Wednesday, March 28, 2018


book by book

Where is spring?  Not here.  Not a scrap of green in sight and a good foot of snow still adrift over the garden beds wherein all the crocuses and daffodils continue to sleep.  Not to mention chives and thyme.  And forsythia - nary a blossom.  Usually by now all these welcome harbingers are showing signs of life.  Me too.  But, TEN DAYS of the flu had me caring very little about this, or anything else for that matter.  Last week was the worst.  I was TOO SICK TO READ BOOKS, that's how bad it got for a few days.  I still loved them, intellectually, but I just did not care in my heart of hearts about anything, bookish or otherwise.  It was a truly pitiful place to be and I'm glad to say I have moved beyond that, back onto the map, firmly in the land of the living.  The sun is attempting to come out today and melt some of this white stuff.  I love life and books again, and am in fact writing to share a recent red letter day, in that regard.  Because, my bookplates are here!  They arrived two days ago and I have been examining them with quiet delight ever since.  I unwrapped all of the careful packaging, then paused when I came to the final box:

I had to pace around a bit!  Big moment!  Then I opened the lid and this is what I saw:

I took out one of each bookplate and looked them over carefully - there is our hedgehog friend, for my art books, and then the second design, a flock of Canada geese, airborne, above a meadow and spruce trees, for the rest of my books:

After my initial fit of glee, I unpacked everything, and at the bottom of the box found this folder with the numbered, signed, untrimmed versions.  Ten of each, for keeping or giving:

For a closer look, the final design of the geese bookplate, since I hadn't yet shared it here:

To say I am happy with these bookplates is an understatement to end all understatements.  The designs themselves - these tiny works of art - the creamy paper, the black ink, the scent of the print shop, the impression of the woodblocks, all of it is a WOW, in my book (so to speak).  Frankly I can hardly believe my good fortune, to be able to commission such things from this master engraver who has myriad other projects and collaborations and yet even so, fit these into his schedule.  He has said that there is nothing about what he does that can be rushed.  I will add that his work is certainly worth waiting for.  He has designed and printed well over a hundred bookplates, over the course of many years, and I am thrilled to be part of his ongoing continuum of book-ephemera.  Thank you with all my heart, Andy English!

Yesterday and today I spent time in the book room, eyeing the shelves, making mental notes about which books will end up with bookplates affixed inside their covers and which will not (sorry, dear books, must draw that line somewhere and somehow).  My art books will not present much of a problem - mostly hardcovers, mostly bookplate-worthy, a tidy collection in general, and I have more than enough bookplates for the books I already have on hand, with many to spare for future additions.  The rest of my books, though... I foresee difficulties.  Softcovers...?  If a hardcover was never printed, or if I could simply never afford the hardcover version?  First editions only...?  Beloved reprints too?  A good spring cleaning looms large here, in the book room and the rest of the house in general, and as I begin that task, I look forward to approaching each shelf and making these decisions, book by book.  First, there is no wrong way to do this, I feel.  And second, the doing of it will help me visit with all of my books once again.  Which is a win-win, no matter what.  At this point what I own, or rather have temporary stewardship of, is what I love best.  So many big sorts and culls over the years have left me with a lot of odd, bright gems.  I may clear out even more books, and I may keep some books that surprise me in the long run.  I may add to certain small collections and eliminate others entirely.  The world swirls on, spring surely approaches, but for now it is fine to linger here, in the quiet of the late winter, coming slowly back to life and contemplating things such as this.         

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


spring forward?

Spring...?  Spring...?  Anyone, anyone...?  No takers, apparently.  Because we are in the thick of another blizzard today and tomorrow looks like more of the same.  Also possible flurries the day after that.  The forecast states between one and two feet of new snow, all told.  However, the woodstove is aglow, Hodge is sleeping nearby, Ryan's workplace closed early so he is nearby too, and warm gingerbread just came out of the oven, so we are contented around here, more or less.  I'm also feeling good because I finished volume one of the David Hockney biography by Christopher Simon Sykes, found a decent copy volume two, and am already halfway through reading that - David Hockney: A Pilgrim's Progress 1975-2012 (Doubleday 2014).  In volume one I came across this great statement from Hockney, written by him in 1962 for a group show he took part in (p.116):

"'I paint what I like when I like, and where I like, with occasional nostalgic journeys.  When asked to write on 'the strange possibilities of inspiration' it did occur to me that my own sources of inspiration were wide - but acceptable.  In fact, I am sure my own sources are classic, or even epic themes.  Landscapes of foreign lands, beautiful people, love, propaganda, and major incidents (of my own life).  These seem to me to be reasonably traditional.'"

Pretty great statement of purpose, broad yet specific, BIG but with local feeling too.  It still holds up, after all these years.  Another statement from volume one - Hockney on making money from your art (p.273):

"'If you're an artist,' he wrote, 'the one thing you can do when you get money is to use it to do what you want in art.  That's the only good thing you can ever do for yourself.'"

I would rewrite that last bit to say it's one of the good things you can do for yourself.  There are others!  We just took our tax paperwork to our accountant after spending a previous blizzard-day getting it all sorted out, and I am happy to say that my income from sales of both paintings and books was off the charts last year.  Paintings are in the lead, by a lot.  Books trail far behind but are steady.  I am truly blessed to be able to do what I want to do, and I am taking Hockney's advice and stocking up on everything I need to paint with for the next year and more.  But I am also taking great pleasure in spending some of that money on books, and spending some with other artists, too.  Such as the aforementioned wood engraver Andy English, who is sending this my way:

This is the final state of my first bookplate, printed by Andy from his meticulously engraved block.  He has trimmed all the bookplates by hand.  Each measures three by two inches.  I couldn't be happier, I love it so much!  His engravings of animals, birds, books, and landscapes have charmed me for years and when I suggested that a hedgehog with a palette and brushes was what I most wanted for my art books, this is what he created for me.  Besides being an engraver he is also a painter, and had this small painter's palette on hand to sketch the design from.  I have one too, just like this, hanging on the wall in our living room here at home.

Second bookplate design to follow, soon.  I have the final state and am savoring it.  I feel so greedy, ordering two, but that feeling is akin to book-greed, and therefore not something I feel bad about in the least!  Rather, deep happiness.  I look forward, and hope that a hundred years from now, someone will come across one inside the cover of a book, in a used book shop, and experience that feeling too.   

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