Tag Archives: art meme

calla_s – Dictionyms (or: Pimp!My!Book!)

4 Aug


I really wanted to put a rollover on the image above, but that would require javascript or CSS, neither of which I think I can incorporate into Livejournal. Not to worry, hopefully it will become clear that I haven’t just given calla_s some random red book in lieu of a proper art project!

If I refer back to the notes I first wrote up when deciding what to do for the art meme, next to C’s name was:

watercolour leaves
And this idea stayed with me for some months. The image was almost complete in my head too – I knew the picture I was going to use as reference and, other than the fact that I had no idea I would go about it, I could see how the picture would be laid out. Now, there’s often very little correlation between what I see in my head and the final product, so it’s very likely that C’s watercolour leaves would never have looked how I imagined them anyway. However one lifedrawing class, in January 2007, the leaves went completely out the window and were supplanted by another idea completely. An idea that was less elegant, perhaps, but also much cooler. Somehow I felt it suited calla_s better.

In this lifedrawing class one of the other students (a graphics arts student IRL) was using an old book on typography as a sketch book. He was drawing in figures in pen and ink and even liquid paper. I don’t think he was incorporating the typography text particularly, but he was doing collage with other ‘found’ paper (flyers and advertising material) in it too. I thought it was awesome and during the class the teacher started discussing the book, also mentioning another famous ‘treated’ book – A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel, by Tom Phillips. I had never heard of A Humument but was inspired by what she described and googled the name when I got home. Basically the story goes like this:

After reading an interview with William Burroughs in the mid-1960s, Tom Phillips began to play with the ‘cut-up’ technique, making ‘column-edge poems’ from copies of the New Statesman. To push the idea further, he decided to extend the treatment to the first (coherent) book that he could buy for threepence. One Saturday, Phillips found, for exactly threepence, a copy of W.H. Mallock’s 1892 novel, A Human Document. This book seemed appropriate and, in late 1966, Phillips began to work on it. At first he “merely scored out unwanted words with pen and ink.” However he soon moved on to incorporating a range of visual imagery using painting, pen and ink, typing and collaged fragments from other parts of the book (since a rule had grown up that no extraneous material should be imported into the work). The heroes of Mallock’s novel, Robert Grenville and Irma Schilizzi, both retained roles in Phillips’ treatment of the work. But Phillips also added a new major character, Bill Toge, who could appear only when Mallock had written the words “together” or “altogether” on a page. These are the only two words from which this characters surname can be constructed.

After its first publication in book form in 1980, A Humument became a cult classic. and remains a work in progress. Inspired, I immediately ordered a copy of the fourth edition (2005), in which over half the pages of the 1980 edition have been replaced by new versions. I thought A Humument was stunning, as well as being a fascinating idea. I decided to find my own book and have a go at ‘treating’ it to see what would happen.

Dictionyms - Title PageDictionyms - Pages 24-25Dictionyms - Pages 28-29Dictionyms - Pages 40-41Dictionyms - Pages 48-49
Note: Check out the whole book, in order, at this Flickr set

So I went out one Saturday morning with a mission: to find a book for £1 (taking inflation into account) that would be suitable for ‘treatment’. Enter Austin K. Gray’s A Dictionary of Synonyms! It was small, tactle – a nice little book that wasn’t too long (I was mindful of the fact that I’d be needing to ‘treat’ each and every page). And I went for it! I worked out the name (Dictionyms) pretty early on, in much the same way the name A Humument was formed. It took me a couple of false starts to get into a routine and quite a number of ‘failed pages’ were excised from the volume during the treatment. I worked out pretty early on that it was best to consider each ‘open face’ as one picture, rather than each individual page. Some of the felt pens I used bled through the page, so it was also apparent early on that pictures couldn’t go ‘back to back’ (I got round this by glueing adjacent pages to together and was actually pretty pleased to discover this because it made the pages thicker, more sturdy, and also cut down the number of pictures to complete the book!) The majority of the book is either felt tip pen[1] or gouache, a slighly opaque watercolour paint that I’d not used before (but happened to have a box of tubes of). However, collage and ‘paper engineering’ also came in to play, and these are some of my favorite pages. There was a big element of chance in the creation of A Humument, and that is certainly the case in for Dictionyms too. Most of the materials I used just happened to turn up, including the essay-marking stamps that I came across while housesitting during the final stages of construction.

