Category Archives: Artist’s Books

Small Things of Wonder

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Moths bumping against the screen on a summer night.  Seeking the light from indoors.  What does it look like to them?  Is it a bright star they are mysteriously drawn to?Moment in Time 002

I’ve been working on another handmade book – a smaller project than the last one.  Was thinking about the little moments in-between the spaces of our lives. The small transitory and easily forgotten things we see in a blink and file away to be remembered or forgotten, but none-the-less, recorded by our brains.

This book is made mostly of recycled materials.  I used recycled paper from cardboard boxes that I soaked in water until I could strip the paper from the corrugated box sides.  Its a really nice heavy brown paper, that takes a lot of water and rubbing and sewing into without buckling or tearing.  I’ve had these small pieces saved in a box for the longest time – but I knew I would find a way to use them eventually!

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Found objects , leaves, stones, twigs, old pieces of darning…whatever seems right at the moment.  I’m sewing the pages together and binding it with cardboard backing.  For the backgrounds I’m using mostly watercolors and oil pastels – my two favorite mediums.  I’ve only completed a few pages which I’m sharing with you today.  I drew the moths on some scrap papers leftover from the last project.  I bought the bunny at a flea market – I think its from an old cuckoo clock.  He has a nice little red bead for an eye.

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The mountains were made from the paint over edges when I made paste papers.  They were the papers laying on the work surface to protect the surface from the paint.  I’d torn a piece from the edge and folded it down so it was the white torn side against the paste paper over brushing and I thought it looked like mountains.  I glued it over the scraps of over brushing, and painted it in blue, purple, and gray. I think it does look like mountains in the background, and strata in the foreground. I outlined the torn edges a little so they would show up more.

I’ve still got more to do – more to color  and layer over the brown base.

Placing Out in America – The Orphan Trains — an Artist’s Book

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I have finally finished my book “Placing Out in America.”  This is the front of the book.  I used a little piece of rusted screen to create the window with the flag showing through it.

This was quite a project for me, and very different from my usual type of art.  Mostly because I was not using any drawings or paintings of my own, but found objects, and old photos.  I collect old photographs mainly based on the expression of the face.  I have a lot of children, they tell such a story with their faces.

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I tried to age all the paper used, including the found objects.  I loved finding this little flag, and tea dyed it and cut off the stars to indicate the year 1854.

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This is what I placed under the flag.  An old piece of  handmade quilt, completely in tatters.  I thought it indicated the longing for comfort and for a home.

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This is what is under the quilt, a notice of distribution, which seemed a cold term to me.  “The distribution of the children …”

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Here I used paste paper I ran through my printer  to print a scanned photograph directly onto the paste paper.  Also a piece from a gelatin print with rows of little houses, and a corrugated cardboard from a light bulb box to fashion a collaged house– found objects!

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These pages look crooked, but they really aren’t.

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I enjoyed manipulating the old photos making them come  to the forefront by how I built the layers of collage beneath. The train is printed directly onto paste paper.  I used a little gel transfer also – but for some reason none of them came out very well so I gave up. That’s a St Christopher medal hanging above the children standing in line.

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I used silhouettes whenever I wanted to fill in with something on the page.  The little tags with numbers represent the numbers the children were given so they could be identified to potential families.

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If you haven’t heard of the Orphan Trains, it is a real part of American history.  The trains ran from 1854 until 1929.  The Children’s Aid Society was formed in 1853 to take some of the homeless children off the streets of New York City.  Unfortunately there were more children than resources available and the idea of shipping these “unwanted” children to rural America and finding families for them was born.  The trains began running in 1854.

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The last page in the book is only a half width page – I liked how the pages on either side looked so I left it half page width.

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The scrap of fabric under the little wallet is a piece of flour sack print.  I liked how the wallet said “Don’t Forget.”  All these small drawers of small things do eventually find a use!

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Outside back of book.  I used a copy of one of my own paintings and cut the figures out.  I thought they looked like they belonged with the rest of the children.

Messy Studio and Imaginary Flowers

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New page for the artists book “The Orphan Train”

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My studio is a big mess while I work on this project artist book, The Orphan Trains.  I’m going to share what a big mess I make when creating – I think because it really does bother me that I can’t maintain some kind of order when I’m creating!  I wonder if I had a separate studio that wasn’t an extra bedroom down the hall from my bedroom, would I be less constricted about mess making.  I think I probably would!

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My work table under seige.  The heavy iron/steel thing sitting on the red plaid paper is something I found at an estate sale – it weighs about ten pounds and makes a perfect paper weight to smooth paper or hold until glue sets!  I’ve no idea what it was originally intended for, but I use it all the time for weighting down glued pages.

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A close up of the paper I’ve been aging for this project.  I’ve squirted lemon juice on regular text weight copier paper and baked it in the oven til it reaches the desired aged-ness.

