Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I hope everyone had a happy holiday season.  At the last moment we decided to pick names out of a hat and I was lucky enough to get my sister's name for the gift giving.  She had admired my sketchbook that I submitted for the project so I came up with the idea of creating a planner or journal for her based on the ideas that I used for the sketchbook.  This came to me when I was taking a card class at a local art store.  They were offering a planner workshop that was designed to use photographs to create a scrapbook like planner as a Christmas gift. 

As part of the workshop kit, you got an 8"x8" binder and enough 2 page per week spreads for the entire year plus extra pages for pictures and memorabilia.  There were also some embellishments and scrapbook papers included in the kit.  The spaces for photos were 4"x6" which I thought would be suitable for smaller reproductions of some of the sketchbook pages I had created using quotes from Rumi and Lao Tzu.

I signed up for the workshop but then Mother Nature intervened and Sarnia was hit by major snowstorms and we were under a state of emergency for almost a week.  That set back my plans a bit.  While I was house bound without the kit I did gather supplies and create watercolour background, as well as scour magazines for text expressions and dig out my favourite rubber stamps.

When the snow lifted enough to travel, I collected my kit and spent several hours at the store, stamping in the 2011 calendar onto the planner pages.  With that task accomplished I was ready to create my gift in the remaining week before Christmas.  Santa's elves had competition I can tell you.  I was burning the midnight oil or should I say electricity.  I had so many boxes of supplies open around the floor that it was like the day I unpacked my workshop.  The cat was having a field day with the scraps of thread and paper.

Bit by bit the planner came together.  I tried to make sure that the end result would be functional as well as interesting and thought provoking.  Some page just seem to build themselves.  Text excerpts from four or five different magazine ads would come together to express a completely new thought which would fit in perfectly with a quote or a picture or a painted background.  You know those moments that seem somehow meant to be... The planner seemed to be filled with those.  As if I'd been saving some of these bits and pieces for just this project, for just this time and for just this person.  As they used to say on the A Team, "I love it when a plan(ner) comes together."

In my zeal to get everything completed and wrapped ---- I forgot to take any pictures of the construction or of the competed project for that matter.  But I was pleased with it and I'm glad to say, so was my sister.  She paid me that supreme honour of silence when she first saw it and then she put it to one side and said she needed to be alone to savour it when she first looked at it.  You can't get much better than that, now can you.
I've been working on a new acrylic mixed media project.  This time it's been a picture of silver birch in the moonlight.

This is a 9"x12" canvas.


The trees are in relief.  They are are made from rolled strips of paper towel that have been twisted and glued with a watered glue mixture onto a gessoed canvas. The thinner branches were made with thin cord.  The entire canvas was then painted black and then with varying shades of blue/gray.  The trees were then sponged white and the recesses shaded with brown.  The moon was dry brushed with a luminous dove gray.

This is my first attempt at trees.  I have a ways to go if I'm aiming at realism but for an impressionistic view I think I got the idea across at least.  I enjoyed trying, at any rate.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I sent it off on December 1 and it arrived in Brooklyn at the Art Library at 11:55 on December 4, 2010.  My sketchbook is now officially part of the project and out of my hands.


I have been busy for the past few months working on ideas for my theme, "It must be".   This is the first time that I've worked on anything that I've known anyone other than myself was going to see and I found that it made a big difference.

Rather than being able to just dive in, I found that I was stuck at the beginning.  I couldn't begin at all.  Even though I chose my own theme I couldn't seem to find the right way to approach it and I was convinced there was a RIGHT way.  I racked my brain thinking of ways to end the phrase "it must be..." and while they seemed promising my ideas always fizzled out.

Eventually, I decided that there wasn't ONE right way to go about it and I could use the phrase for anything and everything.  Once I looked at things from that perspective the content of my book was easy.  The next step was the medium.

Tackling a sketchbook was a bit optimistic if not arrogant on my part.  I can't draw or sketch.  I've read the part where everyone can draw, it's just practice.  That may be true -- but I haven't practised and I didn't think I had the time to take lessons.  What I wanted to do, and what I felt the purpose of the sketchbook was, was to express myself.  That I could do in my own way, on paper.  I chose to do it through pen and ink, paint, paper, scissors and glue.

So, in the final analysis, it's not so much a sketchbook (although, I did put in a sketch or two) as a mixed media book. 

My theme:  It must be ...
It must be    what?     Whatever I want it to be.   
Light, dark     Happy, sad    Contemplative, interactive   
Original, quotations    Colourful, sombre 

Hopefully there will be at least one page that strikes a chord with someone.  This is the biggest risk I have ever taken and I'm glad it's out of my hands now.

Here are a few of the spreads.









If you browse the project, check out CAW230
I belong to the ning site Lovin Mixed Media hosted by Gary Reef who is an incredible artist.  He freely shares his techniques through video tutorials and one of the techniques he shared was how to use aluminum foil with acrylic paints.

The first step was to take some aluminum foil and crumple it up, then lightly smooth it out and attach it to your substrate.  I was using a 5"x7" artist canvas and covered my canvas lightly in PVA to attach the foil, wrapping any extra around the sides and back.  I took some additional foil and "made" a snake and attached it to the upper right of the canvas with PVA.  I took a piece of an aluminum pie plate that had an interesting texture and placed it under the foil in the lower left of the piece and smoothed the foil over it to bring out the texture.

