Following photographing 48 self portraits drawn continuously in 48 hours for a video, I have now bound them together into an artist’s book. The drawings are made on each side of 300gm cartridge paper for secure binding. The book will need firm protective cover and I wanted these to reflect the nature of the contents and be finished to a high standard. one option was to draw a further self portrait onto good mount board and then bind this on as covers, but the edges and corners of mount can easily get damaged and scruffy. The way this is usually dealt with is to cover the boards with paper or cloth. I have some simple, undyed buff cotton which I thought would be good against the cartridge paper, and I decided to print a self portrait onto it.
I prepared to plates for printing so that I could choose which ever worked best. One was a paper only which I drew with oilstick and then coated with gum arabic for paper lithography. The other was a piece of mount board onto which I drew a portrait with pva in a pipette. I then scattered carborundum over the wet glue and shook of the excess. The paper lithograph plate didn’t make it to printing but fell apart under inking.
Since the drawing was done from life, consistently with the other drawings, it is of necessity, mirror imaged when printed. The carborundum printed well on the cotton. I made a couple of prints and then added a title and reprinted.
Whilst my ink dried, I practised my binding technique. A fellow student had mentioned a single sheet binding and pointed me at this video on Youtube for details.
The cotton was pasted to mountboard and the back covered with more board to cover joins and give rigidity. I chose the print which I felt had the best definition. All the pages and the cover boards were bound together to produce a finished book.
The carborundum print on cotton has a softness but also presence.
The binding is strong and flexible. It is not too bad for a first attempt but could get better with practice.
The flexible binding allows the book to open out flat. I have added a front page which explains the process. My handwriting is poor but writing simply, in charcoal, best fits the rest of the contents. I may yet add the ’48/4′ inside the front cover, but I think the less writing the better.
Here, I have mounted the tracing paper drawings on a slip of the cartridge paper to allow them to be securely bound. The drawing from which they are a progression can be seen underneath, although on the right hand side, this means that drawing 28 is in front of drawing 27. The inclusion of different papers adds variety to the physical structure. The ability to include different papers and even different shaped pages is a major attraction of this binding technique.
The tracing paper allows piling up of drawings and media, here oilstick over a charcoal drawing.
As the process continued, my drawings simplified and became more abstract. The process of turning the pages in the book mirrors the process of making the drawings. It is interesting to turn the pages and see how the drawings changed from beginning to end.
One thing which I would certainly change if I was doing this again is to end with the final drawing on the right hand side. This last drawing, which is the final culmination, looks rather isolated.
It would have been tempting to leave out the really rubbish drawings but that would be dishonest and defeat the point. The book is about the tension between trying to draw quickly and expressively and trying to draw accurately; the struggle to find the expressive line. Some of the drawings look like me, some look more like Frankie Howerd, but they are not individual drawings; they are part of a whole.
Some of the best likenesses are in pencil but are tentative compared to the broader media.
As time progressed, the drawings simplified. Some became more abstract, so more realistic but abbreviated.
The book is a good way of combining the drawings and demonstrating the narrative of the process. The flexibility of the binding means that the drawings can rub against each other, so I am grateful that I fixed them as I went, but I am considering making a slip case or slip band to provide some stability for storage or travel.