Oct 032014
 

Thanks everyone for your kind support during my last and latest IT crisis. Much appreciated. It’s fixed now. I tried to thank my web host, InMotion Hosting, for finally figuring it out. Alas, the last message I sent them bounced back to me. From what I could tell, their own server (or spam program) thought their own address was spam. Hmm…

And good luck to those of you still suffering from the update to WordPress 4.0. I know I wasn’t the only one. I wish I knew what my web host did to fix it, but it’s honestly incomprehensible to me. Sigh…

At any rate, I’ve started to collect new materials to make pages for my next sketchbook/plaything. As part of that, I’ve been browsing some favorite online places for high-quality, public domain printable stuff. These are listed under “Free Picture Resources” on my links page, but I thought I’d explain a little.

You'll be busy for a while…

The Biodiversity Heritage Library’s Flickr account will keep you very busy if you like vintage images of nature and the physical world. All of their images are provided under under a Creative Commons license. I find that I usually need to touch them up in Lightroom/Photoshop to make them more to my liking, but you could probably also just download and print if you don’t care as much about such things. If nothing else, it’s a great visual reference resource.

Speaking of downloading, it came to my attention recently that not everyone I know is familiar with how to download images from Flickr (on accounts that allow it). It can vary by browser, but I think with most current and supported browsers, it now works like this:

 Click the arrow symbol on the bottom right:

Click here

This will make a little menu appear…

Click here next

Almost always, choosing “original size” will ensure the highest quality for printing. You can always shrink it down later. Click on that, and the picture will be downloaded to your computer.

Another fun browse is brought to us by a professor of the History of the Book at the University of Amsterdam. This account, found at http://www.flickr.com/bookhistorian is filled with detailed scans of fancy initials, ornaments and fragments from manuscripts.

History of the Book on Flickr

Of course, there are plenty of other Creative Commons resources on Flickr and the wider web. Photos from the US government, for instance, are generally not under copyright. So… looking for a nice NASA space image or something from the Library of Congress? You might want to start here.

And, thanks to Amy, I recently discovered some terrific, high-quality maps (among other things) at The Old Design Shop. It is claimed that all of the images here are in the public domain. These are, in my so-far limited experience, unusually excellent quality and ready to print without any digital fussing. I printed out some maps on plain Strathmore 400 Drawing paper and they look great.

Another site popular around the web is The Graphics Fairy, which leans heavily toward Victorian and Edwardian-style imagery.

What favorite sources for printable public domain imagery have you found?

Apr 072013
 
Superstition Prototype.

Superstition prototype.

My anxiety has been rising over my two Book Art Object Edition 4 contributions. They should have been finished long ago. Every time I start making progress, something happens to slow everything down. Let’s just say, in terms of productivity, a couple of weeks of dizziness and vertigo, capped off by an ER visit for something else, isn’t the most efficient way to go. (The ER was two days ago, and, I’m happy to say, what prompted that is now back under control.)

Alas. Books do not get made when the maker is in bed.

However, I have managed to carve out a little studio time here and there. I’ve finished prototypes for both of my editions. Here is the first one, a board book called Superstition. It will be an edition of 13.

The first page spread is a foldout. The secret to these is that they do not get folded straight down the middle and across for both top and bottom portions. There won’t be enough room for the thickness of the paper and the page won’t fold together neatly if you don’t allow a bit of an offset. It’s easier to show a diagram than for my inarticulate brain to attempt an explanation. This is from a commercial book with a similar style page that folds out:

Foldout Diagram

In diagram form, it looks like this:

Foldout Diagram

For 13 books, it’s impractical to measure and fold each one without some kind of jig. But how to easily construct a jig with so many fussy score lines? There are different ways to do this, but the solution I like is to use a piece of Mylar. I marked the one large and one tiny cut lines and the three fold lines, then carefully cut or scored and folded them, just as I would for the finished page. The transparent material makes it easy to line it up correctly with the paper underneath.

Mylar Jig

As I score each section, I fold the Mylar down to reveal the next appropriate edge to score against.

Mylar Jig, First Score

Scoring against jig

I save the lines to be cut, rather than folded, for last. I carefully mark the end of each with a pin prick, and use a real straight edge for that. This works very well.

The platform/object you see me folding on is a corner jig a friend made for me. I have a small cutting mat that fits perfectly on top of it, if needed.

Corner Jig with Mat

However–at least with this mildly awkward foldout page–I’ve been experimenting with using my light box for the actual assembly (the part where it gets glued to the boards underneath).

Assembling page on lightbox

And now… to finish putting together the 13 books…!

