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Ten Days Under the Moon

A Chronicle of my Pop-Up Residency at Green Hill Center for NC Art

Day 10—All good things must end…

I had my show tonight at the Green Hill Center for NC Arts, to show my book LUNA, and talk about bookbinding to their visitors for “First Friday”. It went very well, and everyone thought the book was lovely, even if it’s not entirely complete. I still have the spine bands to mount, the Swarovski crystals to set in the cover, and all the calligraphy to do, but other than that, the book is structurally complete and looks very nice. I am very happy with the results, and only wish I had a couple more days before the show to get it totally finished.

I’m exhausted–mentally, physically, and emotionally, so I’m skipping out on writing my full blog entry tonight. I’ll address the last tow days this weekend, and post big write-ups and lots of photos.

Thanks to everyone  for your support. This Residency was an interesting experience, and I learned some new things that I will be putting into practice in the future.

Stay tuned for updates this weekend!

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Day 9—Art knows no schedule…

Into the home stretch. I packed all my gear out of Green Hill Thursday evening, so that I could work on my book into the night, in my studio.

And here we are, Friday morning–my studio is a disaster, the book isn’t quite done yet, and I haven’t had any sleep. I’m going to grab a quick nap, and go back into the studio for a bit to finish it up as best I can, then back to Green Hill for “First Friday”, and my show.

I’ve got some pics, and a big write-up about finishing up this book, but I’m too exhausted to deal with it today. I’ll update my blog tonight or Saturday, with the final 2 posts–I’m sure y’all won’t be disappointed!

Wish me luck on my show tonight. And if you are in the area, please stop in to Green Hill Center for NC Arts, to see my book, and talk about my work, and enjoy their “First Friday” event–I hear there will be live music!

Day 8—Miles to go before I sleep…

I got a lot accomplished today. My biggest accomplishment, I believe, was coming to terms with the fact that I cannot finish an edition of 3 of this book by Friday, and deciding to focus on completing one now, and finishing the other two over the next week or two, back in my own studio. That decision takes a tremendous amount of stress off my mind, and frees me up to really focus on making one book for the show on Friday, so I can really make it to the best of my abilities.

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All the pages are finished (for all three books) with the staining process and with coloring and tinting. Now all that remains is to focus on completing ONE book–do the Asemic writing, guard each signature, drum-leaf bind the book, and then make and attach the cover. I am certain I can accomplish that by Friday afternoon.

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Aside from completing the painting stage of the pages, I also broke out my hammer and pulverized the two tektites I purchased the other day. They were hard to break, but even extraterrestrial space stones don’t stand a chance against a 2.5lb drilling hammer and a steel backing plate, they broke down to dust fairly easily.

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The dust is surprisingly green in color–so I’ll probably mix it with some Bohemian Green Earth watercolor and mark each page with it. Special “thanks” to Timothy Ely for giving me that idea–to mess with future conservators and archivists by putting extraterrestrial material in my pigments. And thanks to the folks at Rocks and Locks here in Greensboro for turning me on to these interesting little Guangdong Tektites.

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Tomorrow, Green Hill opens a little later in the day, so I’ll be running to Reconsidered Goods to find some suitable leather for the covers, and I realized today I am getting low on the FW Pearlescent “Galactic Blue” ink I’m using for the writing, so I may drop by John Neal Bookseller one last time in hopes they have a bottle in stock. I don’t think I’ll run out, but it will be close, with less than half a bottle left.

It is hard to believe this is coming to an end so soon. I’ve really enjoyed working in this environment, and especially teaching the children about making books. The staff of Green Hill has been supremely supportive and encouraging. They have made this a very uplifting and stress-free experience, and I look forward to working with them more in the future…

Day 7—Under Pressure…

Day 7, and I’m feeling the pressure. Producing THREE copies of this book is far more than I had expected. I think I can complete them all by Friday, but it’s going to require a Herculean effort. The clock is ticking, and it feels like it time not on my side, most of the day today.

