Tuesday, 25 July 2017


The pleasure of old school conversations, face to face, a glass of cordial or another form of refreshing beverage and an open bag of crisps. Clear evening sun light streaming through the pub window after the hurried flurry of a summer rain storm.

In a series of conversations I have been having with a much respected friend over a number of months, our topics have been diverse and often entertaining. One of our more recent diversions has kept our attention for some time, a subject we return to with fresh vigour. I thought I might share, as it raises a number of issues that either may or are having an effect on my work. The theme is .. output of work.

In my youth I painted, I sold and I lived by my work. Yes, I did chalk drawings of popular animated cartoons and you would often find me sitting with my portfolio in Castle Square, pen and ink with water colour wash of Lincoln Cathedral and other land marks in my home city.

I would paint on wood and found objects, canvas and clothes. Commissions and selling at  exhibitions, either solo or group. For these exhibitions I would not think twice about producing upwards or 20 works for exhibition in a few months. I do not mean I was working on the posh shop production line style, more it was my job and I worked 6 days a week for a minimum of 7 hours a day…. A job, not a few hours a week in an evening class or as a nice thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. So my output reflected the work involved, the hours worked and the medium. There were complicated works from ~Bricollage~ through to flat stuff.  My work then, as it is now, followed a stream or streams of thoughts or themes. To explore or re-examine, to stretch the perspective of the viewers involvement. Trying new materials and ways of working..

I would be commissioned to paint a view of a clients house or whatever.. as long as it had a little bit of ‘Cockram’ in it they were happy. With repeat clients I would always endeavour to keep the work fresh and in context whilst trying to bring out the individual nature of the work in progress.
One client asked for works of their house, same view in the seasons. In effect four views. It was great in the summer but as the year moved on the weather changed. I wanted to capture the way the limestone used in the building of the house (Circa 16th century) changed in the different light and weathers.  Dashing to either photograph the house in chilling sleet ( a mixture of snow, ice and rain) or gale force winds all at the same time of day in the middle of each season is no fun. By the end of the year I had finished the four views, the client was delighted. There was a hanging party, I talked about the work showed my notes, photographs and sketches. That much I remember. Oh yes, I got paid, in retrospect about the equivalent  as I would for four of my design bindings  today.  Needless to say the four views were not my sole output for the year….

Looking back I cannot find a time, when at any one point I was told I was producing too much work, working too fast or spending too long on a particular theme. In fact I was often asked if I had more work to show… This is often the case with artists. They work on more that one piece at a time, not sitting around waiting for the paint to dry but making the most of their time or mood etc.

It is the same in nearly all aspects of making or doing jobs.  Professionals work to the best of their ability, to the maximum output without compromising the quality of the work. The Kitchen Porter for example.. if he/she is able to work quickly to the required standard no-one is going to complain.. In-fact, if the pots and pans are cleaned quickly then the KP is to be congratulated.

There is a fabulously rich and diverse history of the artist and multiples.  Posters, limited edition prints, unique prints, sculpture, ceramics, themes and so on being utilised by the artist as a platform to communicate and of course to earn a living. Many iconic artists have used the impact and immediacy of the quickly made multiple or ready-made to great effect. No one thinks twice about an artist producing an extensive body of work on a theme for an exhibition, in fact it is expected.

I have worked in the field of fine contemporary binding since graduating from college some years ago. Over the years I have not lost my interest in the wider field of the arts and indeed I draw from my experiences and incorporate them in my work. I think that it may be fare to say that I try to push myself and my work when it comes to working with the book. I try to respond to the book. 

I understand the constraints when working with the book, the many complex materials and mediums coming together all of this combined with a history as rich and diverse as we who created and use it. I often refer to the book in its totality as Alchemy. I choose to work with the book, it is my chosen medium for the simple fact that it can be all artistic mediums and expressions.

Over the last few years I have been exploring the more artistic side of my work and my output.
It has meant taking a back seat, concentrating on finding a way of working that is suitable for me. I have been very fortunate in working with a number of artists from different disciplines from around the world. This has given me the chance to step away from the sometimes corseted world of fine binding.

Recently I have been working with a structure for the text block referred to as Drum Leaf. This structure is attributed to Tim Ely, a much respected and likeable book artist based in the USA. I have found the  method of text block production to be an answer and a perfect vehicle for the way I am currently working.

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