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.
This week war began and for a second being an artist felt frivolous. But in difficult times we need art more than ever. We need things and people that feed our spirits and remind us of why we’re glad to be alive. We need hope. That’s how we fight for democracy and win.
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began I listened to the news and searched my bookshelves for a title I had gotten in 2003 not long after 9/11 and when war began in Iraq. My thoughts then, like now, turned to the role of artists during times of war. “Artists in Times of War” by Howard Zinn was very relevant in 2003 and still is even though the current event details are different.
Spoiler: artists are carriers of democracy. To quote from page 108 they are “profoundly democratic”. Democratic is defined as upholding, however imperfectly, the ideas of rule of law, of equality before the law, equality in access to resources, equality of representation in government and the human right of self determination. The Arts are a living language of a people, a dramatization of what they feel, what they need, what their hopes are … The Arts help people become self aware. Self-awareness helps people make choices and become active participants in their own lives and communities. That’s what makes living artists so dangerous in the viewpoint of authoritarians.
And perhaps equally important is the fact that artists help us, no matter how high flying the political rhetoric, to remember that the kids will still need to be entertained and educated, that adults will still need kindness, that dinner will still be wanted. Art, poetry and writing of all kinds can help us remember that the statistics a politician quotes represent actual people.
Speaking of dinner: a dear friend came over to visit for an evening and to ask me to sign some copies of two of my book titles that she plans to give as gifts! It was so good to see her!
We had a free ranging conversation about life, books, movies and my friend indulged me as I showed her my art projects in progress and outloud we played with what “could be”. This is an extremely exciting and valuable sort of conversation! Bouncing ideas around in loose “what if…” and “what about…” ways helps me in my creative process! It was so unbelievably good to get my friends input! Sharing artwork in its fragile beginning stages is risky and I’m so lucky to have trustworthy creative-playing friendships.
I made a new batch of potato soup (recipe last post) and when it was ready the three of us ate soup out of large mugs while sitting informally in the living room where it was warm and comfy.
I delighted in having fabric cocktail napkins with my Professional Dog portraits on them and enjoyed our friends chuckles when she saw the napkins!
Whenever I feel unsettled about world events besides talking with my spouse and trusted friends I deliberately tune in to awe. Meaning that I purposefully do some small thing that delights me, sparks my curiosity or causes me to notice something and say “wow!”. A good article I read this week on the topic of awe and why it’s important is here. An aspect of tuning in to the feeling of awe is to cultivate time to play in unstructured ways, to make time to wander, to ponder.
On a recent wandering meandering car drive we saw snowfall and large trees. That’s a guaranteed “wow” from me – I love the large evergreens any time of the year.
The feelings of awe, the feelings curiosity and the feelings of an aha moment are part of why I object so strongly to book banning (see a recent post). The attempts to control the mental resources available to others is a form of abuse. Banning preempts the victims ability to be self-aware and to be able use, as democracy offers, however imperfectly, the right of self determination. The restrictions of a person’s access to books and other mental resources is as serious as someone restricting a person’s access to food, water or healthcare.
During times of unrest I think taking the time to ponder is crucial because an artist is so much more than a reaction to or a mirror of society. If an artist is going to take action rather than simply knee jerk react to current events it takes time to think things through.
Here’s a paraphrased quote that I wrote on a card and thumbtacked to my studio wall.
Progress is happening on a new experimental art book for Storyberries! It’s a wordless visual poem about letter soup with only 10 panels plus front and back covers. 12 images total. Ink, acrylic and gouache are my art methods on another 2 inch square concertina zig zag folded book. I focused as I mentioned last post on rhythm, repetition and surprise. It will be a challenge to talk about this poem on this blog and on my social media without giving the poem’s punchline away immediately before Storyberries has a chance to distribute it but I’ll do my best.
In the photo below I’ve laid in the extreme dark and light areas to establish the contrast as well as to focus on the visual rhythm. I’m thinking of how the ebooks on Storyberries flow up and down so I’m designing my content to flow with that book motion. Will it work? I don’t know. 🤷♀️ Yes, my new poem is for a category on Storyberries called “experimental” for a reason! 🤣
The sortof weird thing is that I’ve not completely finished promoting “How The Cow Went Over The Moon” yet. So there might be some promotion overlap. Oh well. People read more than one book at a time anyway right?