Dec 312012
 

2013-Happy-Lucky-New-Year

This is the front of a postcard I concocted in Photoshop for a recent exchange with friends in my local book arts guild, NORBAG. The lucky black cat is Steve the kitten.

The actual item was inkjet printed on plain old Strathmore Bristol which, surprisingly to me, sometimes works quite well for this purpose. And the printouts don’t scratch easily, as they do with coated papers meant for inkjet. It’s not suitable for everything — graphic-type pieces like this tend to come out best.

Happy, lucky New Year everyone!

Aug 192012
 

We all know we should be changing our knife blades frequently. Dull blades make displeasing cuts and are more likely to harm you. But it’s a nuisance to stop in the middle of working to wrap each blade for proper disposal (and we do this, of course, because we care about our trash collectors and the roaming animals sampling our bins on garbage night… right?).

Or else the blades sit out on our work tables waiting to be disposed of. Need I even mention why this is not such a good idea?

There is a better way. If you don’t have one already, consider making yourself an arts ‘n crafts sharps collector. Get a container with a tight-fitting lid. Something like a margarine container will work.

Cut a slit in the lid that will comfortably fit your blades. Securely attach the lid to the container.

And since this is for arts ‘n crafts, you might want to appropriately decorate your new item. At the very least you should write on it to make it clear it has dangerous sharp things in it. (And, of course, this is only for adult-friendly workspaces! Very dangerous, not a plaything, use caution, blades are sharp, you have been duly warned, I’m not legally responsible if anything bad happens, etc.)

I made this one here several years ago. It’s one of the most used things in my studio. I’ve been dumping all my old scalpel and rotary blades in here for all that time, and there’s still room for more. (Although I have to slip off the lid for the big rotary blades.) Nothing has ever cut through or poked out of the plastic container, but I’m sure that doesn’t mean it still couldn’t at some point.

When it’s full, I might carefully seal the blades in a sturdy container and dispose of it in a garbage company-approved manner. Or I might fill a jar with all these scalpel blades and keep it as a decorative piece in the studio.

Nov 092011
 

I’ve been a bit more quiet than usual, as you might’ve noticed. Mostly I’ve been recovering and trying to get things back together after last month’s show. The current decorative motif in the studio is Hoarder Nouveau. I’ve been attempting to shovel out. For a while I thought I was making good progress. I now don’t feel like I’m making good progress. It’s pretty hard to do anything in there at the moment.

However, last week I decided @#$% it, and managed to move enough piles aside to make room for a little paste painting. I’d come across an interesting set of scraper/spatula things at a store that were, the package said, for the kitchen. (Really–are you going to scrape dough and not paint with something that looks like that?) I also recently found some interestingly shaped toothbrushes and a square wire whisk. I’ve been wanting to try out my new toys tools.

 (Clean and unused) cat litter pans of water are great for wetting sheets of paper.

I like to work on a sheet of plexiglass. The white surface you see underneath is a super absorbent incontinence pad. It was a gift from a friend, who told me they’re wonderful for when her kids paint and do messy things. She’s right–it makes cleanup easier and keeps all the nasty stuff off my cutting mat underneath. This has been a very thoughtful gift.


A square wire whisk was new for me. This definitely has possibilities. This is painted on Tyvek.

 

Toothbrushes.

 

This one was made with miscellaneously shaped cut-outs of sticky-backed fun foam mounted on a rolling pin. After it was dry, a second layer with a comb was added.

 

This was originally done with a fat grouting comb and a golden color that I didn’t like so much (nothing against the tool–I just didn’t like the paper). Then I went over it again with a different color, and liked the result even less. So most recently I went at it a third time with a thin rubber comb pattern and a different color. Now I like it.

I added some more to a paste paper set on Flickr.
Oct 052011
 

This sign used to hang in the local laundromat. I do my wash at home these days, but perhaps I should post my own friendly reminder above the washer and dryer.

Although I’d assume this isn’t quite as bad as doing the laundry with ammo, I’d think that putting a pocket full of scalpel blades through the wash isn’t a good idea either.

(Picture of laundry sign found here.)

Sep 022011
 

Tip of the day: if one has difficulties with concentration, one should not watch TV while gluing together pages of a book. One might discover, after the books have dried, that some of them are missing pages. Just sayin’.

I’ve finally almost assembled (reassembled?) an edition of 15 petri dish books. The title is Mysophobia: Mainstream Culture. The pages are individual circles that were scored and glued together at the side.

I’ve discovered that scrapbooking toys have their uses. My 3″ circle punch is now my friend. And… I can’t believe I’m admitting this on the Internet… the Martha Stewart score thingie. I remember seeing this very item in a store a while back and sneering. Then came the need to score lots of circular book pages. I could’ve done it with a ruler or a jig. But then I read this blog post from Ginger Burrell. I have to agree; it’s a nifty tool. Who’d have thought…?

