Friday, December 26, 2014

Mistakes can be opportunities

Mistakes can be opportunities to try something new.  When I was making my first Coptic bound book I punched holes in the wrong side of the back cover.  Instead of making a new back cover I decided to punch additional holes on the correct side and finish binding the book (note holes opposite the bound spine in the photo at left).

I thought about adding decorative chains and beads, but that didn't fit the design.  So the book sat unfinished waiting for inspiration.  Six plus months later inspiration finally struck.  I would incorporate the four holes into a unique closure for the book.  I cut two pieces of Crawford 4 thread black cord, and threaded each through two of the holes.

I gathered the four ends together and secured them with a figure eight knot.  Then I braided the four threads to make the wrap for the button.  I tried several different buttons before deciding on a small black silk covered button.  I added a one of Steve's black and silver glass beads and a small carved butterfly to the free end of the braided threads.  The finished closure is shown at right.  Below are two additional photos of the back (left) and front (right) of the book showing how the cord exits the holes in the back cover, and come around to secure the book by wrapping around the button on the front cover.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Since I add my name to my paintings and sketches, I decided I should add a colophon to my hand made books.  That decision seemed simple, but determining what exactly to include took much longer.  The word colophon is Greek for "finishing", and referred to inscriptions scribes made to tablets.  In the book world it refers to a statement of authorship, production, and place and date of issue.  In more modern books it has expanded to the point of being an author's or editor's preface.

For consistency I came up with a format and list of items to include in my colophon.  Below is the final list after several changes and additions:
  • Where and when it was made.
  • What type of book it is.
  • How many section, signatures and or pages it has.
  • If it has a binding what binding was used.
  • What the front and back covers are made of.
  • If it has endpapers what type they are.
  • If there are tipped-in pages what paper was used.
  • Other special elements such as painted edges, pop-ups, envelopes, illustrations or page decorations.
  • Typography font used in the colophon.
  • What type of closure the book has.
  • How many were made.
  • My initials.

Book Arts class, Hollis Fouts and Cheryl Prose, J.C. Campbell Folk School Mar. 2014, Accordion book with 2 connected sets of 4 sections each, covered front and back with decorative paper, paper pocket, hand drawn sepia ink feathers, watercolor and colored ink birds, Herculanum 12 pt typeface, S. G. Hilliard hand made glass beads and ribbon closing.  One of one. ALE

Oct. 2014, Link and crossed long stitch binding, Crawford linen 4 cord tan thread, five signatures, Neenah paper 80 lb, 34 pages, hand marbled end papers, dark blue leather cover and flap closure, Herculanum 12 pt typeface. Handmade raku button closure. One of one. ALE

Since my book's colophon are mostly about the container and not the content (that is left for someone else to do), I decided to place them on the last page of the book.  Which for the accordion book pictured below is the back cover.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Variations in long stitch book binding class

I recently was able to take a two day book binding class with Hollis Fouts.  The class focused on variations of long stitch binding, which I was very excited to be able to take it.  It was held at Asheville BookWorks in west Asheville, NC.  I was able to work with old friends and meet new book art enthusiasts.  Working side by side on similar projects is a great way to share ideas, discover new ways to do things and learn from your collective mistakes and successes.  I also was able to use some large historic bindery tools, like the hand guillotine (below left) and nipping press (below right).
It was a fantastic weekend!

We started by making a leather wrap link and long stitch bound book, with a button and twisted thread closure.  I used Crawford green 4 cord thread for the binding.  The twisted green and tan thread closure was secured under the sewn on floral button.  I added a matching wooden button to the end of the twisted thread as a decorative detail.

We looked at examples of bindings and discussed variations in long stitch binding patterns.  Then we learned how to make our own pattern cards.  Stitching an example card helps you work out the stitching steps required to use the pattern to sew signatures to a book's spine.  The cards also serve as a reference for later.

Our second leather wrap book was bound using link and varied length long stitches.  A decorative chain stitch circle was sewn on the spine and a leather strap closure was added.  Hollis makes beautiful marble papers and I used some for the end papers of this book.  This style of book makes a great travel journal.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A second crossed long stitch leather book

The second book will use a a thicker less flexible dark blue leather cover, a short wide dark blue leather strap and button to keep the album closed, five signatures of three folios of acid-free paper with cut edges, and tipped in handmade marbled endpapers with swirls of gold, black and blue.  Like the previous book, the binding will use long stitch, crossed long stitch and link stitches.  Unlike the previous book, this one will have a handmade raku button closure instead of a leather strap.