However, I did get most of my printouts “weathered”, and got the first page–which is the most complicated in terms of painting–complete. The weathering process is messy, and involved spraying walnut-colored ink on the sheets, then dry-brushing it so it’s not too spotty, then wet-brushing and toweling off most of the pigment, to leave just a light stain on the paper. It’s tricky because I can’t get too much of the walnut ink on the photo images, due to the wet-working, which tends to lift off the Canon ink. So it is tedious and at times, time-consuming, but I’ve got a system, and it seems to work.

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With all the prints I have at hand, weathered (7 out of 11), I hung them to dry, skived the strips of leather I stamped about a year ago when I first had the idea for this project using my Schärffix Skiver, and I took a lunch break.

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After a quick snack, I headed over to my studio at 205, to finish up my lying press. The parts for this press were things I already had at hand–I bought them last Fall with the intention to build this press over the Winter, and just never got around to doing it.

With the help of a  fellow “205er”–Phillip–who is an excellent woodworker and an all-around great guy, I was able to put it together in just a few hours (not counting the 2-days I had the boards glued up and clamped, so the glue would be nice and cured before I Started cutting and drilling it.)

Phil recently got a new planer/joiner, and I just so happened to need the edges of by boards squared up, so I left them with him last night to run them through the joiner and dress up the edges. Today, he let me use his drill press, and I drilled the holes for the pipe clamps, then took the boards back to my studio to sand and finish with hand-rubbed Danish Oil. It turned out really nice, and the contrast between the Red Oak planks and the thin, poplar faces is especially satisfying to me. This press will be a tremendous addition to my book making tools–and will definitely help in this project.

lyingpress

Back to Green Hill, and time to start coloring. The end of the day is fast approaching, and I’ve got the most complicated page to do first–so I set to it, readying my little porcelain palette, and getting my brushes picked out. This page has a lot of details to be painted, and it’s slow work, but I finished them.I’m using watercolors from Daniel Smith, M. Graham, and Finetec. The Finetec golds are superb–I never thought I’d find a better gold watercolor than Schmincke Horadam, but I’ll admit, Finetec looks more like real gold, is more opaque, goes into solution faster and more evenly, works like a dream-wet or dry, and at nearly 1/3 the price, it’s a no-brainer.

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Tomorrow will go much faster, as most of the other pages don’t have nearly as much detail painting. Most of the work on them is the Asemic writing, which I’ll have to start at my studio (I need a light table to draw the “grid dots”).  But the writing goes surprisingly fast, and these pages should all be done by mid-day Thursday, I’m hoping. Depending on my progress tomorrow (Wednesday), I may decide to just finish one copy of the book now, for the show on Friday, and complete the other two after my Residency is through.

Ten days seems like a long time, but with the delays in getting my prints made (that set me back nearly 3 days), interfacing with the public (mostly teaching small children about book binding–which I enjoy tremendously, but it is not conducive to making art), and moving things from my studio to Green Hill and back every few days (so I could do “homework” over the weekend when they were closed), it seems like I might have been a little too ambitious with planning to complete a3-copy edition of this book in just 10 days.

One thing is for sure–one book will be done by Friday evening, come hell or high water–and it will be a splendid piece, I’m sure. I’m very happy with my work so far, and having a great time experimenting with new materials, techniques, and tools which is what an “Artist Residency” is all about. I’m also enjoying working with the people who visit Green Hill-children and adults–and I realize just how much I miss teaching.

One thing I will definitely take away from this Residency is that I need to start offering small, affordable classes or workshops in bookbinding. Nobody is doing that here in Greensboro, and I think there could be tremendous interest if I get the word out.

And I’ve got no problem catering to a more “Crafty” crowd than some of the “bookbinding superstars” here in Western NC like Don Etherington, Monique Lallier, and Daniel Essig (after Timothy Ely, Daniel is one of my biggest inspirations). Personally, I’d love to attend some of their classes, but I think they tend to cater to a student base that is much more serious about bookbinding–mostly professional binders and academics.