Unlike A Humument, Dictionyms does not have a narrative running through it. There’s nothing (consciously) there to link one page to another and I think this is partly due to the nature of the starting material. Unlike A Human Document, which is a novel, A Dictionary of Synonyms is essentially lists of words. While I have used the words on each page in the pictures, it was hard to make cohesive sentences from them, and certainly as I went through the book, consideration of this became less important. (Although there is a secret message on the last page!!) I think you could probably derive meaning from my choice of words and images, however it’s was all done on the pretty subconscious level so I wouldn’t be able to explain it myself. I’d be interested in hearing other peoples interpretations, however.

Dictionyms - Pages 58-59Dictionyms - Pages 62-63Dictionyms - Pages 72-73Dictionyms - Pages 76-77Dictionyms - Pages 80-81

One thing that Dictionyms did have in it’s favour, however, were the lovely shapes that the columns of words made on each page. I noticed this on the first page, and many of the felt pen pages were inspired by the shapes I could find in the text. Indeed I got so mesmerised with tracing out the shapes, I had to consciously think about doing other things to the pages instead. Dictionyms is pretty much a sketch book so not every image works. Very little planning went into each page other than ‘what shall I do now??’, as I stared at the blank page and looked at the words that were available. There were a couple of exceptions to this. I decided I needed an End page as soon as I’d finished Begin. The popup page was inspired by Jim Woodring’s moleskin popups, reported on Boing Boing in April 2007. It took me a couple of months to work up to this page, and required some experimentation before constructing the final.

I am increasing interested in the interplay of text and images – and especially text as images and I think Dictionyms has been another aspect of this exploration. I can’t really comment on whether Dictionyms is good or not because it just is. I don’t know if I’ll do anything like this again – not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because it is quite an undertaking to do it properly (and I don’t think I’ve necessarily done it properly here). However, I love the idea of using old books as sketch books and I’ll definitely be doing that in the future. I think I’d also like to do the reverse of Phillips and, having worked on a book, I could possibly concetrate on single pages of text to create individual works of art. Anyway, I hope calla_s doesn’t think Dictionyms is too weird. I’ve become quite attached to it myself 🙂

Dictionyms - Pages 88-89Dictionyms - Pages 92-93Dictionyms - Pages 104-105Dictionyms - Pages 112-113Dictionyms - Pages 122-123

[1]Sharpies, actually. I love my Sharpies, kindly procured from the US for me by a friend. I’m already mourning the day my Sharpies run out.

[2]This was not the case in the Introduction, which I have essentially left untreated – partly because it was so cute! Did you know that, ironically, there is no synonym for synonym??

exp_err – Monoprint Man

25 Mar


If I had any doubt that exp_err would get a nude, it disappeared after fred_bear went all art nouveau. Also, exp_err had expressed some enthusiasm towards receiving a naked chick when the meme first started so I thought I was probably onto a sure thing 😉 Just to clarify, though, Monoprint Man is not a naked chick, but a naked bloke. I think it’s pretty obvious, but I realise that his crossed arm could be considered a bosom and his genitalia is rather indistinct. This is the beauty of the monoprint!

So what is a monoprint?

Well, as it’s name might suggest, it’s a one-off print – the most painterly of the printmaking techniques!! (I love this phrase 🙂 Traditionally, monoprints are prepared by painting ink onto a panel (non-porous perspex or metal or glass) and then putting a piece of paper over the panel and sticking the whole thing through rollers to transfer the image. The act of rolling can cause unexpected results that you just don’t get with a straight painting. Apparently some artists display both their prints and the panel as ‘mirror images’. The technique we used in class (and that I had also used in my ‘first steps’ class) is simpler. Ink is rolled onto a perspex panel, a piece of paper placed lightly over the panel and the ink transferred through pressure – either by using a pencil or your fingers or whatever you like. So a monoprint with this front has this corresponding back. The lovely thing about monoprints is their unexpected quality. You never know exactly how the image will look until you peel off the paper. The simple act of rolling the ink on your panel can affect how your final art work looks. The thickness and quality of the line changes depending on how thick the ink is and how many prints have been made beforehand. Monoprinting is also very tactile – pressing with your fingers almost feels like you’re sculpting. While some monoprinting is laborious, the technique we used doesn’t take that long to do. I reckon I did up to 20 monoprints in class, when normally I might do between 5-10 pictures depending on what we’re doing. But, while this might imply these monoprints are quick and disposable, each one is absolutely unique and can’t be repeated.