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The Dorothy Parker book has nothing to do with this project!

Now for something more fun than messy work tables!  Make believe flowers!

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I am ready for spring! Dreaming of planting my summer pots and creating my garden, I started to doodle some imaginary flowers that are unlikely to be found in any botanists catalog, or garden wish book.  Once I finish the  artist book project – I’ll begin to seriously do some gardening!

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A strange little kitty – not saying ‘hello’ either – maybe a naughty kitty.  I had to redo her eyes with a piece of paper pasted over the old ones.  They just looked too naughty! ( journal pages)

New project

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Putting together a new project!  A handmade artist’s book called “Placing Out in America.”  I’m using collage, gelatin monoprint, paste paper, old photographs, gel image transfers, and found objects – oil pastels, acrylic, watercolor.

This is about the seventy-five year history of the largest migration of minor children in the history of the world, and its popularly known as the Orphan Trains.  The history is astounding in our modern age of child protection laws, privacy, and legal adoption.  Children were placed out by the Children’s Aid Society of New York City, and The Foundling Asylum later called the Foundling Hospital of the Sisters of Charity in New York.  There was no legal adoption; anyone who wanted to take a child into their home was interviewed and the child was signed over for a period of a 90 day trial, after 90-days if there were no complaints, the child became their legal property.  Most children were placed hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their New York City homes into the farm country of rural America.

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I am having trouble with the gel image transfers coming away cleanly.  I’ve used this technique before with good results, but this time I am not getting such good results – however, I’ve decided to use them as it seems to work okay with this project.

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Many of the children were immigrants and had survived the trip to America only to have their parents unable to care for them once they arrived.  Poverty, destitution and death left many of the children orphaned.  The Children’s Aid Society rounded up children from the streets of New York City from 1853 through 1929 and placed them out to the rural farmlands in America by train.

Winter, Sky, Trees, Moss –

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“Winter, Sky, Trees, Moss”   7×5 inches 8 pages.  Watercolor, collage, graphite, textile, paste paper.

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In Portland, winter can be mostly gray, and doesn’t change much from day to day.  It was supposed to be dry today with a predicted weak sun, but when I woke up this morning I could hear the rain on the street as cars went rolling down the road.  So another gray day.  But standing outside later, I saw such beauty in the drape of bare tree branches, and gray sky, and here and there the brightest little green tufts of moss, clinging to rocks, and the concrete stairs leading up to the street.  I love those little tufts of tenacity; clinging patiently through the dry times, coming carefully back to brilliant color in the rain of winter.

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Paste Paper

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I’ve been making paste paper and tearing into book size pieces, and pasting other things on top if it.

Paste paper is a concoction of wheat paste, or cornstarch, and water and pigment.  You can use acrylic paint for the pigment, or watercolor, or gouache, or even powdered poster paint pigment.  I’ve been running it through the printer after its dry using scanned images over the paste background.

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The red background of this paste was made using a vintage piece from an old erector set.  You can see the little circles at the top of the photo from the edges of the metal piece.  I used a scan photo and ran it through the printer a couple of times trying to get some handwriting to show from another scan. It doesn’t show clearly enough, so i have another idea for it.

2013 Paste Paper 008These images are cut from drawing paper weight paste paper.  They are just laying on top of a large sheet, I intend to use them later, just not sure how yet.

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This scanned image is used over a piece of brown paste paper – its actually darker than this photo shows.

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If you would like to try some paste paper its very simple.  I used 1/4 cup of cornstarch and blended with 1/4 cup of water, add this mix to one cup of water and cook ’til you get a nice custardy mixture.  Keep stirring so it doesn’t stick to the pan, and try to blend it so no lumps form.  Take off the stove and add 1/2 cup cold water.  It might look too runny, but it thickens as it cools.  Put a few tablespoons of this mixture in small containers, I got mine from the $ store, and then add your color and stir up.  The recipe says to dampen your paper – but I didn’t I just painted on the color using a brush, or my fingers, or a sponge applicator.  The the fun began of making designs in the paste with various items.  A comb, making straight or wavy lines.  Rubber stamps, or handmade stamps cut from potatoes, or found objects such as leaves, or rocks, sticks or whatever you have around the house.  The paste mixture should be thick enough to hold the impression that you make giving it a kind of 3-D look.  You can save the paste covered in the fridge for a few days if you want to use that particular color again.

I’ve made it before to use as wrapping paper, but you have to use a lighter weight paper so it doesn’t crack when you fold it around a package.  I used plain white kraft paper for this – once again, from the $ store.  I’ve also used the back of regular leftover wrapping paper.  I find that my colors sometimes come out more muddy than I wanted – I suspect I was too anxious to add more color without waiting for the bottom layer to dry a little.