After finishing my Pembral Forgets project I was asked if I would make a fabric design from the leaf pattern I had created for the book Pembral Forgets which was written by Steve Tubbs and illustrated by me – (details here)
So this week I’ve been making a fabric pattern of leaves that I’m calling “Leaves From Pembral” and here’s my process…
First I cut out a 12 inch square area of the original hand stenciled paper I did for the Pembral Forgets book. Carefully I chose an area that wouldn’t have leaves touching the 4 edges of the paper. Then I used acrylic paints and created more stenciled leaves to fill in where there were gaps, trying to make the new design square balanced and interesting.
When the above was dry I “cut up my darling” – to borrow from advice given to writers about editing – and made all 4 outer edges now be on the inside of my 12 x 12 inch square paper. Basically I turn my design inside out.
Next I fill in the new gaps with more stenciled leaves.
Then when that was dry I photographed the finished design, trying to keep the soft creamy look of the original and keep the pattern square with my camera. This is easier said than done. After several attempts I was happy with this image below.
Next I uploaded my digital photos into my laptop and used the Spoonflower system to set up my pattern for a basic repeat…so my pattern will flow across any length of fabric without interruptions.
As I worked on the digital file I was thinking of leaves falling and then laying on a wet sidewalk.
What you see below is a screenshot of my finished pattern as I set it up to be repeated on a “fat quarter” an 18 x 21 inch area.
Now I’m waiting to get a proof sample from Spoonflower which I will approve – or not – before it gets added to my public shop on Spoonflower. https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/sueclancy After that I will tell the person who requested this fabric pattern that it’s there and will hope they’re pleased. In the meantime I hope this blog post will amuse…
I enjoyed playing with leaves in my sketchbook, too, this week – with my rabbits. Another bit of advice for writers is to develop a character and use them to explore ideas and situations instead of creating a new character each time one sits down to write. This technique is most obviously used by mystery novelists who create a character (or two) that repeat over a series of books.
I’ve borrowed this concept for writing and applied it to my fine art and artist books… I have certain motifs and characters – selected species really – which repeat in various ways throughout my projects within a span of time.
In my sketchbook page below I have leaves, books and rabbits. For almost a year now rabbits have been a constant character… (previously I have done series of Dogs and Cats … click on the word Dogs or Cats to see a collection within an artist book)
I posted the above photo on my social media pages and someone asked for an art print of my sketchbook page. So I created an art print of the sketchbook page on my Society 6 shop. The unframed print looks like this (below)
In the evenings I’ve been reading about meditation and, of course, reading a mystery novel. Thinking of little things; leaves, drops of water, ones breath are ways of calming oneself for meditation. Little things; scraps of paper, drops of blood, air quality are often clues in a mystery novel. So I keep thinking of little things…
I broke up a chocolate mint and put it in my hot chocolate. It was a tasty little touch – Yum!
I know it’s not a holiday but little pleasures really do make an ordinary day feel special.
The inside of a book is made up of pages which are called “leaves”. The handmade box I’ve been constructing holds all of the “loose leaves” for Pembral Forgets. I love the pun…a story about fall leaves housed in a box covered with a pattern of leaves, containing loose leaf pages….
Yes, I know…🤣 … Anyway…
Pembral Forgets is a story, written by Steve Tubbs and illustrated by me, about fall leaves, good food and an absent-minded boy who forgets something very important.
Below is a photo of me remembering to spray fix all of the loose pages to prevent smudges.
When I talked with the writer, Steve Tubbs, he expressed concern about the pages being properly protected. So in addition to spray fixing them I slipped each page into an archival clear sleeve.
After making doubly certain that the pages in the archive sleeves would still fit in the book shaped box I set about giving the box an “old book” trompe l’oeil effect using layered acrylic paints over handmade papers.
Multiple layers were needed to create the well-thumbed golden edged book pages appearance to the box sides. (In the background of the photo below you can see some of my character sketches for this book. I keep all such sketches until a project is absolutely finished…just in case.)
Once my book-pages effect on the edges of the box was dry enough to handle I applied the cover title. I had hand lettered, with ink, the Pembral Forgets title onto some of the same tissue-thin delicate paper I had used to make the overall leaf pattern cover paper. [See my previous blog post for details] I applied my archival book glue to the back of the handlettered bit of paper and carefully placed it onto the box.
I wanted the lettering to have a matte look and blend into the cover so that the only shiny, bold, parts to the cover are the stenciled pattern of leaves. (The photos in this post are “in progress” pics. My portfolio page has more photos of the finished project)
Because the paper is thin the applied paper with lettering on it lies flush with the cover itself. Since this box/book may be stored on a shelf just like any other book I don’t want any edges sticking up to catch on anything.