A few evenings this week I took a break from reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” to read “Suds in Your Eye” by Mary Lasswell. This book was published in 1942 when World War II began. What I’ve enjoyed about this book, besides seeing an artistic response to the wartime events of the 1942 era, is that no single person is the “hero” or center of the story. The story centers around how a group of people work together as a community. The concept of working together is also what drives the story plot. And “good food, great friends and cold beer” could be the books motto. This is such a good book to cheer up by! I’d list this book as an early example of the hopepunk genre (mentioned last post). And the illustrations are darling!
Besides the visit from a great friend this week my wife and I talked by phone with my adopted mom and big sister! Mom said she’s proud of me and that I’m to “Keep making art”! Big sister agreed! So I wrote the exact quote of Mom’s on a card and thumbtacked it to my studio wall just above the light switch for the room. That way I will always remember!
I hope your week contains many connections with your support system so that you feel encouraged to do all the good you can in this world.
I painted an unauthorized portrait of a playful cat that I’ve met courtesy of a dear friend. This portrait is titled “Wholly Bent” and is 10 x 8 inches. This is me just playing and working towards future art exhibits.
Here’s a closer view of “Wholly Bent” it is 10 x 8 inches, ink, gouache and collage on board.
As you may remember I’ve been reading “The Annotated Arabian Nights” by Horta and Seale most evenings. I’ve been struck by how much the book talks about being true to yourself – accepting that you’re “bent” in your own ways- while also being an ethical contributing member of a community. So I’ve been pondering ethics in my sketchbook.
The above photo shows my spouse’s homemade blueberry lemon scones. Seriously yummy… but I digress.
These thoughts reminded me of an eon ago when I asked my adopted mom how to know when someone is “for real” i.e. ethical, honest, kind. Her response was “watch what someone says and does over time.” In my art journal I recorded a conversation we had on that same topic years after I’d asked the question originally.
In my last post I showed a hint of an art print project I’m working towards that I can’t talk much about yet… but a sneak peek is here (the grid of 6). Now I’ll wait to see what happens.
My last post also talked of book banning, a topic I’m following… well, on the attempts to ban books (and a thrilling subtext) there’s this article which reminded me of the skills I learned to use when dealing with people in Oklahoma who were in my face wanting to ban my artwork (see a prior post for details). This page below from Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit gives details about the skills.
Speaking of coping skills: some students in Missouri are suing the school board because of the book bans. (Article here.) Sometimes standing up for your right to read anything you want is neccessary. As said in the article “The lawsuit alleges that the district’s decision to remove books was based on the “dislike of the ideas or opinions contained in the books by policymakers, school officials, community members, or a combination of those.” Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the district’s removal of books violated the students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights “by restricting their access to ideas and information for an improper purpose.”
I’m proud of and inspired by the students and their efforts to maintain a wide intellectual world. Restricting access to ideas and information can have serious negative consequences for both individuals and society. The larger our intellectual world the better we’re able to cope with whatever comes in life and then, having coped personally we’re then able to help our community cope – and the people in our community are better able to help us…
Also the more expansive our mental life is the more fun rabbit holes there are to explore that can also help one personally as well as one’s society.
Anyway, here’s a post from Austin Kleon that reflects my feelings about the importance of taking time to read widely and pursue the rabbit holes of your own making.
On a related topic I also read this article about how our attention span is not a product to be bought or sold. Our attention isn’t solely a vein of data to be extracted by a corporation. Our attention isn’t something to be controlled or abused at the will of someone else’s religious or political ideology. Our attention is a precious gift that deserves to be treated respectfully. And it’s up to us to protect, preserve and defend our attention as well as to carefully curate and cultivate it.
Having wide access to ideas and thoughts – lots of books – is how we learn over time what is worthy of our attention. Our attention span is ours to exercise and explore throughout life. What we get for our payment when we “pay” attention is the power to choose.
I find that having a wide range of books to read helps me stimulate and cultivate my own ability to pay attention where it nurtures my creativity the most. My sketchbook is where I practice noticing/tracking (accounting?) where I pay attention and how helpful it is or isn’t. It’s where I play with ideas and cook up my own “good wolf food”. It’s where I live and work with the questions. It’s where I “stick around and find out”. 🤣
As a creative person I want to be respectful of my readers/viewers time. So I enjoy creating “short” things: art, stories or poems that can be understood in a glance yet there’s more to be seen if a reader chooses to take the time to look. (My Monday blog is possibly the longest form I work in… 🤣)
Speaking of sketchbooks and reading: I feel a sense of urgency to create more books for children that are “artsy” and perhaps a little “different” from the usual kids books. So I’ve been reading about poetry in two books: “Writing incredibly short plays poems stories” by James H Norton and Francis Gretton and “The Intimate art of writing poetry” by Ottone M. Riccio. And I’ve been brainstorming in my poetry sketchbook (the orange book in the foreground) some visual poem ideas for my new “experimental art book” category on Storyberries.
