Hacking the Hardback

Sorry for the late blog post, we just got over two weekends of the Santa Fe Studio Tour, which is a fair amount of work to host.  We meet so many interesting people, and this year I was more proactive in explaining my work. Turns out most people don’t know I am working with books, and what is paperback, what is hardback, etc.  I was really reminded of how fun it is to build collages onto hardback book covers.  I get to spend a whole day on this in my upcoming workshops, so I was showing my guests the fun possibilities of hacking into the hardback book cover.

 

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Here is the basic toolkit: needles and thread, knives to cut with, an awl to make holes. I also recommend a chop saw (not shown due to the condition of my husband’s workshop at present). You can also add in things like a drill, wire, waxed linen thread, a dremmel tool. And if you have a woodshop available to you, a drill press, a jigsaw, etc.

So lets look at some work. This is an early piece I did in a Lisa Kokin workshop.

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I began with the front and back covers taped together for the substrate. Lisa had distributed bundles of paper made by cutting an old math book using a chop saw (by the fabulous Tools Diva, Lia Roozendaal).  This is where my love of books began, with little pieces of truncated sentences: 23. Mass, 24. Weight. (I studied a lot of math and physics at college, maybe this is why it amuses me).

The grid is a nice stable structure to begin from, but quite soon Lisa and Lia were urging me to disrupt its order and break outside the squares.  And so the fun began. In fact, as I look at it, this may well be the story of how I left Math (serious) and went for Art (fun). Punctures, stitching, and a little paint set me free.

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In “Secrets”, I carve into the book with an exacto knife. You can go all the way through the book board and make a hole, or just cut away a few layers, as you see with the stripes. There have been several different man-images in this piece, but I kept covering over them so now we just have The Absent Man, which sorta works for me, actually.

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Another grid piece, this time working with more open space and asymmetry. The piece begins with the outside of the hardback book, where the fabric has been peeled away exposing a surface of textured, dried, adhesive.  I like how it looks like a cement wall.

Besides the carving and the stitching, I have glued other sawn chunks of hardbacks onto the substrate (you won’t believe how fun it is to saw a book into pieces like this). The small chunk in the upper right is a piece of book pages, cut about an inch from the spine.  The spine material was torn off leaving some glue and string. This little chunk juts out about an inch.  It is secured by a generous dollop of PVA glue. The stiffness of the book board, as well as its ability to absorb the glue and make a strong bond, allows you to get more dimensional  in your collages. It can be a very refreshing change from your normal work.

So give this a try, I promise you will enjoy it.  And if you need a little more guidance, come to a workshop and play with us!

Happy Creating,

Melinda

 

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Moveable Display and Storage Walls For Your Studio

I want to share an exciting new invention my husband and I came up with to give me display walls in my studio.  I really believe in putting your work on the wall and stepping back from it to see it better. My students have been amazed how much it changes their work to see it on the wall.

My studio is, in fact, the “Formal Living Room” of our home. Its a light filled, airy space which was getting no use whatsoever, but I didn’t want to mess up the walls with a bunch of push pins or nails. And, as you collagists know, storage is ever the aim!

 

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These walls are built from 4′ x 8′ sheets of foam insulation board (from Home Depot) attached to steel shelving units, with wheels (from Costco).  The insulation board was originally Lilac purple which I immediately painted to a very white white. This board is very lightweight and is fine for holding paper pieces with push pins or T-pins.

We bought 18″ deep racks, both for stability and for more storage. The wheels are indispensable. So nice to hide all my supplies behind a nice white wall and have quick access when I need it.

The foam board is attached to the rack with two long screws, on left and right of the board, at the top 3 shelves. Large washers were used, front and back, to distribute pressure over the foam. Finally a  handy piece of hardware used in framing (name unknown) has been used to firmly clamp to the steel racks.. So, for each wall, we used 6 screws, 6 bolts,  12 washers, and 6 framing clamps.

What is that dark rectangle on the lower right of the middle panel?  A cat scratcher. Our newest cat LOVES to shred the foam and this has, so far, averted his effort.

 

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To be able to hang panels on this wall, we made a modification, in the form of a wooden bar, attached through the foam and onto the steel rack. I put screws every few inches, in the wooden bar, so I could hang a variety of panel sizes.

Above is a closeup of the back, side, and front (clockwise) of the wooden bar so you can see the hardware better.

 

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There is a variety of ways to hang on these walls. I am using T-pins on this paper collage because the watercolor paper substrate is bending and the T-pins will hold it more secure and flatten it out. Anything non-flat or heavy is hung from the screws on the wooden bar.

My friend Jane Davies constructed a variation on this design, using a homosote panel, which might be the better idea. This foam works, but it is weak. Your cats will love it though~!

Thanks for reading and happy creating!

Melinda

 

 

 

Using Photoshop to Debug Compositions

I just had a wonderful collage workshop last weekend and I am still thinking about the process of editing your design once you are well into the process. This is, after all, where most of the time is spent. Its usually easy to get started, just start pasting. But then, soon enough, your design gets off track.  How do you pull it back into balance? Its very tricky and, of course, unique to each artist but I thought an illustration of how I might go about “debugging” a composition might be instructive.

I was working in a Three Column structure on the piece below. The last element I put in was in the upper left, the circles over some  “Mrs. Homemaker…” text. I was liking everything but felt like I needed something at the top of the composition. I chose a pretty different and busy piece.

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original scan

After looking at it for awhile, I decided two things were bothering me:

 

  • The circles piece seemed to be leading us over into an empty corner.
  • the middle column lacked strength. Two very similar rectangles of similar value… The line between them was weak and disturbing.

So I scanned this piece and brought it into photoshop to play around with possible solutions.

 

 

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version 1 – photoshop

I was sort of in love with the “Mrs Homemaker, The Car, and Travel”, but It turned out this was the biggest problem. Covering it over (in photoshop) suddenly got me back to my original intentions.

Now the color in the three columns modulates in a pattern that I like: The middle column is the tallest, then the left column, then the right. I like this mountain or skyline shape. I also like the variety in the sizes and shapes of the rectangles, the bits of type that act as texture from this distance, and of course the drama of the stripes!

It feels balanced, but I still want to add some emphasis to the yellow rectangle.

 

 

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version 2 – photoshop

A simple outline around the yellow gives the middle column much more strength.  Now it is on even par with its neighbors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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version 3 – photoshop

In the final version I have added more blacks to ground the piece at the bottom, and pull all the light rectangles into a frame.

I think of this as a loose guide to where I want this piece to go. Its easiest in photoshop to make straight lines but I may choose more organic, uneven, shapes when I get this back to the collage table. I will also play with the thickness of these lines but the basic weight of the blacks, and their distribution, is working. For now.

It could easily be that I look at it for a few days and find something else I want to change. But my advice is don’t belabor it too long. Better to make more work than just a few perfect pieces.

 

 

I am curious if any of you readers use photoshop in this way, or what your methods of editing your compositions are. Please share with us in the comments below!

Thank You and Happy creating,

Melinda