Since the signatures for this book are only five inches high I was not able to use the templates I had previously made for the signatures and spine of a leather covers.  I needed to create new templates which had only two groups of long stitches per signature.  One less then I used on my six inch high books.  Also, because this leather is thicker and stiffer I would need to punch larger holes in the leather to keep from breaking needles.  The weakest part of the needle is the eye which can very easily be bent and broken.

I used tan 4 cord waxed linen thread for all the stitching.  The leather strap was attached to the back of the leather cover using crossed stitches matching the crossed long stitches used to attach the signatures to the leather cover.  The central long stitch is flanked on either side by crossed long stitches.  I used templates to position the holes for the stitches attaching the strap to the leather cover, as well as the holes for the button and cut for the button hole.  I used a punch at ether end of the cut for the button hole to prevent the hole from ripping when being used.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Crossed Long stitch pattern bindings

I pulled out my book making supplies to make two leather covered books using alternate patterns of the long stitch for the binding.  The use of long stitch binding dates back to the centuries, and was popular in the medieval times.  Alternate patterns of the simple long stitch binding include altering the length of the stitches, wrapping or crossing long stitches, and using multiple colors of thread.  There are several tutorials on the web for using the long stitch to bind a leather journal.

The first book will have a soft and flexible light green leather wrap for a cover, dark green leather strap to wrap around the album and keep it closed, seven signatures of four folios of acid-free paper with deckled edges, and handmade plant fiber endpapers.  The binding will use long stitch, crossed long stitch and link stitch.

I was able to use a previous template I had made for punching holes in the signatures of the book since they were the same hight.  However, there were fewer folios in the signatures used for this book and I decided to make a new template for the holes of this book's spine that were closer together so the cover would not be too loose.  Once the new template was measured and drawn, it was quick work to punch all the holes through the leather. Accurately placed holes is important to both the function and look of the book and a carefully made template is a great help.

I used a tan 4 cord waxed linen thread for the stitching.  I stitched the leather strap on to the end of the leather wrap using crossed stitches matching the crossed long stitches used to attach the signatures to the leather wrap.  I made a template to position the holes for the stitches that attach the strap to the leather wrap.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Negative sketch of pine cones

I had expected to see some fall colors at Rock Eagle, but found the leaves were all still green.  So instead of colorful leaves I selected a few spent pine cones for a quick sketch.  

It was mid day and the bright sun lit only the tips of the scales, casting deep dark shadows on the interior and below the cones.  I used the white of the paper for the outer edges of the scales, and a mixture of  blue (535) and burnt sienna (411) to provide the various depths of shadows.  The rock background is a wash of yellow ocher.

Friday, October 31, 2014

West Asheville sketch crawl

I spent my second free day in Asheville to do my own personal sketch crawl.  I used my new smaller watercolor journal kit that has a Van Gogh watercolor Pocket Box for my walk around West Asheville.

The day started with breakfast at Battle Cat.  We sat on the porch drinking coffee and watching West Asheville wake up.   Eventually Steve walked down the street to the glass studio where his glass workshop was being held.  I stayed to take advantage of the morning light to do a few more sketches.


I wandered up and down the streets for a while shopping, then stopped for lunch at The Walk.  While leisurely eating a delicious lunch, I painted a sketch of a rusting blue car at the garage across the street.  From my view I could see under the car and I thought it would be a great place for a cat to hide.  Later, as I finished up the background of the sketch, a cat ran across the street and dove under the car.

For these small sketches I used a palette of warm and cold shades: yellow ( 254, 269), red (311, 370), blue (506, 535) and burnt sienna (411).

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A day at the NC Arboretum

While my husband was in Asheville for 'Hot time in the Mountains', I used my free time to do some watercolor sketching.

