Sunday, August 31, 2008


Medici Shield, Sienna- Polaroid Photo Transfer by Stephen Murphy

Sunday on our house includes the call from relatives at 9 am. It's a regular event. Terri, my better half is on the phone for an hour or so with her sister in Denver. I usually start breakfast to be ready when the phone call is done. One of my favourite things to make is a fritatta. I fry up left over veges and alike , add the eggs, herbs and let them part cook on the stove top and then pop it in the oven to finish it off. Yum.

I don't do an inordinate amount of cooking but I try. I love recipe books with good illustrations or photos in them. Frances Mayes lavishly illustrated books are a favourite and they have some pretty good recipes interspersed throughout. I do like looking the pictures of the finished recipe. 'In Tuscany' is one of the best for recipes.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A River Runs Through It

The Official Movie Poster

' In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.'

'I am haunted by waters.'

The first & closing lines to a classic American novella. The last paragraph of this book is a beautiful meditation on life.
All this talk of rivers brings me to this wonderful book where the river and fly fishing ties the life of one Presbyterian family together while providing a refuge and a possible moment of grace. The book, A River Runs Through It was written by Norman Maclean and based on the authors experiences. Norman Maclean worked summers in logging camps and for The US Forest Service in his youth before becoming a professor of English at The University of Chicago. He has written one other book on the Mann Gulch Forest Fire in 1949 in Montana, Young Men and Fire. A River Runs Through It is a great read and if you get a chance pick up the illustrated version by Barry Moser, one of North Americas finest wood engravers. The Moser edition was issued in a deluxe edition of 6 copies and a Ltd Edition of 2oo both printed letterpress by the Penny Royal Press. These were signed by both Maclean and Moser but only after the publisher agreed to reissue the colophon page as the fly tyer, George Croonenberghs’ name was misspelled and Maclean would not sign them until it was corrected. It was Croonenberghs’ flies that were used as the models for a number of engravings in the book. It's also available in a trade hard back published by the University of Chicago Press. His stark engravings are a wonderful accompaniment to the text.
Moser's engravings are sometimes very dark. His rendition of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein is downright scary. His landmark treatment of the New Testament in The Pennyroyal Caxton Edition is monumental & ground breaking if not controversial.
The movie by Robert Redford is haunting. The fishing scenes in this movie are nothing short of mystical & spectacular; then there is Brad Pitt too. Although it's a tragic story, the film and the book has some wonderful moments of merriment including Norman's girlfriend's brother who gets a little too much sun while "fishing". I do love Redford's films. Two of my other favourites are The Milagro Beanfield War and The Bridges of Madison County (A real tear jerker, the book too.)
Most of the book focuses on The Big Backfoot river, fishing and the camaraderie of both Norman and his brother Paul. I do hope you get a chance to read this book someday.

'Eventually all things merge into one and a river runs through it'

The Willows

I've been fishing for Cutthroats the past two days. It's been a world way for me. No phones or computers just the soothing sound of the river, birds, animals and everything else that goes with a day on two on the river.
It got me thinking about "The Willows" and then I read Margaret's post about Tasha Tudor & I knew it was time for The Wind in The Willows (The Willows) by Kenneth Grahame, one of my all time favourite reads. It did and still does take me away, along the byways and the hedgerows of the English country side. I love the characters and I do like 'Ol Toad, the scoundrel. It's the story of Mole waking up out of hibernation and meeting Ratty & their madcap adventures with Toad . It's about boats and the river the discovery of the automobile and chance encounters during their many laughable adventures together and separately. I particularly like the corrupting influence of Toad over Ratty and Mole when before they know it he has talked them into hopping in a horse draw Gypsy style caravan and going on an adventure in the countryside.
The genesis of the Willows was the story letters from Kenneth Grahame to his entertain his son, Alister. Alister was a tempestuous boy by all accounts and sickly. Upon retirement as Secretary for the Bank of England he started to collect the ideas from the letters and write the book. There are some good reads on the letters and on Grahame who had somewhat of a tragic life. He also wrote other children's books including Dream Days,The Golden Days and The Reluctant Dragon.
The Willows was published October 4 1908, making this year it's 100Th anniversary. I've been planning around this for some time as I will doing a feature show in the gallery on 'The Willows" in October to co-incide with the anniversary. We are going to have a good selection of early editions including a 1st American Edition, The Nancy Burkhart illustrated edition, the 1st Edition illustrated by Earnest Shepard. We will also have illustrated editions by Inga Moore, Michel Plexis, Arthur Rackham, Tasha Tudor and Charles Van Sandwyk. If you have any suggestions for other illustrated editions please share.
Vancouver artist Charles van Sandwyk, was commissioned by the Folio Society of London to re illustrate the Willows on 2004. The book has won an award for cover design and comes in a handsome slipcase with a willows design by Charles. It was 2 years in the making and includes many line drawings as well as colour illustrations. The coloured illustrations are a mix of pen & ink and watercolour or sepia/handcoloured etchings. I think Charles has done the Willows proud. He has captured the characters so well and there is a wonderful warmth in the illustrations. He travelled to England and visited the Cookham Dean area and spent time on the river Thames there to do study sketches. An illustrators limited edition of this was issued by Charles with a signed etching bound in & they were snapped up very quickly. We will be exhibiting the original art of Charles Van Sandwyk from the Willows as a part of this show.
If you haven't read it lately I encourage you to pick up a copy, have a cup of tea (chocolate covered biscuits an essential accompaniment), relax by the fire (falls nip is in the air) and then drift away.

