoon on a small bowl so I could draw it properly.
If you saw the above Reel then you’ll recognize the progress I’ve made in the photos below.
If you’re wondering how I’m managing so many projects at one time: I have 3 work stations in my studio. Each project has it’s own area with an art supply taboret between them with my color palettes and brushes sorted for each project. This way the projects and the supplies I’m using for each one are always ready. I’ll take turns working in short bursts almost daily on each project until they’re finished.
My sketchbooks and the art supplies I use for them are much more portable and roam with me from the coffee pot to the breakfast table or outside to our patio.
And here’s hoping the rest of this week goes smoothly for us all. See you next Monday.
A new painting in my Odditerrarium series for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs is titled “Using Much Eloquence”. Like the others in this series this one is 10 x 8 inches and made with ink, gouache and collage on board.
Here’s a closer view so you can see what this dog is thinking.
Now that I’ve made sufficient progress on my Odditerrarium series – I have 15 of the paintings finished – it’s time to write the art exhibit statement that will be used both for the Odditerrarium artist book and for the exhibit. I have written before in this blog (here) about writing art exhibit statements or “blurbs” as I call them. Exhibit statements are a short, around 150 words, first person description of what an exhibit is about. I think of it as like the description on the back of a book. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
I also think of a shorter sentence that can be used like a log-line is used in book publishing. For Odditerrarium I’ve written “I wonder what our dogs and cats think about the objects, people and places in their lives so in my Odditerrarium fine art series of portraits I imagine the contents of their thoughts as a terrarium hat.”
Whenever I begin a new series I keep a logbook where I make notes of my thoughts towards the series while I work. I write what I’m excited about, the questions I’m asking, what I learn etc and those notes are what I pull from to write an exhibit statement and logline. Making “notes” includes my sketchbook pages like this one.
Whenever I have finished more than 10 paintings from what I think is a series I’ll spread the finished artwork out where I can see it all, reread my logbook and see which bits fit with the finished artworks and which of the artworks do look like a coherent series. Of course I add these thoughts to my logbook.
My statement writing process is a whole lot like the project narrative writing for grant applications directions (link here) except I don’t apply for any grants with my project narratives aka exhibit statements. I used an informal version of my Odditerrarium statement during discussions with Caplan Art Designs about my proposed exhibit. Whenever I decide the formal written Odditerrarium statement is as good as I can make it I will send it to the gallery.
Putting together the artist book version of my Odditerrarium series will help me know when my statement is done.
Here’s my dachshund supervisor helping me process photos of the finished artwork for use in the book design for Odditerrarium.
My newest artist book “Juggling Numbers” is now out on Storyberries!! In this video I’m showing the original artist book “Juggling Numbers” a handmade artist book that plays in a visual way with the flow of numbers. I made a digital ebook version of this artist book for the experimental art category of Storyberries.com – see it here – a free ebook site for children. I chose the number range from 1 to 25 because a friends grandchildren could count to 20.
Below are a few still photos of the original book – video and links are also on my portfolio page here. The logline for Juggling Numbers is something like this ” … can you count forwards and backwards with a cat?”
I got news this week that my adopted Mom is not doing well health wise (hospice) and big sister, Mom and I visited by phone several times. Mom told me repeatedly to “keep making your art”. I know she’s quite serious about that. So I’ve begun drawing and painting orchids, Mom’s favorite flower. That’s all I know to do whenever I’m sad – channel feelings and love into art. Putting symbolic things in my art is my way of doing a version of Carol Burnett’s ear tug. Printed books whenever they appear in my artwork are for my adopted Dad – in case you wondered.
Grateful for my sketchbook as a way of both holding on and letting go.
A brunch I had with my wife this weekend was particularly lovely: homemade scrambled eggs, bacon, sourdough toast with homemade jam made by our friend Carol. Our coffee cups resting on handmade coasters by our friend Jeannie – and we felt surrounded by the love and support of friendship! And yes I put tobasco sauce on my eggs and tobasco jelly on my toast … is there anything I don’t put Tobasco on? Maybe ice cream. But I haven’t tried that yet so I don’t know for sure.
I hope your week is full of love and friendships. I hope you have plenty of tobasco sauce if you like it. I’ll keep making art because my Mom says so and I hope you’ll keep on keeping on too. See you next Monday.