 I took my hiking watercolor journal kit with me to the North Carolina Arboretum, and spent a beautiful day wandering the gardens and viewing their indoor quilt exhibit.  They were just replanting their garden quilt with fall plants.  In a week the blooms will make the quilt patten pop.  There were still plenty of flowers in bloom else where in the garden.  Some of the trees were starting to turn color around the edges, hinting at a color show yet to come.

It had been so long since I did any sketches it took me a few sketches to get comfortable with my paints.   The pitcher plant's patten of bright pink and green on a background of pure white were so beautiful.  I took several photos, but only did a quick sketch since my water brush wasn't small enough to do the intricate pattern justice.  But between the photos and this sketch I will be able to do a larger painting when I get back to my studio.

The garden was a mix of late summer's brilliant annual colors and the first blush of the more earthy colors of fall.  The dying leaves of the Swamp Hibiscus and spent seed pods rustled in the wind.  Whispering ghosts of the vibrant red flowered plants of summer.  The stems still had the dark red, but the green of the leaves had faded to yellow.  The dark brown dried seed pods added a bit of additional interest to the sketch.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lost Ukidama

I framed and submitted the Green glass float watercolor to the Oconee County Arts Foundation 2014 Annual Georgia Small Works Exhibit.  I was excited to find out it has been selected for inclusion in the exhibit.  This is the first watercolor I have had accepted in a juried art exhibit.  

The painting was developed from a sketch done as an exercise I learned in Marilynn Brandenburger's Watercolor class.  Two different colors of construction paper are used for the background and foreground.  The colors are selected to complement the subject of the painting.  You can see the first sketch and development of the final watercolor in the previous blog entry.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Green glass float

I have been working on sketches of a glass floats.  Glass floats are perfect for studying the reflection and refraction of light.  Handmade glass floats were used in many parts of the world by Fishermen to keep their nets, longlines or droplines afloat.  Most floats made in Japan are green because the glass was recycled from sake bottles.  Small air bubbles are often trapped in the float's glass by the rapid heating and cooling of the process.  The blown floats are sealed with a 'button' of melted glass.  Some glassblowers added their mark, usually near the sealing button.

The float was lit by a single strong light source to provide intense highlights and dark shadows.  There are additional reflections and refractions around the glass float.  The challenge was to capture both the solid shape of the object as well as its transparency.  The sketch to the left was done as an exercise, and used as the bases for the final painting.

First I painted the green and yellow washes for the background and foreground.  Then added the light transparent green for all but the area on the glass float that is highlighted.  Additional green glazes were added to darken parts of the float where the glass is thicker or there are shadows.

More glazes of green were added to darken the bottom of the glass float, and yellow highlights were added.  The rope around the near side of the glass float were added, as well as the rope shadows.  Highlights and shadows were added to the rope to shape the twisted  strands.

Lighter impressions of the rope behind the glass float and cast shadows from the rope on the glass float were added.  Additional shadows were added through out the painting.  The use of multiple values is important in creating the three dimensional illusion.  They enhance the round shape of the float as well as explain the translucent and transparent aspects of the glass float.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A little fruit still life

I took my Van Gogh watercolor Pocket Box with me on a recent trip to Nashville TN.  The box includes 12 1/2 pans, a folding brush, and lid with 5 compartments to mix paint.   It was a short trip so I packed light.  I carried the watercolor pocket kit, an extra small Strathmore spiral bound journal, watercolor postcards, packet of tissues, small water bottle, two Koi short waterbrushes, a mechanical pencil and kneaded eraser in a large zip lock bag.

I only found time to do two still life sketches of the oranges I took back to my room for late night snacks.  Of course I didn't think of doing the first sketch until I had already started peeling the orange.  I carefully removed additional peel and two sections to expose a view of the inside of the orange.  Then set it down on the black desktop.  The light from the lamp cast deep distinct shadows and highlights on the oranges.  The dark surface of the desk reflected back very little of the orange's color.

The second orange I painted before peeling it.  The second orange was not as orange.  I set it on a white napkin which allowed more of the colors to show in the shadow.  I used both cold and warm shades of yellow (254, 269), red (311, 370) and blue (506, 535); as well as burnt Sienna (411) for these small sketches.  For photos of both orange journal entries see my Flicker site.

