Thursday, October 28, 2010

Booking myself

Wow, two posts in a day.

funny pictures-Everyone dies at the end. There, now you have extra time on your hands to pet me.

I actually haven't been reading much lately, apart from dipping into some ebook texts when I'm stuck out somewhere. Mostly I've been lying in bed doing 'Codecracker' puzzles -- BB and I have a book each from NZ. I finished the Barbara Hanrahan biography and just haven't felt like following through with anything, not even her books.

But today I read aloud to the Aged Poet the splendid article on Jessica Anderson by Susan Sheridan in September's ABR and felt the juices stir. Tonight I'll dig out my HSC copy of Tirra Lirra, and then I'll keep my eyes peeled for a copy of The Commandant, which sounds good.

As you were.

Except if you're Sophie Cunningham. Does the latest news about Meanjin mean that you're going to concentrate on your writing? Because I've been hanging out for that Leonard & Virginia novel for a few years now...

PS: OMG I just nearly wet myself:
funny pictures of cats with captions


Lazy Padge

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Passive aggressive non-art making

Wow, last weekend was exhaustipating.

I wanted to just be in the studio this week, binding a batch of Transmigration to fulfill a purchase order (only buying one copy, so there's a nice fresh batch if anyone's interested), but of course, life got in the way, so while I got the batch done, I didn't get a lot else done. Bumblebee's laptop died, 6 months after purchase, so luckily it's within warranty, but the kerfuffle getting it to the techos and then the extra kerfuffly kerfuffle trying to pick it up again hasn't endeared me to the magical world of PCs, no matter how much I love The IT Crowd (that link is to a fun TIC game). I should have bought him a Mac, the techos are closer to home.

Combine that with the Aged Poet needing extra attention, various chores I had to run and some extra argy-bargy when Bumblebee accidentally took my studio keys to school with him and I had to jump through hoops to get them back because high schools don't like parents just wandering into school to talk to their children (unlike Primary Schools, which think you're an anti-social weirdo if you don't pop in once a week... year 7 is a transition for parents as much as the kids), not much art-making got done.

[breathes in]

[breathes out]

Which reminds me of that fabulous Ben Folds Five line: all this breathing in, never breathing out... (from the song FAIR)

And then yesterday I spent the morning helping Bumblebee clean his room. Five shopping bags full of rubbish, two vacuum cleaner bagless cannisters full of crud and a number of plastic boxes full of toys deemed too young for him (one of which is scrawled over with thick black marker saying DO NOT THROW OUT DO NOT SELL), a window open and the removal of sundry dirty clothes (socks thrown behind the bookcase, etc) and fetid towels, his room has finally temporarily lost its goaty reek and you can actually see the floor.

It was with a huge sigh of relief, then, that I went to the studio yesterday, closed the door on the world, rolled my sleeves up and spent a few happy hours playing with type, paper and yellow ink.

You'd think it would be a simple task, but yellow ink needs very clean rollers to print clean and bright and not a dirty olive colour. In fact, the day before, I'd inked up Kitty the Press with said yellow ink, and been very disappointed, even though I'd cleaned the rollers and all the bits around them scrupulously. I decided to abandon the machine's rollers and went out to the local art store (Maureen's, not Eckers-crap, of course) and bought a brand new spotless hand brayer. It is now my Yellow Roller. Not a spot of anything else will touch it.

And thus I progressed from this:

dark yellow

to this:


And I hope you can tell the difference in brightness and clarity. I was completely inspired at the Print Symposium by Tim Maguire's amazing CMYK work, and am embarking upon a spot of colour play as a result. This particular piece is for the latest Book Art Object project. One layer done, five to go.

Today we decided to have a family day, so I stayed away from the studio, even though I'm longing to get back to play with magenta ink. We haggled all day over things to do together: no-one wanted to ride at the lake, all the good movies were over by the time we thought of it, with no afternoon sessions, and we didn't want to stay home and attack the garden. Then I remembered that the Old Canberra Inn, which is basically our local pub apart from anything in Dickson, has free pool tables on Sundays. Bonus! Within half an hour we were happily playing pool, helping ourselves to the free jukebox with its bikie-inspired playlist (I taught Bumblebee the informal and very rude chorus to The Angel's Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again, to BB's vaguely disapproving look, and fell in love over again with Ian Moss and Don Walker, wishing that Jimmy had choked on his own vomit sometime in the 80s), but still, in the back of my mind there was a 'I could be printing right now' sensation. I swallowed it, but it's slightly bitter as it goes down.