I believe that a few classes about Art Journaling, using some of these “scrapbooking” supplies and materials in a more “fine art” environment, and and basig binding techniques and structures are niches that is sorely in need of addressing in the art world in general, and definitely in the Book Arts…

Day 6—Deadlines and breakthroughs…

Spent most of my time in the studio trying to figure out how to keep this Canon ink from bleeding when it gets wet–I believe the solution, much to my chagrin, is: Don’t get it wet. Also, I realized about halfway through the evening that I needed to re-pack everything and put it all in my car tonight, so I could drive it all directly to Green Hill in the morning. So yet another late night for me.

But I HAVE figured out a way to get the effects i desire without working these prints too wet, so tomorrow should be a veritable “weathering factory” on these pages in the morning, and then down to the real work of colorizing, and doing the calligraphy. I essentially need to get all this done by Thursday afternoon, so I can bind the books Thurday evening, and have them ready by Friday evening. Books are much happier when they’ve had a day to sit after binding and being pressed, before you handle them, or subject them to display and handling in a gallery. I’m not sure if I can get all 3 books done, but I’ll do my best. Going to be some late nights in my own studio “doing homework”, I suspect.

I also spent some time refining and polishing this asemic writing style, and I am very happy with the outcome of those experiments:

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And I did finish the print I started yesterday–it will be an unbound “artist’s proof” that will probably get framed and hanged in my house. I’m pretty happy with it as well, and except for one small smear in the calligraphy and the bleeding issue with the Canon ink, it turned out very well, I think:

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So now, to pack up the car, head home, and try to get a few hours sleep before I’m back in the Green Hill studios.

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Hopefully this week I can get some real work done on this project.

 

Day 5—Back in my studio…

Late start today–I decided to stay home this afternoon and print more pages, rather than jump right into studio work, so I now have about 3/4 of the pages printed. I am loving this new printer–the Canon PIXMA PRO-100 is an astounding piece of equipment.

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So I finally got into the studio after dinner…

And decided to try a “trial run” on one of the extra prints I’d made–and it’s a good thing I did. Apparently, although this Canon will feed just about any paper you can put in it, and the images are BEAUTIFUL, the ink they use is nowhere near moisture-proof. Or even moisture-stable. It is, in fact, more volatile than many of my pan watercolors when you get it wet–or even damp. And this is with over 48 hours of dry time.

Not a complete loss though–but the image got a LOT fuzzier than I’d like when I spritzed the sheet with water before spraying my various colors of Alcohol inks on it to start the “aging” process. I suppose perhaps I need to work this a LOT less wet than the prints I did on crappy office paper on my little HP. I was hoping that the Canon ink would be a little more stable when worked wet, but it seems that it is actually MORE delicate and prone to bleeding when wet.

However, this paper is a joy to paint on, and watercolors–especially the metallics–look fantastic on it. Everything just goes exactly where you put it, and the colors are so clear and clean. I’m very happy with this, and glad that I didn’t ruin one of the “final version” prints. That’s why we do experiments in art–to find out what does and doesn’t work before committing to what might be a very expensive mistake.

Here is a little “process GIF” of how I worked this image:

 

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And once it was all done, and dried, I took a “head on” picture of it, to show what it looks like:

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I have to put all the pen-work (the asemic writing) in, in that blank space in the lower right-hand corner, but I’m going to put that off until tomorrow, because I want the paper to be completely dry before I set to it with a pointy dip pen. Here is a sample of the writing that’s going to go in this book:

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I feel like today was not a very productive day again–but I DID avoid a HUGE mistake, and didn’t ruin three prints all at once. So it wasn’t a total loss in the studio, but I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted.

Tomorrow, I’ll really get down to business…

Day 4—Taking the day off.

We decided that today I needed to sleep in, hang around the house with family, do some shopping, and have dinner at home.