In addition to showing the flatness of the cover the photo below also shows the box edges more clearly.
While the cover title lettering was drying I applied similar lettering to the spine of the book. And worked on a colophon page… more on that in a bit.
I use various sizes of paperweights to hold just-glued papers flat while they dry. (In case you’re wondering beanbags make great paperweights.)
While things dried I created another tree scene – with ink and gouache – this one with frost on the ground and a pond. This tree image is unique to this artist book box version of Pembral Forgets and doesn’t appear in the printed book reproductions.
There are many reasons for having unique pages in the box but the main reason is I have a more flexible page count in a one-of-a-kind book with loose leaves than I do when creating book reproductions.
The photo below shows my handmade box without the loose leaf content pages in it so you can see the bottom of the box. There’s a raised area (the leaf pattern to the right) that has a recessed “valley” near the box walls to allow fingers to pick up the last loose leaf page easily. Also attached to that raised area in the well of the box is a black ribbon for the pages to rest on so they can easily be lifted out.
Here’s the bookmark ribbon with the loose leaf content pages in place
Below is a close view of the colophon page. A colophon gives info about a book authorship, publication and any information that’s relevant to the book creation. I glued it onto the inside front cover aka the inside lid of the box. Since I handmade the box I signed the colophon page.
The box lid has a “tray” which fits inside the box when closed. (Yes, that was very tricky to measure and create. Have I mentioned that I like puzzles?)
Anyway, perhaps in the photo below you can see how that brown tray edge on the box lid fits into the inside of the box. Or perhaps clicking on the video link below the photo gives you a better idea.
This week wasn’t necessarily calmer politically speaking than I wrote of in my last post but in a personal sense I stayed busier. So that in itself was calming. I was glad to see that Trump was impeached for a second time. I am nervous about the upcoming inauguration of President Joe Biden – I want his administration to be safe…
So I will do creative work, read, cook, go for walks and find solace anywhere I can while I wait and hope.
As it’s getting colder here where I live in the Pacific Northwest- and since I’ve been staying so busy – reheating a pot of soup was simply easier to manage. Here’s a link to the soup recipe I enjoyed. Lentil Lemon Orzo Soup
I finished the Theodora Goss novel that I’ve been reading during my last several posts. I liked the way Goss writes and I found her monsters a pleasant diversion.
A friend kindly sent me some books by mail – so I’m enjoying them now!
I’ve been requested to make some art prints of a few of the pages from Pembral Forgets so this week I’ll do that and will update my Pembral Forgets portfolio page with those details! What fun!
See you here next Monday. Hope your week is as good as it can be.
A horrible but predictable insurrection happened in the US last week. My book shaped box to hold the original artwork for Pembral Forgets was at the needs-to-dry stage the day before, so Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the day of the attempted coup, I nervously read a lot of news. And thought of how a seditious insurrection was the inevitable outcome of the right-wing rhetoric of the last several weeks, months, years. But I don’t want to blog on that…. after time spent on the news Wednesday I drew in my sketchbook and read fiction to give myself a mental space from the violent seditious insurrection, to calm down and think.
So on to a more pleasant topic: here’s a few photos of the printed and bound version of Pembral Forgets – you can see more on my portfolio page. The print book is available on Blurb here.
The printed book is slightly different from the original artist book. Same content just a different presentation and minor differences in the book-info pages and, most obviously, the cover. There’s several reasons for this: an original artist book can only be enjoyed in person. And we’re in a pandemic so going to galleries isn’t an option for most people. Multiple printed books can be mailed directly to someone and can be enjoyed by many.
Yet when I create a book to be printed and widely enjoyed I still end up with a physical one-of-a-kind set of paintings. Since I’m a fine artist first and foremost I gravitate towards making things that can be hung on walls or displayed on stands/shelves. But see aforementioned pandemic which has made the use of other means of art production and distribution i.e. Blurb.com or Zazzle.com or Society6.com or Spoonflower.com on-demand shops helpful.
Even so I love making handmade boxes and used to regularly make them for the artist Deloss McGraw and others. So I look for excuses to make boxes…and am loving this box for Pembral Forgets!
Below is a series of photos of the box for Pembral Forgets that you saw a bit of in my last post. In this first photo I have laid the naked box on the handmade hand stenciled paper that I’ll use to cover the box. I lay the box on the paper and try to position it so the paper will be placed well when I glue it on.
I “mark” my choice of placement by creasing the paper slightly. Pencil marks would show through this delicate paper.
