A box of leaves – Pembral Forgets

A Creative Life, art techniques, artist book, artistic inspirations, books, Books In Art, handmade books, handmade papers, Narrative Art, pattern design, Pembral Forgets, printed books, publications - publishing, published art, visual story, visual thinking, words and pictures

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.

Here is a video look at this project

https://youtu.be/p5By-g5AR6E

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 box for Pembral Forgets

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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.

Art for Pembral Forgets

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I’ve illustrated Pembral Forgets written by Steve Tubbs and in my last post I talked about my process of creating the cover and my leaf motif that flows through the book.

Well here, below, are some of the finished illustrations with the text so you can see what I mean.

Later on in the story there are some really large leaves… but as you can tell from the images above I depict leaves from a distance as well as nearer to hand.

I also use leaf shapes as logos on story related objects… for example in the photo below look for the leaf on the sugar and the market sacks. I do this in multiple places within the story in order to emphasize the fall leaves aspect of the story – and to visually bring the leaf motif and good food motifs together.

There are illustrations on every one of the 38 pages of Pembral Forgets… lots of leaves blowing through this book!

Since the author Steve Tubbs was inspired by thoughts of himself as a kid and memories of his own mother – I wanted my illustrations to have a warm soft nostalgic feeling in addition to the colors of Fall. So I used a cream colored handmade watercolor paper for my ink and gouache illustrations.

If the pages above tempt you to see the whole story. You can see it for free on Storyberries.com where they’ve published both ebook and audiobook versions of Pembral Forgets! Here’s the link https://www.storyberries.com/bedtime-stories-pembral-forgets-short-stories-for-kids/

And here, below, is what the printed artist book cover looks like. My leaf pattern reproduced well and I’m very pleased with the color reproductions! You can access the printed books here https://www.blurb.com/b/10507043-pembral-forgets

Since the warm, creamy, yet fall colors are what I wanted for the pages in the artist book reproductions – I’m also making the original artist book box (talked about in my last post) have a similar cream color on the book-shaped box edges where pages are.

I still have lots of work to do on the one-of-a-kind artist book box that will hold all of the original illustrations and text. Also there’s a few more pages for the one-of-a-kind book to do…. more about that in future posts.

And I’m in the process of making a webpage about Pembral Forgets. It includes a short conversation with the author, Stev Tubbs, as well as images of more of the finished art. You can see it here: https://sueclancy.com/portfolio/pembral-forgets/

But in case you think I came up with the cover and these illustrations perfectly right from the first: Here’s a leaf motif pattern I tried before hitting upon the motif and color scheme I finished with.

I decided this leaf pattern was too green and too uniformly regular. Then I proceeded to do the pattern I showed you in my last post and what you see on the Pembral Forgets finished book cover. But as a pattern design goes this more-green autumn leaf pattern was fine – it just didn’t fit the creamy nostalgic vibe I wanted for Pembral Forgets.

But I decided the green autumn leaf pattern would be fun fabric for dinner napkins for a fall table setting. You can access this fabric on my Spoonflower shop here https://www.spoonflower.com/designs/6316427-autumn-leaves-by-sueclancy

Speaking of good food and the fall dinner table: I made this soup this week and it was satisfyingly heart and tummy warming. https://gratefulgrazer.com/home/vegan-potato-soup/

I’m still happily reading “European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman” by Theodora Goss – and taking things a wee bit slower but I’ll see you here next Monday! Stay safe – and here’s hoping for a better new year for everyone.

Pembral Forgets and a holiday

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Mid November 2020 I was asked to illustrate Pembral Forgets by Steve Tubbs. It’s a story about fall leaves, good food and an absentminded boy who forgets something important.

In mid December I took a social media break in order to focus more intensely on my illustrations. (There’s 38 pages of illustrations!) I’m glad I took the break as I think my illustrations for Pembral Forgets are some of my best work so far. The story written by Steve Tubbs was great inspiration!

I finished the illustrations and uploaded the digital files for the artist book reproductions on December 21 and told the author Steve Tubbs that Pembral Forgets by Steve Tubbs was now available! (You can preview the reproductions of the artist book via this link here)

Then I shut off my screens and have since been recovering from my creative efforts. Reading books and cooking are my go-to restoration methods and it’s really helped to spend time deeply reading in a novel! And trying new-to-me recipes! Truth be told I’m still in this hibernate and recovery mode.

Still, because it may amuse, I wanted to share some of my working process on this artist book project.

Since fall leaves are a theme in Pembral Forgets I studied leaves I found in my yard and neighborhood. I both drew them in my sketchbook and photographed them….here’s two of the photos

Then out of thick mylar (a sheet of clear plastic) I drew the leaf shapes with a marker and then hand cut stencils in the shapes of several different kinds of leaves. The masking tape tabs on the edges of the mylar make it easier to lift and move the stencil when in use.

With a sheet of handmade paper taped to a board on my easel I set about using the 5 different stencils I’d made. I mixed acrylic paint colors and used a natural sponge to dab into the color and then onto the stencil. This overall leaf pattern was done over a multiple day period to allow for layers to dry.

