ddrees art

My art work and thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘hand-colored’

Illustrated Books in Baltimore 2

Posted by ddrees on June 21, 2009

a496lso during spring break, I went to the Walters Art Museum to see an exhibit called The Saint John’s Bible: a Modern Vision through Medieval Methods

I first read about The Saint John’s Bible in an article in the Smithsonian Magazine titled Inscribing the Word. Smithsonian Magazine. (December 2000). Named for Saint John’s Abbey and University in Minnesota, the Bible manuscript is an unprecedented project in modern times to make a superb new version of the Bible on parchment with entirely original artwork to reflect contemporary times.I made note and saved some clippings but I did not anticipate being able to see the real thing in the future.

walters_exhibit_March_2009

This from the Walter’s brochure;

Since the earliest days of Christianity, scribes and artists have been creating beautiful copies of Holy Scripture. The Saint John’s Bible carries this tradition forward into the 21st century. This magnificent hand-illuminated seven-volume bible, commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, is the result of more than 10 years of collaborative work between artists, scribes and theologians. This exhibition features leaves from the Books of Wisdom and Prophets, interspersed with examples of Christian and Jewish texts from medieval Europe, Islamic manuscripts from the Middle East and India and Buddhist scriptures from Thailand.

Designing this new handmade book was aided by computer in preliminary layouts. It makes it so much more of a wonder that handmade book production in the middle ages was so fine. The St. John’s Bible designers were able to do their copy-fitting on computer before  starting on the parchment sheets.The style is painterly and reflects various expressionist tendencies of contemporary times. I get the sense that early Kandinsky is an influence or sensibility. The typographic designs remind me a little of Paul Klee.  The illuminations are authored by more than one artist but the project is much specified by common goals. I really liked most of the images and by the time they were painted on the final parchments, they were beautifully crafted and I could see them first hand. There is a lot to be said for the textures of the real thing, the way raking light passes over areas of greater and lesser slickness and such. Screen pictures homogenize images and much is lost.

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I bought the wonderful companion book Illuminating the Word; the making of The Saint John’s Bible by Christopher Calderhead ,which describes the project including tools, techniques and editorial decisions.The book has wonderful discussions of the grid system and typographic hierarchy that I shall be happy to use in Design and layout class when discussing the same. There are also facsimiles and prints of all these available, albeit expensive, to share the book with the world and to cover some of the vast expense of making it. Manuscripts were enormously expensive in the old days as well and the Gutenberg revolution was a massive shift as is the ability to publish blogs.

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Official website for the Bible is so good as a resource it could be used to augment a college course in manuscript illumination.It has  videos of designers and calligraphers, materials,a great glossary of terms, bibliography, Internet resources, and page by page images of the book.

The largest images available on the site, but with watermarks across them, are in the custom print section of the site’s store.

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The site is a little difficult to navigate  and there are areas hidden within a curriculum resources page which are worth pursuing. For example my search for illuminated D initials at the Hill Museum and Manuscript library yielded 1924 results. So much for my little folder of initials that I have been collecting from here and there for over ten years.

The Walters Museum where I saw the exhibit  has excellent manuscript and rare book collections, 18th and 19th Century art, Asian art, Egyptian, Nubian and Ethiopian art, to mention a few.

The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland is internationally renowned for its collection of art, which was amassed substantially by two men, William and Henry Walters, and eventually bequeathed to the City of Baltimore. The collection presents an overview of world art from pre-dynastic Egypt to 20th-century Europe, and counts among its many treasures Greek sculpture and Roman sarcophagi; medieval ivories and Old Master paintings; Art Deco jewelry and 19th-century European and American masterpieces.

The Saint John’s Bible show at the Walter’s also has a nice page, but I am not sure how long it will be there.The show was curated by Ben Tilghman, Zanvyl Krieger Curatorial Fellow, and Kathryn Gerry, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books. It included more than The St. Johns Bible as the Walter’s writes below.