Glue is applied to the paper within the crease “marks”, the open box is laid onto the glue, then the box now loosely covered with glue-y paper is gently closed. I use a roller to press the paper firmly in place, wiping away any excess glue. Next, as in the photo below, I add glue to the flaps of paper and fold them around the edges of the box using a bone folder to get the creases smooth.
Then after carefully gluing all edges I turned the box over to check the paper placement.
Inserting wax paper allows me to close the just glued box without accidentally gluing the box shut.
At this point, Tuesday evening, I let the book box dry for a few days. It will be dry to the touch within hours but I have learned the hard way that too much handling too soon can cause the paper to slip.
Then the next day saw the news of the insurrection…
Here’s the fiction book I read as a spirit restorative…
The beverage in the picture is Clancy’s Special Chocolate and here’s the sketchbook drawing I did about how to make it. Whenever I feel stressed it helps to draw whatever is in front of me.
In case you wonder: I get my archival glue and other book-box-making supplies from Twinrocker.com
A helpful technique book about making boxes by hand is by Franz Zeier titled Books, Boxes and Portfolios; binding, construction and design step by step.
There’s still more to do on this project. So I hope to see you here next Monday after, hopefully, a more quiet week – but I know it’s not likely to be quiet here in the US – but no matter what kind of week it is I wish you some calm creative moments.
Since I’ve been asked by several people: here’s info about the art media gouache, why it makes me grin and my working cycles with it.
Gouache is a water based paint. It’s more opaque than watercolor. Using gouache feels like spreading soft butter on toast. Applied gouache dries quickly but is easily made moist and workable again. It dries to a matte non sticky appearance which makes it suitable for use in bound sketchbooks, in folded artist books as well as for fine art to be framed. Gouache also reproduces well via various printing mechanisms on fabrics, in printed books and on many other surfaces.
In the studio, because I don’t have to worry about my gouache paints becoming unusable on my palette before I can use them (as is sometimes an issue with acrylics), gouache is suited to my busy life. I call this my gouache and grin cycle.
I prefer to work on multiple art projects at a time in “short bursts” on each project. Rather than count on a long span of uninterrupted time I dash in and work a bit on an art project, then go make lunch or do whatever stuff-of-life or other work matter that needs to be done. Then I cycle back to an art project…
To borrow a sports analogy I just try to advance the ball, my various art projects, a little bit each day rather than doing a project all at once. I try to amuse myself with whimsical art making, aka spreading color, for at least a few minutes every day no matter what else is happening in life. The qualities and attributes of gouache help me to do this, to keep my creative games in play – come heck or high water.
Here’s a series of photos showing my gouache working methods in my sketchbook. (This is also my work method for fine art and other projects.) In the first photo you see my 3 x 5 inch watercolor sketchbook held open with clips. Also pictured from the top left and rotating clockwise: paper towel, peppermint candy model, graphite pencil, 3 watercolor pencils, 2 waterproof ink pens, a water brush and my lidded paint palette with its wells of various dry gouache colors.
In the photo below I begin 3 demo peppermints: the top left mint is sketched in graphite pencil and waterproof ink pens. The bottom left mint is drawn in watercolor pencil only. The mint on the bottom right page was doodled in all of the above; graphite pencil, ink and watercolor pencil. [The quote was just on the sketchbook page I chose to use for this demo.]
So you can see what they look like here in the photo below are two tubes of gouache paints. I like the Holbein Artist Designers Gouache brand best but the Winsor and Newton brand is good too. (There’s a monster called “acryla gouache” also available on the market which I avoid like a character would avoid a flesh eating zombie in a horror film.)
I begin painting by laying down the local color – the general color an item is supposed to be. At this point I don’t worry about shadows or highlights or details. I just get the color shapes down – in this case for the peppermint candies.
I did not squeeze out new paint from my tubes when I began. I got my water brush wet and put a few drops of water on the dried red gouache already on my palette so I can use the newly moistened color. I add a small amount of moisture to a portion of the dried chunk of red gouache until that portion feels like soft butter, then I paint the candy stripes.
Here’s a closer look.
Now I get the general color and shape down for the wrapper in the same method. I put a drop or two of water on my blue gouache color, get my brush damp, dab at the blue paint a second or two to get a portion of it moistened and softened – then I paint.
Now I create the cast shadows using a watery mixture of the red and blue gouache colors. To make the watery mixture on the lid of my palette I dipped my brush on the now moist blue color, dab on an area of the lid, then dab the brush clean on the paper towel, then dipping into the now moist red and adding it to the tiny blue puddle, mixing till it’s a purple color I want for the shadow. Then I add a tiny bit of plain water to the newly mixed purple till it’s a small fingernail size puddle of watery purple – this enables me to do the cast shadows in a faint shadowy way.