I came up with a wonderful music trivia question, and you're welcome to use it if you have to compose trivia nights or whatever:

What have these three songs got in common:

and you play excerpts of 'Bow River' by Cold Chisel (or 'Saturday Night'), 'Errol', by Australian Crawl, and a third one, which you can make tricky by adding your own third or you can make it easy by making the third one a Ringo Beatles song.

Answer? They are all songs not sung by the band's lead singer/s.

What do you think? Got any better or additional examples?

Sigh. Now Bumblebee looks like he's got some horrid throat swelling thingy, so I've dosed him up with garlicky chicken soup and am mentally preparing to not go anywhere tomorrow except the doctor. Sigh. I'll get back to the studio sometime. At least it's waiting there for me, patiently.

Next weekend I'm teaching a book class at Megalo, and there are spaces, if anyone's interested. I'm trying to rustle up participants, because the more people there are, the more I get paid, and I'm not earning anything regular until I start back at the BookStud next year. So if you know anyone that would love to learn how to make booky things, let them know. My bills will be most grateful.

Best Beloved just said goodnight, as he's having a Sleep Head-start (I've worked out a great system: if he goes to sleep solidly first, I can creep in and read an e-book under the sheets for a while, which beats him whinging at me to turn the light off), and as he kissed my neck he said 'mmm, you smell nice, what is it?'

'Hogget.' I replied. It must be, because I slow-cooked it all afternoon. It was delicious, cooked with green olives that had been marinated in preserved lemon & garlic. I guess there are worse things to smell of, but it's not very romantic.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sharing the love


I think I've done my bit for the promotion of letterpress as a satisfying thing to do over the past couple of days.

Around the same time (give or take a day) that I was expounding to the printmaking audience at the National Gallery Print Symposium about the wonders of ink and type, New Zealanders were listening to me talking to Lynn Freeman on Radio New Zealand's The Arts on Sunday show. If you hit that link, there's a downloadable podcast of the interview. The NGA talk will be on their website sometime in the near future too, and I'll pass on that link when I get it.

Also, Print Big had around 900 visitors yesterday! Woo hoo! It helped that the weather was lovely and the venue is right next door to the Bus Depot Markets. I couldn't get back there until the exhibition was over, but the big monoprint that the public did looked FABULOUS.


So we had to take everything down. Demolition, after such a frenetic creation, had to be demolished. Well, not totally -- we took apart the panels & it's now sitting in pieces outside my studio.

It went from this

final, rough

to this


via this

byrd crowbar

and this


and this

Demo panels

with a little bit of this


and lots of this


oops, look at the time -- have to dash.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sigh of relief

I'm finally at the point where I can sit and relax for a few hours before going to the NGA Print Symposium dinner tonight.

final, rough

Here's the 'final' piece, taken quickly at the opening while there was noone in front of it, which wasn't often. What I enjoyed was seeing that people actually stopped and read for a while, instead of floating past it. So if it was difficult to make out the foreground/background areas, that is a good thing.

Here's a couple of crowd shots, taken during the speeches:

Print Big opening 1

Print Big opening 2

It was huge, with all the nice people from the conference, and lots of nice local arty types, and my parents, who seemed to enjoy themselves even though I couldn't hang out with them much.

At one point Colonel Duck was taking people around to the blank wall at the end, gridded up with pencil in preparation for the public monoprint project (that started today) and was telling them that it was his favorite piece in the show, cheeky bugger.

A bit later I turned around to see him in front of my work with Helen Cole, Rare Book Librarian at the State Library of Queensland and Noreen Grahame, Book Artist gallery Owner supremo, regaling them with embarrassing stories about my childhood. GAH! You have to laugh, at least he's taught me that much.