Featuring nearly 40 volumes from the Walters’ world-renowned collection of manuscripts and rare books, this exhibition will examine the historical traditions of illuminated scripture in the context of a 21st-century manuscript, The Saint John’s Bible. Although it is still yet to be finished, The Saint John’s Bible has already been recognized as a masterpiece of contemporary calligraphy and book arts, and this exhibition marks the first time the manuscript has been examined in its historical context.

The idea of making a manuscript Bible may seem strange at the dawn of the 21st century, particularly considering the time and resources that go into making such a large book: when finished, the seven-volume bible will contain 1,150 pages and measure approximately three feet wide by two feet tall when open. But a quick glance at the illuminations throughout the book reveals that this is a project very much of its time. The artists use bold, abstract designs and collage techniques to create stirring compositions that often incorporate visual imagery from the modern world, such as computer voice-prints and images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The community at Saint John’s University and Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, which commissioned the manuscript, has a long tradition of scholarly inquiry and social engagement, and many of the illuminations reflect these concerns through references to the biblical past and current events. As a whole, the project represents an ambitious effort to envision a modern biblical art that is nevertheless deeply rooted in the long-standing tradition of manuscript production

That tradition, both in Christianity and in religions throughout the world, can be traced through the Walters superb collection of manuscripts and rare books. Featured in this exhibition will be manuscripts from many different religious traditions, including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Particularly striking and beautiful is a Thai manuscript, in an accordion-folding format, that illustrates the many ways in which elephants were believed to bring good luck to the Thai royal court. The exhibition will also look at the history of calligraphy, both in the past and as it is practiced today. Fine examples of Medieval, Renaissance, and Islamic scripts will accompany works by highly-regarded contemporary calligraphers Sheila Waters, Julian Waters, and Mohamed Zakariya, vividly showing how contemporary lettering artists continue to build on the tradition they have inherited.

As a whole, the history of manuscripts, particularly as represented in this show, encourages us to reflect on how our understanding of what we read depends on the form in which we read it. In an age of disposable media—magazines, newspapers, and, above all, digital texts viewed on computers—it is easy to read things quickly and without much thought. When each book is a unique object, as all manuscripts are, both the maker and the reader are inspired to consider words and pictures much more carefully and deeply.

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We can look forward to future shows relating to the Walter’s fine manuscript and book collection. So I am again enriched by having looked at the actual illustrations for books first hand.

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An inordinate fondness for beetles

Posted by ddrees on September 1, 2008

“The naturalist, J. B. S. Haldane, was asked by a cleric about what he might infer about the Creator, based on his wide-ranging study of life. 
: Haldane supposedly replied the creator had “an inordinate fondness for beetles” based on the then current count of beetle species at around 400,000.”

Inordinate Fondness for Beetles tan/blu ©2002 d drees

Inordinate Fondness for Beetles tan/blu ©2002 d drees

An inordinate fondness -blue © d drees

An inordinate fondness -blue © d drees

I like insects (and spiders) because they are so beautiful, symmetric and jewel like. I also like them because of their fascinating life cycles, long and short, their transformations, communications and industries. They come in any color you can think of and all kinds of spots and stripes. I remember, but not well enough to give the exact citation, that Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan had decided to spend his next life as a bug because the bug he had chosen had such a great community life and was very happy.

Art deco and Art nouveau artists often used insects in their designs. E A Seguy at  NYPL, Seguy at NCSU, Seguy at Bibliodyssey (the real skinny,see below) Louis Comfort Tiffany , Rene Lalique, Emile Galle are examples. My Flickr set of my work relating to insects is here.

e a seguy plate

e a seguy plate

Dragonfly, L C Tiffany

Dragonfly, L C Tiffany

Rene Lalique Brooch

Rene Lalique Brooch

Emile Galle

Emile Galle

There are quite a few great beetle, butterfly and insect books old and new. Lots of people like them despite the maligning of some of these creatures by shortsighted sci fi and other stories. Many groups on Flickr devoted to insect pictures attest to this interest.

Bugs do at times seem alien but are anything but. My source pictures for the beetles are from hand colored engravings in Entomology: Beetles, edited by Sir William Jardine, 1843.

