Artist Books

I’ve been having fun making some images of my landscapes and burnscapes into book forms. They have always seemed like an inviting genre to me, as a visual person who’d rather play Scrabble™ or do crossword puzzles than concentrate in the studio 😉 I took a short class from Dara Solliday at Pratt Fine Arts Center called “Bookbinding for Printmakers.”

But ever the artist-craftsperson-engineer, of course I had to engage in lengthy trials to reach my vision, and I pass on some of my learning in hopes that it will serve yours:

  • Measure and cut everything with more precision than you think you will need, especially anything with a 90-degree angle. Then stack the pieces that are supposed to match next to each other and correct any egregious smidgeons, it will be well worth the trouble later on. If one piece is too small, it’s better to recut the offending board than try to make it up later in the process
  • Thanks to MalPina Chan, I’ve been finding matte medium to be a more effective adhesive for paper and cloth
  • I had hoped to bind acrylic sheet “pages” to wood “covers” using stiff-leaf technique. Traditional archival book cloth and PVA adhesive won’t stick to acrylic sheeting. I tried acrylic solvent cement, matte medium, 3M 77, carpenter’s glue, and in all cases, if it stuck at all , the coating on the inside of the book cloth just pulled away from the fibers. I finally resorted to packing tape and Gorilla® duct tape. The latter is less fibrous and more matte than the usual duct tape. I don’t know what the longevity of those adhesives is.
  • A whetstone makes a great quick-and-dirty de-burr and polishing tool for glass tiles. I was able to use Weld’s all-purpose solvent cement to attach them to heavy board for one cover.
Artist bookk by Suze Woolf

Burn Book I: pop-up digital prints of 8 burnscape paintings in an accordion-fold book, ribbon, 11” x 40” open, 11” x 5” closed

Artist Book by Suze Woolf

Burn Book II: cut-out digital prints of 8 burnscape paintings on acrylic sheets with smoked wood covers, 12” x 14” open, 12” x 6” closed

Artist Book by Suze Woolf

Peaks & Valleys closed in its clam shell case, ~2.5″ x 2.5″ x 1.5″

Peaks and Valleys4OpenandCase (1024x680)

Peaks & Valleys opened out: digital prints backed on non-woven viscose, acrylic paint, board, recycled glass tile


Do I paint from photos? Sort of…

This morning my windows are fogged up from cold air for the first time.

Yesterday local artist Roxanne Everett guided me most of the way up McGregor Mountain – over one hundred switchbacks to a Park Service radio repeater on the summit. We made it as far as a campsite 1000’ below the summit, which is still 5600’ of elevation gain. My knees are threatening mutiny. It was glorious to be in alpine terrain once again. The blueberries were ripe, the larches haven’t begun to turn, but there was a real chill in the ambient air, made more dramatic by a brisk wind. Later it was quite warm but only down in the valley. I better understand the geography from seeing it from so high above. I was sentimental to see glacier-bound peaks I climbed 30 years ago.

A quick sketch of Dome Peak from McGregor Mountain. Behind the painting is the outline drawing across three small sheets of watercolor paper that will be a panorama of a similar view.

A quick sketch of Dome Peak from McGregor Mountain. Behind the painting is the outline drawing done on location across three small sheets of watercolor paper. It will become a more expansive panorama of the same view.

When I am with other people who may not be inclined to wait 2 hours in the cold for me to paint a complete picture, I still bring my paper and board. I make a rough outline of what I intend to paint and take a photo. Most people are willing to wait the 5-10 minutes that takes . It’s important to capture the proportions as I see them — or perhaps as I exaggerate them — which no camera will do. Color is somewhat arbitrary and personal anyway, and the camera does an OK job of capturing basic light and dark values. (It does tend to miss shadow and highlight subtleties.) I still like to paint the sheet as soon as possible after returning.

So far into this residency I seem only able to tackle scenic landscapes. I have already accumulated some wonderful source material of fire-sculpted trees, especially from the 2010 Rainbow Bridge fire. These will be great fodder for large studio paintings in the future.

Near Rainbow Bridge, 2010 burn.

Near Rainbow Bridge, 2010 burn.

I have been reading Flames in Our Forest by Stephen Arno, which makes the case for fire as a necessary factor in a healthy and diverse forest. But I haven’t yet done enough time alone, putting one foot after the other, to stretch for a deeper connection between the artistic process and the meaning of the work.

It’s like I have to get through all that beauty first.


Postscript September 22: I realize I should have posted the photo I took as well. You can see how different the proportions are between my interest — the distant massif — and what the point-and-shoot snapshot shows.

DomeSnapshot (640x480)

In the footsteps of Maynard Dixon

Yesterday I went for a morning constitutional up Angel’s Landing before the 7:00am shuttle arrived (1400 feet, 5.4 miles, according to the shuttle narration). It gets easier each time. Then I went hunting for the view Maynard Dixon painted which adorns the cover of the Zion Natural History Association’s centennial book on art and the park, A Century of Sanctuary. I found it, and noted what he modified. Now I will try my own version. I’ll post it if it comes out OK.