My newest artist book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” was just released on Storyberries.com and you can see it for free here! Yippee!!!
A video look at the original book “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” is here on YouTube and I did manage to make an Instagram Reel of it too!! I wrote last post about learning about Reels so I’m still feeling “look I did it!” about my new skill!! 🤣 And I’ve made a portfolio page where my currently in progress series of short experimental art books will be collected as they appear as ebooks on Storyberries. At some future time I may gather them into a printed book but for now this portfolio page is where they’ll exist outside of Storyberries. I’m loving the pun of making books by hand that are distributed as ebooks!!
Here are some still photos of the book
In one of the little concertina book blanks I made and talked about in last weeks post I am starting a new illustrated poem book. This will be a slow project to be worked on around the edges of other projects. But here’s how it goes: In my poetry sketchbook, seen in the upper part of the photo below, I have some poems that seem worth working with. After selecting one of my sketchbook poem rough drafts I did a few thumbnail doodles on a scrap of paper to try different placements of my poem text and artwork. The thumbnail doodle that I like best can be seen on the lower right in these photos. To the left is the concertina book blank and my efforts at doing the hand lettering and drawing “for real” aka neatly and possibly worthy for public viewing.
One benefit of working in a concertina book is that I can easily slip a bit of wax paper under the page I’m working on in order to prevent bleed-through of my inks or gouache paints.
Here’s the finished page.
A post ot two ago I wrote about one of my favorite books by Mary Lasswell “Suds In Your Eye” as one of the hopepunk style books I cheer up by. Lasswell was writing in the 1940’s so finding print copies of her work has been a bit of a personal quest.
One of my coveted Lasswell titles “One On The House” came via mail this week! A side benefit of being someone who creates artist books is that I have most of the tools for minor book repair on hand. The copy I could find (and afford) of “One On The House” was listed in acceptable condition but with a cover-spine issue. As you can see below the cover is barely hanging on by threads.
But the outside of the cover-spine is fine!
So I took a strip of archival mulberry paper and trimmed it to fit.
Then I laid the trimmed mulberry strip on wax paper and covered one side of the mulberry strip with archival neutral ph glue. I took the photo below while the strip was still wet after being put in place so it is still shiny in appearance. I used the bone folder to press the just glued paper into the cover spine fold. When the glue dries the mulberry paper will almost disappear and blend in with the books original paper.
I slipped clean wax paper in the crevice of the patch so if any glue oozes as I close the cover it won’t harm the rest of the book. Then I put some paper weights on the cover and let the book dry overnight. There were two other weak sections of the book spine that got this same repair treatment which is why you see three pieces of wax paper in the book in the photo below.
I am a professional artist who knows a lot about creating books by hand but that’s not the same thing as being a book conservation or restoration expert. My repair attempts on books are not on rare or valuable books. My repair attempts are on books for my own use. My copy of “One On The House” cost me 6 dollars and I repaired it because I want to easily read it without without causing more damage to the book. If I hadn’t done the repairs I’d bet that after the first read through the book would have fallen completely apart. I also want to keep this book on my “bookshelf to cheer up by” – more on that in a sec – so I want the book to be as hale and hearty as possible. Anyway, a very good resource book for such minor repairs is “The Care and Feeding of Books Old and New” by Rosenberg and Marcowitz. And a good source for book making or repair supplies is https://www.talasonline.com/
This photo below is of my “books to cheer up by” section I mentioned earlier. As you can see the book I repaired has taken its place on the shelf next to The Annotated Arabian Nights.
We poured a bit of bourbon and said “cheers” to the newcomers on our cheer-up bookshelf! For my own mental health sake it feels good to have a shelf full of reliable sources of good cheer.
As you see in the above photo one of the books there is titled “Mrs. Rasmussen’s Book of One-Arm Cookery”. Mrs. Rasmussen is one of Mary Lasswell’s reoccurring fictional characters who is famous for being able to cook very good meals while holding her beer in one hand.
I made Mrs. Rasmussen’s super yummy chili recipe and rice while holding my bourbon. But I did set my glass down when I chopped the onion. Even so I think Mrs. Rasmussen would have cheered my efforts. It did taste good!