Jardine Beetles Frontispiece

Jardine Beetles Frontispiece

Jardine Beetles Plate 26, hand colored engraving

Jardine Beetles Plate 26, hand colored engraving

A later edition of this whole book can be downloaded as a PDF albeit a poor quality one, from Google.

I bought a copy of the Jardine book and a butterfly book, Berge’s Schmetterlingsbuch, 1842 and a few disbounded plates from Cramer’s butterfly book, which is really high priced intact.

Berge's Smetterlinge Plate 11

Berge

I love Antiquariat Junk’s site and bought a great but soiled butterfly book from them at a reasonable price. They have a beautifully organized site and you can see plates in the books. You can sometimes get these wonderful antiquarian books at lower prices when they are dirty or poorly bound because high roller collectors want them as close to perfect as they can get. I am in it for the pictures and can expertly clean them up in Photoshop. So I want the real books for the line detail and I start out with 1200 ppi scans and play around with them from there. Most anything that you can get on the Internet is too low in resolution but some libraries are doing excellent scanning jobs if your bandwidth can handle the large downloads. Here are some links but be careful you do not get stuck in them. University of Strasbourg, University of Wisconsin,

A picture blog coming out of Australia, Bibliodyssey, often finds and posts links to these good picture sources. It is on my check every week list.

I also have collected a few specimens but not with scientific rigor. I have found more than one Luna moth and noticed how different the individuals are. I suspect this is often so. But that is another large subject for another life. I do not want to kill any of them to catch them anymore. There are enough other ways to get models.

Luna Moth, watercolor and marbling ©d drees

Luna Moth, watercolor and marbling ©d drees

Some of my artworks here are from specimens, some are from my photos and some are from engravings. I avoid contemporary photos because of copyright issues.

black and gold striped creature designer, digital ©d drees

black and gold striped creature designer, digital ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/red ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/red ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/dark blue ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/dark blue ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/sand ©d drees

Inordinate fondness/sand ©d drees

noiseless, patient spider, watercolor and marbling ©d. drees

noiseless, patient spider, watercolor and marbling ©d. drees

night vision, watercolor ©d drees

night vision, watercolor ©d drees

Anne's Butterfly , watercolor and marbling © d drees

Anne's Butterfly , watercolor and marbling © d drees

Bug Pals, digital © d.drees

Bug Pals, digital © d.drees

Butterfly and Pinecone Mandala ©1994 d.drees digital

Butterfly and Pinecone Mandala ©1994 d.drees digital

Butterfly mandala-blue © d drees

Butterfly mandala-blue © d drees

Butterfly vortex ©d.drees digital

Butterfly vortex ©d.drees digital

blue and white © d drees

blue and white © d drees

Grasshopper pattern © d drees

Grasshopper pattern © d drees

Waterskeeter pattern © d drees

Waterskeeter pattern © d drees

Illuminator's Butterfly assembly  © d drees

Illuminator's Butterfly assembly © d drees

Is rapture the treasure © d drees  digital

Is rapture the treasure © d drees digital

Palimpsest © dedree drees, digital

Palimpsest © dedree drees, digital

caterpillar © dedree drees , digital

caterpillar © dedree drees , digital

This caterpillar from Diderot, then worked in Photoshop channel ops. My students do not tend to like the abstraction level of channel ops. I really do like channels and they fit into my procedural art area.

Caterpillar 8 © d drees

Caterpillar 8 © d drees

Caterpillar 9 © d drees

Caterpillar 9 © d drees

And do not forget this one.

scarab

scarab

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Procedural art, my computer graphics history and op art in Adobe Illustrator

Posted by ddrees on August 11, 2008

I   initt may not be obvious how the reminiscences below all relate to procedural art, my computer graphics history and op art in Adobe Illustrator or how these notions are connected to each other but the pictures will help and the center will coalesce. The ideas that knock around in an artist’s head are kind of like this, perhaps organized as some would label in a right brained way.

What attracted me to printmaking back in 1966 at Skidmore was the idea that you could have more than one iteration or variant of an image without all the precious work of unique painted items. A little mechanical assist was much appreciated. Below see two different copies of pages William Blake’s hand-colored book Songs of Innocence and Experience from the Lessing Rosenwald collection. The colored treatments are obviously different. I wonder what was the determinant in the versions.

