Art: Monotype Printing

Collage of three silver-green abstract monotype prints on black paper, suggesting sea monsters, lichen, or antlers, by A.E. Graves

Yes, I celebrated having time off my playing with paint, and it was deeply satisfying.

I learn so much every time.

Also, I have an amazing collection of strange shapes I’ve cut by hand based on my own designs, which are covered with layers of paint, and which look great when compiled into albums, so I have fun with the materials beyond the experimental prints.

Book: The Neri Oxman Material Ecology Catalogue, edited by Emily Hall and Jennifer Liese

The Neri Oxman Material Ecology Catalogue
edited by Emily Hall and Jennifer Liese
published by The Museum of Modern Art, NY (MoMA)

Art exhibitions are a special sort of book, and I was excited to obtain this one after having missed the exhibit at MoMA (because: COVID).

The curator’s essay notes that architecture has its movements and manifestos, and that Speculative Critical Design, which could include Oxman and her lab’s practice, “has featured earnest but inconsequential exercises and clichéd storytelling,” which could honestly be a summary of nearly every architectural movement/manifesto (I could stop the sentence here) that hasn’t delivered a robust body of work. Oxman’s written philosophical content can provide insights, but appears intended to produce a shell of theory for the practical purposes of funding an experimental practice. You can gloss over it, admire the design of the catalog itself (modeled in tribute to Stuart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog), and then look at the interesting experiments and models that Oxman and her teams have produced.

Oxman produces attractive art objects that show off the potential of experimental, available natural materials. To utilize these materials, different fabrication methods involving both showy robots and insects are attractively documented, so that the processes behind the forming of materials is clear.

There is a tiny caption in an image “the shellfish industry produces more than 1 million tons of chitin-based waste per year,” and suddenly the context of the many forms and pieces involving chitin is clear. We have abundant supplies of materials that are the byproduct of other industries, which could offer opportunities to escape our petroleum and plastic-based problems.

The emphases on responsible material use, experimental manufacturing, and artistically documented processes interest and please me. Displays of models and experiments charm me (in a way similar to Studio Olafur Eliasson’s geometric model shop), though these models often have forms suggesting industrious insects made them, or perhaps volcanic springs formed them over time – and I mean that as a compliment. There are a few pieces that aren’t as tightly conceptualized to appeal to me (the death masks, for example), but the results are attractive, and they aren’t here to please me alone, so I won’t complain.

This is an attractive, well-designed catalog that shows off intelligent and attractive materials engineering experiments. I appreciate Oxman’s innovative work and overall practice, which is very STEAMY (in the putting the Art back into STEM way).

Book: Rag & Pulp: Creativity with Paper, edited by Correy Baldwin

Cover of Rag & Pulp book from Uppercase Publishing: one of five covers

Rag & Pulp: Creativity with Paper
By Correy Baldwin
Published by Uppercase Publishing, Inc., Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Janine Vangool does many things well at Uppercase, and one of those is providing a video previewing every page of this book on here on this overview page! You know EXACTLY what you are getting before you order it! There are also non-video image spreads to show off selected contents. Go have a look.

This is a beautiful and hefty compilation of artist and manufacturer profiles relating to paper.

Paper sculptors, artists, watercolor paper manufacturers, paper cutters from multiple cultures (papel picado and Asian/international techniques), wet paper oragami artists, African paper bead makers, paper felt painters who form paper from poured colored fiber slurry… While I own multiple books about paper arts, this one has a greater breadth – famous and not famous, industrial and artisanal, Awagami Paper AND lone papermakers – and each profile is longer and more heavily illustrated than in most other such books, providing a better sense of each participant’s product range and/or creative practice. The caliber of the participants is high, and the range of content is impressive.

This is a very professionally produced collection of profiles, and I (a person who has visited paper-making museums in multiple countries!) enjoyed it very much.

Art: Indigo Cotton Handmade Book – progress

four image spreads of an open, oversized indigo-painted book, featuring freehand illustrations in black and white acrylic ink by A.E. Graves

I addition to reading and writing books, I also DRAW in blank books.

The Topdrawer shop (, a subsidiary of Japan’s delightful Itoya brand, has been carrying these handmade, 100% cotton rag paper notebooks from Lamali for a while. They are deckle-edged (meaning you can see how the fibers filled out the frame, untrimmed) and have a nearly crispy texture. The indigo version of the book has indigo-painted pages, and there is something appealing about being able to see the brushmarks, which have a lot of character and variation.

I finally purchased an oversized notebook, and have been filling its pages with abstract acrylic ink drawings. The paper appears to be heavily sized, so my acrylic ink sits on the surface nicely without bleeding or feathering. the contrast is good. The textured surface is hard on the pen tips, but this is why I have replacement pen tips!

Any day I sit and enjoy drawing in this notebook with my markers is a good day.