One of our local independent bookstores, Powell’s, did a fundraiser for Ukraine. Naturally my wife and I ordered books. More than one box of books was mailed to us but the stack of books in the photo below was what was delivered while the chili cooked and the bourbon flowed.
Here’s hoping you too have a collection of books, soup, fur-friends and people that you love that can help cheer you up. So cheers! Till next Monday.
Imagination and poetry were on my mind this week. I’ve been thinking of our mental ecosystems and the landscape of our minds. So this week I did a portrait of a Shih Tzu this week for upcoming exhibits via Caplan Art Designs which I’ve titled “In Imagination”.
Storyberries said “Great! Can you do it as an Instagram Reel?” And I replied “A Reel? I’ll have to Google whatever that is…” So I Googled and found this article as well as others. I also talked more with Storyberries about Reels because they’ve been doing Reels longer than I have.
Turns out that doing a Reel was fairly easy to figure out. I still have more to learn but I did turn the above YouTube video into a Reel on Instagram
Additionally for promoting “How The Cow…” I submitted it to Apple Books as an ebook and was accepted! This brings the total number of books by me on Apple to 15! I’m proud of that! If you scroll down this page you can see more of my books.
As you know from my last post I’ve been thinking of poetry as a rhythmic visual sequence. So I played with a short sequence of drawings and published it as poem on a coffee mug. To me the sentiment in my poem fit the trying-to-get-started morning need for caffine. I also used these drawings as test content for making another Instagram Reel. Im trying to practice this because suddenly I’m seeing the very short videos as another way to share my visual content… and I can imagine doing more collaboration with Storyberries this way too!
Speaking of very short poems: a whole lot of progress happened on my newest experimental art poem…
I finished painting the content and the cover art. Then I cut out the cover art and glued it onto the outside of the 2 inch square concertina book.
Here’s an early peek at the finished original artist book. As I mentioned in my last post I don’t want to show too much of the punchline before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it. They’ve tentatively scheduled it for release Mar 12 so slowly over this next week I’ll post more in public on social media. But for my dear blog followers here’s an advance look at the original artwork.
Here I am, with canine supervisory assistance, setting up the digital files for sending to Storyberries.
And here’s what’s on my laptop screen.
My thinking is about the mechanism of ebook flow on Storyberries and fitting a visual poem rhythm to that. The ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so my question is can I do poetic rhythms, repetitions and surprises in a way that takes advantage of that? Can a viewers eye “read” an implied connection between the up/down pages? It’s fun to experiment and play with what a poem and a book can be!
Here’s a peek at the ebook version. I’m thinking the viewers will make the transition between the pages just fine… what do you think?
While “A Scoop Of Letter Soup” seems really simple there was a lot of thinking and planning behind it, possibly more planning than I’ve done for my more complicated works. I think of “A Scoop…” as a little treat rather like how a baker puts a lot of time and effort into making something yummy that’s eaten in a moment.
This week I also cut, folded, trimmed and glued handmade paper into what I call “book blanks” concertina books that are ready for my content. I have some more plans for future artist books and this is part of getting ready for book content production.
Sometimes I have bought blank concertina books from an art supply store but generally I find it more satisfying to make my own. I can choose my own paper for the book and make it a size and length needed for the projects I have in mind.
Below is a photo of my evening reading list. Three of the four books pictured talk about the playful, generous nature of poetry and books in general and ways language itself can be a form of loving and caring. I’m enjoying thinking of how poetry and stories can be useful mental landscape construction tools for creating pleasant mind-scapes.
And Good Omens by Terry Pratchett is just plain fun to read.
I hope your mind is your preferred landscape and that it is especially beautiful this week. See you next Monday.
Book banning is a hot topic with me because I’ve been on the receiving end of bans. Those occurrences happened in Oklahoma over 10 years ago when I lived there. To name just one example, in 2008 I was to have a one person art exhibit at the Oklahoma State Capital. More than a few of my paintings were banned from the Capital exhibit. I called my Tulsa Oklahoma gallery, Joseph Gierek Fine Art, to tell about being banned. The Gallery owner, Joe, said “Stay right there, I’ll come and pick them up!” Tulsa is about a 200 mile drive away from the Oklahoma Capital but Joe was there with his van in a trice. Then the Joseph Gierek Fine Art gallery did a special exhibit behind yellow caution tape in Tulsa and we called my one person exhibit “View At Your Own Risk” with a statement telling a bit about my work being banned. Oh my, was the Gierek Gallery brave! So that very weird experience of being banned turned out very well for me and for Joe!