I got home latish and went straight to bed, but woke up extra early to finish my talk for the Print Symposium. I gave that today just before lunch, and it seemed to go down well. My theme (given to me by Head of Print, Roger Butler) was palpability, so I gave a 20 minute account of my passionate love for letterpress in the hope that my enthusiasm was palpable (I almost ran over, but ditched a bit to squeeze in; never mind, it will be published in full on the NGA website soon). It was; I had lots of positive feedback from people who felt the love in the air.

Other highlights (heh, not that I was a highlight :) ) were Luke from Sticky in Melbourne and Mini Graff, poster queen who gave us a lesson in intellectual property from the viewpoint of the victim whose designs were stolen from the web by a big US fashion company.

Oops, have just run out of time (between the last sentence and this I fed Shopping Sherpa's kitty) and have dressed posh for tea. Am waiting for my taxi to the Gallery...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Big Print Install 2


Wow, it's late already. I can't believe how fast time is moving.

Everyone went home a while ago, which meant that we could turn up the music. The space we're in, the Fitter's Workshop, has been tentatively promised to Megalo as a new home to form an Arts Hub with the Glassworks, which is next door, and the Bus Depot Markets, also next door. However, there is a sector of the community which is protesting the idea, saying that the acoustics are too good to waste on art, and that it should be kept for a concert venue. Apparently classical music sounds really, really good in here, and I believe them. Everything we've been playing has sounded superb, and crystal clear from any part of the building, even when the stereo is turned right down.

Right now it's turned right up, and we're listening to Massive Attack's Mezzanine. Earlier we had The Black Keys (OMG, the bass!) and even earlier some Radiohead, amongst other things. The working experience has been completely enriched by the sound quality.

But the space should still go to Megalo.

Anyhoo, things are progressing. We've managed to place the text in ways that enhance the total vision and adds extra layers to what it's trying to say. Byrd's still working on the collage phase, so we give ourselves tasks and do them separately, coming together to discuss placement, tone, and whether I should run out for more caffeine beverages or not.

I made him take the camera at one point, just to prove that I'm actually doing some work and not sitting around just taking photos and blogging.


I'm not sure whether the spraying part of the procedure will be tonight or tomorrow morning; depends on his stamina. We have the key, and have to go through an elaborate locking up process, and then have to be back early tomorrow to let the others in, so we might as well keep working then, and then there's a media launch at 10am, so we should be here then.


Megalo's been very generous, providing dinner and wine and water bottles and whatever else. The party tomorrow night should be ace, if I have any stamina left!

Hold that thought.

Of course, many more photos here.

Big Print Install 1

Hey ho

I'm sitting on the concrete floor of the Fitter's Workshop watching byrd do the underlayers of our joint work. I'm not very good at layered imagery, so it's wonderful to watch his mind at work.

All around me, exciting things are happening. John Loane has just been & gone, installing both his work and Mike Parr's. GW Bot is over the other side of our cube, hanging a lovely long linocut on tapa cloth. Diagonally opposite me, Annie Trevillian is working out how to hang her gorgeous screenprints on fabric.

On the cube next to us, Minigraff has a large screenprint, and around the corner from that, Julian Laffan has a fab series of woodcut blocks in the shape of tools.

This is what we have to work with:


And this is what it looks like so far:


It's just the underlayers, there's a lot to go. Stay tuned.

More photos here.

D-day for installation



That's byrd, doing his research on how to transform this


into a pair of pants and a set of sneakers, coming in or out of our constructed demolition site.

Megalo rang this morning to say that the wall is ready for us, but I have to take the Aged Poet to the hairdresser, and byrd needs to do a bit of paid work, so we can't start until about 1pm. And then it's on, and we have a lot to do!

That top print is fabulous, but it's still wet, because it rained all day yesterday! This is going to be an interesting experience...

I will live blog through the evening, because I've done most of my slog. Now it's up to byrd, and I'll just be his paste-monkey. So stay tuned, and if you're really keen, check the flickr set for more.

Monday, October 11, 2010

have bird, can loll


Padge didn't catch this bird, and I'm willing to bet that he didn't kill it, but he was happy to take the credit.


He also refuses to accept blame.

