Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thursday Thoughts...

"Reading a good book helps us feel unalone". 
John Green

When things are tough or I am going through life experiences I have not previously had; I turn to books.  Sure I sometimes turn to the Internet, but the bottom line is I turn to books: to read the words that others have thought about and shared; to read how things can and might work out; to read of things I need to prepare myself for and the like.

In these times, I read to know I'm not alone.

In so many ways, books can offer us hope in the darkness; an understanding of what is really happening; or ways to gather and rise up and respond to things that are wrong.  Books can provide encouragement and ways forward, both of which we often need when we are not sure of how the next bit plays...

And so I am gathering good books like a squirrel gather nuts - books that help me make sense of the things I observe around the world; and books that help me have hope and strength to find ways through.

Where would we be without books?

Rainbow stack plus rainbow!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Variety in my life..

I'd have to say I never really get a chance to get bored. I often think I need about three lifetimes to do all the things I want to do; but for now I'll just fill this one up with as much interesting stuff as I can.

I wonder at times if I am a flibbertyjibbert (unsure of the spelling) or if I am just interested in lots of different things and use my brain in a multitude of ways.

Since returning from Toowoomba on Saturday night, my life has been about using produce from the garden, gardening, work-working, book group, catching up with friends, exercising and a sprinkling of mucking about in the studio.

Thanks to some advice I received after failing to get the bleach to really do its thing on black paper or fabric; I bought some fresh bleach and had much more success!

Golden tones on Black Canson.

Rich rusty tones on black cotton.

The garden has been producing madly - summertime will do that - so I have been making and preserving and basically busy in the kitchen whenever I get a moment.

Bell peppers and cherry guavas

Become sweet chilli sauce and cherry guava jelly.

Eggplants become baba ghanouj

Zucchinis become zucchini slice

And not our raspberries, but a delicious Cloud Cake for my Aunt's 80th birthday.

 And most of yesterday and today, I have been writing an online survey for an organisation in Melbourne, work-working.  I had to find a way to get the questions to lead to the right next questions after different responses and here is how I tried to work it out! Feels very different to my art-work; but I guess problem solving is problem solving no matter the problem.

Nonetheless, it does feel as if I am due some solid time in the studio just playing and experimenting and making stuff. Soon I hope, soon!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Teaching in Toowoomba

Barry and I drove over to Toowoomba late on Friday so that we would be there bright and early to start teaching on Saturday morning.

It was a hot day, but the welcome was warm; the venue beautiful and the day full of hard work and fun. I was invited by the Artists' Book group at the Toowoomba Art Society to teach Building Narrative in Artists' Books.

As I mentioned to them several times; they really got the speed version of the ideas, as the workshop would be best taken at a slightly more digestible pace over two days. But we did it!

By the end of the day peoples' brains were full of ideas and things to try and test and a sense of satisfaction that they had achieved something; as well as opened their minds to a bunch of new possibilities.

Twelve people joined me and they all got a folder with their name on it to collect their handouts in.

I was on my feet all day, talking and talking, showing, demonstrating, checking and the like and I rarely got to take any photos; for which I apologise.

We talked a lot about what narrative was in terms of story telling: beginnings, middles and ends; as well how it uses and refers to the past, the present and the future.

I went through how concertina books and scrolls tend to enable you to see the whole idea laid out once they are opened; whereas a codex hides the past and the future, and only offers a glimpse of the whole at any point in time.

We touched on a number of ways of engaging the reader, encouraging them to interact with the book and to continue to read through to discover what happens.  

I think one of the hardest parts for folk was the imposition of pages in a codex - working out the sequence of images and text you want to use; then woking out where they all are in relation to each there and how they will be seen when you open and read the book BEFORE you put the book together.

LOTS and LOTS of thinking and planning!

Betty went to town with her photos and made a book about life's journeys, with lots of twists and turns.

The starting point for Lorna - some of her own words. She went on to use circles and the transparencies in a multitude of intriguing ways.

Hilary made a gorgeous envelope with this template, and her book was full of beautiful artwork and connections.

Stephanie and Jean went on walks with nature; here are some of Stephanie's inclusions.

Debbie explored all of the ways you could make it interesting, as did Claudia and Ute.  So in a way, they made sample books for narrative books; and all of them had ideas of where to next; as if the process of making the templates, had triggered and sparked ideas which was great.

Noelle also tried lots of things and went away with book ideas bubbling along.

Nadine really got into her content and made a book that she could use with her Year 11 art students.

Jo discovered so many beautiful ways of revealing and hiding things as she made her way through her book; and how materials make a difference.  As did Jenny, whose book about the dingo fence had a great ending!

Some of the finished books.

We were doing a simple binding for a single section book (after all that hard thinking and planning it would have been way too cruel to do a complex binding!), but I offered them three variations on pamphlet sewing that just make the books look a bit different, interesting and enjoyable.

 Here are two of my samples - the dot-dash; and the chain stitch sewing.

Show and Tell at the end of the day.

Everybody got stuck in and did heaps of work towards their books. Not everybody completed a narrative book; but by the end of the day, everybody had a number of new skills in their repertoire as well ideas for their next books. I'd love to see where they go next with their books..

As we had breakfast in town before the workshop began, we came across this great laneway coffee shop with some beautiful mural work - here are a couple...

This one by Kate Hallen.

This one by Leona Fietz.

