Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Making “The Great Library” Part 3

The Outside

Having worked out the inside of my story box (see here and here) I started thinking about the outside. Initially I thought about just using text from the excerpt but decided to continue with the idea of the box actually being a simplified physical representation of the library.

Architecture of Ancient Alexandria

An internet search failed to come up with any drawings or artists’ impressions of the building which housed the Great Library of Alexandria of antiquity. In fact, the library collection was quite possibly spread across a number of buildings. I decided to look for images of important civic buildings from the time in Alexandria to use as a guide. I was lucky enough to find this book, and to be able to borrow it via an inter-library loan. The book proved fascinating and I was sorry I was only able to have it for a fortnight.

I decided to base my library on the temples built during the reign of the Ptolemaic period. (Winterson mentions Ptolemy in our extract). The feature I was most concerned about was the column capitals. I know very little about architecture from this period, but I do know enough to know that if I made a mistake with this, someone more knowledgeable (perhaps even JW) would know!

Fortunately this reference told me all I needed to know: the columns needed to be straight (not bulbous) with “composite capitals”. This refers to the fact that more than a single plant was depicted on the capitals (e.g. not just papyrus or palm, but both).

Creating the “Cover” Image 


Edfu Temple from the time of Ptolemy III- XII (public domain image)

Above you can see a photo of a temple from the Ptolemaic period and below is my original drawing before processing and adding effects. In the end, I kept decorative details to a minimum, but it was important to me to have the basic architectural forms right.



As this image was to form the equivalent of the cover, I needed to include a title. I decided to use the “title stone” below as a layer over the whole image.


I used this online tutorial on Moe’s Realm as a guide to develop the effect of text engraved into stone. For the most part I followed it exactly, and then at the end just tweaked things a little until I was satisfied.

Below: the two images with opacities adjusted to my satisfaction.


Using Instagram 

The final step was to transfer my drawing to my iPhone so that I could process it using Instagram. Unfortunately, the Instagram app is not available for non-Apple devices, and if you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch you probably already know it. However, you may not realize that you can also use Instagram to process any jpg file, just like this one of mine.

Unfortunately I’m not fluent in “Apple-talk” but as it is done in iTunes, I imagine it is very similar to the method I’ve outlined below.

The steps on a windows computer are:

  1. connect your device to your computer  
  2. open iTunes
  3. open your device
  4. click on “Photos”
  5. Tick “Sync photos from” and then select folder from the drop down menu
  6. then click on “Sync” at the bottom right of the screen
  7. once the sync is finished, open Photos on your iPhone, iPad etc and you’ll find your images in your Photo Library



And voila! special effects courtesy of Instagram.

(Also, I want to extend a BIG THANK-YOU to the talented Azirca over on Speak Without My Voice who so kindly shared this facility with me!)

Monday, January 23, 2012




Last Thursday I was delighted to meet long-time blog friend and Book*Art*Object colleague, Carol.

I don’t remember how we first came in contact, but I know that it was before the days of BAO, through our mutual love of books. Carol is a retired bookbinder who blogs at Barnacle Goose Paperworks, when she’s not travelling and visiting friends that is!

Carol was in Brisbane visiting fellow-bookbinder Leone, who has just moved here recently. We spent a hot but lovely afternoon at Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens, and when we weren’t spotting sculptures of native animals (some very realistic) there was rather a lot of artists book talk!


When I got home, I found that “someone had been sleeping in my bed” or more accurately – reproducing in my pond! There were rather a lot of these little eggs floating on the water surface. But I’m not sure who, or rather what has laid them. Can you help?

I know it isn’t a toad, because toad’s eggs don’t look like that, but is it a frog? I have seen green frogs around this year for the first time in many.

The other possibility is that they are snail eggs. We have some rather lovely largish gold coloured snails, I believe they are known as Mystery Snails or Apple Snails. The trouble is that these eggs don’t look like any of the pictures I’ve seen online.

Unfortunately, it may all be rather academic, as the goldfish in the pond are finding them delicious! That said, everyday since Thursday I have found more eggs have been produced, so “whoever” is laying them, isn’t giving up easily!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Making “The Great Library”, Part 2

The Inside Continued – Editioning

In last week’s post I had made it as far as a successful proof for the inside of my book object “The Great Library of Alexandria”. You would think that a successful proof would mean that things were sorted, but as soon as I tried to make an edition of the drypoint, I had problems.

As I’ve said before, I’m not experienced in intaglio printmaking, and with a drypoint especially, there is quite a bit of lee-way in how you wipe back the ink. In case you’re not clear, a drypoint works like this.

What is a drypoint exactly? 

drypoint scribes

* you take a plate (traditionally copper, but also used are zinc, perspex, other plastics and even illustration board coated with wood varnish, as I wrote here)

* and a pointed scribe of some sort (even a nail can be used at a pinch)

* and you draw, creating “a burr” or a raised edge on the plate. It is this which catches the ink for printing in addition to the line you have scribed.