Blake - Songs of innocense and Experience 36

Blake - Songs of innocence and Experience 36

Blake  Songs of Innocence and Experience 36

Blake Songs of Innocence and Experience 36

Blake  The Clod and the Pebble

Blake The Clod and the Pebble

Blake  The Clod and the Pebble

Blake The Clod and the Pebble

Blake   Infant Joy

Blake Infant Joy

I liked the way that Rembrandt would make variants in states and in wiping his plates differently and the way Blake would use hand-coloring variations on his prints. Here are four of the many variants of Rembrandt’s Three Crosses plate. Rembrandt’s variations change the content of the print. They are not just decorative changes.

My Sky Curtain series from 1975 were unique items but started with the mechanical assist of the basic intaglio plate that would make richer blacks than could be had with pen and ink. I would rotate the circular plate for different content and add unique images. Interestingly, I am still playing with some of these images, input into the computer. My focus is on the resultant image, not the crafted made by hand one-off concept. That is a concern of many others but has never been a chief concern of mine. Mechanical advantage seems a good idea to me.

It was not just the mechanical advantage, I also liked the metaphor of infinite variations and gradual shifts in increments as profoundly reflecting the universe, string theory perhaps.

Sky Curtain ©d drees 1975

Sky Curtain ©d drees 1975

Sky Curtain ©1975 d drees

Sky Curtain ©1975 d drees

Sky Curtain - And All is Always Now ©1975 D Drees

Sky Curtain - And All is Always Now ©1975 D Drees

Sky Curtain ©1975 d drees

Sky Curtain ©1975 d drees

Sky Curtain - Leaving ©1975 Dedree Drees

Sky Curtain - Leaving ©1975 Dedree Drees

Sky Curtain ©1975 D Drees

Sky Curtain ©1975 D Drees

Digital sky curtain-And all is always now ©2007 d drees

Digital sky curtain-And all is always now ©2007 d drees

In the seventies and eighties I was teaching two-dimensional design to traditional art student undergraduates at CCBC. Objectives of the class included craftsmanship, hand-eye coordination, planning the project and such, but also comprehension of the interrelationship between negative and positive space in constructing an image, the requirements of figure-ground construction, control of spatial devices etcetera. We included “Op” art exercises to achieve these objectives and the exercises did the job well. We proceeded from simple line transitions to ambiguous figure- ground images as in the more complicated Maurits Escher’s. I liked the metaphor of black and white creating each other and felt the simplicity of op art could communicate that notion in shorthand.

Bridget Riley - Metamorphosis

Bridget Riley - Metamorphosis

I bought and read Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood when it came out in 1970 and took it to heart. We had all been reading Marshall McLuhan and R Buckminster Fuller at PSU and I glommed onto Youngblood right away while feeling very provincial and resourceless since he was only four years my senior. This book introduced me to a lot of ideas regarding procedural art and related concepts.

For the school library at CCBC in 1971, I had ordered three 16 mm films mentioned by Youngblood; John Hay Whitney’s Permutations, Jordon Belson’s Meditation and Stan Vanderbeek’s Poem field and showed these in Art Appreciation class. I do not know what became of these movies. I hope they still have them. I think low-res versions can be seen on Utube but they do not do them justice. I found them to be an inspiration.

Later I met Stan Vanderbeek at UMBC and was going to teach printmaking for him there since CCBC did not have a print studio and the one at UMBC was going to waste. He was wonderful to talk to and one of the few academics I knew who would give a young female colleague the time of day. Alas, he died young of cancer after an amazing remission story when the cancer caught up with him so my conversation with him was over. I had seen R. Buckminster Fuller three times in person starting at Skidmore in 1965, and was much interested in his work. I  have early Terry Riley minimalist recordings like Rainbow in Curved Air (1969) that sent me to swooning. I knew minimalist music had a relationship to procedural art though in an abstract way. By 1974 or so I was writing in my journal about wanting to make animation movies using what I called modal transitions, which would show various shape and color transitions in which the changes would encompass important content change. The Charles and Ray Eames movie Powers of Ten (1977) had not yet been made, but the kind of content changes I envisioned would be like that amazing change of scale. But I thought I would never be able to do this on my own. And I certainly did not have the resources that people like the Whitneys did. Now I think I could do because of personal computer advances. By 1990 common screen savers like After Dark would be running animations that met Whitney’s call for artists input.

