Friday, October 30, 2015

In Which I Get Glittered and Glued

A couple of months ago I wrote about attending a demonstration on how to start and keep an Art Journal. (You can read about that here.) I was so impressed with presenter April Martin that when the art supply store that hosted the demo added her new workshop to its class schedule I quickly signed up.

For four Tuesday nights a group of us - maybe ten - glued and glittered, pasted and painted, penciled and stenciled, and generally had a grand old time creating our very own journals. 

I do believe all of our inner artists were released!

April provided all sorts of ideas and instructions on different ways to prepare our blank pages and then ideas on how to fill them.

I am not very fearless when it comes to this but as the classes went on I got a little freer and more experimental. Mostly I played with different supplies and colors - watercolor and acrylic paints and all sorts of products I had no idea even existed - to prepare my journal's background pages. 

Here are two samples of prepped pages:

And here is a sample of a page with added images:

The background on this page is simply a torn up small brown paper bag that a few of the art supplies I purchased came in. 

I cut the images out of sheets of decorative papers that are available at craft and art supply stores. Someone else has done a lot of the work for me! I just need to know how to wield a pair of scissors...

The process is to keep layering images and words and colors to give the whole page a distressed look and express some sort of feeling. I am not that great with the feeling part so I decided to create a page based on a writing theme.

I started with this...more decorative papers:


....I found the bookmark in my stash - it came with the book The Typewriter GirlI pulled Snoopy at his typewriter and the other artwork from various sources. You can't tell from the photo but the background is a golden yellow.

Right now I am just playing around with layout and I will probably add some more layers although I am just not sure how to do that without cluttering up the page too much. 

I like the idea of using bookmarks on my art journal pages. I have some colorful ones from the many bookstores I have visited and it seems like a good way to preserve them. For some reason they rarely actually end up marking my place in a book.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Life of Samuel Johnson by Lord Macaulay

A recent conversation with a friend about her tentative plans to visit London reminded me of one of my own adventures there in search of the Samuel Johnson house which is tucked so far off of the Strand at 17 Gough Square that I almost didn't find it. (You can read a little bit about that excursion here.) This led me to my bookshelf in search of anything I might own about our dear Dr. Johnson, author of the first English dictionary.

I thought I had a copy of a facsimile of that famous first published in 1755, but I must have given that away. I seem to remember that trying to read the antiquated typeface gave me a headache. 

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I found this sample of an entry in Dr. Johnson's dictionary online.

I did however find a biography of Dr. J among my family collection of Really Old Books. I have a small assortment of five books from a set called Eclectic English Classics that were from my grandmother's school days. They were published by American Book Company. The copyright date in my copy is 1895. 

On the back cover is a list of the 44 books in the series. The prices range from 20 cents to 50 cents. The other surviving ones are Silas Marner, The Life and Writings of Addison, The Sir Roger De Coverley Papers from The Spectator, and L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, Comus, and Lycidas by Milton.

But back to Dr. Johnson. This account of the dictionary compiler's life is written by historian and essayist Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800 - 1859). The anonymously written introduction takes up 20 pages while Macaulay's chronicle is a mere 50 pages.

Since I am not reading anything of import at the moment, perhaps I will dip into this brief biography.

I don't suppose the books in this little set are worth much on the open market but I wouldn't sell them anyway as the sentimental value is priceless. There on the first page is my grandmother's signature (maiden name) written in pencil. No date, but on the last blank page is written her fond note to someone called "W.C" who may have been a teacher or friend. Or perhaps a beau.

I probably will never know. Another family history mystery.

Have you come across any 'mysteries' among the inscriptions in any of the books in your library?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

"Write the Book You Want to Read" is the title of the third chapter in Austin Kleon's book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative.

Fortunately, Mr. Kleon took his own advice and wrote this chatty little book that contains some wisdom that we have heard before but is presented in an entertaining way combining text and graphics and photos and quotes.

How could I not love a book that the author writes "began its life on index cards". One card; one thought.

But by stealing the author doesn't mean plagiarizing. He doesn't mean inserting a paragraph by Jane Austen into your own work. Or passing off a Picasso image as your own. Stealing may be the harsher word. Perhaps borrowing and building gives a better picture.

Mr. Kleon writes:

All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.

We learn to write by copying down the alphabet. Musicians learn to play by practicing scales. Painters learn to paint by reproducing masterpieces. 

So, who do you copy? 

You copy your heroes -- the people you love, the people you're inspired by, the people you want to be.

