This weekend I took the Bookbinding I intensive class at The Crucible in Oakland. This is right up my alley — I like working with paper and fabric, and I found that those skills carried over nicely.
We started with paper folding and learned about some subtle aspects of paper. Plain copy paper is surprisingly high quality for book purposes. It has notably different sides, too, and will accept folding better if you pick the right side: if you bend it lengthwise on each side, you can find one is slightly more accepting of the bend than the other. It’s called the “wet test” as I guess getting it wet can also reveal that too. Probably destroys your paper along the way though.
There’s a lot of cutting of paper and fabric, so an eye for measurement and mat cutting or other Xacto knife experience comes in handy. A little bit of needlework experience from cross-stitching, crochet, or knitting also helps for the bindings.
This was a fun way to use fabric and paper remnants. I’ve started a Creative Bookbinding board on Pinterest to gather neat applications of these, and I’m already planning a few more books to make.
In order, we made:
Just located my work-in-progress pics for this painting! Here’s a little painting inception here with my grandfather looking at the finished piece.
This is the second painting I made in Wayne’s class – the first being this tomato. While I was working on the tomato, my husband Alan went to help my grandparents with their computer. My grandparents ran their own tool & die shop for many years. So, rather than using reading glasses or a magnifier, my grandfather uses these shop goggles out of habit. This was novel to Alan so he took a photo and sent it to me, jokingly? suggesting I paint it for the class. I thought “why not?”
This uses the same techniques as the tomato pic, though I have a few more photos of the process before the painting started.
First: print out the color and black and white photos of the image, and analyze what’s going on. Where’s the light source? Are there secondary reflections? Are there adjustments to make to the color scheme? For major color and layout changes I would have tinkered with it in Photoshop more before printing it.
Second: make a good sketch. The painting will be layers upon layers of progressive refinement, so getting the shapes and layout right up front is critical. I do the old “grid” technique of sketching a small grid, usually 4×4, over the image to help with scaling it up to canvas size. It’s so easy to mess up shapes and angles otherwise.
The rest is a similar process. I ended up making the goggles edges red instead of blue with the original intent of making a red/white/blue set of colors since politics are one of his primary hobbies. As I got further into this, I decided to leave the robe more of a brownish color so it wouldn’t stand out as much. Burnt Umber + Ultramarine Blue made a nice, rich dark color that I wanted to keep as is.
This is a painting I started in Wayne Jiang’s “Paint Like the Old Dutch Masters” class and had sat unfinished since then. A year later – with a few more hours of work – and it’s done.
Wayne deconstructed a really interesting technique through his observations of incomplete paintings in museums. As I’ve been using it, I think about it as three stages:
For the foundation, painting the tones means thinking in monochrome. I worked from black and white copies of my image. The result looks like an aged black & white photo. Wayne’s technique uses warm tones, starting light and going dark: from yellow ochre to burnt sienna to burnt umber. On a future painting I’d like to try this same technique with cool tone foundations instead and see how it looks.
For the colors, there’s a dance between balancing the cool and warm tones. Since the foundation is all warm tones, the next step is to balance them out with another foundational approach and just use one color: ultramarine blue. After this it usually starts getting closer to the colors but looks pretty Halloweeny…the warms parts look unusually orange, and the cooler parts are a little dark if they were mid-range tones. Here’s where I start mixing up different colors and getting a little more opaque on the areas that need it. At some point in there I usually get impatient about getting to the good parts and need to keep jumping around to different areas to keep it interesting. I prefer to get to detail work, and have found that too much repetition makes me sloppy so that’s my way of throwing in a little variety.
The rest is figuring out how to make it “done”. During the other stages, someone could walk up to it and see clearly that it’s not finished. During this last stage, it could probably be seen as “done” as any time. If it was being painted for a class project or had some strict deadline, it would need to be. As a project by choice, I have a little more leeway to decide whether it’s done enough. It’s easy to overwork paintings, so my focus here is on anything remaining that doesn’t feel right. The subconscious is great at identifying that there’s something wrong. Figuring out why, and how to fix it, is its own puzzle.
When I reached the third stage on this painting, there were problems with the stems (too transparent, then too yellow), the shape of the tomato (weird edges where the shape meets the shadow) and background painting that left a bit of a halo around the tomato. It also took some noodling to get the right sheen on the skin while still looking nicely ripe. I’m pretty happy with how those cleaned up.
It’s gratifying to fix and finish old projects. The tomato is done.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve posted on here, a year in which I have tackled a few bigger things (for me) artistically:
Acrylic. I took a Dutch Masters workshop taught by Wayne Jiang and learned a bunch. He has the most lucid approach I’ve encountered about light and opacity, and how to take advantage of the properties of acrylic. This is one of two paintings I made in the workshop, a painting of my grandfather in his natural habitat: at home, using his shop goggles to read something. Frustratingly, I seem to have misplaced my work-in-progress photos of this painting, but I am working on a painting of my grandmother using the same approach and will go into detail on that one.
Watercolor. I really missed watercolors, and also wanted to do more figure work. I used this as an excuse for the strict format I used for the illustrations on Make It Legit. The rigor of blogging (and illustrating) weekly left no time for anything else, so I backed off from that pace late last year. The content will be getting some new life soon on LinkedIn. I may dig into the few dozen topics I had on deck and write some new stuff once I’m ready again. I’ll post about the illustrations themselves here soon.
Drawing. I finished my Object Oriented sketchbook and have started on a new book in a slightly different theme. It’s still objects, but instead of the objects I draw the environment around them and highlight some kind of pattern. Posts about both will be coming.
2014 is already shaping up to be an interesting year. I’m taking a break from work – really the first major pause I’ve had since college – and diving into my backlog of projects. I’ll sprinkle those in here as I catch up on writing these others up.
The San Jose Glass Institute offers a “Glass Artist for a Day” workshop which I took with my mom a little over a month ago. It’s an introduction to three kinds of glasswork: glass fusing, stained glass, and torchwork.
The process is simple: cut & assemble pieces of glass, fire it once to fuse them together, and fire it again to shape it. The glass is specially made for fusing to ensure that the pieces will all melt at the same temperature; otherwise the pieces might not fuse correctly, or worse, crack or explode during the firing. Cutting the glass involves etching a guideline and then snapping or tapping against the glass to break it along that line. It takes patience, and makes me think there must be additional ways to cut the glass that must be more precise. The glass pre-firing also can look quite different than the fired look, and can turn from near-transparent to a bright solid color. I picked green & blue colors and made this little curved dish (5″x5″). The lime green parts were a bit of a surprise, but I like the result.
This was a straightforward technique for small pieces: line the edges of the glass with a special copper tape, and solder the edges together. The diamond shapes were pre-cut (the hard part!) and I picked some that would look like an optical illusion of two cubes side by side. Soldering is extremely forgiving as the flux is extremely cohesive, and mistakes laying down the flux can be corrected by reheating it.
By far the most challenging! It’s a process of slowly melting the ends of glass rods over a torch. This one was built up by melting one end into a ball, pressing it into a disc while it’s still pliable, and then attaching another rod to the end and slowly stretching and twisting it into a spiral. Imagine holding a pencil and spinning it steadily in one direction, twisting at just the right speed (not too fast, not too slow) to keep the ball from collapsing to one side and keeping it at the right distance from an open flame. And then holding a pencil in each hand and joining them into one even line (also over flame). And then twisting each end at different rates (again: over flame). Tricky! I have newfound respect for people that work with glass and torches.