The Tontine

Here is another of those book jackets I was given a while ago. This one appeals to me for its title script—which I’m guessing was done by the illustrator, Herbert Ryman—not only because of its obvious handwritten appearance, but it was published in 1955, long before the proliferation of script fonts. Thomas B Costain was a Canadian journalist, reporter, writer and editor who turned into a bestselling author of historical novels in his 50s. I was quite interested to read about Costain’s life and career, but Herbert Ryman proved even more engaging! He was an artist and illustrator whose considerable body of work includes watercolours of the Californian coast, the wonderful Ringling Brothers Circus posters, designs for attractions at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and a long association with Walt Disney. He art directed Fantasia and other animated features and drew the first illustrations of the theme park that become Disneyland.


Some time ago I was given a couple of adhesive street signs, and ever since I have been looking for an opportunity to use them. All I knew was that I wanted to use the ‘green’ section of the sign Greenswood Lane, in conjunction with some astroturf, in an artists’ book. Finally the idea took shape and a deadline presented itself, and I am pleased to say that my book made it as a finalist in the 2017 GreenWay Art Prize. The book is digitally printed on fine art paper, 7-hole pamphlet stitched, and sits in a black box lined with astroturf, the street sign used as the title on the front. Text fragments are taken from descriptions of common NSW eucalypt, wattle, grevillea and hakea species, found in the discarded pages of an out-of-print botanical encyclopaedia.

More volume

A big thankyou to everyone who visited my table at Volume 2017 Another Art Book Fair at Artspace in Woolloomooloo this weekend. It was a busy and rewarding three days, and while it was great to show (and even sell!) some of my artists’ books, it was the conversation, interaction and exchange of ideas that made it a worthwhile experience. When I make books I work alone in my studio, and apart from occasionally singing along to whatever music I have playing, I can spend days without saying much. This morning I am hoarse from those hours of chatting, so today I’m planning to sit around and do not much of anything while I segue from loud Volume to daily life volume.


This is the run-up week to Volume 2017 Another Art Book Fair, the biennial event at Artspace that features more than seventy local and international exhibitors, me included. It’s a diverse mix of book people. At the first fair, in 2015, some exhibitor tables were crammed with towers of books, other tables featured just one or two, and they ranged from printed books, much as you might find in any bookshop, to one-off handmade artists’ books. This year I have a taste of everything from my book arts practice, plus a few handmade notebooks and cards and several new small editions. So if you are in Woolloomooloo on the weekend, stop by and say hello to Alphabet City Press.

The Dean’s Watch

A dozen or so tattered dust jackets have come into my possession. I have never heard of any of the books, but it hardly matters. The illustrations are evocative and dramatic, and while the title typography is different on each of them, they can certainly be recognised as a style. I googled The Dean’s Watch, and discovered that it is a novel written in 1960 and set in England, and the general consensus is that it’s a pretty good read. The book didn’t accompany this jacket, so I won’t be reading the story any time soon, but I have a plan for these tattered discards that involves making my own books using the imagery that is really just too good to waste.

Simply Black and White


I currently have three prints and five small artists books in ‘Simply Black and White’, a group show that features (primarily) black and white work from more than thirty emerging and professional artists. The show runs until 22nd December at ME Artspace, 25 Atchison Street St Leonards NSW. This is a spread from one of my books, ‘Building for beginners’, from the seven-volume series A Classical Education.

Cut up words


This is a spread from my recent artists book Dynamic vigour in music. The text is made up from cut up lines from an old book, and the image is a scan of a mixed media drawing I did a couple of years ago. It was only quite recently, when it was brought to my attention at a book group meeting, that I became aware of how much I use cut up text. And I realised I have done it since art school days, when I would take strips of words from magazines and newspapers to incorporate into drawings. In my more recent book work, I like the idea of taking text that appears in one form with one meaning, and rearranging it randomly—taking it out of context—to form new meaning (or nonsense, as the case may be). I’m not the first person to rearrange printed words—the concept can be traced back to the Dadaists in the 1920s and has been used since by a myriad of artists, writers and musicians—but I like the limitlessness of it and that every time the result is different.



This coming weekend, 11–13 September, Alphabet City Press will be at Volume 2015 Another Art Book Fair. The last few weeks have been a hive of activity, and I have made several new artists book editions, one of which, A Classical Education, will be launched at Volume on Saturday. The book fair is being held at the Artspace Gunnery Building in Woolloomooloo, and focuses on independently produced, artist-led publications, supported by a program of talks, workshops, launches and readings. Volume 2015 is being held in conjunction with Sydney Contemporary, which runs concurrently at Carriageworks.

Writing in books


It’s the weather for reading library books. Library books specifically—not something lying around the house, not a kindle book, not something to better the mind, not even a new book from the bookshop—but a book from the fiction shelves of the library. Doesn’t matter if it’s paperback or hardback, new or dog-eared and knocked around—it just has to come from the library. My library is patronised by someone who, I’m sure of it, writes in every book they borrow. Always biro, always this old-fashioned handwriting style. They are always opinionated, and they usually give a score out of ten. Oh, and they go through the list of other books by the author and tick the ones they’ve read. Like me, they are partial to a good thriller—although I often don’t share their opinion. I’m torn between being annoyed and amused, but mainly I’m annoyed. I can’t help it, I don’t like it when people write in books. And I really hate it when the reader takes to their blue biro proofreading—especially when they are wrong! I get so irritated by their stupidity! Anyway, I haven’t started reading this book yet, but the phantom book-writer seems to think it’s a good one.

Tim Tams


I’m reading again. There are phases in a busy life when there is little time for  the luxury of reading fiction, but I have made time lately to fit in a chapter or two each evening. I don’t know what it says about my choice of writer, but I have now come across several novels (in a relatively short space of time) that include a reference to Tim Tams. There are common features: the writers are American, the characters in question have an Australian friend who brings them a packet of Tim Tams (written as fiction but I suspect drawn from truth), recipients of the Tim Tams are likeable (no Tim Tams for the bad guys), and there is some comment worked into the dialogue about how irresistible they are. And who could argue with that! I like my Tim Tams from the fridge, and how these two packets have lasted unopened for as long as they have is a miracle. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tim Tam logo is one of the most recognised in Australia.