I did not plan to give exp_err a monoprint. In fact, in the week before we did monoprinting, I’d gone into class with the aim of creating a whole painting for her. However, it was – if not crap – not what I was hoping for. I think in this case one of the problems was that I was really drawing with paints, rather painting (something I’m working on now). But also, in a 3 hour class the longest pose is normally an hour and it is just not possible to get above a certain level of consideration and care. From this respect, monoprinting is a great technique for a lifedrawing class. And when I reviewed my work at home, I knew that exp_err would get one.

So why this picture? I did consider some of the smaller pieces, which are very striking on their coloured A4 card. However, I think Monoprint Man has a much more subtle quality to him. There are lots of things I love about this picture. I *love* the curve that traces along his back, created by me rolling the ink on the perspex, and completely independently of the line I then traced for his back. I love how indistinct his body actually is – but how you can find his fingers peeping out from under his arm if you look closely enough. I love the composition – the fact he has no head (!) And he looks great framed[1].

Monoprinting suits my TV attention span in a way that other painting techniques can’t[2] and I certainly intend to get my own roller and perspex to do more of these in the future. There’s a lot of potential.

[1] Framing also hides the scrappy paper edge… :-O
[2] But I’m working on this too 🙂

girliejones – Le Corset Vert

8 Mar


I had a pretty clear idea of what girliejones picture would be from very early on. I was interested in doing a stylised acrylic picture for the art meme, as I’d started one 18 months earlier but never finished it[1]. I thought g-j would like that style and my original notes were:

stylised acrylic painting: still life, involving coffee cup. solid colours – purple/maroon

girliejones likes coffee 🙂 However, a couple of days after the art meme started, girliejones made this post on her knitting blog. Suddenly my brain started sparking all sort of french, slightly Moulin-y Rouge ideas revolving around corsets. I gathered reference material, both from my postcard collection and relevent sources and I started sketching. As seems to be the case with me, early drafts were overly complicated, but I simplified. And then I simplified again[2].

While girliejones draft was completed second only to the draft I did for planeterry, there was a looong period of silence between finishing the draft and starting the actual picture. True, I did manage to finish 4 of the other pieces in that time, but the real truth was I was scared of the acrylics. Well, not scared, but not *comfortable*. It was easy to keep putting it off. However, by the time I did get round to starting, I’d had a bit more experience with acrylics. And while that experience had (very) mixed success, it did start to fix in my mind how they work. I took it slow, ensured each layer was dry before starting the next and everything was OK.

With acrylics you can paint over and over, which makes them more flexible than watercolour. They dry fast too. However, I think I do prefer oils (says she who hasn’t actually used oils in 10 years!!) which don’t dry as fast so you can mix on the canvas, making gradients in tone and shade much easier. However, acrylics work really well for what I was trying to achieve in g-j’s picture – solid shapes of flat colour. Also, painting is much easier on a nice solid board than the canvas paper I used (though it *is* nice paper and I do like its texture). I taped the paper so there’d be a nice white space around the picture (not shown), which was nicely effective but not as pristine as I would’ve liked. Sadly the the paint bled under the edges of the tape so in some bits you can see the ‘history’ of colours I’ve used in the layers underneath. I’m torn between liking this ‘mini’ archaeology and wishing that the edges were neat. My colour mixing is still ad hoc. While I think the colours work well together, they weren’t really chosen by design. I’d like more control of the exact shade I use.

But I’m still really pleased with the picture. I like the texture of the the wall(paper) and think that the stylised curtain has come out well – better than I expected. The wood floor is a bloody masterpiece! I looove the dummy the best, despite the small error in perspective (!) But I’ll let you work out where that is for yourself…

[1]For ‘started’ read: painted a blue square on a piece of cartridge paper and never got any further…
[2] And the final is even simpler again, as even more details were removed.

cassiphone – A Water Nymph

4 Mar


Even though I didn’t know her very well at the time, cassiphone‘s was the first piece that I knew *exactly* what I was going to do. I knew within five minutes.

