Oil, an Artist’s Book

The finished book is in the Portfolio, Oil, An Artist’s Book.

30.10.16  I have now added more graphics and some pop-ups in a few of the signatures, this is ongoing.  The signatures are stitched together down the spines with black cotton.  Embellishing the poem is the essence of this project.  I have used the Silhouette Cameo drag knife cutter to cut images (via Illustrator) for pop-ups.  The cutter allows for complex and quite precise images such as an oil derrick; which I think is in keeping with the irony of the anti-art idea.

13.10.2016  I’m still doing drawings for this book, there are about 20 pages which are text only at the moment.  Many of the images used in the book were taken straight from the internet, some from newspapers and a few from other printed sources, by scanning into Photoshop and then printing onto decal paper.  Quite late in the construction I thought about adding further embellishment in the form of cut-out figures (pages 36, 40, 42) and this seemed to work quite well.  Again, I liked the simplicity of the figures and the childlike feel, which seemed appropriate  and in the CoBrA spirit.

I was thinking about pop-up imagery and how to subvert the idea of pop-up books as being only for children – or fancy decoration in greetings cards and similar stuff.

29.09.2016  The Oil book basic structure is complete, all the text is printed and the majority of the images.  It is made from packaging paper – the stuff that comes with parcels from Amazon to protect them, and is organised into signatures of 8 pages, corresponding to the verses in the poem.  I have added some more verses and the book is meant to be open-ended (up to a point) so that further verses and illustrations might be allowed.  As well as the words of the poem there are illustrations, drawings and some stitch.

Putting the decals onto the cheap paper was tricky and I eventually found that wetting the paper before applying the decal was the way to do it.  The colours obtained this way are strong, surprisingly so on a dull brown paper

The cheap paper is not really suitable for printing, it tears really easily and is likely to smudge.  I tried putting it through an ink jet printer with terrible results – it jammed the printer.  So I have tried a very different approach, which is to print onto decal – water transfer – paper.  This is cheap and easily available in A4 for inkjet printers.  It is important to spray varnish the printout before putting in water, (without the varnish it dissolves).  I used PlastiKote Matt, available from DIY stores and somewhat cheaper than art shop varnish but just the same acrylic.  Best to spray outdoors,  or make a spray booth.

September 14th. I have completed all the text for the book, 72 pages.  The method used was to print (inkjet) onto decal paper (water transfer paper) then transfer the text and images to the book pages. the result is a rough, crinkled, almost textured finish. I am adding drawings, other images, thread and fabric, pop-ups, and a cover.

July 2016.  More thoughts on CoBrA.  Founded on the 8th of November in 1948, at the Cafe Notre Dame in Paris CoBrA has been described by one of it’s founders, Christian Dotremont, as, “Like going on a train journey”.  Although the group split after just three years a CoBrA spirit seems to have remained.  The group produced 10 issues of a review magazine, Cobra.  The comprehensive book, COBRA, (1983, J-C Lambert) covers the theoretical writings by Dotremont and contains many illustrations, sketches, prints, paintings and other works.

July 9th 2016.  Last December I visited the CoBrA  museum of modern art in Amsterdam and found that it had a lasting effect on my thoughts about art, and craft.  There was a strong ‘anti-art’ movement amongst the CoBrA artists in the mid 20th century and I found that this chimed with some of my thought regarding an artists book.  One of the most notable things in the anti-art items on display was how they had instantly been transformed into art when placed in a gallery or a museum!  This theme is explored in a number of books about the movement.  So I am inspired to look at the Oil book as a piece of anti-art in what I think is the CoBrA spirit, using found material and images as well as simple drawings and whatever else might be incorporated into a book.

CoBrA was a political movement as well as an artistic one, with a strong socialist bent.  Emerging as it did in the European ruins of the Second World War the  group members had direct experience of the destructive forces of reaction.

July 5th 2016.  I have recently looked again at this project with a view to making a book (artists book).  This is not an area I have much experience or understanding of and I have struggled to find a reason for attempting this.  There are some wonderful creations such as  http://all-that-is-interesting.com/book-sculpture-artists   which I find somewhat intimidating.  I want to make something that reflects the text of the poem and the idea of the way oil is obsessively central to current society almost world wide.

I have quite a lot of packaging paper, the sort that Amazon and others use as padding; it is grey or brown.  I tried ink-jet printing on it and found there is a tendency to smudge, which I liked.  So I am looking at printing one line per page and then over-printing and over working with other materials.  I added in an extra verse today.

I want to make a fabric work and a book, and possibly a poster using the poem, found material – especially found images – and my own sketches.

October 2015
Of all the words the our leaders spew All-The-Oil-You-Want-2-free-poster
One word (you'll rarely hear it's true
Meaning) cloaked, hidden, garbed,
'Humanitarian', Aid', 'Help'; barbed 
And wrapped in prickly wire,
Blood-soaked lies with which they aspire
To warp all dialogue to the goal
Of endless profit, endless control.

You know the word, it's our addiction,
For others it's a rape conviction,
Rape of the earth, each crazed pollution
Presented as a new solution.
No matter how the bodies stack
Of spineless voices there's no lack,
Back-pocket pundits bought and sold
To serve the masters of black gold.

These masters know no limitation,
No border halts their inclination 
To bomb and blast all real dissent,
History itself is torn and rent
Then twisted to false imitation
Of progress. 

Progressive aims lie crushed beneath 
Their weaponry, armed to the teeth,
Arming friend and foe nearly alike,
Inventing enemies, they strike
Destroying enemy and 'friend', no matter
Tame scribes turn corpses into chatter;
Who counts when they are merely rags?
Just stuff them into body bags.

With startling pace their doublespeak
Cynically compounds the havoc wreaked,
Faint allies might turn medieval, 
Those guns we sell keep killing people!
Inquires, Ceasefires, Peace Talks Soon,
Their Peace Envoy a bloody goon,
The press gang shake their fickle head
Repeats the lies that we're all fed.

Emission standards, just a joke,
We pour out filth and then we choke,
The air we breath rips at our lungs,
Our city breathes through iron rungs
Of Gridlocked traffic;
Bars which we peer through; geographic
Smog-paint horrors of the so-slow lane,
Urban life-support in terminal strain,
The town is rammed, the model broke
While the world gasps and legions croak.
Every new fence, each wire-draped wall,
Cries out against the wealth of all, 
Fuels harsh reactionary lies 
While bombs and bullets fill the skies 
Barring escape routes for the poor, 
There's no way out from endless war. 
Borders shut fast, you're not welcome today 
Please die out of sight, we'll look away. 

Corporate elites with obscured faces 
Rule our lives with slick embraces, 
100 million, a Texas block, 
The CEO gets that in stock 
Each year, to savour, away from spills, 
Our fragile world must pay the bills. 
Gas promenades it's domination, 
In every field, contamination. 

The word oozes from a cracked shell, 
Stamped with a chevron made in hell, 
Our occidental lives protected 
From the stench of this total racket, 
They're mobilised, we're barely moving, 
Those others die, we just keep cruising, 
We burn it all, this globe must boil, 
The prize we keep on grabbing, oil. 
Chris Miller 2015