Book: Uncollected Works 2010 – 2021 by Mateusz Urbanowicz

Book: Uncollected Works 2010 – 2021
by Mateusz Urbanowicz
published by MdN corporation

I’ve written enthusiastically about Urbanowicz’ Tokyo at Night book, and now I’m back for his book of drawings and paintings of Japanese scenes in different seasons and times of day.

These paintings show many types of structures, both traditional and modern, and have the same charm and attention to scale and detail that make Urbanowicz’ art so interesting. Unlike the store fronts, these are broader scenes and wider perspectives. (Yes, he works in anime also, and you can see how some of these could function as studies for both ordinary and extraordinary backgrounds for anime dramas.)

You can see scenes from the book at the artist’s website for this book:

I was happy to purchase this book at Kinokuniya (I can’t believe my SF store has already had a 50 year anniversary!), and appreciate Urbanowicz’ drawing styles, comments on watercolor pencils (I use them, so I laughed out loud), and the skill, sensitivity, and affection this artist has for his subjections.

If you loved Tokyo at Night, you might love this, too!

Art: Drawing practice (for paint cravings)

A collage of recent sketches of boats I’ve seen in recent months, after a long break from drawing

I AM DRAWING – BY HAND! ON PAPER! It has been a while since I’ve done this… I drew often in childhood, and regularly sketched for architecture school in my late teens and early 20s, but after leaving architecture professionally, I stopped drawing regularly. Drawing is slow and thoughtful, and I have too often struggled with long hours and demanding work – drawing felt like something I didn’t have time for. Photography, especially once I started carrying a small camera in my purse, was more accessible – and FASTER. Drawing fell by the wayside, a cost of my non-creative profession.

I never gave up drawing entirely: I still enjoy drawing in flurries, especially when I want to really take my time to enjoy studying things. I’ll take a new sketchbook to a museum, sketch sculptures for a day or two, and then set it aside until the mood strikes again.

I’m drawing again this month, because I’ve been suffering from paint lust. In my fantasies, I’m about to make a series of really great gouache representational paintings, and I’ll need to lay out some great drawings and buy some gouache to make this happen. This is an outrageous fantasy: I have been making primarily abstract (non-representational) drawings and paintings since 2012, so I am out of practice in representational (representing the shape of real world things) drawing. Plus, I have never been IN practice with gouache: I have just one, small notebook with abstract or patterned gouache multimedia sketches.

This fantasy is grandiose, and so I’m putting conditions on it, such as: I can’t buy gouache until I make a representational gouache painting with my existing little set of 5 colors FIRST.

And I can’t make a representational painting without a drawing to guide me, and so this is why the sketches at the top of the page exist. I need the practice. Badly. This is a fun prerequisite, even if I am clumsy and using a museum-gift-shop pencil with multiple leads.


There is more to this plan: I can’t just buy any paint, because gouache paintings are delicate (there is no natural seal against moisture, abrasion, or UV light, like traditionally varnished oils or acrylics have), and I insist on using permanent, artist-grade paints. Gouache has often been used for commercial art with a short lifespan, and so many colorful gouaches aren’t made with stable, long-lasting pigments.

I’ve done my research, ruled out familiar brands with unstable pigments, and have a surprise choice in mind (German!?!), but… I don’t want to write about that until I’m actually painting with that product. So, hopefully I’ll get some more drawings in, and knock out at least one cheerful little painting before money flies out of my wallet for this.

Book: Blue Territory: a Meditation on the Life and art of Joan Mitchell by Robin Lippincott

Image from the SFMoMA shop

Blue Territory: a Meditation on the Life and art of Joan Mitchell
by Robin Lippincott
published by Tidal Press

This is an artist’s biography, but not a traditional one. It does a great job of describing the life of Joan Mitchell, the abstract expressionist painter who spent many of her later years working in Paris while showing in the U.S.

Rather than a list of facts and documents, this biography reads like an oral history, told by a friend who was a big fan of Mitchell’s, who is sharing quotes and interpretations of pivotal phases of Mitchell’s life. It’s fluid, like fiction, as if Lippincott was walking down Paris streets with her and is remembering the mood and the color of the light in between snippets of paraphrased conversation and quotes from interviews.

It isn’t the biography I expected: it was more fun, like having a biography interpreted by a poetic friend.

Book: Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You, edited by Peter Eleey, et al.

Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You
edited / essays by Peter Eleey, Robyn Farrell, Michael Govan, James Rondeau, Zoé Whitley, and more
published by Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and DelMonico Books – DAP

Barbara Kruger’s retrospective has been calling to me from afar, and I was able to buy the book to read up in advance of seeing it!

Kruger’s most famous past works are widely recognized for their iconic consistency: a bold, black and white image with direct, engaging, nearly accusing Future Bold Oblique text on a high-contrast (often red) background. (I can just say, “Your Body is a Battlefield,” and the image will pop into your head!) She’s done much more with words, and I’ve had the pleasure of exploring a room wrapped in her power-questioning, engaging, accusatory texts.