After my spouse and I had newly relocated to Washington state I had an interview with the Caplan Art Designs Gallery. Having just moved I brought along to Caplan’s the finished artworks I had on hand which was some of my then recently banned-in-Oklahoma artwork. The Caplan Gallery immediately signed me up as a gallery artist and sold 4 of my paintings before the ink on my contract was dry! In Oklahoma my work had often been considered “subversive” or even “offensive” (there were a number of bans of and objections regarding my artwork) but in the Pacific Northwest my work – the very same artwork! – is considered “charming” and even “delightful” and “whimsical”. What a pleasant shift of perspective!
This painting below is one of my paintings that had been banned in Oklahoma but quite welcome in the Pacific Northwest. Allegedly this painting was banned in Oklahoma because of the semi nudity. 🙄 This photo is of the same banned art newly located in the Pacific Northwest where instead of offending adults it amused adults and children!! (Yes, I have found my happy place!!)
More to the point of my blog post today – in 2010 the public library where we then lived in Oklahoma was going to display a few LGBTQ friendly books under glass deep inside in the library. It seemed like almost the entire town turned out to protest in a 4 hours long city council event. The majority of the speakers were vehemently homophobic. After the event one young gay person committed suicide. It was that vitriolic. After the event we contacted a realtor in Washington state and asked her to please find us a home and that we would even consider a hole in the ground with a tarp on it. We needed out! Long story short we, with the help of a wonderful realtor, found and bought our Washington house sight-unseen over the internet and within 6 months of that Oklahoma council meeting we had moved! One of the best things we ever did!! Being gay in Washington is no big deal at all! Also no big deal: being an artist, a book reader or being deaf.
I don’t for one minute think that every book has to resemble and reflect the superficial attributes of a reader in order to be a book worth reading. As an adult I enjoy reading work about, and by, people unlike me but I can see how it would help young people to be able once and a while to see, in a book, a superficial likeness of themselves. It helps to feel less alone, even safe, wanted and welcome somewhere – even if that place is in a book.
I went though my entire childhood – as an avid, dare I say obsessive, reader – never once reading about a gay deaf artistically inclined tomboy girl living primarily with her grandmother and enduring “visits to hell” with her abusive biological uber-religious parents.
The only deaf person I ever read about in a book was Helen Keller and that didn’t feel relatable to me.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was the first time I read of violence and family dysfunction happening to someone besides me and that was SO relatable – even though all of the characters were boys. That book helped me feel less alone then and I can still quote verbatim from that book today.
Judy Blume’s “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” helped me address my confusion about cruelty/weirdness about bodies that was done in the name of religion.
I didn’t encounter a gay character in any book until I went to college in 1986 and read “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit” by Jeanette Winterson which had been written in 1985. And that book felt like a welcome healing salve to my 18 year old psyche.
I could go on naming books – many of them now banned – that really helped me get through things as a young person. But I’m sure you’re getting the idea of why wide availability of books (and art) matters so much to me.
So naturally my spouse and I in response to the spate of book banning in 2022 went looking for lists of banned books so we could buy copies of those books. If you too want to use banned book lists as book buying recommendations 😁 Below are the lists we found.
A juicy oh-so-delectible list of banned books for grownups at Powell’s one of my local Pacific Northwest independent bookstores. (I think most of my high school and college required reading is on this list!🤯)
I mentioned last post about Maus by Art Spiegelman being banned … well here is a great article about why that book is important and why it is shocking that, to quote from the article, “people could be more upset by mild profanity than they are by genocide.”
And another article speculating about why book banning and even book burning has become “a thing” in late 2021 and early 2022.
There’s also an article about a Texas lawmaker who wants to ban and burn 850 book titles statewide… but enough of that.
When things begin to feel overwhelming I find it helpful to look for one specific thing I can do something about. This is in the vein of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”
Here’s an article we found about one specific library in Mississippi whose funding is being withheld by the mayor because he disapproves of some LGBTQ books. My wife and I chose this library and donated money. Then we spent time tweeting and sharing the info in hopes of getting more donations for them.
