Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Make No Mistakes

In the coming months I may have greater access to an iPad. In anticipation of continuing to work with Brushes, a painting app, I've placed an order for the Nomad Compose, a brush that was developed specifically for touchscreens. I'm imagining a trip where I've got the iPad and Nomad Brush instead of my gallon-size bag of brush markers, glue stick (only Avery Permanent Glue Stic!), and rounded-end scissors. The idea of have my art and writing supplies in a more compact and portable form appeals to me.

Except. I just worked my way through a week in New York and Boston with that gallon-size bag, and as I think about my process, I realize two things that might be different when I go digital: Time and Mistakes. With access to the delete key and the undo button I may inadvertently create problems for myself. Don't like a line? Delete. Want a different shade of purple? Undo. I could spend hours going backwards, trying to create a perfect image.

But I don't want to do that. I like the serendipity and chance learning that happens when I'm working with three-dimensional things. Striving for the perfect digital image may obliterate those opportunities. I'm wondering if the delete key and undo button are actually a source of anxiety for my students. When you make a physical object you can take it apart up to a point, but you can also learn how to problem solve. Artists don't generally debug by painting over; we go through. We accept the mistake; the artwork takes on a life; and we move forward, paving the way for a new resolution.

In writing we have the opportunity to keep revising—which can become obsessive—but at some point we have to call it done. I've talked to other writers who can't leave their work alone. I've woken up thinking about one word that could be changed in something I'm writing and how it would be so much better. Like the art process, the writing can take a turn and you have to figure out how to write yourself out of the corner, but unlike art you can save multiple drafts and submit it only when satisfied. Sometimes in writing you can salvage parts of it and then rewrite the rest. If visual art is too thickly layered or overworked it may turn to mud. (What's that saying? Aim for perfection; accept reality?) Sometimes artistic mistakes are a source of tension; perhaps we should just see them as challenges, stepping stones to the next level.

Years ago, a printmaker friend suggested that everyone ought to make a reduction print at least once in his/her life. (It's kind of like batik; see the cover for She Is the Keeper, below.) If you haven't made one yet, here is the process: draw a picture that has multiple colors. Take a linoleum block or woodblock or white plastic carving block and carve out only what you want to remain white. Ink up the block and print it (my first color was lime green). Now carve away what you want to remain that color. Print on top of the first color (second color: olive green). Repeat carving and printing until you've printed all of your colors (process blue; then reflex blue). If you carve out too much or too little, well, that's it; you'll have to discard the block (delete) or change your design (work through).

She Is the Keeper, 2003

I enjoyed collaging my ephemera in my travel journal (it was a blank book model I made years ago and I'm accepting the mistakes in it). I had a few "mud" pages. But I found a way to use the discarded scraps that satisfied me, something I wouldn't have discovered without the actual objects. I'm thinking that in the future I'll take pictures of the tickets and receipts and bags, add my handwriting, and making digital montages. It is possible I could still learn something new…

From a brochure
From a bag
Drawing and leftovers
From a business card and a placemat

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hard Covers for Pop-Up Tunnel Book

This cover was created to fit the Pop-Up Tunnel Book of a previous post, but it may be used for other structures, such as small pamphlets. 

Tools: pencil; bone folder; X-acto knife; metal ruler; tweezers; scissors, PVA and small piece of  scrap board or glue brush; scrap paper to protect surfaces; four pieces of extra book board to use as a spacing guide
Materials: book boards, 4 1/8 x 3 1/8" (105 x 79 mm), grained short; book cloth, 10 1/4 x 4 1/2" (260  x 114 mm), grained short

Before you cover the boards, create an inset or recess for a title or image. In this example, I use an image on the front and a colophon on the back. The two boards are covered together with a space of four board thicknesses between them. The image and colophon are  glued into the recesses after the boards are covered.

Draw around cover title or image onto the board

Using X-Acto against metal ruler, cut the outline.

Dig down at the corner.

Pull up a couple layers of board.

Keep peeling up the layers.

Repeat the process on the other board for
a colophon (or other image) for the back.
A tweezers may help you get a grip on the layers.

Place the boards on the back of the book cloth
with four board thicknesses between them.

Draw around the boards.

Apply glue to the inside of one drawn rectangle.

Press the front cover in place, face down.

Apply glue to second section for second board.

Use a pencil against a board to draw lines across all corners.

Cut corners just outside of the pencil lines.

Cut all corners.

Apply glue to the one long flap.

To get a flat edge, press against the table.

Press down the flap (turn-in).

Apply glue and turn in the parallel flap.
Smooth it down with bone folder.

At the corners, push or tuck in the book cloth
 so you will not see raw board.

Apply glue to one end flap.

Press down and smooth book cloth with bone folder.
Tuck the corners and repeat gluing for the opposite flap.

Use bone folder to smooth down the recesses.

Apply glue to the back of the front image.

Place image into the recess.

Press down the image.
Repeat the process for the colophon (or back image).

Apply glue to one side of the tunnel book

Press to cover, aligning the fold with the
edge of the board closest to the spine and
centered between head and tail.

Apply glue to remaining side of tunnel.

Close the cover, aligning the boards.

Press down.

This surprising little book fits in your palm, can be carried or stored easily, or can be given as a gift.

Friday, March 23, 2012

New York, New Art

In a New York showroom window,
Muted, muffled, homogenized—
Decor anyone?
Designers not taking the writers into consideration again…

We talk about blank books as having no content.
What do we call books that have no cover?

Then I saw this, a polar opposite, by artist/designers Aleksandr Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova (a married couple). It is currently on view in the Printin' exhibition at MoMA in gallery 2. What a terrific pop-up parachute, I thought.

