Sunday, May 2, 2010

getting inky

Finally, I've managed to find a patch of time in which to concentrate on my BAO contribution... but, as we've all come to realise (except for the divine Ms Sara, who seems to be able to whip things up in a very organised manner), simple plans have a way of blowing out. Sometimes an idea comes to fruition easily, sometimes the process is a bit more laboured, and I think the process is akin to everything I've ever heard about writing a novel. I've heard lots of writers say that they create a character, only to have that character rebel against any ideas the author might have had for them. My book is doing a similar thing!


This is always how I start out, writing to myself and working out dimensions. Very few drawings, although images or words sit inside my head. On another page, I have the lines of the poem written, with notations around them about what they suggest to me.

Originally I thought about presenting the poem very literally. I set the type, in 10pt Sabon (I decide it should be a small book, that nestles in your hands), and I started cutting lino blocks: I cut a Halley's comet, a benchtop with note upon it.

One of the advantages of being very busy is that I didn't finish that second block, and the whole thing got put aside for a while. When I came back to it, I had changed my mind. I'd read the poem a few times by now, and I also have the advantage of hanging around the poet on a regular basis. This makes it hard to separate the poem from the writer, and I realised that instead of fighting that connection, I should tap into it, draw from it, while keeping away from the literal.

I decided to use monoprinting to make images for the pages. Have you ever tried it? It's like making a painting that you print, and only get one print from. I decided that loneliness and grief -- the two dominant emotions I get from the poem -- are universal human experiences, but no two experiences can be the same, so monoprinting suits as an visual metaphor.

I made a number of charcoal drawings, trying to get the sense of dark & light I wanted, and this weekend I went into the Book Studio of the Art School (where I have access to an etching press) and started working. Within the first hour I lost interest in the drawings. I read each couplet of the poem and responded to it intuitively, and within two prints of the edition had worked out an image, and I had to make that image over and over again, to the number of the edition (I'm hoping for 15, but I don't know how many I'll stuff up with the letterpress!).

monotree plate

Here's one of my plates, to go with the first two lines of the poem:

Being alone is also to be learnt
Long time or short time.

Here's a print from it, still glistening wet:

monotree print

As you can see from a few of them, each one is similar enough to be an edition, but they are all individual prints with distinctly different details.

monotree print 2

I'm aiming for that melancholy cast of mind you get when you arrive home at dusk to an empty house and the knowledge that no-one else is there or will be there.

It's taken me all weekend, and I've made 4 batches of pages. Each one is feeding off the others, and my ideas are shifting and fluid as I work. I have no idea what I'm doing on the next batch, but I will when I put the finished images in front of me the next time I get a chance to work, later this week.

So I'm getting there! I'll start printing the dry prints with letterpress and things will start to move faster then. I can't wait to get this book finished -- I want to hold the completed book in my hands!


Angela said...

The prints look gorgeous. You are so lucky to have access to such great kit. I love letter press, I only got a chance to do a little on my MA, but I understand what you mean by, stuffing it up! Can't wait to get the book.

SCB said...

Just beautiful... can't wait. And thanks for the added divinity! Despite the fact that you're very much mistaken, there's something very attractive about the compliment!

ronnie said...

wow - I love the forlorn little line of trees.... they have a very human quality about them... all standing solemnly in a row... and no doubt because of my mind making connections between makers and places, these little tree groups remind me so of the stands of poplars (not that your prints are poplaresque!) that pop up between cooma and canberra.... marking where people once lived ... and now only the remnant trees remain...

I hope the next stage goes well - can't wait to see the final piece.

Amanda said...

I thought the same as Ronnie - your imagery is very evocative of the road trip to Canberra. It's been over a decade since I visited, but I'm feeling pulled in your direction!
I also LOVE letterpress (actually I don't know anyone who doesn't) and am VERY excited at the prospect of a book using it.
Good luck!

Ampersand Duck said...

Actually, I thought about those trees, and there's another row of them between the Hume Highway and the Federal Highway when you come to Canberra from Goulburn... but to get the height of them I needed a higher page or to go smaller in scale, so I went for non-specific trees.

Thanks all, I will work extra hard & get it all done!

Carol said...

Wonderful imagery, I saw trees lined up like that on my recent trip. Lots of poplars too. Very beautiful. Can't wait to see the end result.

dinahmow said...

Another page that stirs trees in all of us. The words synchronicity and serendipity keep floating by...

Ida said...

can't wait. looks wonderful.

Angela said...

Just an aside - What do people think of having BookArtObject on Twitter? I would be willing to set it up and maintain it. There are quite a few book artists on there and the regularly Tweet about the work and process. What do you think?

SCB said...

Sounds good to me, Angela, especially if I don't have to do the tweeting! I tried Twitter and have lost enthusiasm... not because it doesn't "work" but because I'm too lazy to post enough stuff up there

Angela said...

I'm happy to Tweet! Here it is.

With one follower - me!

I've got a few book artists following me ( so I will follow them with BAO. I'll do a bit of tweaking with the layout etc. Where did our image of the book in the tree come from? I can put that on there so it all matches up.

One more question - what should the description of BAO be? How would we describe ourselves?

Jo said...

They're beautiful, Caren. Keep up the good work.