Beauty is, as might have been mentioned by others from time to time, in the eye of the beholder. Just been up to London (though not to visit the queen) and taken in the British Museum - sought out the Georg Baselitz exhibition because of the mention of print, took in a tour of the Chinese work next door, and then discovered the Japanese work upstairs purely because I went to look at two pieces of work on the landing half way up. And there, after being inevitably but briefly delayed by netsuke, I discovered an exhibition of work by Noda Tetsuya, who is (wiki has since informed me) one of the world's pre-eminent printmakers. Whether that is a universally held view or not, I thought his muted, understated, often domestic prints, a combination of adjusted photo screenprints and woodcuts, were wonderful. They were all 'diary entries' - apparently the artist has produced over 500 of them in the last 50 years - and gentle, faded images that I just loved. I didn't give them as much time as I would have liked because, whilst one's other half might claim to be happy sitting somewhere reading a book on his phone, it doesn't feel like quite the thing to leave him there indefinitely. But I so want to go back and see them again. And I probably shall - they're there till October, I think, and I'd quite happily make the trek just for them.
As I said, I didn't spend enough time on the whole show - instead I homed in on a few images that instantly captured my attention. One was of the artist's wife reading a newspaper - I won't be surprised if I find out it's his best-known image - and another of four overripe peaches sitting on a pillow.
However, while later expanding my knowledge of Noda Tetsuya (which at that point was, in total, that I had seen these prints), I came across a review of the show puzzled at why room enough for the 22 prints on show would be given to this artist at the museum when there was so much other, so much better Japanese work just at the other end of the room. I understand the opinion that an exhibition of print might be in an art gallery rather than the British Museum, and I realise that many people will prefer the other end of the room to this one. But leaving aside those issues completely, instead coming from a printmaking angle and with no particular interest in Japan, I was just delighted to chance upon these prints.
Lots of people go to London on a regular or irregular basis - from time to time, anyway. I don't, not really. Well I suppose I do, but when I say from time to time, I'm thinking of something more than probably half a dozen times max in the last twenty-plus years. Whenever I do go, I think I should make more trips - all those exhibitions, all those repositories of 'culture' - but another part of me does feel that then London has won. Why on earth should the rest of Britain be considered, if we're all prepared to visit anyway? Still, I try to tamp down such sulky, childish notions - nothing's going to change - and anyway this is all by the by. What this lack of visiting means is that I don't have much in the way of a mental map of London and that I don't apply much thinking to names and what they might mean. Thus I was pleased but surprised to come across the Bankside Gallery (home of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers), um, on the bank of the Thames and, even more um, next to Bankside Power Station aka Tate Modern. Oh dear. Still, it was another source of print delight for the weekend.
Courtesy of Irena at Hot Bed Press, I've found a new relief print artist and now I'm going to stalk her work all through the web till I've seen all of it. Laura Boswell produces the most amazing linocuts and woodcuts and even has open days coming up, though I haven't yet worked out how I can go to any of them. I have to, though. Somehow. There's an airy quality to her work that seems very japanese - and it turns out that she did do a residency there. Her studio diary might become required reading too. Oh no, not another one - how on earth do people find time for facebook and tweetery as well?
Saw Royal Exchange Manchester's latest production To Kill a Mocking Bird yesterday. It was so good! I've never read the book (I find the idea of depression-era USA writing too potentially miserable) but it's hard to get through (mumble mumble) years of life without picking up at least a broad outline of the plot, so that in spite of a slew of excellent reviews online (apparently - I'm not the one who looks them up) I wasn't exactly looking forward to it. However it was a pleasure from end to end, if admittedly an intense experience. I find it quite hard to pick out highlights, but Shannon Tarbet (21 or possibly 22) was unbelievably convincing as Scout (9 or 10). I thought too that the starved and presumably rabid dog, a wire sculpture hound, was amazing. I suppose people had a point when they carped about hearing everything clearly, but I have to say that such small patches didn't diminish my enjoyment at all - after all, it always takes me a measure of time to 'tune in' to Shakespeare, which isn't a problem either - and yes, the dog was so close that the shot by Atticus didn't seem impressive, but personally I was happier to have seen the sculpture than to to have them create some invisible hound offstage as the target.