The description says:
December 1935
Journal with inserts and folded spreads
Publisher: State Publishing House of Fine Arts, Moscow
Printer: Factory of Children Books, Moscow
Edition: 64,000
The Museum of Modern Art, New York,
Harvey S. Shipley Miller Fund, 2007

Except it wasn't what I thought it was. An article about this Russian propaganda journal said the magazine contained, "Esthetic mastery in the service of tyranny." Photomontage was used to play with power: "happy masses presided over by gigantic Stalins…." The journal was used to show the world the (seemingly) huge advances and developments in Soviet society and technology within a short span of time, with themes such as aircraft, coal mining, and railroads. El Lissitzky and his wife Sophie Lissitzky-Kuppers also designed several issues. 

The journal often incorporated fold-out pages like the one shown; other examples included gold leaf, pieces of a balloon, and an aluminum cover for an issue devoted to an aircraft. Heavy paper and rotogravure printing were used. No mention of the famine endured by much of the population, and later, The Great Purge. All artists had to serve the Soviet state and its philosophies of: "loyalty to the party…correct ideological stance and content…and…ready accessibility to the people." These artists may or may not have embraced the philosophies, but they certainly showed enthusiasm in their innovative design work.

White-washed books versus an avant-garde journal of manipulated truths.
Aesthetically pleasing, but philosophically wrong.
Maybe they aren't so different, after all.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Pop-Up Tunnel Book

Although today is the official first day of spring, the plum trees and magnolias up the hill in Berkeley honored the season early on February 23. New York, where I am visiting, is just beginning to bud; I like seeing the magnolias blooming all over again. I thought a project that springs open would be appropriate for today.  I've been playing with a pop-up tunnel based on the structure from an artist book I bought from Two Fine Chaps called The Silent Song. You can print all five of the pieces of this miniature tunnel from one piece of card stock. If you use an inkjet printer, I recommend spraying the printout with Archival Varnish and letting it dry before you begin to assemble the book. A miniature book is under three inches in any direction, so technically only the tunnel is a miniature.

Tools: pencil; metal ruler; X-acto knife and cutting mat (and spare blades); bone folder; PVA and small brush or piece of board; magazines or catalogues to protect your work surface and to use to mask your book to keep it free from glue. 

Materials: one piece of 8 1/2" x 11" (or A4) card stock set up to print like the template thumbnail. Cut pieces as follows (black lines for cutting, gray lines for scoring):
  • outer card/support: 8 x 3" (203 x 76 mm)
  • tunnel walls: 6 1/4 x 3" (159 x 76 mm)
  • tunnel panels: 7 1/2 x 3" (191 x 76 mm) cut into 3 sections 3 x 2 1/2" (76 x 64 mm)
The Outer Card
1. Fold the outer card in half. Open it.
2. Working left to right, measure 3/8" (7 mm) from the fold and mark (top and bottom).
3. From the mark, measure and mark 1/2"(13 mm) (top and bottom).
4. From the second mark, measure and mark another 1/2" (13 mm) (top and bottom).
5. Against a ruler, use a pencil and connect the parallel marks so you now have three lines. (I set this up in an Adobe Illustrator file so I didn't have to measure it.)

The Tunnel Walls
6. On the tunnel walls piece, measure and mark 1/4" (6 mm) (top and bottom) from both right and left edges.
7. Against a ruler, use a bone folder and connect the parallel marks so you have two scores.
8. Measure and mark 2" (51 mm) toward the center from each of these two scores (top and bottom).
9. Against a ruler, use a bone folder and connect these parallel marks so you have two new scores (4 total).
10. Fold these four scores into mountain folds.
11. Cut a rectangle or other shape in the front wall, leaving at least 1/4" (6 mm) on all sides (from the two edges and from the two scores).

The Tunnel Panels
12. For the tunnel panels, measure and mark 1/4" (6 mm) (top and bottom) from both right and left edges of all three pictures/panels.
13. Against a ruler, use a bone folder and connect the parallel marks so you have two scores on each of the three panels.
14. Fold each of the scores so that what will be the top of the picture/panel has a valley fold and the bottom will have a mountain fold. (Looks like an "S".)
15. Cut out the windows in the tunnel panels so that the main object on each is connected to at least one side and leaving least 1/4" (6 mm) margin from the two edges and two folds. The rear panel has no cuts.

16. Apply glue to connected tab and back wall of the tunnel walls.
17. Nest the tunnel walls onto the outer card so that the folded tab at the bottom is aligned with the folded card.


18. Use the bone folder to smooth it down firmly.
19. Apply glue to the bottom tab of what will be the back tunnel panel.

20. Align this folded tab with the line closest to the fold that you drew on the card. It will overlap the tunnel walls piece a bit.


21. Use the bone folder to smooth down the tab.
22. Repeat steps 19-21 for the remaining two cards, continuing to work back to front (left to right, most likely).


23. Put a piece of scrap paper on top of the front two panels. Apply glue to the top tab of the back tunnel panel.
24. Put a piece of scrap paper on top of the front tunnel panel. Apply glue to the top tab of the middle tunnel panel.


25. Put a piece of scrap paper on top of the front section of the card. Apply glue to the top tab of the front tunnel panel. 
26. Pick up the left section of the outer card (with the tunnel walls attached to it) and fold the outer card in half, pressing in place on top of the panels.


27. Use the bone folder and smooth down. Open.
28. Apply glue to the front tab of the tunnel walls. Flatten it down and close the card again.



29. Use the bone folder to smooth it down.
30. Let dry.
31. With knife against a metal ruler, trim the sides.

32. Attach hard covers, if desired: see upcoming post for detailed instructions for insetting a title and colophon, and wrapping and assembling the hard covers.

Download a blank pop-up tunnel template to use with your own imagery and content here.