Now I do squeeze out a tiny amount of the white gouache from the tube and use it, fresh from the tube, to make the highlights on the candy and wrappers. Note in the photo below how the white gouache can completely obscure the darkest ink lines. This is part of what I love about gouache – any mistake can be covered with the opaque paints. If an edge in a painting needs to be softened or a color edge blended all I need is a wet brush.
Then in a few minutes, perhaps the length of time it takes for a decent sip or two of coffee, when the paint is dry I go back over the paint with ink lines or watercolor pencil lines to snap the details into sharper focus.
Now that I’ve finished painting I leave my sketchbook and my palette open and let them dry completely. I even leave the shadow color mixture on my palette lid to dry. All I will need to do to reuse the mixed color in the future is to get my brush wet and dip in.
Peppermints are one of my guaranteed-to-make-me-grin art subjects that don’t require a lot of time or planning. I’ve learned over years of painting peppermints that different candy makers have their own peppermint candy look. And I don’t mean the wrapper.
Here’s a fabric pattern I did of peppermints for my Spoonflower shop. I used the gouache techniques I describe above to create this pattern. But do you notice how these mints are different from the ones I did in the demo above? Different candy maker… yummy too!
To illustrate what I mean about working in short bursts despite life situations. A hot water pipe burst on our hot water heater recently. (Talk about heck and high water! 🤦♀️) After we got the immediate crisis dealt with I did little quick bouts of drawing as a self calming technique. Also while waiting for plumbers etc restoration crews I doodled and painted in my sketchbook. Gouache makes it easy for me do short bursts of spreading color which makes me smile. And having had a brief grin makes dealing with life much better.
Anyway, there’s a new artist book I’ve done for children called “B Mouse Reads A Book”. In it you can see my original ink and gouache artwork, and how the art media is on folded paper in this video on my YouTube channel. Because this book was meant to be handled in a gallery I used a spray fix varnish to make sure the gouache wouldn’t smear or run.
But since the pandemic hit there’s no going to art galleries to handle or view artist books in person. So I was lucky enough to have “B Mouse Reads A Book” published as an ebook here on Storyberries.com! They also included the book B Mouse is reading too…it’s another artist book I created as part of the B Mouse Reads A Book story…there’s a link at the bottom of the B Mouse book that you can click to see the companion book.
I’m sure you can recognize in the image above the ways I did my combinations of ink and gouache. The video shows how flexible gouache can be when applied on paper bound or folded as pages. The ebook shows how well the nuances of the colors show even as a digital image.
If you look at my portfolio pages you can see my ink and gouache work as both fine art framed in an art gallery setting as well as reproduced in printed books.
That reminds me to tell of another practical matter: if you apply gouache too thickly it can pop or flake off. Especially in a folded or bound paper book. And when scanning or photographing gouache artwork for reproduction a too-thick gouache application can cast shadows unrelated to the artwork subject. So I apply gouache as if I were basting bread with semi melted or melted butter.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and found it helpful for when you try gouache yourself.
See you here next Monday. And in case you’d like to know even more about gouache – here below are a few links to more information about painting with gouache:
Both gouache paints and acrylic paints reproduce well (even in newsprint!) but to my eye the gouache reproduces best of all. But then gouache was originally created for use in illuminating manuscripts back in the days, around the 16th century, when all “books” were hand written, hand illustrated and hand bound – one at a time.
Acrylic, a medium that originated in the late 1940’s, tends to be shinier and more difficult to photograph and thus get a good reproduction quality image.
Have I mentioned lately that I really like gouache??
I find that with each art exhibit I learn more about my own work. Last night, during the opening party for “Story Stuff” at Caplan Art Designs, I had multiple questions about my art techniques – in addition to conversations about the content within my artwork. As a result I realized that I’m an ancient art technique nerd. Many of my works in this exhibit utilize art techniques originating in the 19th century and earlier. I didn’t consciously set out to use so many old techniques – handmade paper, paper dying, and gouache to name a few – they just suited my content as I created it. Several different people commented that they thought my use of old techniques made my work “ethereal”.
Wow! New thoughts to think – and thank you to all of my fans for that! Thank you for all the stimulating conversations!
Quite a crowd ebbed and flowed throughout the evening. Here’s a photo from one of the moments. I’m wearing a red shirt.
What a fun evening! Now, back to the studio to make more art!