My one uncertainty was moving the narration around various actors when throughout it was so obviously Scout's - I felt it worked only once with the other actors, when Tom Robinson told what happened to ... Tom Robinson, while Scout listened. Still, brilliant play, but I can't recommend folks go see because apparently it's completely sold out - you could queue for returns, I suppose. It would be worth it.
A few other arty things. Hot Bed Press has a shared exhibition at the moment with Highland Print Studios at An Talla Solais in Ullapool - I don't think I'll be making a trip, though I'd love too.
January is well advanced. I've been through the good intentions (the resolutions never did happen), and through the disillusionment caused by not a single one of those good intentions getting off to a flying start (don't they know it's a new year?) and I have more or less reached the point where I remember that there's nothing particularly special about That One Day and that I'm perfectly able to fail my good intentions at any time of the year.
I've signed up for a year long printmaking course at Hot Bed Press. It's a tad indulgent - I've covered a lot of the methods before, and there's no real reason to think that they'll go better or worse this time - but already it's succeeding at what I saw as one of it's aims, in that I'm busy printing more, and just for the hell of it! No masterpieces yet, mind you. I have an inkling that they might need more than enthusiasm. Preparation, perhaps. Planning ahead, maybe. Well thought-out ideas, even.
Aside from the course, my brain is buzzing with plenty of ideas for prints and bookarts. Just the way one might hope at the start of the year, and especially with two book fairs looming (Leeds and Bristol) and no progress on anything much outside of my head. There's still time, but there won't be if I don't get down to firming these ideas up into something a lot more solid and organised, and soon. I can't decide if following Sarah Bryant's Big Jump Press blog makes me more or less likely to get on with working - she's just so organised and methodical, and while I tell myself I could be more like that, I'm not convinced at all that it's true. But I do not want another week like the Tiger Blue week, and so long as I keep reminding myself of that (how to spoil a really quite well planned project by not leaving anything like enough time, and therefore being disappointed with the results while knowing that it's done now and it can't be re-done) then maybe it'll be enough to push me to get on with things.
Can I just make a claim that the snow (good grief, the snow! Spent much of today digging the road out, in spite of the possibility that it might all thaw overnight) and the cold and short days and the weather and January in general don't help? Is that even true? No, no excuses. What I need to do is to build up a stock of prints and books ready for when I need them. What I need to do is to do.
I found it on Notes to the Milkman, and he found it on Mags Phelan's site, and she found it... and so on. But what they found was the sketchbook project. It's a project to send out sketchbooks (well duh!) to those who want to join in - for a fee, obv - and then collect them all in by a given date to form a giant travelling artists' book library. You have to pick a theme - there's a good listful - but you don't have to stick to it too slavishly. The deadline for ordering is this next week, the end of the month (I think), and then sketchbooks have to be sent back postmarked January 15th or earlier, so obviously we're at the fag-end of this year's project. I can't decide whether to go for it - and then feel pressured to do it, maybe getting in the way of other nascent projects - or wait for next year's. I'm going to have to make my mind up quickly though - or not, of course, and run out of time so that the decision's made for me.
Or maybe I'll do it, but unofficially. Get or make my own sketchbook to the right proportions and with the right number of pages, pick a theme, fill the book. Not to send in (I couldn't, it wouldn't be standard issue with a barcode an' all), but for the discipline of it. Yes, but would I? What are the chances?
After the book fair, I followed up a few websites and so on, and am currently addicted to Sarah Bryant's site, or more particularly to her blog. It's so practical and book artsy and fascinating, and besides, it alerted me to the fact that Shepherds Falkiners have japanese screw punches back in stock, and pointed me in the direction of a few other suppliers where I can waste my money. Not waste, obviously not waste, but get through it nonetheless.