Both books about poetry cover techniques to keep things short. I’m translating in my mind the advice in the books regarding writing words into what may also work when I’m making visual images. As you see in the above photo of my poetry sketchbook I’m thinking that the poetic concepts of rhythm, rhyme, repetition and surprise can work within images too. But we’ll see how it goes… more in upcoming posts.
Dinner recently was a favorite potato soup recipe from a favorite cookbook. Even in the solitary pandemic days I love reading about community being formed around shared soup.
When there’s a yellow sticky note on a page in one of the cookbooks in our collection … that’s a reliably good recipe! Add a star and the phrase “Judy likes” and you’ll know it’s a real good one. Then there’s the penciled in variations and now you know this recipe is a great one! It has consistently proven itself over time!
We had mugs of soup with a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich split between us. Yum!
For fun I’ve added James Thurber to my evening reading. He too talks about ethics and community while also being whimsical.
Thanks to a friend on Twitter I’ve just learned about a genre called “Hopepunk” – here’s one of the articles I read about hopepunk that defines the genre and has examples (book list!) of literary works within it. To quote from the article “…Hopepunk says that kindness and softness doesn’t equal weakness, and that in this world of brutal cynicism and nihilism, being kind is a political act. An act of rebellion… Hopepunk is a reaction to our times, an insistence that a hollow world built of hatred and financial ambition is NOT the norm. It is stories of resistance, stories that celebrate friendship and truth and the things that make us human.”
I have more to learn but I’m feeling like I’ve found another genre that possibly fits me and my work well! Discovering the “hopepunk” genre feels exciting like my discovery of the “miniature art” and “gift book” genres! With my creativity I do want to share whimsy and hope while also being thoughtful and real.
Yes, I’m finding it good to know more about the ways I’m wholly bent and to be able to find books and people bent in ways I enjoy.
Thank you for honoring me with some of your attention. I hope you have a playful week of more or less your own design, a week bent in all the ways you find fun. 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.
The Professional Dog text for my in-progress childrens book is solid enough that this week I focused on the illustrations. I’ve done about 12 of them in ink and have established a pattern for the artwork that relates to the text. I’m working on bringing the illustrations up to the same semi solid level of preparation as the text.
As per my last post I’m still looking at this project somewhat sideways. It’s more in focus and it’s now moved into my “main project” work time slot but it is still becoming itself, so rather that looking at it head on and making declarative statements about it – it’s just a project I’m working on every day now. That attitude helps me keep it playful.
In my last post I spoke of picking up a box, a cube really, from the Caplan Art Designs gallery. The Gallery asked several of their artists to do something in their art style for what the Gallery is calling the “holiday box project”. Over this week I put 3 coats of gesso on my box. I also did some brainstorming in my sketchbook about what I might do with the cube.
Allowing time for gesso to dry between coats gave me time to think and try stuff with The Professional Dog project as I mentioned above and also experiment with other things…
… one of the things I thought about is this: It feels urgent to me to practice patience and to encourage decency as much as I can. The selfish meaness of a small group of people during this time in U.S. history is toxic. The majority of people are generous and kindhearted but I see the kind people, particularly my friends in the medical and teaching professions, being worn out by the few meanies. Sometimes even I feel worn out. So I have taken it as a creative challenge to do whatever I can to give the kind people a bit of care. Yes, my attempts to give care via art sometimes feels small, it feels like trying to refill a dry lake by the teacups full. But art is what I can do. And I do firmly believe this quote on my studio wall pictured below. Art is all we have. It’s certainly all I have.
Every time we’re kind, loving and supportive of each other – even in small ways – we’re enabling ourselves to not only survive but thrive. When we share art and beauty we help each others spirits – moment by moment. These moments add up. We are truly stronger together. And helping each other helps us feel better too. Self-care is community care and vice versa.