My notes for cassiphone:
pencil sketch, coloured, V&A

Last April I’d been up to the V&A to sketch with my art class. At first everyone apprehensive about doing it in front of other people, but it turned out to great – really inspiring. Our task for the day had been to use colour pencils to investigate tone and we’d spent the time in the Cast Courts. Statues are great for tone and it’s amazing the difference there is between colour tonal pictures and plain graphite or charcoal. You can get some amazing effects. I drew a very nice lion and the back(side) of some nekkid boy who was blowing a trumpet. I had been planning for months to go back to the V&A by myself to do it again. While I really liked both the pics I’d done before, the lion suffered from me pressing too hard (once you press, you can’t unpress, you can only press harder), and I felt that I’d only began to understand the purple/blue/green/yellow colour combo I’d been using on the boy.

This seemed the perfect opportunity to do it again. cassiphone loves things Roman, so I would go find her a nice Roman statue and draw it in colours! When I got back to the Cast Courts, however, I remembered *Doh!* Medieval!! – perhaps cassiphone would like to make do with something else[1]. After a considered tour of the Courts, I found a series of water nymphs that I really liked. I didn’t know it at the time, but these nymphs were (casts of) the work of Jean Goujon, who carved the nymphs for the Fontaine des Innocents in Paris. (The originals are now in the Louvre).

One of them stood out immediately (frankly, I think it was her sexy stomach), so i did a quick and dirty graphite sketch to warm up – twenty minutes all up. Then I thought I should give another nymph a go and did a (still fairly quick and dirty – and I pressed too hard) sketch in colour. Another 30 minutes gone and I thought I’ve got all the time in the world!! I still liked the first one best so I quickly tried out her head (being properly careful) and decided I time for a lovely lunch (pot o tea and a chocolate brownie 🙂 in the Museum’s Cafe. I then had about 2 and a bit hours before I was scheduled to meet my friend for afternoon tea[2]. I got out my heavy cream (A4) cartridge paper and started. So now I was doing it ‘proper’, there was a lot more thinking, a lighter touch, and it was much much slower! After 2 hours I’d done her outline, but had only filled in the detail to her waist. I texted my friend for a half hour stay, but after that I was not much further, and I really needed a break anyway. So I finished her feet and legs at home. Luckily my camera takes photos because I totally didn’t *think* about taking my camera, which was stooopid of me. All in all this visit was a good lesson for me of the merits of quick n dirty, versus the payoff you do get when you draw proper.

I *love* this picture. I love the colours and think I used the combination of purple/blue/yellow/green much better than in my original nekkid boy. I’ve tried other colour combos, but nothing seems to really match it. I do love drawing – better than painting but that may just be practise. And mostly I love drawing at the V&A. It is still a most excellent experience and I should go back again 🙂

[1] Actually when I went off to have my lovely lunch, I found the Roman section, but I still like what I’d picked best. I also found a tiny but fascinating display on Maurice Sendak and Beatrix Potter, but that’s another story entirely.

[2] For more tea and brownies, perhaps?? Actually we went straight for the wine 🙂

fred_bear – Belle Art Nouveau

26 Feb


I thought that if anyone was going to get a picture of a naked man, it was going to be fred_bear.

So what happened?

Well, I went to Prague. I went to Prague and discovered Alphonse Mucha. I really wanted to have a go imitating (emulating!) some of his art nouveau posters and I thought fred_bear would probably appreciate his style. So, with this new inspiration, I tried out some ideas. I realised pretty early on that Mucha’s art is complex – too complex (to be honest) for my skill level and my small A4 sheet of paper. Also, he’s just much better (more experienced!) at drawing than me. For my first attempt, I decided to concentrate on a head, rather than a whole body. So I needed a face and I remembered that fred_bear had a pic she really really liked (and which she’d conveniently posted on her lj :-). She could be the face! So now I had a great face, I started trying to put it into a picture but frankly I had a lot of trouble (and here is an example). The main problem is that all you really see of fred_bear in the picture is her face and I was getting absolutely lost in working out how big her head should be relative to that. What I needed was fred_bear‘s face on a head. Fortunately I knew someone, with relatively similar hair and head, who was willing to be photographed 🙂 After some 40-odd shots (digital camera), I ended up with a head at the right angle that I could stick fred_bear’s face on. (Seriously!) This was a great help and I decided that my next draft was the one[1].

