Failure is always an (entertaining) option

I don’t mind sharing failures as such, except for a lingering worry that they’ll be the last thing I ever post. They’re part of the process; like doing scales, they get the feeling of the materials into your fingers, etc, etc, resilience, you can’t fix what doesn’t exist, and so forth.

There are, however, some failures I persist with in order to remind myself of the boundaries of what I should (or want to) attempt. There are workshops I go to with the primary intention of remembering not to try this at home. Screen printing, for example, and letterpress.


From a Print Gocco workshop at Avid Reader

I love what everyone else does with them, but they don’t work with my style, my patience, my back, my set-up of sinks, my preference for not being entirely filmed with oil-based inks, and so on (weirdly I love lino printing, so everything has its exception).


Inking things, mwahahaha

I always meet great people, learn new textures, observe how people interact with the tools, find techniques to borrow, get out of the house, etc. But mostly, it’s a form of walking the bounds of what I do want to do.

Then there are the failures I pursue because failing is funny, but once I (re)gain some competency it stops being entertaining. This was the origin of the whole cooking experiment on Twitter (thread begins here), which, incidentally, also contains the reason for the bandaid on my hand in the Border Keeper process video.

Collage is becoming both for me. I admire what actual collage artists do with it. But it doesn’t resonate with me as a process. I get cranky and covered with glue and drop words and think the end result is both too weird and too simple, and yet keeping flipping back to look at it, shake my head, and laugh.

It started with attempting to record collage without any glue. Then I had glue, but couldn’t cut up the paper with the overheard notes on it (and forgot there was a photocopier just there I had just used it).


A line from an amazing conversation overheard at a training session

My resistance to it doesn’t make obvious sense, because I like weird and simple and glue and scissors and words. It’s just that this is the outer edge of my preferred territory, and its good for me to visit it, but there’s a reason I choose not to live here.

I also like limitations, and recombinations, and juxtapositions. I just prefer them to happen before the final piece gets formed, not as the final piece. Or at least, to be cleverly veiled.


How do you do, fellow humans?

For instance, what I want this to be is a story about Fashion Spies who are possibly robots, and also about a kidnapper who starts glueing together a ransom note but is limited by the words available on the few pieces of paper available to him and ends up plunging sideways into an wild conspiracy, sort of Foucault’s Pendulum meets that one science fiction Father Brown story by way of O. Henry.


Little bits left over at the end of the week

22-29 Jan on Twitter etc

22-29 Jan on Twitter etc

Bitterwood Bible - spine image

  • A reminder of the long-ago, beautiful happening that was – you may recognise some of the names involved! This was where I fell in love with Kali Ciesemier’s vision of Garth Nix’s Sabriel and with Sam Bosma’s art for The Hobbit, and one of the earliest examples that really had an impact on me, of people Not Sitting On Their Hands But Putting Things Out In The World (quote more or less from Karen Beilharz’s original Plan to Take over the World, which was another example at roughly the same time). Putting Things Out In The World is a very important artistic practice!
  • I learned a lot at the time from Sam Bosma’s posts on the process of illustrating The Hobbit – just this week I went back to find his description of working with colour flats to explain them to another artist. But whether you love The Hobbit, beautiful finished artwork, process posts or lots and lots of sketches of goblins, that series of posts remain worth a look.
  • The final episode of Tremontaine has been released! At least, for this season…

Tremontaine episode 13 cover

  • Based on the title alone, I am very excited about the new Serial Box series The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, created by Lindsay Smith and Max Gladstone, and written by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis and Michael Swanwick. The first episode is out and free! (text and audio)
  • Milli and Fink screenprinting workshops are up again (Ipswich, Queensland) – I did one of these a few years ago (post: Screen printing) and it was great:
  • If you ever describe a painting in your writing, the descriptions of art in this article are loving, funny & effective: The Emergence of the Winter Landscape. Also, lots of medieval snowball fights. (h/t Sydney Padua)
  • I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.EB White
  • I have always felt charged with the safekeeping of all unexpected items of worldly or unworldly enchantment as though I might be held personally responsible if even a small one were to be lost.EB White

Screen printing (or: aboreal royalty)

Screen printing

In March I went to a 2 day screen-printing workshop run by Milli & Fink. Due to ‘recent weather events’ the workshop had relocated from a storm-damaged hall to a lovely little old Queenslander house in Ipswich, with a view of corrugated roofs and Moreton Bay Figs marching down the hill through veils of rain. Not including the rain, our class spent most of the two days wet and inky, with quiet passages where those of us not coating screens or hosing emulsion down the stairs sat around the dining table with piles of reference books, pens and paper drawing designs and eating cupcakes.

Screen printing

I recommend the workshop. We went from learning how to expose a screen to trying out gold-leaf and screen-printing on wood, and were able to print plenty of pieces to bring home, so even if you didn’t decide that screen-printing (or part of it) was For You, you had some lovely, useable work – paper, teatowels, calico bags…


In my case,  while the class showed me just what could be accomplished at home and without even a studio, and while I have so many ideas, the room and mess and time it needs are something for which I do not currently have space (physical, temporal or mental). One day maybe…

You may recognise the wolf above from a cut-paper picture I made a few weeks ago. The picture below, of tree-dwelling royalty, was drawn in marker on paper on the day of the workshop, due to a recent Twitter conversation with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, which transitioned into quoting A. A. Milne’s poem “The King’s Breakfast”, a conversation it is to be hoped we can continue in England in November (Sandy interfered with plans to meet in Toronto last year, although I was able to catch up with Delia for a too-short coffee in New York)!

A Little Bit of Butter

So of course I had to send them a tea-towel print of it, in thanks. Here is the card which I drew to accompany it – indulging in more high-set highnesses, and some watercolour shading for once.

Card: Aboreal royalty