 It's always a good day when you see art and share art. Thanks so much to the Toowoomba Book Artists for inviting me and working so hard; and creating such wonder...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thursday Thoughts...

“I will love the light because it shows me the way. Yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” 

Og Mandino

This quote has been with me a long time, and it asked to be used today.  I have enjoyed flicking over it each time I prepare for my Thursday Thoughts post; but today it resonated more and reflected a bit about the way I am feeling at the moment.

iI is almost a truism I suppose: light showing the way; dark exposing things we couldn't see in the light. A simple idea which has probably been used for centuries to help us all make sense of the ups and downs of our world.

At the moment, it feels perfectly pertinent as we face so many distressing situations throughout the world. So many examples of ugliness and nastiness, all predicated on fear or greed or intolerance.  The number of times I have shaken my head with sadness and disbelief in the past month alone have been almost too numerous to count.

But yet.

In amongst all of the awfulness I am buoyed; my spirits are lifted; I am elated, by the rallying of good people with kind intentions all around. From the Women's marches and rallies; to people appearing at airport terminals; to small acts of kindness between strangers. These stars are shining, and they have come out, because the times feel so dark.

These little sparks of light convince me that there is hope; that with kindness and care we will get there.

Linoprint detail from Starry Starry Night.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Late last year Mo let me know she had come across somebody with some lead type that they were trying to work out what to do with.  I got in touch and over the course of things, I managed to get my Sydney-based brother to drive over, collect it, and store it, and then my Maleny-based father to drive it home from Sydney to Maleny. Nice work Fiona 😉

It was VERY heavy, and it sat on the floor of the studio for quite a few weeks, whilst I worked out what to do with it; and found the time to sort through it all.

The type looked pristine. and on the way through, I decided that I would try to proof the work, so that at least it had been printed once.

A week or so ago I did just that - only onto some poor old Canson Mi-Teinte that I had in the drawers, but it was about the right size.

As it isn't my work, I won't show you the whole thing here; but I did pop a few of the proofs into the mail and sent them down to Sydney just in case the originator wanted to see how it printed.

It was a fascinating piece of work and I loved looking at it, exploring its meanings...

Because there was still ink on the type; I had to just keep printing on scraps of paper. Can't waste ink!  So here are a few more fragments of the work.

And because the work was large, the paper small and very light, and my hand-rubbing-with-a-baren skills still relatively poor; I got these lovely stutter prints.

One of the most intriguing discoveries as I then spent hours cleaning and dissing the type, was how some pieces of type had been altered to create the letters that were needed, and which must have been missing. Here you can see how 'h' became an 'n' and how 'b' became an 'o' on occasions.  I loved the ingenuity.

And then, hours later, I had put it all away in TWO full drawers.  I went through and checked my books, and it is Monotype's Bodoni Bold Italic 36pt.  And those drawers are full and heavy.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Installation of IGA commission

At 6 am on Thursday morning, Barry and I met Sean from Quality Choice Signs at the doors of IGA in town, just as they opened, so that he could install the lettering work for the piece of art above the cash registers there.

As part of the 2104 renovation, this artwork had been designed by Noela Mills, and installed by Edith Ann and her team. Rob, the owner told me so many people loved it, but didn't really know what it was about, and he asked me to do a storyboard for the work; like I had done for the other artworks in the shop.

His preference this time however, was for a line of words ON the artwork, not a board that was separate to it.

So I had to do a lot of thinking about how to achieve that - what would be the best medium to get words on to composite aluminium? How large could the lettering be? what style might add to the work not detract from it?

The length required was just over 8metres, so I decided I wouldn't try to do calligraphy that went for 8 or so metres; but I would choose a font that I thought supported the work.

I offered Ron and Sam several options and they chose this one; a font that looks hand-drawn without being too stylised, yet is still easy to read.

I went to work trying to determine how to get the lettering into the files that the signwriters would need;   and making sure I had it all at the right length. I posted about my old fashioned approach here.

With the usual stresses and hassles of trying to get work upscaled and commercialised, it was with fear and trepidation that I showed up on Thursday, hoping against hope that I had chosen the right colour, the right size, the right layout etc.

By 10 past 6 Sean had laid out the first bit. I had planned for the baseline to be 200mm from the bottom as I recalled that the Christmas decorations and wreaths impinged on the work a bit; however when he placed it at that height, the words looked like they were floating in the middle of the work and didn't belong; so we dropped it down 50mm where it settled nicely, and should still be seen at Christmas.

It is quite a long piece of work...

When we got to the end, we were faced with a dilemma. Storage of some products hid the end of the artwork. There was no point moving the boxes, putting the lettering up and then replacing the boxes, so we had to modify the layout of the attribution (the title and the artist). But our solution works I think.

Here I am trying to explain how I want it to look. Sean was a designer and understood it all so beautifully; was flexible, and happy to work to make it look the best it could.

The solution (and the problem).

And then there was a little happy clap. Can you see that there is a hole in the floor just in the bottom right? We were working around the builders who had to replace a floorboard; folk coming in to buy things had to run an obstacle course for a bit!

The amount of lighting in a supermarket is amazing.  The words are there, but not there, depending on how you look at it and from where. But not in an irritating way, just in an interesting way.

A few closeups.

 Sean preparing, and revealing, the final (first) word - a job well done!

A pano shot attempting to get the whole work in (no easy task).

That is the final commission completed and it feels amazing. Now to focus on teaching in Toowoomba next weekend and making some of my own work.