Pooter, on the other hand, scarpered, and refused to acknowledge whether he had or hadn't been in the general vicinity.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


During dis

I keep talking obliquely about printing big and my upcoming exhibition with Megalo. I started really getting motivated today, and decided to document my progress in the same way I did for my NZ residency.


So: a bit of context. Megalo, our fabulous, unique, community-enlivening Canberra print access studio, is moving premises, from its current (shared) location in Watson at the old Watson High School site to a very prominent heritage site in Kingston that will enhance its position in the local arts community: a short walk from the National Gallery and right next door to the Canberra Glassworks and the Bus Depot Markets.

On the weekend after next (15/16/17), the National Gallery of Australia is having its annual printmaking symposium, with the theme of MATERIALITY. If you're interested in any kind of printmaking, it's going to be a good thing to attend. Anyhoo, Megalo has the opportunity to use its new building before the actual move, and so is putting on a gala print exhibition in conjunction with the symposium, and it's called PRINTBIG. Artists taking part have had some teaching connection with Megalo: GW Bot, Robert Boynes, Julian Laffan, Mike Parr & John Loane, Annie Trevillian, Minigraff, Surya Bajracharya, Liam Garstang, and myself.

corroded pipes

There's a reason why it's called PRINTBIG: we are all producing printworks to be installed, mounted or printed onto walls that are 3.6 x 3.6 metres or 4.8 x 3.6 metres in dimension... eek! When I was invited, I was only a week or so from leaving for New Zealand, and I didn't have much time to think deeply, so my first instinct was to pick up the phone and ring my friend and casual collaborator, byrd, who scales up his work on a daily basis. I asked him if he'd do s formal collaboration with me.

Often my first gut impulses can be wacky, more often they are quite insightful in ways that I hadn't first realised. In this case, I sat down after the first rush of adrenalin and thought about working with byrd on a wallpiece. I also thought about why I was asked to participate in the first place -- I mean, I'm a book artist. I work quite small scale. I had a show at Megalo last year in which I used the space in an interesting way, and maybe that is what gave Alison (head honcho of Megalo) the idea that I could work with a large space here.

I love collaborating with people, whether they are present or absent -- I know that last word sounds strange, but when I work with text I don't just take the text and mould it into my shape; I research the writer, think about what they're saying, and try to enhance it or pair it with something sympatico, and if they have/had strong opinions, I work with them. If it's a full-blown collaboration, with full participation of all parties, there's a dance that you do to give and take your wants and desires with theirs (this is what I'm talking about at the print symposium, amongst other things). In the case of byrd, I need his experience with scale, and I wanted this to be more than just him helping my upscale my work. I wanted a FULL collaboration.

I rang a poet friend who lives in Qld, Angela Gardner (who is also a printmaker) and asked her if she had any spare words about, say, chaos or destruction, or societal breakdown or something similarly chunky and interesting. Angela is constantly writing interesting things, and I knew that she'd be up for a bit of textual wallplay. She sent me a long unpublished series of chunks about architecture, and right at the end there was a fabulous bit called Demolition, which I knew was perfect for gelling the wee scraps of idea in my head. Angela was originally going to come down for the symposium and have a play during the installation, but she's had to cancel, so we're just going to pretend she's standing behind us when we're working.

That's my pile of 'sketches', working out what the text means to me, and rough ideas of what I want to text to do. Byrd is doing his own undoubtedly more artistic sketches, of the imagery he and I will create together alongside and amidst the text.

I'm treating our wall as a page spread of a giant book, like a big textual billboard. I'm taking the words of a poet and using an artist to help me bring them to life. That's what I do with books and broadsides, and that's what I'm doing here, and that's how I'm rationalising working at this scale (so that I don't panic).