Here’s a portion of the letter we got after donating which has the libraries snail mail address if that is preferred.
Two days later we saw that they had achieved their funding goal with still more time to spare!!! We’re hoping even more donations will happen!
Since I took the above screenshot the Ridgeland Library has adjusted their goal upwards… and is reaching the new goal too!! Yippee!!! Click this link to see up-to-the-minute progress. I’ve been monitoring and boy is it fun to see the library succeed!!!
Anyway, for me public libraries are intimately interconnected with basic human rights. Images and words make up the human mind much like air and water make up the human body – we need trusted sources for all of these. Humans are social beings intertwined mentality and physically with the community around them. Here’s a poem that illustrates this idea that I have written off by hand and thumbtacked to my studio wall where I see it often.
And that’s why I make artist books. It’s my “why” for most of my creative efforts really. It’s part of why I feel it’s important to be a participant in a community of artists, writers and readers. It’s why having an egalitarian community – at least on the gallery walls and the library shelves matters so much to me.
Books and art are communal in nature and utilizing them often is part of being fully human within a community.
I thought about my Vancouver USA downtown and how I love it that the 5 story library and the independent theatre are some of the tallest most iconic buildings. I also thought about the scrubjay blue birds that are native here.
Then I wondered just how did Mother Goose’s cow travel over the moon… and how do birds remember their songs?
Storyberries has even created a new book category for my work called “experimental art”!! Oh I’m gleefully looking forward to making more books for them to distribute!!!
So it can very truthfully be said that my new artistbook is a direct result of community !! Thank you all!! And I love you all too!! ❤🙌
I’ll repeat myself here because I am so excited and grateful to the Storyberries community for this new “experimental art books” category! Thanks for giving me such a valuable space to just be me! I’m so looking forward to sharing the fun of playing with imagination and creativity this way!
Speaking of imagination and being creative: there’s a wonderful article on creativity written by Luzemy Romero and Fleur Rodgers on Storyberries – and I have an illustration in it! But what’s fun is that these creativity tips the authors write about are things I do… Every. Single. Day! Especially the reading part!!! And if you go by chronological age I’m a grownup… so… the authors ideas apply to all ages. Anyway there are some really great creativity tips here https://www.storyberries.com/creativity-kids-how-to-help-your-child-to-be-creative-storyberries-parenting-portal/
Here’s my illustration within the article by Gamboa and Rodgers and a bit of the article text. We need a wide variety of stories in order to practice flexibility in our thinking and creativity. A variety of material, some of it liked, some disliked, gives our minds something to respond to within our own creativity.
Also on the intersection of creativity and libraries there’s a fun article right here about an 8 year old who wrote and illustrated a handmade book and slipped it into the public library collection in Boise Idaho!
This week our copies of Maus by Art Spiegelman came by mail from one of our local bookstores Daedalus Books!
I had posted on my Instagram page that I was looking online at our local indiebookstores to see if anyone had Maus and didn’t see it – as they indicated sold put or it wasn’t listed. Well @daedalusbookspdx commented on my post that they didn’t have all of their books online but that they *did* have copies of Maus!!! So I called them immediately and bought the copies of Maus!
In the past when we’ve visited Daedalus Books in person I’ve relished their “books about books” section… While I had the store on the phone I named a price range and asked the store to pick a book for me from that section and include it with our Maus copies… I also asked that they *not* tell me what title they selected! I love a good book surprise!
Here in the photos below is my surprise book! It’s perfect!!! It’s a book about giftbooks – which is what I create!!! (See my portfolio page) I’m beyond happy with my surprise book! I immediately wrote a postcard to tell Daedalus thank you!!! Wow! What a treat!!! I am so glad Daedalus had copies of Maus too!!
The last photo has contact info for Daedalus…and as I’ve learned you can just call them up, ask politely and they’ll hand you a smile in the form of a book !! Wow!!!