The reason you copy your heroes and their style, he writes, is to get a glimpse into their internalize the way they look at the world. Steal from many. Eventually you will become your own painter or writer or designer or choreographer. You will become an artist with your own style and your own voice.  

A tricky bit of alchemy.

We of the Internet Age know that, as he titles chapter seven, "Geography is No Longer Our Master". I look at work from artists in Utah, Maine, and Norway. I read blogs by writers in England, America, and Canada. Perhaps the Internet is not as intimate as the artist salons held by Gertrude Stein in 1920's Paris, but it is close.

Mr. Kleon is also a big fan of using your hands. Analog rules! Step away from the screen. Engage your senses. Keep a notebook. Chart your daily progress on a wall calendar.

The book is barely 150 pages long with big print and lots of drawings so it didn't take long to breeze through it. But that doesn't mean its content is lightweight. It isn't. There is plenty to chew on. Or steal, if you will.

Friday, October 9, 2015

At the University: Parting Breath and Lucky Jim

As fate would have it, I am reading two books both of which take place on British university campuses. Just the tales to cuddle up with as the days are beginning to cool down.

The first is Parting Breath (1977) by Catherine Aird. This was next in line in her series that I am reading featuring Detective Chief Inspector C.D. Sloan and his ever clueless Constable Crosby. It is a very literary mystery and part of the plot (very minor) involves a stolen letter that supposedly revealed the mystery lover of Jane Austen. The main mystery has to do with the murder of one of the students - an ecology major. The background to the the murder investigations (yes, there is more than one death on this lively campus) is a sit-in being staged by students in protest of the expelling of a popular student. Maybe not expelled - I think it's called being sent down. Anyway, there is plenty of mayhem in the main quadrangle. 

I find the late-night conversations between Sloan and his boss Superintendent Leeyes to be very funny. Leeyes has a penchant for taking adult education classes and uses his fractured knowledge to confuse and confound poor Sloan who is trying his best out in the world of crime. 

Image result for lucky jim

The second book is quite different: Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis. This classic campus book (recently reviewed quite nicely by Kat at mirabile dictu) follows the path through academe trudged by Jim Dixon and is filled with cranky dons and charmless women. Quite a comic treat.

The thing about Parting Breath is that Ms. Aird mentions Lucky Jim along with Zuleika Dobson (a university novel by Max
Beerbahm), Hamlet, Alice in Wonderland, P.G. Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, and two Wordsworths, William and Dorothy.

I'll bet she had a fun time working all those literary references into the story.

The campus book I remember best is A Separate Peace (1959) by John Knowles that takes place at an American prep school.  Another favorite, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1934) by James Hilton, is set at a British boarding school. 

I would love to spend a toasty fall semester at a university if only I could just attend class and not have to be bothered with homework. For now, though,  I will have to be content reading about the academic life.

Any campus books you would care to recommend?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Story of Charlotte's Web...Redux

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"Where's Papa going with that axe?"

That has got to be the greatest opening line ever! In case you don't recognize it, it is the first sentence in Charlotte's Web by 
E. B. White. It brings a tear to my eye to this day as I know what is coming.

In honor of today being the thirty-year anniversary of Mr. White's death, I am re-running a post below from a couple of years ago in which I encourage you to read Michael Sims's fond look at the early life of Mr. White and his writing of CW. 

I was thrilled to met Michael Sims, the author of The Story of Charlotte's Web, and hear his tale of doing research for the book. He visited the farm in Maine where Mr. White wrote about Charlotte and her word-filled web. My autographed copy holds a treasured place on the bookshelf.

Also, these two links (here and here) will take you to other posts I have written about Mr. White who is one of my favorite authors and whose writing has taught me so much.


March 11, 2012

Read this book...

Read This Book...if you know nothing of writer E.B. White and the place he holds in literary history.

Read This Book...if you have ever read Charlotte's Web and fallen in love with the tale of the spider and the pig.

Read This Book...if you want to be a writer, or a better writer, for the examples of clarity and conciseness found in White's words and to experience his agony and angst in order to produce such fine writing.

Read This Book...if you hate spiders and want to find out how fascinating they can be and how White himself relished researching their habits in order to give Charlotte as many true characteristics as possible - down to writing words with her web.

Read This Book...if you want to be drawn into the world of E.B.White - his childhood at the turn of the 20th century, his work at The New Yorker, his loving relationship with his wife Katherine White, his love of the natural world and the barnyard animals that inhabited his farm, and his dedication to his life of words.

In short: Read This Book.