sky dancers – an Artist Book

 In About My Work, Artist Books

What is the best way to celebrate an afternoon watching a crackle of yellow tailed black cockatoos devour the banksia trees?

Make a 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.

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 black 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.

I live close to my parents, so I think the crackle I watch and listen to around my home is the same.

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 Awagami Tengucho 9gsm paper. I referenced my photos for each of the birds, carving 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. 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 paper was hand-stitched to the mountain peeks of the accordion folded paper – floating, flying, suspended.

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 away.

The eerie sounds of their unusual cries faded the further away they flew. They are so 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 it reading and turning the pages like a conventional book, as in the video at the top of the page.

And the book also works to be viewed as a carousel, shown below.

Colophon

Papers
Cover – Magnani Etrusca 600gsm
Text – Arches 88 300gsm with Awagami Tengucho 9gsm

Printed
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)

Structure
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

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