More to come on this.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Private Press

The private press is a small press that publishes its own works. In this day and age they are few and far between. In Canada we have some wonderful private presses operating including a couple from the west coast called Barbarian Press & Heavenly Monkey. In many cases the books being printed are printed by hand using a hand press. Usually the text is illustrated with woodcuts, wood-engravings or etchings and makes for a very attractive volume.

The type is set by hand using either cold type(Individual pieces ie letters) or hot type where a machine produces lines of type as the result of keypunch similar to a type writer. Hot type can be melted down and reused whereas cold type is dis-assembled and used again. Once the type is set it is rolled with ink and printed by hand usually onto quality acid free handmade paper. Once the pages including text and illustration are printed they are cut and collated and usally hand bound and some cases a protective slipcase or box is created specifically to house that volume. On a very special limited edition a suite of extra copies of the illustrations will be included and may even be handcoloured and signed by the artist. These editions are small and typically can be 20 - 200 copies only so they are highly collectable.

Being a fan of the book arts I have to spend a little time on my hero William Morris. In an age when the machine was taking over he went the other direction and decided that quality was of the utmost importance. In setting up Kelmscott Press he went against the grain and produced quality, letterpress printed laborousily illustrated and then hand bound.

Probably the most famous of all private press books the Kelmscott Chaucer, as it is called, was printed in a small edition (125 I think) by William Morris. It is illustrated by Burne Jones and has very elaborate designs by William Morris. Originally it was bound in pig skin with a very detailed tooled design. I have a facsimile copy by World Press that includes a cover with the original design. Recently one at auction fetched $140,000.00. A lot of them are in institutional collections.

Other famous presses include the Doves Press, The Golden Cockerel Press & Gehenna Press.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The One Ring

I'm currently reading Tolkien's Ring by David Day & illustrated by Alan Lee who also masterly illustrated a version of the Lord of the Rings.

The basis synopsis is that Tolkien borrows from ancient myths regarding the Ring. The author postulates that Tolkien has used naming, ideas and concepts regarding the power of the Ring in ancient myths including Norse, Celtic, Judea Christian, Carolingian as well as other cultural Ring myths. He spends significant time comparing Odin's tales of Norse , The Vosunga Sagas, the Germain Nibling and Arthurian Myth to make his case.

In most cases Tolkien, he asserts, has changed the basic concept of an all powerful ring whose function is to accord special extra worldly powers to the wearer. There is little if any moral responsibility associated with the use of the power. Tolkien however was focused on the how power corrupts absolutely in that even Gandalf could not resist the power of the one evil ring and had to resist the tempatation to wear the ring. Tolkiens epic battle of good and evil is focused on destroying what was made to currupt and focus the power of evil, the one Ring. Only if that source of evil is destroyed , where it was created, and then good can triumph over evil.

There is a very interesting comparison to Odin and the one ring 'Draupnir' which dripped new gold rings (8) every nine days. Also interesting is the tie in between Odin's sword in the tree v/s Arthur's sword in the stone.

The author also has an interesting look at alchemy and the ring, the use of fire to forge the ring , and how the use of fire in LOTR played out. He equates the one Ring to 'Ouroborus', the serpent ring of the alchemist tradition, born of fire. The battle of 'good fire' Gandalf and 'bad fire' Balrog resulted in the destruction of both but Gandalf was "raised again" as Gandalf the White.

The fact is Tolkien has constructed his own fantasy world. He created an epic that has stood the test of time and has become one of the greatest fantasy stories of all time. It seems to me that we all borrow either consciously or unconsciously from the past. If Tolkien indeed did borrow from such myths that is neither here nor there. In the art world I see syncronicity happening all the time. The "ether" is all around and we all can draw from it. Sometimes we may have a few borrow the same thought or idea at the same time.

It certainly is an interesting read. there is a good amount of discussion of the "otherworlds' and this earth world. The author presents his arguments but in no way moralises over Tolkien's use of elements from ancient myth. I would have appreciated a list of chapter resources at the end of book for research purposes. Certainly food for thought and quite well illustrated by Alan Lee.

For me the striking reality is that so much of what we are today is rooted on the ancients. In many cases our religions have melded and incorporated mystical elements of shamanisim and ancient myth. I think we can learn so much from the past, that is if we ever learn. We certainly can learn from the ancients by listenening and absorbing from the "ether". I call it 'listening in" or being intuitive.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Illustrated Books

1st blog ever!! I'm a book lover and in particular I admire Illustrated, handmade, artists'& fine press books . A book collector I am... and proud of it. I'm particulary fond of Beatrix Potter Arthur Rackham & Rockwell Kent. I like the blend of illustration with hand crafted text on quality paper and bound to suit the text. A couple of my favourite books include the Kelmscott Chaucer, Undine-illustrated by Arthur Rackham , Walter Cranes illustrated Faerie Queen by Spenser & Rockwell Kents landmark 3 volume illustrated edition of Moby Dick.

I love the feel and smell of leather bound books and the decoration thereof. Velum, hand made paper, watermarked paper all contribute to a fine book. Letterpress printed text is is so textural and rich and when typographically set by a master can almost jumpoff the page!!

I' m huge fan of Charles van Sandwyk who is a Canadian treasure of an illustrator and book designer with his small press , The Fairy Press based out of North Vancouver BC.