As I waited for gesso to dry I rummaged in my files, and my sketchbook for art pieces I’ve done that might encourage people. So I’m beginning a “For pleasant encouragement” art prints series on my Society 6 shop. Perhaps this series may also become a book someday? Anyway here’s one from this series.
Also while gesso dried I added a few more recipe postcards and odd cards to my collections on my Zazzle shop. I have been enjoying mailing cards to friends and they’ve seemed to like getting them – so these cards fit with my overall project of encouraging people.
This week my book This Rabbit was featured on the Read Aloud by Kidz Stories And More YouTube channel! I am honored to be called a “favorite author”! Kidz Stories And More reads childrens books aloud very well and they welcome submissions from self published childrens book authors. They can be contacted via social media.
As I mentioned above during one of my “gotta let the gesso dry” times I set up my new video thingamajig and did my first Creativity Chat!
I haven’t figured out how to embed video in blog posts yet so to view it you’ll have to click here.
I’ve written short scripts for about 15 of these chats so far and my main point of doing these is to encourage people and discuss the intersection I see between creativity and good mental health. Some time ago I had planned to do another version of Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit and focus the new book on creativity. But other projects took precedence … so I’m excited about doing videos on this topic! I can squeeze a short chat on video into my busy life!
The yummy comfort food this week was homemade biscuits and gravy! See recipe postcards above or via these links: Judy’s Biscuits and Good Gravy. It was a fun collaborative brunch!
Some books I’m reading in the evenings: Death in D Minor by Alexia Gordon – a mystery novel with a ghost in it. (It is October after all.) I’m finishing A Swim In The Pond In The Rain by George Saunders. Both are very delightful to read and transport me to other worlds smoothly! Technically I’m rereading the Saunders – I read it first as an ebook and am rereading a print version now and making notes. Thank goodness, I say almost daily, for writers – how dismal our lives would be without good soul-satisfying books.
Temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest are now cool to cold as the sun goes down so my reading evenings often have hot chocolate or hot tea to go with a book. Last night as I returned to my chair I thought “this is one of my happy places” so I took a photo.
I hope you get to spend time this week in one of your happy places. See you next Monday.
Had an oops during ink work this week on my coloring book poem “How to Draw A Dragon” here’s how I fixed it. Despite the mistake all of the hand written text as well as all of the illustrations have now been completely inked!
Here’s how: first I drew the whole book in pencil which sounds straightforward but it actually means draw, redraw each page multiple times. I do a complete draft in pencil and go through it again and again redoing elements so the story flows a certain way, to make sure setting and characters are consistent and to create the foreshadowing. This is very like a writer’s process of drafting and editing a novel. I lost count of how many drafts I’ve gone through.
Before beginning this book I knew it would be a 32 page manuscript so I made sure I had at least 84 sheets of the same kind and size of drawing paper. (Now after finishing the inking I have perhaps 8 useable sheets of blank paper left – if that gives you an idea.)
After the images were more or less set in pencil I penciled in the poem text. The poem text is spaced rhythmically to rhyme, so to speak, with the illustrations. The words and the images dovetail tightly together. This requires more drafting to get the pacing right. Then after I had a complete manuscript in pencil I partially inked each of the illustrations and adjusted the word spacing of the poem on each page in pencil.
Before starting to ink the poem text I read through it looking for grammar and spelling. I asked my spouse to look critically with fresh eyes. Then I inked the text with an ink brush pen.
Even with all that drafting and all the editing and proofreading, even with a fresh set of eyes looking, there’s a mistake! Do you spot it below?
Yes, I misspelled “oops”! Of all the things to misspell!! 🤦♀️ Oh well! When I ink words like this I’m really focused on drawing the shapes of the letters and the spaces on the page rather than writing a word. So mistakes often happen. But 95% of being an artist is knowing how to fix mistakes! The remaining 5% is being willing to keep going!
So to fix my oops on the word “oops” I got another piece of the same paper and drew a couple of “O’s” while holding the new paper next to my mistake so I can draw it the proper size. Then I cut out the newly drawn letter as close as possible not leaving much white paper showing around the letter.
Then I paint opaque white gouache on the ink mistake as smoothly as possible.
I let that white gouache dry completely. If there’s any bump in the dry gouache I use a tiny bit of fine grit sandpaper to smooth it.
I lightly apply archival paper glue to the back of the cut out letter and affix it to the whited out mistake area. I use tweezers to place the glue-y letter.
