Something and Nothing Book

Concluding the busy month away from school with this unfinished business. Know I'm going to need to step back from it, in order to continue to work through a very nice chair commission using Harry Nilsson's The Point and a contribution to Landfill Edition's Risographed publication for Pick Me Up at Somerset House.

So this is a way of logging something in order to keep it needing to be made in the near future. It was started as a quasi-workshop for Kids.Modern but quickly proved to be needing some more time and care. A bit dubious about posting it, particularly because the line quality is so first-stage but wanted to air it. It's a Something and Nothing Book.

The idea was to make a two-colour Risographed activity/colouring book for children. The first consideration was the things I've done spontaneously with Molly, Sadie and Syd the last 10 or so years. A tendency has been to start a drawing as a prompt to get them drawing. They all do so really well anyway. What is apparent, is that colouring-in books' drawings are so poor and nowhere near the exploratory, explanatory and visionary level of drawings the three of them author. So, I make incomplete, quarter-drawings that they complete– always sublimating anything I could imagine they would do.

I think all children love to make their mark on a book, whether it's asked for or not. I did. So the premise here is to make a half-book. It can work as a narrative but begs completion, needs intervention. So the compositions need a porous quality. Also the paper stock needs to have a key, a grain that welcomes drawing in that kind of sugar-papery way.

It's also addressed in the first person, so the book is speaking to you, asking you to answer. In terms of language, it has become something of a realisation that I need to achieve some imbalance and discord in the imaging. A little escape from too much Modernism. Very interested in the way Sadie for example has been determinedly drawing 'Manga Eyes' and wanted to deliver something in here that ticks that box for her (see top image). These three are the users first and foremost and I will post as they test later on.

Wanted too, to concentrate on a kinetic across the pages whilst maintaining the kind of fragmentation that allows breaks in pictorial space and logic-lacking perspective.

So these pages are some way off but they give a sense of the limited palette (two- or three-colours?), text-image relationships and interplay with the object-page.

It will end somehow like this, a page within a page. Some precedents and cues for this thinking below. Starting with each of the three's drawings.

This is one by Syd, who is six years old. He draws a great deal, very naturally. He is something of a force of nature, with inclination to explain with cross-sections and panoramic views. He is also anatomically quite unnerving! This is Fart Club, a set he did a few weeks ago. I love its totally unfettered view of that which fascinates, let's be honest, us all.

Sadie, aged nine, writes and draws to create worlds. This is not her greatest– she uses colour quite a bit– but it is typical of sheets and sheets of characters she develops for 'Pipi World', a super-developed subscription-only phenomenon which needs its own blog to fully explain. Note the recurrent eyes here.

Molly draws a little less now. She is 11 years old. Comes into her own with observation. This startling, somewhat harrowing portrait is me! Each of their habit and attitude to drawing feeds in to this project. What strikes me most is their capacity to accept and read clashing stylistic modes within the same image. And also makes me aware of how close I could come to (and need to escape from) making imagery using modular pattern that pleases parents' taste. It's not enough and a dead end. I want to acknowledge the fragmentary, patchy nature of our bookshelves and stacked up soft toys' eyes, coming from a nosebleed-inducing breadth of styles.

I've looked a lot too, at Beni Montresor and this, I Saw a Ship A-Sailing (1967). Amazing lack of black and virtually fluo underprinting. Such conviction in the draughtsmanship. Never skimping on the will to make a lion very lionish. And the chalky, impish protagonists.

Generally, with regard to depiction, I have wanted for some time to apply the composition-determining atmosphere of information images, or those where something is worked out or explained. In a very basic way this is what I did as a 7, 8, 9, 10 year-old. Can see Syd doing it too. This fine example is by E.C. Large, from the beautifully designed Hyphen book by Stuart Bailey. The drawing is 'from his Presidential Address to the British Mycological Society'. What I'm getting at is the free use of pictorial convention (spatial, cross-sectioned, vignetted, ideographic, illusionistic) within the rectangle and how somehow this makes sense; perhaps an equivalent of modes of explanation within the same conversation where something is trying to be understood.

Finally this, Enid Blyton's Hurrah for Mary Mouse, illustrated by the excellently named Olive E. Openshaw. Archetypally sadistic and simmeringly racist. Beyond that, if you can, the characterisation is acutely creepy. Note the Mother Mouse's hands holding the framed punishment picture of the cat. Note too here a fine example of the kind of on-the-book drawing that has inspired this project to date. I hope to post more on this in the not-to-distant-future and particularly to show some corrective to the limited, too mechanical line quality of these roughs.


Kickcan and Conkers said...

The colouring book project looks very interesting , I'm looking forward to seeing more...
Montpellier in the Summer sounds great :)

Eni said...

I am glad that you mentioned Enid Blyton's Hurrah For Mary Mouse. I am glad to inform you that I have published a book on Enid Blyton, titled, the Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.bbotw.com).
Stephen Isabirye

harri said...

Looks astonishing. Our baby is coming this week, will need some kids books soon. I'm thinking about designing some myself. May the SN book be also printed at Risotoreverse? Harrisson

Peter Nencini said...

Ah Harrisson that is the best news! This week? Hope all is well... I need to introduce you to Frank Spencer... classic bad 1970s comedy with the best/worst episode being his dealing with first birth... why did I think of you? You'll be great! Need to get him/her to Thurston Moore's Avant Grade Pre-School in NYC. Would be very nice to do SN in Bruxelles maybe in the Summer. Will be testing it first here. Also doing a Riso thing on Monday at this: http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/visual_arts/pick_me_up/, with ManyMono, who you might like: http://www.landfilleditions.com/. Speak soon! x

Anonymous said...

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am said...

wow...these are begging to be animated!and then put to music!!

Peter Nencini said...

Hi Ann Marie– thanks for your comment– just looked at your excellent blog– will follow!