And re-alerted me to the new London Centre for Book Arts. Tempted though I am to start a bit of a moaning rant about the London-centricity of just about everything in the WORLD, I shall resist that temptation and instead just copy in this:
These are, I discovered from Sarah's blog, jigs for setting letterpress on the curve. If I could learn to print in curves, that would be something worth the inevitable frustration of it all.
Other people's blogs provide endless inspiration, don't they, one way or another. Notes to the milkman was talking about gesture drawing, which I think means the really quick scribbly sketches you try to do when you hope you can finish before whoever it is looks up, or before whatever you're travelling in moves on too far beyond whatever you're sketching. Actually, I suspect I'm missing the point and they have to be sketches of people moving? Well, I'm taking it to mean really quick sketches anyway. I have any number of these, I find. I've mentioned that I can't cope with all the promise of a blank page in a sketchbook - how can I violate that pristine territory with something imperfect? - and that instead I sketch on tatty scraps. Thank goodness I manage to treat my bag like a temporary paper recycling bin, so that at least there always is a tatty scrap. Or at the very least the inside cover of a cheque book (please don't get rid of cheque books...). I'm rambling.
Yes, so all these sketch/doodles end up in a great heap of paper (kept in boxes, to look less heap-like). The heap is everything - letters I really ought to keep, pics torn from magazine, articles I mean to read one of these days, spare bits of paper that surely are still useful for something, paper bags as sad mementos of shops long gone (Quarto bookshop in St Andrews, anyone? Papyrus in Bath?). And sketches. Occasionally I trawl through a fraction of the heap (it goes back years), more or less applying my 10% rule, which is that if you chuck out 10% of the stuff, then that surely counts as progress. I extract these scrawled lines, often think hey, that's got something (we're not talking skill or versimilitude here), and have taken to sticking them in a notebook as possible future inspiration for something. Anything. And however sketchy the doodle, it always takes me right back to when and where, so at least it functions as a sort of diary.
(Fishermen by the reservoir and kids at a swimming lesson - very very sketchy though not much movement. Except maybe the fish? Got to be honest, though, I don't think these are ever going to develop into anything)
But the point was that the very notion of such careless scribbles as John highlighted attracted instantly. I know we should all be sketching every day. I also know I don't. But that blog has made me decide to do just that. Alright, it probably won't count as gesture drawing, because nothing will be moving fast enough, if at all. But it'll be something at least. - nothing careful, just on the hoof and brief. With so little expectation riding on the end result, I'm far more likely to do it.
And then there was Elizabeth Willow's and Jonathon Raisin's Lincolnshire blog, something wonderful is coming. Elizabeth mentioned it last week, so I had a look (mostly rain - but why should I be surprised? England this year is mostly rain) and felt all inspired by the photo-collections, reminiscent of their own museum list. I'm always fascinated (sometimes incredulously, I confess) by collections of like things - I would have liked to visit Hans-Peter Feldmann's exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, earlier this year, but of course I didn't.
(Some photos borrowed from the Something Wonderful blog - a selection, not a collection)
So do I want to make my own grouped photos (hell, I've probably already got enough chimneypots and lampposts), or do I want to visit Lincolnshire (flat places really are excitingly different countries)? Both?
I've just tuned in, as I often do, to John Pindar's notes to the milkman blog and, by doing so, discovered a fantastic new blog to follow. New to me, I mean. As in the title above, it's Image Object Text and it's choc full of exhibition reviews, of the sort of event I wish I'd visited.
I'm olympic class at missing exhibitions I meant to see, though occasionally I dip below my own high standard and catch one on the last day, with an hour or two to closing time, and from time to time I go so early in the lifetime of a show that I could (and mean to) go again at a later date. Though I almost certainly won't. A regular visit to London to see all the exhibitions is never going to happen, unless I learn to plan ahead and get me cheap travel, so for now I shall console myself for my general inability by reading Image Object Text. I'll try not to go there too often, so that when I do make a visit I can gorge myself on the goodies offered.
I make prints and book arts, though nowhere near as often as I'd like - no good reason, just an inability to get on with things. I occasionally go on about landscape (with which I am mildly obsessed) and various of its elements, and I like to pass comment on exhibitions I visit.