sky dancers – an Artist Book
It was a special afternoon and a privilege the watch and hear these glorious feathered creatures dance from tree to tree, screeching and squawking, chattering and crying.
Then they flew away.
And how best to celebrate an afternoon watching a crackle of yellow tailed black cockatoos devour the banksia trees?
Make a book.
It was this same time two years ago that a crackle of yellow tailed black cockatoos visited my parent’s property the same afternoon as me. How lucky I was. I watched them for a long while as they manouvered around two very tall banksia trees. Chattering and squawking. Devouring every accessible banksia pod they could find.
They danced from tree to tree. Some took off and flew around the house. Others around the paddocks next door. They played. They jostled.
This cockatoo is beautiful to watch in flight. I liken their flight to a leaf floating in a water current – a movement that I’ve not seen in any other bird. Bouyant.
I live close to my parents, so I think the crackle I watch and listen to around my home is the family.
I took many photos on that very precious afternoon.
sky dancers – the book
I love to combine different printmaking processes in the one project; and this books combines 2 of my favourites – linocut and gelatin plate monoprinting. With some letterpress and blind embossing.
The birds were printed on the top side of the deliciously delicate 9gsm Awagami Tengucho paper. I referenced my photos for each of the birds, carving and printing individual linocut plates then hand-colouring their yellow tails.
The underside of the Tengucho paper was printed with a banksia linocut carving. I referenced leaves from a fallen branch from my parent’s tree – the same tree the birds were feasting on. I wanted to keep the elements of the book as connected as possible.
And it was the banksia lino plates that I used to blind emboss the front and back covers of the book.
The bird/banksia papers are hand-stitched to the mountain peeks of the accordion folded paper – floating, flying, diving.
Monotype prints cover the topside of the accordion structure. Its hard to see the detail of the monoprints in this blog post – you really need to handle the book yourself to see the detail and the colours.
I used casurina (aka Sheoak) to create the feel of the birds flightpaths – printing from my largest gelatin plate. Birds taking flights in all manner of different directions. And a banksia pod rolled over the plate before taking the impression on paper. I absolutely love the marks the opened seed pods make on the plate – I call them ‘banksia kisses’.
I spent as long with the birds as they did with their feasting visit, watching them gather and fly around and away.
The eerie sounds of their unusual cries faded the further away they flew. Graceful in flight.
The linocut prints on the underside of the accordion structure reference the departing flock formations from my photo collection.
I designed the book with the plan that it would be viewed when opened on a flat surface as shown in the pictures above. The departing birds on the underside are a little surprise if the reader handles the book and explores its different aspects.
The book can be explored as if reading and turning the pages like a conventional book, as in the video at the top of the page.
It also works when viewed as a carousel, shown below.
Cover – Magnani Etrusca 600gsm
Text – Arches 88 300gsm with Awagami Tengucho 9gsm
Cover – Letterpress printed using my Adana Press with 24pt Goudy Lanston lead type and blind embossing
Text pages – Gel plate monotype prints (on Arches 88 paper) with handcoloured linocut (Tengucho paper)
Accordion structure with Tengucho paper hand-stitched to the accordion. The covers were glued to the accordion.
Edition Size – 10 plus one artist proof
Completed October 2021
A very special thank you to Richarfd Muldoon from Vivid Photography for the photographs of the complete work. Thank you Richard!
The Maleny Printmakers annual Collectables exhibition presented an exciting opportunity to explore how else I could work with the Sky Dancers idea.
I created a series of 5 small Collectable prints. I continued with the monoprinting backgrounds, then linocut printed the black cockatoos over that background. I was excited to add some gold leaf ‘bling’ to each print, highlighting the banksia the cockatoos were devouring.