REFLECTION: Part 5 – project 2…the artist’s book


This project has taken weeks of work!

I’m pleased that I followed the advice in the course notes to work from ideas already started in the sketchbook because that provided the basic thinking for the project. It also provided great motivation because I was already hugely stimulated by the concept of the ‘movement of thought’ as an aspect of time in which the human body can be stationary while the thoughts and mental world of the individual move. As I wrote in the post, these ideas started from sitting and watching the world go by at the V&A Museum. What also intrigued me as I sat there were the groups of people standing and talking. They also were stationary but within a dialogue or conversation, movement was happening. There was the back and forth of ideas, arguments, differing points of view. There were the conversations of friends coming together and sharing experiences. There were teaching groups and the interaction between instructors and pupils. So much movement was happening as time was passing without necessarily any movement of the figures. So with all this information I was pleased to be able to explore the ideas in this project of creating a book.

However, it wasn’t long before I realized that exploring an idea in a book format is not easy. In order to illustrate the time factor, there has to be a sequential process, a development of ideas, a following through of an underlying theme. That probably isn’t always the case in book art but for me it was. To show thought moving, it seemed necessary to sequence ideas. But I found there was a trap in this. It became all too easy to start a narrative. Nothing wrong with that! But I wasn’t telling a story, I was having a dialogue! A dialogue means more than one person. I was having a dialogue with the space. So I had to keep reminding myself that I was not talking about the space, but I was talking with the space. I would be working on an image and then stand back and realize that I was drawing the space and not responding to the space. So that meant going over the image and bringing it back from just illustration. Some of the pages I’ve managed to do that; some, I feel, still are too much about the space. Just the actual physical drawings took over a week to complete!

I enjoyed working in the medium of soft pastels. They are very immediate and allow me to work with my hands. In the rubbing process, you leave finger marks and I like that and I haven’t tried to obliterate them. Physical response seemed important in this work and I found that as the dialogue progressed with the space, so the marks on the page with the pastel would develop. It became just like a conversation.

I don’t feel that any words are necessary in the book. I have tried to bring out the following ideas in my dialogue with what has become a very precious and intimate friend!

  • The mystery and fascination of a secret area
  • The dark impenetrable barrier – threatening – sometimes fierce, almost like armor.
  • The contrasting elements – light , fluffy movements of the leaves in the wind, the mighty swaying of the long poles in the wind – a gentleness
  • Finding an entrance and the questions this raised – what was in there – did anything live in there – how would it react to being disturbed after so many years (I have to admit to being a bit nervous before I ventured in – in fact I sent my husband in first!!!)
  • Then the awe of being in the centre – the cathedral-like interior – tall vertical lines reaching upwards – tiny shafts of light flickering through
  • And the silence! This was amazing – complete stillness and private – totally alone
  • Enclosure – embracing

The artist’s book is a fascinating subject. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to explore my subject in a new format. The element of time is significant in the creation of an artbook and it was a challenge. It means that focus has to be maintained over a period. Each of the pages in the book was like a separate piece of work – 11 drawings! But 11 drawings would not have been the challenge that this book was. I think the difference is that with a book you are conveying an idea and that single idea guides each individual piece and that is constantly in your mind. However like all artwork, the viewer will bring a different viewpoint so perhaps that carefully focused thread will not be accessible to them. But, of course, that doesn’t matter!


About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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