But I am building up a backlog of quick-and-dirty drawings to paint. (My method, either when it’s too hot, too cold or my wilderness companions are too impatient for me to spend 1-2 hours painting on location, is to do a pencil outline drawing of my chosen subject. I can always retrieve value and color from a snapshot, but the proportions I see, and the way my subject becomes a center of interest, can’t be duplicated by any camera.)

Installing “Tree Futures”

Yesterday I was privileged to have the help of two friends to begin the outdoor installation of my work for CoCA’s Heaven and Earth IV: Rootbound.

It was a typical Seattle June day: dripping and cool. Several dog walkers and joggers wanted to know what we were doing, but seemed quite happy with  our answer: “It’s an art project — and the artist is behind the tree.”

Ooops, popped a grommet

Ooops, popped a grommet

First Tier of Gloves

First Tier of Gloves

Wrapping grass

Material manipulation

Here is my site:

Tree Futures site

Tree Futures site

It’s strange for this artist to be working so hard on a project which will not result in a painting. Tree Futures, the outdoor installation described in my previous post, is more like working on software development than painting a picture. Who will do what when, what has to happen first, what supplies, how many hands needed and most of all, making the design flexible enough to accommodate last-minute changes.

I’ve been fortunate in getting help with materials and fabrication:

Here are the beginnings of some of the assemblies:

The first layer of wood chips in biodegradable bags

The first layer of wood chips in biodegradable bags

All 6 layers of the kraft paper wrap

All 6 layers of the kraft paper wrap

The first layer of used work gloves

The first layer of used work gloves

Corrugated Cardboard Wrap

The first layer of single-face corrugated cardboard wrap.

The longevity of ink jet prints? Depends on the substrate.

After a color-expert columnist suggested we really didn’t yet know what the archival quality of ink jet prints would be, I decided to do my own experiment.

Two years ago almost to this day, I printed out digital images of two paintings of mine, covered portions of them with several layers of opaque artist’s tape, and left them on the sunniest, south-facing windowsill in my house. There they sat undisturbed for a l-o-n-g time.

Results below. The one printed on glossy photo paper (Easter Island, WA) shows no visible signs of fading or discoloration at all. I can’t even tell where I put the tape. However, the one I printed on good-quality bright white office grade paper(Cleared Trail)  faded and discolored badly — particularly all the warm colors.

Cleared Trail

Original digital image for Fugitive Test 2, “Cleared Trail”

Fugitive Test 2 Ink jet print exposed for 2 years

HP Photosmart inkjet print “Cleared Trail” exposed to direct sunlight for 2 years, printed on bright white office paper

Fugitive Test 1: Easter Island, WA

HP Photosmart Inkjet print “Easter Island, WA” exposed to direct sunlight for 2 years, but printed on glossy photo paper

Edible Books, deliciously silly sculpture

I want to report in on my effort for this year: The Girl with the Dragon Fondue (with apologies to Stieg Larsson’s estate). Each year for the last seven the Seattle Center for the Book Arts has sponsored this wonderful event. You can come with an entry or you can come to view the entries by paying an admission that benefits the organization (more information here). After they’re judged, we eat them.

I love rising to the challenge; and just as much, I love seeing the wonderful things that others bring in. It satisfies my need for joyful silliness.

I’ve been thinking about The Girl for a while; I rejected the attempt last year because I couldn’t figure out how to bake a bread dragon without some side of him coming out flat. When I saw some armature wire in our local Artist & Craftsmen Supply store, I had the answer.

I constructed three separate pieces – tail, loop and head. The 3-foot size was based on Ila Crawford’s brilliant suggestion of inserting a battery-powered fan in the head to make tissue-paper flames flutter. Alas, I discovered too late that the fan was not powerful enough to send a breeze around the corner of the neck into the head (as well as my failure to consider a source of intake air). So I settled for placing the fan at the base of the fondue dish, which, while a mite unsightly, worked fine.

Another challenge was baking the bread upright on the armature. Gravity acts on bread dough like of all us, bulging and drooping. So I chilled my dough, rolled it out and draped it around the armature as quickly as possible, and set it in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes to set the dough. Then it only required another 20 minutes at 350 to bake. His spine was pita chips, his beard and tail were maifun rice sticks; his horns were sweet pastries. I had to do some last-minute repairs with egg-white glue, which I should have colored to match the dough. The things you think of after the fact…

Some people asked where the girl was. Said I, “I’m the girl, I’ve got the dragon fondue!”

I’m so pleased to have come in second in the popular vote. But even more pleased by all the fascinated children — especially the little boys — who wanted to have their pictures taken with it. Our local paper covered it here, photos here. The UW Daily also covered it here — but it didn’t take me three days, just two afternoons and part of a morning.