While in Nashville I went to the Frist Art Museum and saw two really wonderful exhibits.  'Watch Me Move: the Animation Show' with clips from every type of animation done since the beginning of this art form.  'Real/Sureal: Selections from the Witney Museum of American Art' which contains many thought provoking pieces of art.  The bonus was that in their gift store I found a lovely waterproof zippered clutch that everything fits into perfectly.  No more zip lock bag for me!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Watercolor card contest

This past spring I worked on several floral watercolors, which I painted on Strathmore cards.  So when I saw the Strathmore card contest I was ready to enter.  Except for on thing, the contest is for cards with a fall or winter subject.  Fall and winter are still a long way off, but I took a look at some of the fall leaves I painted while in Marilynn Brandenburger and Carol Parks' Illustrated Tree Journal class I took at the John C. Campbell Folk School several years ago.

I had sketched several journal pages of colorful fall leaves during that class and they were a perfect reference for this project.  I decided on re-working the cluster of White Oak leaves and the Scarlet Oak leaf.  The new card versions of the leaves would not have ink outlines, and the watercolor pigments would be the ones I use when painting in my studio, not from my field kit.  I also made some adjustments to better fit the dimensions of the cards.

For the White Oak leaf cluster I used several shades of yellow: Aureolin Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Yellow Ochre.  The green leaves are Sap Green with a touch of Quinacridone Gold, and the acorns are Burnt Siena and Burnt Umber.  In the photo at right are: the large format journal entry (left), the draft sketch (bottom right) and finished card (top right). 

For the Scarlet Oak leaf I used Cadmium Yellow, Quinacridone Rose and Sap Green. The acorns is a mix of Burnt Siena and Burnt Umber.   In the photo at left are: the large format journal entry (left), the draft sketch (top right) and finished card (bottom right).  I experimented with an edging in the draft sketch, but decided to relocated the acorn instead on the card.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Plein air river sketches continued

Georgia Watercolor Society Plein Air outing at Island FordChattahoochee River National Recreation Area.  Eleven of us setup along the trail, down river from the lodge.  The day was warm, but not too bad if your sitting in the shade along the river.  We had an hour and a half to sketch and paint.  For this outing I brought my Watercolor travel kit.

I stopped at a wide spot on the trail with a good view of the river.  As I looked out at the fishermen wading the shallows several canoes floated past.  One man had a small dog in a life vest with him.  I watched as he picked the dog out of the water by the vest's straps and let the water drip off before putting it back in the boat.  Several more rafts and canoes full of teenagers drifted past, and a large flock of Canada Geese swam out into the river from a side stream.  

I sketched one of the fly fishermen out wading the river.  Then setup my chair and settled down to paint.  The brown-red clay of the far bank ran between the fresh yellow-green of the trees and dark green-blue of the river.  A cedar house set back in the shadows of the distant trees surrounded by a lawn of bright yellow-green.  Reflections of the green and yellow trees ripple across the still areas of the river around the fishermen.   

After our hour and a half we gathered back together at the Lodge to share our experiences.  Some beautiful paintings were made by the group, and everyone had a great time.  Hope we do it again soon!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Plein air river sketches

Plein air painting has a lot of good points, your outside immersed in nature and surrounded by inspiring views.  There can also be several obstacles.  You have to bring everything your need with you.  The weather and temperature may not be the best for painting.  Even on days that are not too hot the water evaporates fast, leaving dry puddles of paint and even dryer paper.  Unless it it raining...

After a pleasant morning of fly fishing on Shelton Laurel Creek, North of Asheville NC I traded my fishing gear for my Watercolor travel kit.  I setup next to the creek intending to sketch and paint Steve who was still fishing, however, he moved around the bend while I was setting up.  So I have a sketch of the creek san fisherman.

The creek and bank were covered with large rounded rocks.  The bank across the creek had some dying and dead hemlocks.  The result of an introduced asian insect gone wild.  The Hemlock woolly adelgid sucks the sap from the trees weakening and finally killing the trees.  Just a few years ago they were green and healthy, providing shade to the creek and its trout.  Now they are sad reminders of what is gone.  Soon the standing dead wood will fall and rot away.  Other tree species will grow to fill the gaps in the tree canopy, but they will not have the gentle shape and fresh smell of an Eastern Hemlock.    