After I’d made up my final draft, I transferred it only to tracing paper, which was a genius idea cos I ended up tracing the final picture three times. I used a mixture of pen, gouache and water colour pencils. These are all difficult materials for me – much more difficult than, say, acrylic or oils or graphite – because once you put it on, it’s there for good and it’s *very* difficult to go over it without messing it up even more. I’m generally a messy person and this is part of the reason I was trying them out. One of the mistakes occurred because I didn’t realise my pen was not waterproof, once because I’d decided I was too heavy handed with pink on fred_bear ‘s face. My final picture is not perfect – I think other copies looked more like fred_bear than this final one. It’s a great lesson in how tiny change in pen stroke can really change a whole face. But the final picture is (i think!!) really rather pretty – I love the dark red and the stars and the border and the hair.

[1] fred_bear‘s hair? A complete rip off of the hair Mucha put on Music!!

planeterry: A Lunar Odyssey

26 Feb


Ironically, this is an electronic copy of a hardcopy of an electronic document (a scan of a printout of an Illustrator file :-). The only thing extra you get that’s not on the original is my signature[1]. Also, it’s a bit grey (For all my pieces, my attempts at colour matching have been absolutely non-existant). The hard copy is number one of a (very) limited edition of two prints[2]. I’m keeping the other.

Anyway, the first notes I had for planeterry’s piece were:
collage! need to buy lacquer
I think I was planning to attempt another collage like this. However, then along came andrewmacrae and his typewriter art and I started thinking about text. At first I was still thinking about doing a physical collage, but using text instead of colour (for some reason I kept imagining a shell like this). I even considered completely ripping off Andy and doing ASCII art just like his (sans typewriter, although I have one now). But then, as I was sorting out the recycling, I came across this picture (from a free newspaper from the British Library). Well! Obviously that was it. By this time I’d also started doing some of my experiments with text in Illustrator and I thought I was ready to start doing something a little more complex.

The first step was draw a line sketch that I could import[3]. This got scanned and then I used it in Illustrator. It was pretty low tech – the sketch was on one layer and I drew over the top in other layers. The main elements are clipping masks made up from different textures formed using different fonts. At first all the textures spelt out ‘planeterry’, but in then end I added a few other, lighter, textures made from other suitalbe words, like http:// and www. My favourite bit is the tiny planeterry stars. Printing it out was almost the hardest bit! Getting my el cheapo printer to print out the image in the middle of an A4 piece of paper took some trying.

I think I spent the longest time on this piece. Firstly, Illustrator is quite labour intensive – particularly making up the clipping masks. But also, if you make a mistake, you can undo and try again. And again. With the other pieces there is no undo if you make a mistake – you just keep going and try and hide it as best you can (or start again). It was great though. I think both the picture and the style really suits planeterry. And I’m definitely interested in making more art out of text.

[1] And I appear to have forgotten to put the ‘r’ in !!
[2] Not including all the scrappy draft printouts, of course. The final prints are on some *beautiful* archival quality inkjet paper, made from cotton fibres and with a velvet finish.
[3]Actually, these pics have already been on the blog… 🙂

The Art Meme

26 Feb

Some time back in October, I took part in an art meme that went like this:

The first five people to respond to this post, will get some form of art/crafty thing, by me, especially for them. I make no guarantees about quality or type, but I will assure that I will give it good effort and that the art will be individual to you, so if you get a mixed CD or some sort of painting doodle, jar or baked good, yours is the only one like it.

The only catch, of course; as with most memes, if you sign up, it is desirable that you put this in your own journal as well. And that I am the first of the 5 people you make something for, so it’s a give and take thing 🙂

I promised to make things (specifically drawing/paintings) for exp_err, girliejones, planeterry, calla_s, fred_bear, and cassiphone and lo and behold I’ve finished!!![1].

I’ve written a post about each picture and why (and how) I made it and now that I’ve had word that a couple of pieces have now been received so I can now start unveiling the posts. They’ve all been challenging for me and I’m pleased with the results. However I won’t deny it will be a *relief* when this is all over!!

[1] Actualy not quite true, but we’re getting there.