Now it’s fixed! When I scan these pages for publication I will look closely at this area on the digital file to make sure it looks like a seamless repair. Other than possibly on that “oops” the digital scans of these pages will *not* be digitally manipulated. What you’ll see in the published book will be what I made by hand.
After all the inking is done and dry I erase all the pencil marks on the manuscript.
Foreshadowing happens on every page. There are even indications about time: at first the dragons coffee is very hot and steaming but on subsequent pages there’s less steam. These pages below are possibly the pages with the heaviest foreshadowing. Each of the “art examples” presage or refer to something in the rest of the book.
The foreshadowing is complex. Matching the characters and scenery from one page to another is complex. Matching the edges of the pages together is complex. Getting the rhythm of the poem to flow (rhyme?) with the images … it’s hard to even describe how convoluted and complex (that word again) this project is…
And then there’s that it’s a coloring book. All that I have to tell the story with is a single ink line. That line has got to be right. I can’t cover over it with other sketchy lines like I do when I draw in my sketchbook or cover a line with paint as I do when I draw lines as a foundation for a painting. The single lines I draw for this project must be clear or it ceases to be a coloring book.
This coloring book poem has been one of my most complex books and yet it is so deceptively simple to look at and read. It reminds me of one of the iceberg memes about success in that the visible part of a project is the smallest element of it and the huge part is unseen.
Anyway, also this week I worked towards the continuation of my Odditorium exhibit. The Caplan Art Designs Gallery will exhibit the Odditorium works from earlier this summer as well 7 new paintings in this series. One of the new paintings is below. It was inspired by a friends photo of her ranunculous flowers. From the flowers I thought of a rhinoceros and a dress…
Yes, my household surrealism continues…
As I wrote in my last post I hoped this week to try some of my new butterfly palette paints so I did try them in my sketchbook!!
It will be fun to try doing a painting with them next!
This week we got a few cards in the mail and added them to our mantel. I realize that I really love sending and getting cards in the mail. I’ve loved it even more so since the pandemic. Since unfortunately covid is surging again I’ve been thinking I want to make more cards.
About the time I’d had that thought I heard from Bernadette who had recently blogged on New Classic Recipes my recipe for Magic Beans along with the story of how I got the recipe. Bernadette wrote suggesting that I create some recipe cards. I thought this was a great idea and merged the recipe card notion with the idea of sending postcards. You can see all of the recipe postcards I’ve made so far here. I’m thinking these will be fun to send to friends and family.
As far as food this week goes I ate so much when family was here (last post) that this week has had small salads and bowls of cereal as the feature meals. So never mind about food I cooked this week because it didn’t happen. Oh well.
Nevertheless major progress happened on “How To Draw A Dragon” – a whole manuscript completely inked! Yippee! Next up…scanning the pages and book design! See you next Monday?
A work rhythm has been fairly firmly established. I wrote about that in my last post. My days now have a regularity that goes like this:
Breakfast time contains sketchbook drawings with or without characters from my currently in progress childrens book “How To Draw A Dragon”
Perhaps after eating breakfast I spend a few minutes more reading a poem or working the crossword puzzle with my spouse (we take turns doing 5 or 6 clues) while we finish our coffee. (The poem in the photo below is by Robert Service)
Then I pour another cup of coffee and carry it to the studio. There I look at the work I did last and my project schedule/guide that I described in my last post. I sip my coffee and settle in to work.
By now I’ve done about 10 of the 32 pages but even those, as you can probably see in the photos below, aren’t really finished. Some elements like the text will be the last to be inked and only after all 32 pages have been mostly finished. Similarly I will edit and ink all of the elements of foreshadowing for my poem story after all 32 pages are mostly inked.
As I work I am thinking of the pages both as page spreads and as individual pages.
These pages below have been quickly photographed where they are on my easel for sharing my progress with you here. My set up for photos for book reproductions is another thing entirely- and I’m not at that point yet.
The sharp eyed will probably notice that some changes have been made to my story setting and to my poem text since my last post.
Basically I’m in the early stages of this book project and everything is in flux and there aren’t “for public” images for this project yet.
And my books. I talk about one of the 9 books in my portfolio. Or I talk about one of my 10 books on Storyberries. Or I post a photo of my cat or dog. Or I post nothing at all. Especially as I settle into a project working rhythm I find I’m online less and less. That said I do enjoy finding your kind comments when I check in! And I thank you in advance for them.