One of the places we visited was a craft store in High Point that my wife pointed out called “InkPaintStamp”. Usually I don’t have high hopes for “craft” stores, especially ones that cater to scrapbookers or stampers, but this store is a real gem. They carry Golden acrylics and watercolors, pretty much everything that Tim Holtz sells, Copic markers, and all kinds of adhesives. (Any store that stocks Nori Paste gets high marks from me!

The owner was very friendly, and gave me a cool little “sampler card” with six little globs of Golden’s new QoR watercolors. I’ll definitely have to try them out. I love Golden Acrylics, and have heard good things about their QoR watercolors.

We did buy some Yasutomo Niji Pearlescent watercolors and a couple small brushes for my granddaughter, and I picked up some Tim Holtz Ink Pads (“Broken China” Distress Oxide, and “Vintage Photo” Distress Ink). And we’ll be back to explore more in the future.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back in studio, getting down to business, but today, I just needed to kick back…

Day 3—Back to my studio…

Fridays are usually slow at ArtQuest–especially when the weather is nice–and today was a beautiful day. We opened at 10am, and are scheduled to close at 5pm. But since the ArtQuest space is being rented for birthday parties Saturday and Sunday, they needed the space where I am working to be cleared out for the weekend. So, I decided to take a day off–sort of. When I first came in, I re-did one of of the moon cabochons because it had shifted off-center a bit as it was drying. Then a group of kids–probably early middle-school age–visited, and I got to talk to them about my book, and some of the aspects of making it. It was fun, but I lost track of time, and forgot to put enough money in my parking meter, and got a $15 parking ticket. (Thanks, City of Greensboro, for keeping our streets safe from dangerous parking-space bandits like me…)

I broke for lunch, and to print some more pages at home after side-trips to John Neal to get the rest of the paper I needed, and a couple other small supplies, and to JoAnn Fabrics, who was having a sale on scrapbooking supplies, where I got some killer deals on spray bottles of alcohol inks and stains.

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I returned to GreenHill–new printouts in hand to show the staff–and started loading up my car with my portable studio boxes (I just realized I should have taken a photo of my car, to show how easily I pack in and out–I’ve got my studio pretty much “containerized” for this project…)

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On the way home, I stopped by  local rocks and mineral shop called “Earth-Songs” looking for some sort of tektites to grind up and put in some of my paints, to give my book a real “other-worldly” vibe. I was considering using Moldavite, but the owner, MC, talked me into some Guangdong Tektites. When I told him what I was going to do with the Moldavite, he said “you know how many people would hate you for doing that? Moldavite is not the sort of thing you destroy like that.” And knowing how much I love Moldavite, I had to agree with him.

These tektites come from a recent discovery of a massive strew field in China that greatly expanded the area of the Australasian Strew Field. Because of the size and density of the Guangdong strew field, these tektites are very inexpensive. They are similar in composition to Moldavite, but are opaque and charcoal black. If you look at them with strong backlighting, in the edges where the material is thin though, it looks like a brownish-green Moldavite. Anyway, I got three small pieces for a very reasonable price (one of which I made into a pendant) and I’ll feel a lot less like some sort of “rockhound heretic” for grinding it up, than if I used Moldavite…

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So back home for some diner, and then back in the studio late, to trim my paper so I can start printing early tomorrow. (Here is a close-up of the cool watermark on the Zerkall Frankfurt paper I’m using:)

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I’m also going to finally make my lying press this weekend. I talked with one of the woodworkers here at 205 Collaborative, and he agreed to help me plane and face the boards, and drill the needed holes. So I cut the wood this evening, and glued and clamped it together, to sit overnight. By tomorrow, it should be ready to plane and drill, and by mid-day, I should have a fancy new pipe-clamp based Lying Press. (Pics of that side-project to some tomorrow!)

Day 2—Hectic…

Making art in an unfamiliar space that is not strictly “mine” is a little disorienting. I don’t have my beloved bench beneath my hands, the lighting is strange and uncontrollable, and I can’t put in my earbuds, crank up the music, and tune out the world. I have to be aware–of curious adults with questions and comments, and especially of the little ones–their tireless hands reaching for things, their gleaming eyes gazing over my shiny tools and shimmering paints.

