Monday, May 24, 2010

Gathering the Threads

          Making up the dummy book, as in my last post, is quite exciting as the book gradually emerges from a morass of experiments, maybes and possibilities. I'm temperamentally unable to visualize a book in its entirety from start to finish because there are so many variables and because I want the book to be the best that it can be, so I leave lots of options open.
          Unexpected things always happen, for example I thought I was ordering the leather in good time, from J Hewit in Scotland, but when I contacted them, discovered that they are moving the tannery twelve miles to another location in July, so certain colours may not be available. I have ordered a sort of 'old burgundy' colour which I will show you when it arrives. And would you believe, businesses actually have holidays and some close down for a week or two in the summer??? They will be paying people salaries next. 

Shown here is a mock-up of the title page and frontispiece for 'Leonardo'..., it really is taking shape at last. As you can see, a rough and ready paste-up, but it is enough to show whether the size of text and image are good, or what needs tweaking. 

          I have also ordered the magnesium die from a company called Owosso Graphic Arts, this will be used to gold block the title on the cover. The handmade Japanese paper for the illustrations is safely stored in my old map chest, now everything is waiting for the polymer plates to arrive so I can start printing. I have tracked the parcel of plates to Vancouver Customs is a holiday, so I'm hoping for delivery tomorrow or Wednesday. 
          One other little but very important detail: I asked Tony Silvestri and Eric Whitacre if they would like to sign the book, and they have both agreed - happy dance-this will make a very special book! Now we just have to fit this into their busy schedules....I am so pleased they want to do this.

Friday, May 14, 2010

And so to Text...Layout, that is.

Having completed the five full-page images (yes, I'm saving two as a surprise), I'm now in a position to lay out the text properly. I should mention that way back last summer, when I was searching for a suitable paper, I did a very rough layout calculation to ascertain the number of pages (and the amount of paper) that I would need. I ordered the paper to be custom-made at Griffin Mill (see Paper Trails) and it is now sitting under my bed, well-matured by now.
          I always make a rough mock-up of the book, starting with the number of pages I think I will need. This book came out to about thirty-six pages (some of which are blank), that is, eighteen leaves. I decided on three sections of twelve pages. This is not the usual layout. I keep the sections fairly small as the binding works better, rather than having a few large (i.e. fat) sections. Making a mock-up shows where adjustments need to be made, I print out the computer layout and images, and stick them into the folded pages, and move them about as necessary. Apart from the text pages, you have to allow for half-title, title page, frontis, business info (ISBN, copyrights, press info, acknowledgements, colophon, limited edition and signature info, table of contents, bibliography - mix and match as applicable).
It is important before designing the book to take into account the number of illustrations and where they will appear in the text, so the book is balanced. It can look odd to have a whole bunch of illustrations in one part of the book and none in another. (Seems obvious, but inevitably you find lots of ideas for certain parts of the text and none for others.)
          I had already decided on the font I would be using, Brioso Pro (see Prince of Fonts),and firstly tried a traditional layout, aligned to the left like a formal poem, with any extra words that wouldn't fit moved to the next line down, with an indent (below, left in the photo). 
I didn't like the look of this, it seemed rather lifeless and uninteresting.

One of the problems with a miniature book is that when you use small font sizes, you lose the beauty of the letterforms and it is difficult to read. The text is after all in 
many books the most important thing about it. Illustrations, paper, binding are there to support the text, so I use a slightly larger size than you might expect, and in this case I'm using 11pt for the body of the text. I then decided to play around with the words, to make them visually more lively and interesting, to match their meaning. Sometimes you can draw attention or contribute to their meaning by the way you arrange them on the page. This includes keeping certain words together, and sometimes emphasizing them by giving them more space, as I have done with this 'siren-song' verse.I laid it out as if I were doing a piece of calligraphy, and for me this works better than the formal arrangement. The photo on the right  also shows again the trial printing I did, using a polymer plate on the handmade paper. So all the image and text files have been sent off to Boxcar Press for processing into photo-polymer plates, and should take about a week to come back to me - Canada Customs permitting. 

And now a treat, a new online exhibition of artists' books, "Canadian Women Artists' Books: The Creative Codex and its variants" from the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. Feast your eyes on these gorgeous books!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Softly whispering their siren-song..."

Silvestri's verse for this next illustration is as follows:
"And as he's dreaming the heavens call him, softly whispering their siren-song: Leonardo, Leonardo vieni á volare!
(Leonardo, Leonardo come fly!)
Silvestri imagines Leonardo being tortured in his dreams by the entreaties of the sirens, to the extent that he decides to make a flying machine and fly.
          I researched 'sirens' and found that the early ones from Greek mythology were malevolent bird-women, portrayed as seducers who lived on an island surrounded by rocks and cliffs. Ships were lured onto the rocks by their enchanting music and singing, and became shipwrecked. They were depicted on statuary and on vases as women with wings, with birds' feet, something like rather dumpy angels. In later stories they became aquatic and mermaid-like. For this work I thought it more appropriate to have them airborne, and made them a little more visually tempting. Wiki tells me that: In his notebooks, Leonardo Da Vinci wrote of the siren, "The siren sings so sweetly that she lulls the mariners to sleep; then she climbs upon the ships and kills the sleeping mariners." Oops! Leonardo is evidently aware of the dangers of flying, as he comments in his notebooks that it would be best to try out a flying machine over water, with inflated wine-skins for safety, in case of wing malfunction. 
  I work on illustrations in what is undoubtedly a very old-fashioned way. I start by making many thumbnail sketches - actually about the size that the finished image will be. Then when I've found something I like, I draw it out on tracing paper twice the size of the finished image, so that when it is resized down the detail and line quality look neater. As the drawing progresses I scan it in and reduce it from time to time to keep track of how it will look in the finished size. Tracing paper erases extremely well and it saves time in repositioning elements of the image if I need to. The tracing is then used to transfer the outlines of the image to a bleed-proof paper, where I work on it in ink with a technical pen and then scan it into Photoshop Elements to erase unwanted 'blips' and generally tidy it up, and finally put it in the right mode and file type for the platemaker. At the top of my wish-list is a Wacom tablet Intuos4, which would probably make my life easier. If anyone out there has used one of these, please tell us about it!
          I recently discovered a good and reasonably priced bleed-proof paper, Pen Sketcher's, made by Bee Paper. I have countless pads of so-called bleed-proof, this is the best paper I've found to date.
          The tracing paper method was advocated years ago by Marie Angel, the very accomplished calligrapher and artist, in her book "Painting for Calligraphers," and I subsequently read that the great illustrator Edmund Dulac used the same working method, but before he died destroyed his tracings as he didn't want people to know that was how he worked.
          Here is a great resource for design and print-making blogs