I’m reading a book which has been set in Legacy Serif. I’m enjoying the book, one that caught my eye at the library by an author I have previously not had the pleasure of reading. The book cover is an unfussy design, with simple, elegant typography, which is the kind of book that my hand automatically picks up when I am making choices about my reading matter for the next three weeks or so. I have no doubt mentioned this before, but I love the library. It allows me access to more books than I could possibly afford to buy; when I find a writer I like I can go back for more; if I borrow a book that doesn’t grab me I can return it without having to suffer it all the way to the bitter end; and I don’t have to store books at home that I will only ever read once. My current book is published by Bloomsbury, who, to my great pleasure and approval, include a note about the type on the back page. The choice of Legacy Serif in this case is perfect, enhancing the joy of reading without detracting from the writing itself. Legacy Serif was designed by Ronald Arnholm in 1992.
Wow, Taylor Caldwell was prolific! She wrote as Taylor Caldwell, Marcus Holland, Max Reiner and J Miriam Reback! She published more than 60 historical and religious-themed novels. Her first novel, The Romance of Atlantis, was written when she was 12, and was published about 60 years later. Her stories have been praised for being intricate and suspenseful, and there is even a Taylor Caldwell Appreciation Society. But it seems that not everyone approved of her career choice. Her father sent her to work in a bindery as a more suitable activity; in the 1930s there was a public stir when it became known that ‘Taylor Caldwell’ was not a man, as was presumed; and in the 1940s Time magazine reported that her husband burned 140 of her unpublished manuscripts. Seems nothing could stop her writing, though, and good for her! Despite all this it’s the book jacket I like. This one dates from 1951—dramatic illustration, hand-crafted typography.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.