Come to think of it becoming a semi-vegetarian while in college in fried-meat-and-fried-potatoes Oklahoma was another, ahem, “interesting” experience. I’m not, and have never been, a strict vegetarian (I don’t want to be strict about anything) I just do like vegetables and well vegetarian meals frequently happen. But I remember accidentally shocking people in Oklahoma with vegetarian fare now and then. 🤷♀️
Back to the present yumminess… the mushroom chili was served in big mugs with crackers and a side of books to read. I’m lucky to have married a fellow avid book reader!
Here’s another favorite quote about books that I’ve handwritten and thumbtacked to my studio wall.
I hope your week is full of subversive literary, artistic and culinary delights and that you’re able to radically and wholeheartedly enjoy them!
Almost exclusively I used to do unique books as art objects that were displayed in art gallery exhibits. My one-of-a-kind books were then sold and that was that. Well, in 2020 after the pandemic began the galleries closed to the public and I began publishing my artist books in an on-demand way. My book is printed at the time it is ordered and mailed to the buyer. I did this so I could still share my visual stories and they could still be fairly unique i.e. not printed in large quantities. And as my portfolio page attests that’s the way I’ve now done twelve different artist book projects. As the galleries have adapted to the pandemic since March 2020 allowing the public to handle one-of-a-kind books, wisely I think, hasn’t come back into vogue.
When making a printed version of my original artist books I try as best I can to maintain the look of the original work. I do very little – or ideally absolutely no – digital manipulation of my content. At most some text is typed. I even prefer to handwrite as much as possible. It’s important to me that people – especially kids – get to have a wide variety of homemade or handmade comforts whether it’s dinners, cookies, fine art or books.
Anyway, in the case of my new “How the cow…” book I typed the about the book and the dedication page text. But those pages and the covers are the only typed text. (I’ve learned the hard way that having these pages typed rather than handwritten helps the book be found via a search.)
I also scanned the handmade pattern I used for the cow book slipcase and the found sheet music I used for the tiny notes book cover. I scanned my handwritten text summary for the cow story. I did digitally “erase” the page number marks on my handwritten text because those numbers did not apply to the printed book. Other than erasing the pages numbers the handwritten page is the same in the printed book as it is in the original.
With those very few digital documents in my 28 page book layout I created end papers of a sort to flank or wrap each story within the printed book. The original artist books are themselves covered with these patterns.
The scanned blue bubble pattern was the basis for the printed book cover.
As you can see the covers of both the original book and the printed version are similar.
The artwork in the cow story is just a bit smaller in the printed version than the original. But as you can see the colors are a very close match! Also the printed book is conventionally bound so I set up my layout like a comic book rather than in the folded concertina form of the original. I don’t yet know of any printer who prints and mails concertina style books. The two illustrations per page layout allowed me to fill the seven inch square printed pages. (In the photos below the original handmade book is at the top)
The “Tiny Notes” original artwork is reproduced at a much larger size in the printed book. The original book is 2.25 inches square. The printed book is 7 inches square. Again the colors printed are pretty close to what’s in the original!
So you can see the scales of the books in relation to a human. My spouse took these photos of me and the books…
The original concertina format cow book unfolds to four feet long. Almost as tall as me!
The original concertina tiny notes book is only 20 inches long unfolded.
You can see more of these book pages and details on my portfolio site. I’ve no idea if these original artist books will someday go to an art gallery even for display under glass.
For now I’m having fun making books intentionally for printing and mailing directly to people. It may sound odd to say this but this new way of sharing my books feels more personal and I feel like many more people are able to see and own my work this way.
This week my coloring book poem “How To Draw A Dragon” was read aloud on Kidz Stories And More !!! You can see it here https://youtu.be/EUVeDjqiz30 When we were discussing the creation of this video Kidz Stories and I decided to make my book pages so they could be downloaded for free so kids could color along with the video! The download is available here and the directions are also in the video link. I’m seeing this as possibly another fun new way to share my artist books!
Also this week someone shared this photo saying how happy they are with a portrait I painted of their cat and how it has been framed by the Aurora Gallery!! That makes me happy!!!!!
My spouse mentioned the current news about book banning and that one of the titles banned is “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein. We have that book in our dining room poetry collection. It’s a favorite! Hearing that news led to both of us looking up what other books we have on our shelves that are banned. It was a fun scavenger hunt of sorts! 🤣 Turns out we have a large number of banned titles throughout our book collection. Two shelves in our dining room alone yield 4 books/authors who have been banned… even as recently as 2022.