Once your image is done, you cover the plate with ink and wipe it back with tarlatan (a coarsely woven fabric traditionally used by printmakers) using circular movements. Working this way forces the ink down into the line and  burr, while removing it from the surface.

When you print a drypoint, you achieve a very particular type of line. One that to me, is very beautiful. It is soft and fuzzy, yet rich and dark. And the burr is essential to that mark.


The Great Library of Alexandria (detail)

You can imagine that the burr is very fragile, even more so with perspex than say copper. So, as I tried to make my edition of about 12, I was wiping very carefully and also trying to replicate the original plate tone, which had contributed so much to the first proof.

After three or four attempts, none of which were usable, I began to realize that my plate might not last the edition. What to do? The plate was quite large, I didn’t want to start from scratch (no pun intended!).

Digital BFK Rives?

I knew that there is now a digital BFK Rives, produced by Canson. I wondered what the paper was really like, and whether it would be possible to reproduce a scan of the artists proof using it. I decided it was worth a try, and then I remembered that a while ago I bought a Canson inkjet paper sample pack. When I checked, there was a sample of the BFK Rives in the pack, so I downloaded the *free ICC profiles from Canson, pressed print and crossed my fingers.

I was actually stunned by the quality. I had expected to feel that it would be a major compromise to work this way, but in the end, it was such a practical solution for me. I love to work with my hands, and a mouse or even a graphics tablet can never be the same to me. Yet, so often I come up against my practical limitations, and am physically unable to create even a small edition like this without exhausting myself. It seems to me that making the original by hand and editioning it digitally is a good compromise.

*Using free ICC Profiles

Free ICC profiles can be downloaded from the websites of the paper manufacturers. If you’ve bought a fine art quality inkjet paper but found the colours hugely different from the colours on your monitor, using the ICC profile may help. I am planning to write a post about what profiles can and can’t do for you, and how to use them in the next month or so.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Making “The Great Library”, Part 1: Inside

From my first reading of the Art & Lies extract by Jeanette Winterson, I wanted to depict the boys in their eyries.
Initially, I planned to make a varied edition of altered books and I progressed as far as buying Condensed Readers Digest books in sufficient numbers, before I realized the difficulty of hand-carving hundreds of pages over and over to make the edition. Fortunately, another structure came to mind.
The Structure
At Ed Hutchins’ Single Sheet Structures workshop, a couple of years ago, I learned about the story box. It’s a simple structure that can be very effective when it supports the concept, and in this case it was perfect. With the image of the eyries in my head, I plunged into working on the inside of the box.
For this edition, I really wanted the warmth of a hand-pulled print, despite having more experience with digital printmaking. Having only made a couple of etchings before, I chose to do the inside image of the library as a drypoint on a Perspex (acrylic) plate, 30cm x 42cm. I did not want to make a large acid-etched plate in case it wasn’t successful.
Below you can see the plate now.
To inscribe it I used two drypoint tools, which you can see too.The one with the wooden shaft is an inexpensive diamond point from Dick Blick. The diamond makes an incredible difference in the pressure you have to apply. I’m not sure whether this particular tool will last very long, but if not I’ll certainly be replacing it with another diamond point. If anyone has a favourite tool for drypoint they recommend, please do let me know.
Digital Background
The British Library
I found this lovely photo (above) of the book stacks at the British Library by Steve Cadman on flickr. It was the inspiration for the colours I initially prepared for the background of my print, using acrylic inks (below left).
Right: In progress, showing lightened areas in two places
I scanned the background and planned to create areas where the eyries would be positioned using the “lighting effects” in Photoshop. Obviously, this darkens those areas of the print that you haven’t chosen to be “lightened”.
In case you haven’t used this, you just go to:
Filter>Render>Lighting Effects.
There are a lot of options, but a good place to start is with either Omni or Spotlight (found in the Light Type window). From there you can play about with intensity and narrow or wide focus. It maybe useful to adjust the “exposure” and/or “ambience”, which can be found under Properties. I’ve found these to be the most fundamental controls to achieving simple but effective lighting effects. Beyond that, you can spend hours playing to see what can be done.
Combining the Digital and Drypoint Prints
In total I created five “lightened eyries”, which showed up quite nicely, but the background was now looking rather dark and dull. I altered the saturation and colour balance until the background printed on the Rives BFK printmaking paper to my taste. As this isn’t a paper for inkjet printing, there aren’t any colour profiles online, so I had to make numerous small test prints on the actual paper in order to see the colours.

Left is the final background, as the file appears on-screen. Right, a scan of the artists’ proof (drypoint over digital background on Rives BFK).
More next time!