Thinking About Images

Paducah sketchbook crow print page

I am having several thoughts about how to use images. The use of computer altered photographs only works for me when they are needed for illustration purposes. In other words paired with the text of a poem or other linear narratives. They seem to require more than just computer manipulation to be associated with the maker. They need a context that reveals the particular artist’s voice. Otherwise they seem to be so much about the technology and not the maker and become ubiquitous in a way that I wonder if I haven’t seen it before.

In reworking some of my wood blocks this week for the garden book, I looked at previous bindings that I have done and how I used the images to pair with the text. Small poetry books on Australia required me altering my own photographs via computer technology to get the “colored etching” look that I wanted to go with the narratives. Their bindings could be pulled out to view the vast landscapes of Australia which was another choice made to fit the content.

Webster AusPoem2


Because the images are full of details that speak to the land of Australia, they are placed to the right and take precedence over the words. Whereas in other poetry books I have done, the simple block prints are only there in service to the stories and are continually placed to the left side throughout the book. It is a question of what is the priority I think.

Small Owning Stones book open


owning stones text page


Here are samples of how that changes. In illustrating my poem, “Stone Stories”, I made small wood engravings of some of my small stone collection and slit the left hand side to hold the images as the book is read left to right one page at a time or in this case can be pulled out into one long line of image alternating with text.

In the one below it the engravings were hand printed in conjunction with a collograph in its likeness at the same time. There was absolutely no room for error here or I had to start over. The text of the poem appears on the concertina binding that comes through the spine and is held in place. The viewer can not pull this book out but sees two images while reading two pages front and back. Obviously there was an extremely small edition of three of this one. And the one above was easier to make an edition of not more than six. The illustrations and text fit with each other in both cases.

But here is a sample of how I used altered images another way.


I was only interested in designing a binding that closed around the idea of a bamboo garden. I copied a photo of the bamboo into the computer and made several simple black and white copies after it was altered, back then it was a choice called “outline only”. Then I hand colored them and cut and pasted together in a long strip. Next I randomly made folds so that some of the bamboo came forward and others stayed back. It too can be pulled out to give the sense of standing in the bamboo forest. But the main thing for me was the bamboo suggesting closure that catches on itself. I followed it up with water garden book with a lotus as a closure and a sunflower closing another about what is behind a garden gate. They were fun to do and I learned a lot while playing with those ideas.

And one more way I have used prints.

Joe' class=


I used the coffee bag from a local coffee shop and one of his coffee stirrers in the binding of a blank journal for the owner and his assistant. On the inside cover I used a collograph print that I still had from undergraduate school. When I originally made these prints they were in a series of all the ways I had been served coffee done on small plates and then printed in a spaced line across the paper.

The point of all this posting of images and books and thoughts about computer generated imagery is that I am going to tackle something totally different and try to get my garden book using the wood block images to open up into three sections that make the viewer feel they are actually in the garden. I plan to cut away some of the small images to be spaced in front of the background images. I have no idea if it will work nor do I have a plan for binding this small edition. All I do know is that it will take careful planning with measurements and functionality. More on this when I proceed.

Now I am off to the North Carolina Soils and Water Conservation International Conference to introduce others to earth pigments and printmaking.