Lunch, however, is rarely missed. This week the easiest meals were bean and grain bowls like this photo below and here’s the recipe scheme from my Favorites So Far kitchen sketchbook.
After lunch I head back to the studio for more work on my How To Draw A Dragon book. Generally speaking I get 2 pages finished per day. If I’m lucky I’ll get a start on a 3rd page. But my focus is on maintaining a work rhythm not in a quota of pages. If I have to totally redo a page and thus only get one page done in a day that’s fine! I just keep going! It’s a dance between discipline and the spaciousness of pleasurable play as talked about in this article.
I did take the time this week to go with my spouse to visit a new independent bookstore in our town Birdhouse Books! This was my book haul.
Short stories, poems and short essays give me an intellectual boost without requiring an investment of time like a long novel does. But sometimes a long novel is just the thing to accompany a long creative project. It just depends.
What’s not in question is the fact that time to sit and read each evening is essential to helping me maintain a steady working rhythm.
Hope your week has some good rhythms too! See you next Monday.
My crocodile became a dragon as I’ve been working on a new childrens book. I’ve been alternating work in both my poetry sketchbook, the orange book on the left, and my black visual sketchbook on the right.
Below is a look at my handwritten poem text in my poetry sketchbook.
I also have a 3 ring binder in which I have collected sketches and drafts of the poem text. Initially I was calling my poem “How to paint a crocodile”. My idea was to do a coloring activity book featuring a human child and a realistic crocodile. But the humanness didn’t feel right to me. And the crocodile felt too, well, reptilian.
So in my black sketchbook I tried a few more cartoon-like crocodile drawings. I’ve done many sketches and am only showing a few here in order to keep this post brief. Also not pictured are my sketches of various animals along my way to a decision to make the human child character into a rabbit.
The crocodile kept feeling too sinister in my sketches. So I dropped, temporarily, the coloring book concept and just painted who might be the main adult-like logical no-nonsense left-brain character to play opposite my rabbit right-brain creative playful child-like rabbit. The “adult” character it turns out is a dragon.
So I went with the dragon! In subsequent sketches I resumed my coloring book notion. The working title for my coloring book poem now is “How to draw a dragon”. I’m using the word ‘draw’ in the sense of ‘attract’ in addition to the usual sense of drawing with a pencil. Below are a few sketchbook drawings of the dragon in which I aim for busy adult postures – grumpy perhaps but not sinister.
Besides rewriting my poem in my poetry sketchbook I have also rewritten my poem on scraps of paper which are kept in my binder. There are -tons – more rewrites and sketches than I’ve shared in this post. Here I’m sharing just enough, I hope, to give you a sense of my working process. When I felt my poem was settled, more or less, I wrote it on a stiff paper so it could stand on my easel as I work. You can see it below.
When I spoke in a my last post of “having my crocodile project all over my studio” the photo below perhaps gives you a sense of what I mean. In this photo the papers on my easel look blank but there are pencil drawings on them. There’s also a blizzard of drawings in ink on tracing paper.
Multiple drawings on tracing paper enable me to draw a character similarly but holding or doing different things as the character goes through my story. Below you can propably see what I mean.
Yes, I know there are computer programs that would enable me to copy and paste character elements from one page to another. I have used such programs in the past. But I find it more satisfying to do original hand made drawings for every element within a book. I fancy myself as like a chef who prides herself on using local ingredients and cutting them up fresh when a dish is requested. A chef’s hand made dish is better, I think, than a frozen box meal reheated. But I digress.
Below is a “scene” or a stage set upon which my characters will act. I’ve made a master template in ink on tracing paper which I will use for reference – and for story foreshadowing – throughout my poem book.
Below is a look at some of the rabbit character sketches on tracing paper.
Below is a look at a few of my dragon character sketches. I feel I’ve finally found a balance between a grumpy adult appearance while not being too sinister.
Here’s a closer look at the Rabbit character.
As I build these pages I will do my story foreshadowing using many visual elements. So even after I get the entire book drawn the visual foreshadowing will still need to be carefully edited. But first I’ll get the entire book roughed in. Lots of work to do.
To help get me to my studio work more quickly in the mornings most of the evenings I’ve been making overnight oats. Into lidded mason jars I put some raw uncooked old fashioned oat meal, some milk to cover the oats, maple syrup, fruit like raspberries or blueberries (or both) and yogurt. Then I add a bit more milk as needed, put the lids on and put the jars in my refrigerator. In the mornings I don’t have to think of what’s for breakfast or spend time cooking. I can get right to my sketchbook work!