My spouse snapped the above photos so they could be shared digitally with the author Steve Tubbs and his wife. The pandemic being what it is – the project discussions between the writer and myself were all virtual.

Here’s what the finished leaf pattern looked like while it was on my easel with still wet paint.

And here’s what the cover for the artist book reproductions looks like:

https://www.blurb.com/b/10507043-pembral-forgets

Variations of this leaf motif carries throughout Pembral Forgets….

When I create books I think of them, as an art object. With the attending artistic concerns about rhythm, balance, beauty and, in my case, pleasantness. For this project I was inspired artistically Steve Tubbs’s story Pembral Forgets and did my own artistic response to his story.

My way of working also means that most of the time my book creations have, in addition to the multiple print and ebook reproductions, a physical one-of-a-kind book-like-art-object.

Sometimes there’s a series of framed fine artworks related to the books – see my Alphapets and Alphapets Too projects for examples or my portfolio page generally.

Anyway, here’s the book-box for Pembral Forgets that I’m still in the process of constructing.

I will show pages and talk about my illustrations for Pembral Forgets in coming blog posts. My hand is still very tired so I will write more later…like next Monday.

If you’re curious: I’ve been reading the novel “European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman” by Theodora Goss.

One of the meals I’ve enjoyed cooking recently is a pasta, cheese and pepper dish I’d read about on the Food In Books blog – https://wp.me/p75xYM-1bY – I don’t know if I’d read the novel talked about in that blog post but it’s fun to see the novel that inspired the blogger’s recipe. I can tell you, for certain, that the pasta, cheese and pepper recipe in the post is a winner!

Now, back to the novel I am currently reading!

Childrens books and other comforts

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Well I didn’t expect that. My books sold out at the Aurora Gallery within 11 days. By request I’ve ordered more books to sign and deliver to the gallery asap.

I began doing this series of kids books as a gift for my friends and their kids and grandkids. When this pandemic began, for safety reasons, I started making my artist books on Blurb.com because they’ll print my books on demand and then mail those books from where they’re printed to any place in the world, including mailing books to my local friends.

Here’s a photo of all 5 of my children’s books. (Accessible on my shop page)

The worldwide aspect of Blurb has turned out to be a good thing also because all 5 of my children’s books are now on Storyberries.com as ebooks and audiobooks worldwide. Storyberries links to where a reader can get the printed books at the bottom of each ebook.

Even so I’ve gotten multiple direct questions about where to get printed versions of my children’s books so I’ve put them on my shop page as well as my portfolio pages.

Also on my portfolio pages are links to blog posts that show my working and thinking processes as I created the books.

What I hadn’t expected was the requests for signed books. I’ve been working on that: I’ve mailed signed labels for the book owner to affix in the book. And I’ve taken, in a pandemic safe way, a few signed books to the Aurora Gallery where they went quickly to new homes. I’ll have a few more signed books at the Aurora Gallery soon and the gallery is able to mail them on to a reader/collector.

Anyway, to be safest of all, I’m focused on working with places that can do the direct shipping of books and other items. I’m also enjoying making downloadable ebooks. (Look at the bottom of my shop page for ebooks I have there)

You see, I keep thinking “what if this pandemic is actually opportunity to slow down and really connect with people?”.

Books are ways to connect, in my opinion, and for that reason I make books. I may dedicate each book and have certain people in mind as I create my books but when I share on social media about my books (and other items) I share for anyone who needs a bit of comfort, a smile and a visual hug.

Here’s a look at the display at the Aurora Gallery before they sold out of my books.

At any rate I’m enjoying making my books available via Blurb and Storyberries and the Aurora Gallery and I’ve enjoyed hearing that my books have given people comfort and enjoyment during this time.

Most days I make an effort to catalog what I’m enjoying and finding comfort in these pandemic days. This is expanding my awareness of things, besides books, that help us connect with each other. But in my list making of comforting things I’ve found books and coffee so comforting so often that, for fun, I did a fabric pattern on the topic.

Coffee and Books fabric pattern – https://www.spoonflower.com/en/fabric/9454365-coffee-books-by-sueclancy

A friend liked my coffee and books fabric pattern and requested a coffee mug with it. So I did that. It’s fun to think of mugs as gallery walls or as book pages or even as pieces of fabric. And I get comfort from thinking creatively about the ordinary stuff of life and the comforts found there. I’m very grateful that both Spoonflower and Zazzle can ship my designs directly to someone.

Coffee and Books mug – https://www.zazzle.com/coffee_and_books_mug-168903127961605425

I find it helpful to create things with specific people in mind. Sometimes the people know about my creation because they requested something or because I wrote a dedication in one of my books. Most often the person I had in mind while I was creating never knows about it.

As Kurt Vonnegut says “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

A side effect of thinking of my artistic creations as gifts for someone I have in mind is that I’ve discovered that my books, fabrics, mugs, puzzles and other items have been purchased as gifts by one person for another person.

And I love this thought that what I make as a gift, in my mind, for someone I know becomes a real-life gift from one person to another person.

