Art Is Visionary

I keep myself occupied by planning the phases of my residency for City Shields, The Incessant Journey. Publishing of other artists’ books will be on hold till I can get my planning and life together. This needs to happen before I leave for my annual trip back home to Ottawa/Gatineau, Canada in August.


Here is the invitation for the show at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland entitled Wanderlust. This show will be exciting, I have already seen the catalogue and it looks great. Laura says—It’s going to be a fun one! I'm glad to be part of it.


In between everything, I write and meet artists and photographers in my new environment. I needed a break from my activities, so I joined a group to listen to a panel discussion on letterpress. This is the first time in my art career I hear the term COMMAND P referred to as a bad word!

What! 

After the third time, I couldn’t keep my cool. Argh!

It’s sad and conservative to use a medium in a “pure” method when it hinders discovery. If purity is what you choose that’s fine. An artist should be able to express themselves with the medium that suits them best. 

I found my preferred medium with the release of the Macintosh computer in 1984. It intrigued me. I was teaching in the Graphic Arts department when the computer appeared in our classrooms. I established that the foundational classes were important for the students to be successful in creating their designs with software. The Mac became my tool of expression and its mouse became my brush, pencil, palette… it involves a different method of delivery, that's all.

 Apple Macintosh computer from 1984

 Apple Macintosh computer from 1984

In 1999, I visited La Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec in Montréal to introduce my first artists’ book My Memories Of My Memories to the library. My Memories Of My Memories is inkjet printed. I found it progressive of Sylvie Alix, the contact person at the time, to accept books published by a petite presse—small press, c’est a dire computer generated books. It’s a new era!

I have been communicating with Ann-Marie Cunningham. Her education was like mine and encouraged progressive and innovative means towards producing quality from earlier methods with sensitivity to time and efficiency. Ann-Marie holds the utmost respect and regard for foundational letterpress bookarts. Curiosity and feasibility has been instrumental in her pursuing digital books using an Epson 9900, Epson 1400, and the Hewlett Packard Deskjet 3510 printer. Digital printers allow printing on thicker materials such as metal, plexiglass/lexan 1/16 inches (1.58mm) and wood veneers such as birch, 1/32 inches (.39mm). Advances in technology enable exploring printing on acetates, vellums and Tyvek.

Using these materials present challenges. Colour testing can be expensive. Monitoring ink levels many times to eliminate colour fluctuations can be frustrating and the drying time on plexi is long. The most expensive problem that may arise would be to compromise an ink jet head.

In touching upon typesetting considerations as the 'purer' forms of bookmaking I understand the premise, but find the ‘slight of hand’ combined with the mechanization in digital printing just as intuitive, captivating and impressionable. 
Having experienced printing on the Vandercook SP-15, I enjoy the qualities ‘pressing’ affords and the engagement of the process. I don’t find digital printers a disruptive form in explorations and prospects. Digital programs, sketching, overlaying different techniques and different materials increase the versatility of book forms.

In her book Threshold, the covers are printed with an Epson 9900 and the book pages printed with the Hewlett Packard 3510 printer. Ann-Marie uses the durability of plexiglass to imitate the aspects of a windows reflectiveness and translucency.

Threshold considers the window and door constructs that offer the view into modernity.
© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Threshold

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Threshold

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Threshold

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Threshold

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Threshold

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Threshold

Ann-Marie’s Saudade book is a reversible accordion book about the longing that results from changing locations and significantly remixing essential memories. Using a textured, lustred Tyvek offers the difference in tactile experience from each signature printed on a ‘toothy’ Koz-shi white paper with an Epson 1400. Ann-Marie believes the process should be expressed through the book.

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Saudade, covers printed with the Epson 9900

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Saudade, covers printed with the Epson 9900

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Saudade

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Saudade

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Saudade

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Saudade

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Saudade

© 2016 Ann-Marie Cunningham, Saudade

The sample writings of both books are Ann-Marie’s attempt at prose, free verse and poetics.

My vision of the digital book entails subtle expressions of forms. The visual contrasting the written word. Printers afford diffuse and articulate techniques and colorations that respond in synchronizing different aspects with each other, like saturation and hue in balance allowing use of diverse substrates. I also feature the tactile aspects of paging through a book in response to materials that a wider audience may have previous associations with. These digital books are transitional.
I applaud the technology that was innovative in earlier eras and commend the craftsmanship and proficiency of the presses and type development. In my use of science and technology as applied/implied to conveying subject matter through application, I am compelled to explore and acknowledge the new technologies. 
Just as there are several manufactured intaglio press types; printers articulate diverse attributes toward certain quality outcomes equally subject to the ‘slight of hand’ and vision of an artist. In a wholesomeness of the art world, art is not exclusionary, art is visionary.

Ann-Marie’s concept of “slight of hand’ incorporates the magician’s ability to distract your attention, while synthesizing the distinctively unique mix of technology.

Wonderful work and philosophy!

Next week, I'm back to manhole covers. Till then happy creativity!