Interfacing with the public while trying to make art takes a special set of skills–patience, quite reserve, knowing when to REALLY delve into the deep, dark secrets of my art, and when to just give a cursory overview of what I’m doing. And being able to dial all the technical, philosophical, and metaphysical lingo off to explain it all to a grade-school-age child is an even more arcane and daunting endeavor.

I keep reminding myself, this isn’t about surviving–my goal is to THRIVE, and to get everyone else who comes through, as excited about Book Arts as I am! And so far it seems to be working, although I haven’t been getting much work done on my book. But the looks of wonderment when you teach small children how to make their own pamplets, or folded books, or accordian books is worth the slight delay in getting my own work started.

I’ve got the boards glued up (double thickness) and ready to trim. I foil-stamped the title on leather for the spine label several months ago (before we moved here to NC, actually). I’ve got the moon art glued to the glass cabochons, and they look amazing. And I’ve got the strips of Unryu paper painted in their proper tones of blue for overlaying on the backs of the page folds to make for a really spiffy partially-exposed spine.

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But it’s “Day 2” and I have yet to lay pen or brush to paper to start the difficult parts of making this book–the book block art. I know I shouldn’t be stressed about my timeline or workflow–there is plenty of time to get this project done–but I am starting to feel the pressure of the deadline.

The main hold-up there has been that none of the local printers I’ve contacted seem able (or willing) to print large-format on paper I provide, so I finally gave up on that and went on the search for a new printer (I needed one anyway, and this is a perfect excuse).

 

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I found a brand new Canon Pixma Pro-100 on CraigsList for a great price, and picked it up this afternoon. So I should be able to start cranking out base pages tonight (printing them at 12″ x 15″ so I can get full bleeds, and when I trim them, I’m going to do a “false deckle” which I plan to gild (or more likely paint) in silver. (see FOOTNOTE for initial impressions of this printer…)

More paper was procured today at John Neal–it turns out the stockpile of Zerkall Frankfurt I have is so old that it does not bear their company watermark–but the newer stuff at John Neal does. Being a HUGE fan of watermarked papers, I’m going to use this new, watermarked paper for at least SOME of the pages, and mix in some of my stockpile to help keep costs down. Not every page needs to be watermarked, and it will add to the mystique of the book, I think, considering this watermark is sort of cryptic in design.

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We had a couple groups of pre-schoolers come through this morning–that was fun. They are fascinated with everything at that age, and one of the little girls was named “Luna”–the same title of my book. She was practically beaming when I told her that “Luna” is what my book was called too.

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So tomorrow, I should have several sheets printed for the body of this book, and can begin the painting, calligraphy, and embellishment. Once I have a few of those finished (or at least started) I’ll feel much better.

All that said, today was a VERY good day all in all. I had a great time showing the kids how books are made. I got some beautiful paper, a brilliant new printer, a small lighted magnifier for my workbench, and some lumber (for building my new Lying Press this weekend), my remote timer/shutter release for my camera arrived two days earlier than expected (which enables me to set my camera up to automatically take pictures at timed intervals, all day long, without any human interaction),  and I’m feeling much more at-ease about my scheduling for this project. Hopefully tomorrow, I can start actually making some art!

FOOTNOTE: After several hours of struggling with Canon’s so-called “downloadable drivers” for the Mac (my MacBook Pro has no internal DVD drive, and the inexpensive external LG DVD drive I bought a few years ago decided to die a few months ago…), I finally got this printer installed our home network, and it appears to be performing with stunning quality. It has fed every paper I’ve put through it so far, and the test print on the Zerkall Frankfurt looks almost like it was printed on a press. So, Bravo Canon, for a printer that can handle a wide range of substrates, and makes beautiful prints. But Canon REALLY needs to up their game with regards to downloadable printer installation software and utilities…

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