Until the mid nineties I felt like an outsider in the computer image-making realm that I loved so much. What changed my status to feeling like I could be a player was the development of the Mac personal computer and graphics software like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Things have continued to get better and better since then. I no longer have to feel like Jude the Obscure.

We started a little Mac lab at CCBC about 1985 to augment the Printing Management program (now defunct due to evolution of the industry) and the faculty was concerned about things like SGML for printer specs and such. By the time Macs had color monitors and the Superpaint application, I was into it with typical techno-greed for every new graphics thing that came along. I still thought in terms of mechanical advantages of iterations for variation, though processing time was painfully slow.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lillian Schwartz at conference of Small Computers in the Arts in Philadelphia in 1992. I had just read her new Computer Artist Handbook. We had both worked with Eugenio Battisti (d.1989) who had recently passed away . I appreciated her success at working with the big boys at Bell labs and such while maintaining a humanistic artistic approach to many issues in computer graphics. I have to laugh at this quote from her artist’s statement, “Those who worked with her in those days still remember her monumental ingratitude to technology.” She is eighty now, but I see she was being commissioned to do videos for Bell labs in 2000. A remarkable and gracious woman.

My early works would typically start with a scan of something from my hand done work and go from there. Small file size was a problem. I would also make a few shapes and reprocess them with whatever I had as software and see what would evolve. These look pretty primitive now but when you thought you had something with nine megabytes of Ram (my first Mac SE) I guess it was OK. Here are a few examples made on my Mac SE;

Early d drees computer graphic circa 1992

Baziotes doodle  ©ddrees 1994

Baziotes doodle ©ddrees 1992

Lightening morphosis ©1994 dedree drees

Lightening morphosis ©1992 dedree drees

caladium panel ©1994 Dedree Drees early computer graphic

caladium panel ©1992 Dedree Drees early computer graphic

Dangerzone ©1994 ddrees

Dangerzone ©1992 ddrees

I gradually shifted from traditional art class teaching to teaching computer graphics starting with Adobe Illustrator 3 teaching Computer Illustration 1.

As things developed I saw I could integrate 2D material in the form of “Op” art exercise, getting the concepts across without the painful pen and ink work and even better stressing the procedural nature of the designs. My new objective was for students to comprehend what “procedural” imaging could mean. As time goes by I have changed and added exercises for procedural images in Illustrator and Photoshop, and back and forth between the two. Some of the more abstract and thus harder for the students have to do with calculations of channels in Photoshop. This basically allows you to invent your own “filters” and avoid your images looking like everyone else’s. But more on that later.

I have played minimally with Flash animations that do the same with scripting but my lack of linear accuracy makes programming very difficult for me. I recall that in HS I did 99th percentiles on many intelligence skills with the exception of “clerical speed and accuracy” for which I had an unusually poor rating. So I may consider this a disability whose disadvantages were not truly discovered till old age.

The op art examples in Adobe Illustrator class start by showing the mechanical advantage of the geometric progression of multiplying the basic unit incrementally. You start with a black square and a white square or void. The first one is constructed to fit your handy grid with snap to grid on. After this there is no more struggling with alignment and hand measuring. All you have to do is option drag and copy the growing compilation of squares. Many errors are avoided and no ink blots. Very quickly a checker matrix or line matrix is assembled and then you can make fun and simple variants with it.

Checker base development

Checker base development

checker field to work with

checker field to work with

checker field state 2

checker field state 2

Checker variant

Checker variant

checker variant

checker variant

more op squares

more op squares

op squares and moire ©dd

op squares and moire ©dd

The three basic start plans are checker squares, sequenced lines and linear transitions. So many designs can be generated by them that Bridget Riley would not want to hear about it. Here is the checkered square start. Others to follow in another post.

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