I did some printing in Dunedin on the last night of my residency, using their wonderful large woodtype letters, and some of their fabulous brown paper (that is so much better than anything I've found in Australia). I've got various bits of brown paper around the studio, and I posted back to myself all the brown paper lunchbags that the college gave me for lunches during my residency. And now I'm using my wood type to print the words I need.

brown paper

floor work

printed matter 1

I'm printing a few copies of everything, and working from the top down. It's a very organic process; I'm squeezing as much onto the paper as I can, and will tear down once they're dry. I'm working with the words in a loosely concrete style, using hand-rolling the paper surface to create meaningful texture, such as in the word breakages.

printed matter 2

Angela has, bless her, given us complete creative freedom with the text, so the formatting is totally up to me. I have given byrd complete creative freedom with my layout, and we'll be using collaged overprints, stencilling and graffiti spray to hopefully make it come alive.

rusted wire

The trickiest thing about this project is that we only have one night to install. The cubes (each artist in PRINTBIG has a side of a huge plywood cube to work with) won't be build until the afternoon/evening of the 14th of October, and the media launch of the show is on the morning of the 15th. So we're pre-preparing as much as we can, but it will be a big night, working in situ to get the piece finished. Which in itself is apt, since a chunk of the (visual aspect of the) work is about the scuttle of street artists to get into a fresh site at night before it disappears or gets totally worked over.

More photos (ongoing) here. I will try to keep documenting this, but as you can see, there's a LOT to do. It's scary, but this is to date one of the most exciting projects I've worked on.

PRINTBIG is only up for three days. If you can get to it, do... there will be live projection works, fabulous installed art (cross fingers) and also an audience participation piece, making Australia's largest monoprint, right over the weekend. Doesn't it sound terrific?

A perpetuall Light

brindabella lake sky

I was going to call this post Remember to breathe, as usual (well, as long overdue), but then Goebte sent me a link in a comment on the last post that led me to a much better 'To Do' list than mine could ever be.

This is the kind of light I missed in Dunedin.

tower sky

I'm sure their sky can be beautiful too (I didn't get to see much clear or unrainy sky), and it certainly was a lovely sky over the harbour when we cruised about looking for albatross, but Canberra has such a WIDE and dramatic sky. Judith Wright wrote a poem about Canberra clouds once, and I found it and have since lost it, but I'm going to find it again and do something with it.

One more, then I'm off to the studio to print BIG.


This one isn't the sky, but it made me laugh when I noticed it -- I was looking down instead of up, and saw the Cheshire Cat's grin below me.

All of these photos --and my other ones -- were taken last night from the penthouse apartment of a friend. We sat in the apartment (she moved in 2 days ago), looking at the view with a glass of champagne and wondered at the shifts of fate that brought her/us there.

'Isn't this expensive?' I asked her.
'Yes,' she said, 'but it's cheaper than a mortgage, and I promised myself that when I got old I wouldn't regret a single thing in my life, and I want to have a good fun life.'

Huzzar! That's the spirit.


Monday, October 04, 2010

Slothness abounds

Goodness me, I have to get through this marsh of sludge and start marching!

Blame Canberra; we've had TWO long weekends in a row, and while I work for myself and can ignore such things, having all my loved ones around me in the house and the cats lingering because we're around doesn't really inspire me to go up to the studio.

I had a lovely birthday. I was cooked my favorite breakfast (Eggs Benedict, with some of the wonderful peppery rocket that is going wild in our garden), received some good presents: a brooch that I picked out in Dunedin, tipped off by a jeweller friend who told me that D was the epicentre of contemporary NZ jewellery design; the DVD of an anime called The Girl who Leapt Through Time; a funky rubber duck from my lovely Sasha in Qld, some good books from family (including Barbara Hanrahan's latest biog) and $100 of book vouchers from Colonel & Lady Duck. Oh, and lots of chocolate from the cats. How lucky am I?

Thank you to Lexicon Harlot for pointing out the significance of turning a prime number just after I'd been working on a project called Prime. Lovely.

We had a bit of a picnic in the park near Floriade, our annual flower festival. It threatened rain, so we had a skeleton turnout, but when it did actually rain I had a posse of practical people, led by byrd, who had a tarp to string up over us. Of course, by the time it was fully functioning, we were quite damp and the rain had stopped, but it was a lovely shade cover as well, and a good time was had. Then we went for a walk through Floriade briefly, but the rain returned with a vengeance, and so we ran back to the cars and went home.

Last night Bumblebee went off to the Duck farm for the week, and tomorrow Best Beloved goes back to work, so I will give myself a good long hard look at my 'To Do' list and roll my sleeves up. In the meantime, I'm still being slow and vague. I think I'll sort out the remainder of my holiday snaps.