The book is about modern germ paranoia. The “cultures” are paste paint and acrylic paintings that I manipulated in Photoshop. I find it fascinating how behavior that is now seen as normal would’ve, not long ago, been seen as compulsive and disordered. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but here in the US–at least where I live–every big store now seems to have disinfectant wipes at the door. Anti-bacterial soaps are big business. Yet, do we actually get fewer communicable illnesses these days? I doubt it. Outside of a health care context, all this disinfectant wiping and dousing comes across as some sort of quaint evil-repelling ritual.

Of course, ironically, all the evidence suggests this germ phobia is only creating more antibiotic-resistant germs.

   

Aug 082011
 

I think this is the longest I’ve ever disappeared from the blog. I’m still around. I’ve even been mildly productive, I am happy to report.

The Handbook of Model-making for Set Designers, a recent discovery, is filled with all kinds of fun tips and suggestions for making small stuff with card stock and paper. I’d originally been making a staircase out of book board (something I’m still working on), but wound up suddenly deciding to fashion a tree out of wire and cover it in lokta paper, giving rise to this little book object. I also had some tiny polymer clay eggs sitting around from some previous thing, and so added a nest.

The text in back is, more or less, a stream-of-conscious bit of nonsense that mentions, among other things, a cat climbing a tree. It ends with “And the cat will climb down by the tips of his claws.”

This was inspired by seeing my cat Dominic climb a redwood the other day. He’d spied a bird way high up (redwoods, you might remember, are tall), and decided to go up after it. He made it to the first limb–still impressively high off the ground–which creaked precariously under him as the bird watched safely from above. I don’t know what the cat was thinking–that the bird would hop down onto the branch with him?

At any rate, I had fun putting together this little book object. Nothing like a little productivity to lift one’s mood!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can one not like a book that has pages on scalpels and knives? It even has a sidebar (not shown) outlining the history of X-Actos in the U.S. and scalpels in the U.K. (it’s a British book).

Dec 112010
 
My last film camera. It’s the one I was using in 1997.

I cannot believe it is 10 days into December. How did that happen?

Somewhat fitting the theme, the other day I was browsing through a book called Photomontage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Pictures. It came out in 1997.

“In the future,” it tells us, “people will make their family snapshots with digital cameras. At this time, the best digital cameras are very expensive (in Chapter 10 the illustrations for steps 8 and 9 were done with a $30,000 camera . . . ).”

I was sitting in a coffee shop and nearly choked on my brew. Intellectually, I know I didn’t even have a computer in 1997. But it’s still amazing to contemplate that 13 years ago (ok, almost 14) today’s technology was as futuristic as something out of a sci-fi movie. I can only imagine what features that $30,000 camera had (or rather, didn’t have). I hear there was a Canon then that could boast an awesome 6 MP, but 1.5 was more the average.

Apr 052010
 

As I mentioned before, I wound up waxing inkjet-printed papers for use as covering material for my latest books. I’ve been quite pleased with the result. I thought I’d outline the process.

First, rub an even layer of wax over the paper. Since this is for a miniature and my block of beeswax is rather large, this is fairly easy. (This fantastic block of beeswax, by the way, was found in a local health food store for less than beeswax costs at an art supply place.)

I then experimented with different ways of sanding the waxed paper. Regular fine grit paper did not work–it rubbed off some of the ink. I found this rubber sanding pad at the hardware store, and it works well. I can also roll it up to make it a little easier to grasp. For some reason, a regular sanding block with the same grit number did not work.

Then smooth with a buffing pad, also from the hardware store.

Wiping with tack cloth helps smooth out the wax, but it can leave a little stickiness. I buff some more after this step. Repeat until the desired finish is obtained.

Even though this is a small area to do, this process was causing me problems. I have painful and not very strong hands. I got the idea to try a cheap electric toothbrush to do some of the buffing. It works…up to a point, although I found it actually was not that much easier. However, it is another option and does allow for some finer finishing. I discovered at the drugstore that the toothbrushes are not all equal. Some only vibrate, and others simply don’t feel nice in the hand when they’re turned on, and, on some, only a small portion of the head moves. If you like this idea, take advantage of the ones that allow you to turn them on in the package at the store. That way, you can get a better idea if it might work for you.

In spite of the hand thing, I’ve been excited about this. The finish is just perfect for this project. It’s smooth and glossy, and is far more durable than regular unfinished inkjet paper. It also deepens the colors of the printouts. I use an Epson with pigmented Dura-Brite inks. I’m not sure how others would hold up to this process, but I imagine they’d be similar.