Here’s one of the articles we read about banned books. Naturally we got online and ordered more banned books from our local independent bookstore. 😁 One of the banned books I tried to order was Maus by Art Spiegelman (here’s an article about that book) but all of my usual indy bookstores were sold out! But there were other banned books available which we happily bought.
I’ll leave some memes about book banning here just in case someone wants one.
I hope your week is similarly filled with subversive literary delights and some homemade comforts.
This week had a cow in it (more on that in this post) and a dog portrait. I selected one of my sketchbook drawings as an idea for what to paint using the new brush technique I learned from the book, Miniature Art by Joan Cornish Willies that I talked about in my last post. Here’s the sketchbook page.
This ink, gouache and watercolor painting below is 8 x 10 inches in size, well within the “miniature art” definitions. The brush method recommended in the book “Miniature Art” by Joan Cornish Willies is to lay a round pointer brush on its side in the paint and rolling it to absorb the paint while maintaining the point on the brush. Dipping, pressing or stabbing the brush point in the paint, however gently, makes the brush point spread out and thus makes doing fine detail within a painting more difficult.
Here’s a look at the whole painting I’ve finished and titled “A Tale-carrier”
The new brush technique did help me get more fine details. Particularly around the dog’s eyes, nose and on the books. Here’s a closer look…
I’m loving the way creating finer details enables me to combine the human senses of touch and sight in this new miniature work! And I enjoyed making a miniature that knows it’s a miniature! Lol! It’s amazing what a gift awareness can be! Here’s an even closer look…
I do feel a bit of “well, duh”… of course laying a brush on its side and rotating the brush in the paint would help retain the brush point even while loading it with pigment! Ah well! Just goes to show that you really can teach an artist with 25 plus years of experience a new trick or two! Lol!
This week someone asked if I would pretty please make a mug with my “green leprechaun man” on it…
Also this week another printed book on the topic of miniature art came in the mail from one of my local bookstores. The Big Book Of Tiny Art by Karen Libecap is just plain fun to look at and read. It does have a good review of pencil techniques as well as use of color. The main attraction for me is the “watch-it-develop” sequences of photos that document ways to achieve tiny details. Oh, and the gallery of examples of finished miniature artworks is a treat. This book is encouraging and pleasing in tone – which will make it nice to have on my shelves. No Earth shattering art technique BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) moments in this book like there was in reading Miniature Art by Joan Cornish Willies. But the friendly can-do spirit and lack of snooty-ness in the Tiny Art book by Libecap, I think, means more people- myself included- are more likely to keep trying this art form. Plus I just love it that these tiny art techniques are so applicable to what I do in my sketchbooks.
So now when I draw in my sketchbook I’m trying for more details – like the feathers on this bird.
As you know in the evenings I’ve been reading a print copy of The Annotated Arabian Nights. On my ebook reader, which I read while exercising, is “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. So in addition to the story-within-stories format of the Nights and the lovely idea (last post) about the genre of “mirrors for princes” that I encountered in the annotations of the Arabian Nights I’m getting a regular therapeutic dose of Adam’s gentle absurdity.
Thus I’ve been pondering just how it is that Mother Goose’s cow went over the moon. And our human habit of having sacred cows… beliefs that take us into the stratosphere away from reality. Consequently there’s a new wordless book in progress on my easel.
Here’s a closer look at the sequence of pages
As I write this blog post I have put these pages under smooth boards with weights on them so they’ll be flat. I’ll be making a physical artist book from these pages and then both a printed book and an ebook version. More about this in upcoming posts.
A dear friend and fellow artist Donna Young https://www.donnayoung.com/ and I used to fairly regularly visit each other’s studios in pre-pandemic times. Recently Donna posted a photo of her studio and asked me to post a photo of mine. Here it is below!
I’m sure you’ll recognize one of the dog paintings on my easel. The other dog you’ll probably see next Monday. And I’m sure you’ll notice my new magnifying glass (last post) in use!
If you were standing in my studio, where I took this photo, to your left would be a stack of boards and weights holding down my “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” pages. More about that next Monday too.
Thanks for reading this post. I hope your week is kind to you and I’ll look forward to sharing more with you on Monday!