Also this week I delivered the artist books that the Aurora Gallery had requested along with some signed bookplates! You can see more about each of these books on my portfolio page.
My plan is to work steadily on my Dragon, a bit of work almost every day, until it’s finished. Some days only a short burst of work will happen but other days I’ll have more time to spend.
So along with my tracing paper templates I’ve made a strategy, a loose agenda/schedule, of items to be done on this project which I’ll use as a guide to enable me to pick up wherever I left off even if I only have 10 minutes of time to work. I’ll use the same guide if I have hours of time. Such a project schedule is a guideline – a suggested working rhythm – it is not a god to be worshipped or slavishly obeyed. My guide is a way for me to keep this project in small manageable chunks. Keeping it small helps me to maintain momentum and to keep it fun. (There’s even a business article here about the kind of strategy I’m talking about.)
I have already spent months working on this poem and have only just this week outlined, and otherwise prepared, 32 pages to draw, ink and hand letter over the coming weeks. In other words I am just now ready to begin in earnest. Forming a good steady working rhythm now is crucial. So is focusing on the fun.
Some sort of strategy – I like to call it “planning the mundane” – some consideration for keeping long haul projects like this manageable, not overwhelming, is important. But it’s the fun that is the lynchpin of what keeps a creative project sustainable. So I consider having fun the most serious aspect of living a creative life.
Hope your creative week is sustainably fun too! See you next Monday.
My newest children’s book “This Rabbit” is about noticing what you like. For the book description I write “This rabbit likes one thing. This rabbit likes another thing. So many things to like and do! Which do you like to do?”
The act of noticing what you like sounds deceptively simple but it’s easy to be swept along in a tide of what’s popular, trendy or what people tell you that you “should” like. It’s easy to forget what you-yourself really really like.
For our entire lives it’s helpful to practice being aware of our inner self and our preferences as they change over time.
Anyway, here’s a few poem lines and illustrations from “This Rabbit”
This rabbit likes doing hair
This rabbit likes the outdoor air
Here’s a look at those same illustrations in the digital book layout I’ve designed in prep for making both print and ebook formats. As I mentioned in my last post I’m making these illustrations large in each page with a small space for the poem line running along the bottom of the page.
Below is a look at the cover art. The cover layout is similar to some of the other books I’ve done: Alphapets, Alphapets Too and Numpurrs. I did this cover design similarity on purpose because I’m working on a series of artworks and books that play with concepts using a variety of characters. This cover layout allows me to show many of the different characters right on the book covers. The cover similarities emphasize that each individual book is an art series collected on a topic that exists within a larger series of artist books.
By now the book “This Rabbit” is finished and will be released world wide on Storyberries Mar 29. I will continue to tease out the book a bit on my social media till then. But for my followers here’s the advance link to the finished printed book: https://www.blurb.com/b/10612530-this-rabbit Yes, you could get a copy of this book early, in time for Easter! (On average it takes 7 to 11 business days after placing your order to get a book)
Before the digital files could be made I began “This Rabbit” by creating a series of ink and gouache artworks depicting rabbits enjoying activities. Then I wrote a poem on a legal pad with a fountain pen – prior blog posts here and here tell more of my working process. Anyway here’s a look at my legal pad scribbling and the illustrations. I like to emphasize the non-digital parts of my book creations – the digital reproduction, in print/ebook formats, are simply an allowance for kids messy fingers – the book is still intended as a work of fine art and of love.
On to other non-rabbit thoughts: Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up and we can celebrate the holiday and also drink to celebrate my new book “This Rabbit” – so here’s a recipe for an Irish drink I really like perhaps you will like it too? No matter what you’re drinking – “Sláinte!”
Saint Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays so my evening lounging-about-before-going-to-bed reading is an anthology of Irish writers mystery stories. The book title is “Murder Most Irish” edited by Ed Gorman, Larry Segriff and Martin H. Greenberg. Some of the stories are so enchanting that I’ve looked up almost surprised to find that I’m not in Ireland following behind a sleuth on a cold rainy night but sitting in my warm living room instead. The book pairs well with Irish Coffee….or peppermint tea.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day in advance and thank you for following my progress on “This Rabbit”! See you next Monday?