This book features a significant amount of engaging, unsurprisingly bold, unsurprisingly relevant new works by Kruger, plus excellent essays about her and the ongoing relevance of the questions her work asks. Her work quotes Orwell, mocks the powerful, and challenges our willingness to be reduced from active citizens to consumers. The essays approach her challenges to us from different angles, quote James Baldwin, ask about our tendencies to judge, discuss empathy and contempt, and are thoughtful throughout.

The collection of recent work includes long walls/rooms of text, and it’s great to have them in book form to be able to take the time to read them all the way through.

It also comes with homework! There’s a collection of essays at the end which are presented as a sort of “syllabus” to the lessons we could be learning from all of this.

It’s a great book – not just in content, but also in form! The covers are boldly printed book-board with a printed fabric spine, and all the fore-edges are painted the same green as her work (and the x’s on the cover). I appreciate the boldness of the design.

For sale at the LACMA store, and wherever fine art books are sold.

This book is HIGHLY recommended if you love: Barbara Kruger, well-produced art books, text art, and concise, incisive cultural commentary.

Art: Art Supply Rabbit Hole

I have been on an acrylic monotype bender this year, but I hope to return to watercolor painting again. I do it in flurries, and I’m overdue for a return.

I use transparent Japanese, Holbein brand tube watercolors (primarily: I also like a French brand); Swiss watercolor pencils and crayons; and I have a German travel set of watercolors I bought at a museum in Switzerland on one of my last trips there, but haven’t used much since. I also have a tiny mixing set of Holbein’s opaque gouache, which I love, and can mix just about any color I need from. I’ve gone through multiple tubes of it, and love its dense color.

I have enough supplies. Probably. I’m always missing a shade of green or blue that can’t be mixed, but I surely have enough.

Anyway, there’s a type of Japanese watercolor that I (somehow) do not have. It had escaped me, because we call several things “watercolor” in English, but they have different names there.

The paint is called gansai. It is often mineral based, opaque, and generally not vegetarian in composition, commonly using animal skin binders. I wanted to know more about it, to see if a vegetarian version is available, and to know if it offers colors I don’t already have in the only big set of paints I’ve ever bought, which is a set of Holbein’s “antique” Japanese colors.

Does Holbein offer a gansai range? Yes! But only in Japan: the product isn’t available through their US distributor. Also, they don’t address my animal ingredient concern, so I may need to ask.

Is it similar in color range to Holbein Irodori Antique Watercolors? Well, this was a hard question, because that set is no longer listed on the Holbein sites. Why? It has been replaced with a full line of Holbein Irodori GOUACHES!

[insert sound of me, a gouache lover, losing my mind]

Oh oh oh oh oh… I need to know more about this, and found an Irodori fan who runs her own art supply shop in Hanoi to share her insights:

Knowing that I already love gouache complicates my research into gansai… Though it’s not like a huge box of tubes and all the related equipment is very portable, and I was looking for something portable in this instance. (During my business travels, I used the portable tools and got satisfactory results. While I’m at home, the bulky tube paints give me better results, but require more space and equipment. Since I created work while traveling to justify that purchase, this means I can justify having both! 😀 )

So, setting aside how gorgeous the gouache looks (though there are only a few colors that I feel I can’t go on without in that new line), I chose to go back to research gansai.

Is there a vegetarian Gansai: YES! My local supplier, Jet Pens, offers Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors, and specifically notes that they contain no animal products. Hooray!

Did I see other magical things during this research? Oh, goodness yes. Tons of tours of various art supply shops in Japan, plus this gem on one VERY SPECIAL art supply store:

My mind is filled with colorful paint fantasies now… I’ll try not to talk about paint again until I show you something I’ve made with it.

Art: Judy Chicago’s ‘Forever de Young’

Yes, I did choose a viewing spot downwind of the performance. I REGRET NOTHING!

I always marvel at how lucky I am to live in San Francisco. While taking long walks with friends, I often say aloud that we are extraordinarily lucky to live here, in such a beautiful city, with such a vibrant and creative and international population, mild weather year round, and the remarkable influence of the bay and our famous fog.

October 16th was one of those days that inspires outbursts of gratitude, not only because the weather was warm and mild, but also because I also got to participate with friends in an ART EXPERIENCE! The brilliant Judy Chicago performed one of her Atmospheres installations: a gorgeous, colored smoke performance of vast size, here for the public in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.


It’s not every day I come home starry-eyed and reeking of gunpowder, but this was one of those days!

The de Young live-streamed the event, and packaged it with a great overview of the exhibit. It’s a GREAT use of video, and I want to compel everyone I know to see it (giving me a moment’s overlap with the sort of zeal religious missionaries possess, which is a funny feeling).

It was gorgeous; it allowed me to follow my habit of photographing other people while they photograph; it was great to see so many people so excited about an art event; it was pleasant to participate in a masked group activity outdoors; my phone is filled with abstract colors and texts from the friend who participated with me; I left completely delighted.