Thursday, October 4, 2012

How to produce a limited edition artist's book

Some time ago I blogged about making small artist's books after a workshop with Bernie.

Over the past few weeks I made a series of art books to show (and sell!) at an exhibition which I participated in with the Marsden Arts Group (MAG), a community arts group I have been a member of for a few years, who meet monthly to share work and learn about art and getting your art 'out there'.  We are a low key, supportive group and the exhibitions are the culmination of our year together so are celebratory in a special sense.

This year the theme for the show was 'Ten' because the group was formed ten years ago. Most of us who hung work in the show (not all members did) incorporated 'Ten' in the work somehow. I made ten (well, eleven actually, but one was for display!) little artist books, each with ten lino prints in it. The prints all referenced some aspect of my participation in the Marsden Group, except for the self portrait on the back cover which is very much about my work this year at CIT.

I wanted my work for this show to be something of a story of my experience of being a member of MAG, hence the books, and the images to read like a walk through an exhibition, so the 'reader' sees both people with art works, and art works themselves.

I prepared for and cut the lino prints in a reasonably timely manner, but hugely underestimated the time it would take to actually produce the books. There were a few stressful moments, to put it mildly, and I printed and book bound from 12.30am until 7.00am on the morning of the show!!!

 Here is a copy of the invitation to the show.

I sourced the images I used for the lino prints from photos that I had taken at previous exhibitions or of works that I had exhibited at previous exhibitions.

With the photos I used my Wacom tablet and Photoshop to draw over the photos to come up with a basic image, printed it off at the same size as the lino print (9cm x 9cm) and then transferred the image onto the lino using Saral paper.

I simplified the images a lot because there is a limit to what you can put on a small square of lino, plus I wanted to work with the black/white print image I was looking to get to make them as effective as possible, simple but expressive.

'Number 96' was a fabulous ceramic piece produced for a show we had at the Front Gallery in Lyneham, by a previous member, Jenny Snell. We also met at Jenny's house for quite a while, before eventually finding a permanent home for our meetings at M16 in Griffith. The meetings at Jenny's were wonderful, friendly times and I miss them and her, so getting this image was important to me.

I was obsessed with painting goldfish for a while and showed a set of four different pictures one year. This is one of them. I 'photoshopped' it,

 then transferred it onto the lino.

As I completed the lino cuts I printed them onto white paper to see how they looked. There were a few that didn't work for a variety of reasons. I find it quite difficult to imagine the black/white reversal thing necessary when cutting lino so that was one problem, but some images needed to be rethought and altered because I felt they didn't work in the ways I wanted, as printed images.

These two prints illustrate the sorts of choices I made about the images I used for the books. The line drawing below is the first image. I changed the background and used a more block black/white style in the image that I eventually used for the book.

first lino print, line drawing style
second print

I started off with a sort of line drawing look, but didn't like it so changed that picture and then worked on the others with this in mind.

I did 14 lino cuts altogether, to get the ten images which I used for the books.

I did the cutting quite intensively over two weekends and could feel myself becoming more skilled at the process of lino cutting. It was interesting. I think that if I had had the time to start all over again, after I had the ten prints I wanted, I would produce a very different set of images, though not necessarily better.

I have done some intaglio printing at CIT and learned there about how important it is to be organised and careful. I also learned about using a registration sheet to know where to place the lino and the paper one is printing onto! Very useful and obvious, but something I hadn't done before.

However while I was cutting the lino and testing the prints the studio looked like this:

'Rock shelf, reef' Canberra! I love it.
Initially I planned to print the books on 160gsm cartridge paper. I wanted the books to be 14cm square and I have a roll of 1.5 metre wide cartridge paper so I was able to cut the 140cm long strips of paper that I would need to make the books.

However one Saturday mornng I was at a closing down sale at a camping shop and found a beautiful map of Canberra produced by Land and Property NSW in conjunction with ACTPLA in 2002, which grabbed my imagination.
My book was about my experience with MAG but it was also about my journey of becoming a 'Canberran' over the last few years, of which being an aspiring artist is a part.  The map has topography and roads on one side and an aerial map of Canberra on the other. It really is exquisite.  The key is to die for.

You want one of these maps, don't you? Once I got it home I had trouble getting it off my husband, who was suddenly sure that he had always needed a map just like this!

Anyway I decided to print some of the books on the map. These particular maps had the requisite number of folds, all I had to do was cut them 14cms in height. Not all maps are like this, so I was very lucky.

The plan became to print five books on the cartridge paper and five on the maps. One map provided me with four books. I stuffed up one of the four books that I got from the first map so had to get another one. Alas the camping shop was gone by then so I had to find somewhere else to source a map. Not easy. I rang heaps of places but nobody had the same map. In the end I rang ACTPLA and they were fabulously helpful and a man (thanks Gordon!) gave me three maps - Canberra, Tuggeranong and Hall. I used the Canberra one to produce four more books. So in the end I had five books on cartridge paper and seven on map paper. I have kept one of each book for samples and the rest are on display at the gallery and for sale.

unbelievably I have these books sitting on Hahnemuele paper that I bought for another printing project, luckily I didn't get any ink on it

pick the stuffed up print!
Once I was ready to produce the books I was methodical, careful and clean. It took about three hours to cut the paper ready for printing and about ten hours, all up, to print the books.

I decided to make the covers out of strong brown paper which I had bought at the Dickson art shop when it was closing down (I am obviously a bit of a bargain hunter!).

The bird print was inspired by a currawong that I saw pulling coconut fibre out of a hanging basket for nesting purposes (I suppose) while I was taking a tea break during the lino cutting process.

here are some of the covers

The printing and book assembly went quite smoothly and I am very pleased with the books. I sold four of them on the opening night of the exhibition.

not a great pic, but you can just see the aerial photo of Canberra, this is the back of the book 

front and back covers

'map' book

cartridge paper book

I toyed with the idea of making my own map and printing onto it. I love the idea but didn't have the time to pursue this. Here is the sample that I worked on.

I drew a basic map using Copic markers, folded the paper like a map and printed into the rectangles made by the folding.

There are still some of the books left if you are interested in buying one. They cost $45 each and are available at Watson Art Centre, or you can contact me through this blog.

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