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Looking up

One thing that is striking about a balloon flight is the silence, broken by an occasional blast from the burner.  The sound reminded me to look up, up at the colorful balloon over my head.  The colors of the envelope spiral up to a central blue parachute.  The parachute seals the envelope, keeping the hot air inside.

The burner (seen at the bottom of the photo) ignites a mixture of liquid propane and air to create a flame that heats the air which rises and fills the envelope.  Because the hot air trapped in the envelope is lighter then the cool air around the balloon, the balloon rises.  The pilot can let hot air escape by pulling ropes that run down from the parachute valve to the basket.  When this is done the balloon descends.

Having blasts of hot fire just above your head is an interesting experience, one I wanted to capture in a painting.  My sketch at right is a composite of two photos, the one above and a second one taken from a slightly different angle when the burner was ignited.  The fire is white hot.  The cooler edges burn yellow to orange.  For the sketch I didn't worry about creating as many lines as the balloon envelope actually had.  I used just enough lines to get the general idea of how the spiral of colors would look with the flame super-imposed on it.

For the full size draft I used the full number of gores.  I used a Prismacolor Orange pencil to create the radial lines.  Winsor Yellow, Winsor Blue (red shade), Phthalocyanine Blue and Quinacridone Rose were used to create the spiraling colors of the balloon's envelope.  The central part of the flame which is white hot, is represented by the white of the paper.  The cooler edges of the flame use Winsor Yellow and Quinacridone Rose.  Finally, shadows were added to the gores of the envelope and the burner to add shape and depth.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Different views

My husband gave me a wonderful gift for Christmas, a ballon ride!  We finally were able to go on our ride this past April.  You can read more about the adventure on my husband's blog.  Spring is a wonderful time for a balloon flight.  The cold of winter was gone, the forest trees are freshly green, and the farm lands are being planted.

Before the flight I thought I would be taking photos of the country side, and I did take some, but what captured my interest was the shadow our balloon cast over the land we were flying over.  Over the fields the shadow was a distinct balloon shape.  But tendrils of the shadow crept across the trees like tangled and distorted black fingers, creating an ever changing shape.

 I decided to paint the image of the ballon's shadow over a field and bordering tree line.  It was early morning, the sun lit the full length of the trees, casting long dark shadows.  I used a preliminary sketch (at left) to helped me select the yellow and blue pigments for the color palette.  I tested washes and brush techniques.  In the photo the colors of the fields and trees can be seen through the balloon's shadow.  In the sketch I tried adding some of the balloon's colors to the shadow.
For the full size painting I used a Cobalt Blue wash for the sky, an Ochre Yellow wash for the field on the right, and a mixture of Ochre Yellow and Cobalt Blue for the field on the left.  Once the washes had dried I painted the background trees and foreground bushes wet on wet, letting the colors mix.  I added shadows to the distant trees and definition to the pine tree the balloon's shadow fell on.  The ballon's shadow was painted  darkest where it covered the tree line, and lighter over the fields so the yellow and green of the show through.  I alternated between washes and using a fan brush to add additional green and yellows to the fields to add texture and depth to the painting.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Joyce's Clematis

Clematis are popular flowering garden vines.  You see them climbing along fences, up trellises and among the branches of other plants.  There are over 200 cultivars, which makes it easy to pick a flower color that is perfect for any garden.  Well, any garden but mine.  Clematis never are happy in my garden, and after several years of trying different spots in the garden and numerous cultivars I have given up on this vine.

Joyce can grow beautiful Clematis.  She has several well established plants that each year are covered in masses of foliage and blooms.  Their vibrant colors just scream to be painted.

I masked the central part of the flower so I could use a lot of water and not worry about the white parts of the anthers.  I wet each petal, then used separate brushes to add Quinacridone Rose and touches of Phthalocyanine Blue.  Once the petals were dry I painted the background leaves using a mix of Phthalocyanine Blue and Chrome Yellow.  Once the paint was dry I removed the masking.
I painted the filaments of the stamen using dilute Quinacridone Rose.  Additional touches of Quinacridone Rose, Phthalocyanine Blue, the color mix I learned about in Margaret Walsh Best's classBurnt Siena, and Raw Umber were add to create shadows throughout the painting.