Then I added some acrylics to the mix.
The glare is distorting the colours and I can't seem to get around that.  I have an overhead fluorescent light in my workroom and it play havoc when I take pictures of anything with a shimmer.

The next step in Gary's technique is to put down a layer of bitumen.  For me, in Canada, that is acrylic driveway sealer and white spirits or varsol.  When that dark, tarry mix is painted on it darkens everything and then is taken back or removed with varsol to reveal the areas of colour you want seen.


As you can see, I removed quite a bit. It left all my colours darker, which I liked.  I then used a Krylon gold leafing pen to fill in some areas and to vein some of the creases.  I used a found object, a gold filigree heart, to give balance on the lower left.  The background is a second artist canvas, 8"x10", that was spray painted with hammered bronze paint before being attached to the smaller canvas.  This piece will be framed with a custom frame that I am making in my woodworking course. 

The frame will be 3" wide and I plan on using a black gloss treatment on it.  I'll post a picture when it's complete.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Do you remember the wooden cover I posted a while back .... the one from my woodworking course?  Well, I finally made something with it and the picture was downloaded when I downloaded the ones from BookBinding III.  Do you remember what it looked like?


Well, here is what the finished book looks like.


After staining the oak ovals, I gave them a coat of varathane and lightly sanded them and them put another coat of varathane on them.  Then I put eyelets into the predrilled holes.  Because the wooden covers were thick, I was able to insert an eyelet into each side of the cover. 

I drew a template to cut out my signatures for my text block and sewed them over leather thongs that were then laced through the centre four holes of the covers.  The middle two thongs were tied together as you see in the picture above and used as the book closure.  The upper and lower thongs were threaded through the remaining eyelets and glued down. 




I had a single earring and used that as the decoration for the cover.  I traced that onto the book and then carved a groove that would allow me to embed the medallion into the wood for gluing.  I didn't like the bald look of the brass meeting the wood, so I used some silk cord and glued that around the circumference of the medallion.  This seemed to give it the definition is was missing.

I can't say that this book was well designed because I drilled the holes in the wood without really thinking through the book design.  That sort of came after and is not the way I would do it in retrospect.  I definitely put the cart before the horse in this project and most of the time I was working out how to make things work.  In the picture with the book open, you can see the problem I ran into with using an oval.
I still like the idea, though.  I'm just going to think it through from the perspective of a book first, before I cut the wood.  I'm not going to let the power tools go to my head.  
I've finally downloaded my pictures from Book Binding III and I'm ready to post them.  It was such a busy class that I'm ashamed to say that I didn't take as many pictures as I hoped to.  I got so involved in what I was doing that I didn't remember to take pictures as I went along so I didn't document the steps as well as I wanted to.  That's because Dan is such an interesting teacher.  I should have my camera ready when he demonstrates, rather than thinking that I'll take pictures of my work in stages.  I should just know by now that I never remember to do that.

Well, any way, here goes.  We were making two books this time.  Both books were being sewn over cords.  One was sewn over flattened cords.

We used hemp cord that was untwisted and combed for our flattened cord.  I just taped mine to the litho stone I was using to pare my leather to hold them in place while I was sewing the signatures.  I used a diagonal pencil line to keep my signatures in order while I was sewing them.  There is a kettle stitch at the head and tail of the text block.

The signatures were held down with a brass weight during the sewing.

The second book was sewn on raised cords and I used a packed stitch for sewing the signatures over these cords.

The packed stitch is wrapped around the cord and goes back through the original hole in the signature.  Once again, there is a kettle stitch at the head and tail of the text block for stability.

These books were constructed with leather hinges that were attached to the endpapers that were hooked into the text block.


The burgundy is the endpaper for one of the books.  The turquoise is dyed goat leather.



The endpaper is also lined with a protection package so that the leather of the hinge does not emboss itself upon the endpaper leaving a ridge.  This will be removed before the hinge is pasted down.

These were the finished endpapers for the two books waiting to be sewn onto the text blocks.  The endpapers were coordinated with decorative papers that were going to be used for the covers.

I chose the burgundy to go with the marbled paper and the taupe to work with the metallic paper.  I'd never worked with a metallic paper before.  They require delicate handling when they are wet as some of the metallic pigment will flake at fold areas at that time.

Finished books:
The book sewn over flattened cords was given a ribbon attached to the spine.  The endband was hand sewn with linen thread in a conservation stitch over a hemp core.  The endcap was formed to cover the tube of the hollow spine.  The leather hinges provide easy opening of the covers of the book.




The book sewn over raised cords has a solid back.  The endband was sewn with two colours of silk, chosen to coordinate with the marbled cover paper, over a core of hemp.  The head of the text block was given a colour treatment of a light burgundy dye and sealed with wax.


The leather was worked around the raised cords so that their appearance would be pronounced.

The leather on the corners of both books was pared very thin and then pleated and mitred as it was glued to the board.  This reduces bulk and produces a neat, and if well executed (by a better hand than mine) almost invisible corner.  One of my corners almost reached that exalted state.

These bindings, unlike cased in books, are extremely strong and long wearing.  This is the type of binding that would be done with full leather in the Middle Ages.

It was a great class.
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