It feels like I’m the author of gifts to be given, as if my artistic mediums, my paints so to speak, are love and kindness shared between people. With that in mind I’ve begun making more note cards… like this…

Hammy’s Comfy Pants card – https://www.zazzle.com/hammys_comfy_pants_card-256444659563201670

The text on the inside of the card says “wishing you calmness and peace or at least comfortable sweatpants”

Yes, comfortable pants made my list of enjoyed comforts this week. So did thick socks and warm sweaters but this is enough typing for right now.

See you next Monday? Till then please make yourself comfortable and share a comfort with someone else.

Alphapets: I J K and L

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The Alphapets portrait project this week is brought to you by the letters I, J, K and L. Here’s my abecedarian poem to go with these letters and artwork :

Ivan refrains from eating the shoe

Joe remembers the things that he knew

Kameron eats eggs from the carton

Liam looks nice in his tartan

Here’s the artwork (somewhere on each piece is an alphabetical letter):

I did portraits of a Rottweiler puppy, a Labradoodle, an English Setter and a Scottie dog or Skye Terrier (still practicing drawing specific breeds). While working I thought of a friends new puppy, dog training in general and memories of training my various dogs and seeing them beginning to learn what I was teaching. I imagined a puppy in the process of learning what is and isn’t okay to chew on.

Other dear friends have a Labradoodle that, pre-quarantine, I used to see and visit fairly often. So I thought of the breed, and how smart they can be, how quick to learn and remember.

The only English Setter I’ve known personally was one I’d see when on walks in a public park (also pre-quarantine). Seemed a loveable sort of dog and I loved the spotted pattern of the fur. So I combined my fur pattern thoughts with my past experiences with dogs of different breeds who were loveable but not the brightest. I still had “mental attributes” in my mind from having done the letters I and J. My apologies to the English Setter breed for the association here in my art with loveable but clumsy egg-stealing oafs.

Ah Scottie dogs and Skye Terriers – how I love you. Especially when, as I saw during pre-quarantine days, when you were with your bagpipe playing Scottish humans, practicing the bagpipes in the park. I also loved seeing you in parades, watching a band of bagpipers go by! Lots of Scottie, Skye terrier dogs walking in formation with your bagpipers! Makes my heart sing – even now at the memory!! And all the various tartans…Wow!!

I just realized I didn’t do a portrait of a cat this week. That can possibly be explained by the fact that I was thinking of mental thinking abilities. Dogs of all breeds can have a wide range of ability to learn and remember. Cats are all, of course, on the brilliant-mind end of any scale worth having.

As is my typical these days all of this artwork was created with ink, gouache and color pencil. I’m having such fun with this Alphapets project! Hope you are too! Soon I am going to have to order more art supplies somehow – my favorite local art supply store is closed due to quarantine – not even shipping supplies. I’ve called several times in hope. Sigh.


If you’re just joining the fun the previous post is here. My Alphapets project is aiming to be both an art exhibit and an artist book. With framing eventually done by Aurora Gallery and Frameshop. https://auroragalleryonline.com/ as part of the Ambassador for Small Frames program. I want to eventually bring them all together in a book – with my abecedarian poem. More of poem will be revealed on each Monday’s post as I get more of the artwork done. More of my artist books are here.

Anyway, see you next Monday with more letters…

the eggplant technique of creativity

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“Feelings are guides not gods” is a phrase from “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit”, the new print version I’m currently working on. The concept is illustrated by this story:

EggplantSM

Here’s some text from the book related to the artwork: “Do you think that feelings keep you from doing things? More good news – they don’t! We’ve all done many things we didn’t feel like doing – such as going to school or work when we didn’t feel like it – which proves that: Feelings don’t keep us from doing things. Moreover, when you do that thing you feel scared to do, you are nourishing your courage…… Remember, you are responsible for your feelings not responsible to them.” (see the Eggplant story above)

Cultivating and maintaining a high level of Emotional Intelligence is essential to well-being (and creativity). Good mental health is about more than just the absence of mental illness – it is the presence of good coping skills, being able to self-regulate, to see feelings as a guide whether the feelings are your own or someone else’s. (Btw: there’s a good article about teaching Emotional Intelligence here.)

I’ve found Dr. Bob’s concept of “feelings are guides not gods” applies to creativity, and the creative life, as well. Whether or not I feel a particular way doesn’t have to affect whether or not I make my artwork. My feelings are not a “god” to be obeyed. If it’s time to work in the studio, however short or long the time-to-work I’ve allotted is, off I go to my creative work no matter how happy, sad or inspired I feel at the moment.

Where I use my feelings as a “guide” is when I’m out in the world on the lookout for possible art-topics. I keep my inner eye open for things that capture my curiosity and my imagination. Then I keep a list of those things and my feelings related to them in my sketchbooks for future art-making. My use of this “feelings as guide” technique has helped me create many helpful guidebooks, so to speak, for my own creative life.  I find it a sustainable creative practice.

All that aside I’d like to add that eggplant can, once in a while, be a very good vegetable – especially as eggplant parmesan.