Robbi, Tilly, and I had been working in the studio all afternoon. We were starting to feel a bit stale. So I decided to mix things up a bit by doing a bit of writing. Here’s what I came up with:
A small curd named Franz was melancholy. There were so many curds in the world that resembled him in every way. Same color, same texture, same relative size. He was neither distinguished nor celebrated. Such was his thirst for notoriety, that he would have gladly perpetrated hideous crimes. But he was handless and inert, sentient yet incapable of self-determination.
I was pleased with the short and stirring tale of Franz, but rather than stuff it into some folder that would never again see the light of day, I decided to send it to Tilly to see what might happen.
Here’s what I wrote: “Here is some language for you to illustrate. Take a break and draw!”
A few minutes later, I got this in my inbox.
Long live collaboration. More than one head is simply better. Especially when the other head is Tilly’s.
On Friday, we did another five-minute drawing session. This time we let Alden pick the topic, and she chose “painting.” We feverishly scratched, scrawled, and painted as the brief allotted moments ticked away, Alden, Robbi, Tilly, Alden and me. Actually, Alden made a few halfhearted swipes of the pencil and then decided that five-minute drawing wasn’t her cup of tea. I made an awful drawing that I honestly can’t find at the moment (though my inability to locate it is truly your gain). Robbi, working on her iPad, came up with this.
Robbi + iPad painting program = mood. It’s fun to see her work with big, dark blocks of color when her usual approach is to float her subjects in white space. I love the intensity of that red, leaping up like a fire. And, of course, I love the combination of image and word even when the word in question is not my own.
And Tilly, drew this wonderful piece—a painting of Alden painting. And of August hanging from the beam in his bungee bouncer behind her.
I love it. She perfectly captured them both. August’s blank wonder, Alden’s intensity. And hair. Let’s not forget the hair. I love the blue ballpoint and watercolor combo. I love how loose and yet confident it is. I love that August is nothing but a few loose strokes of the pen, but that he’s there, his big round head defined by a simple circle of paint that defied even the lines that endeavored to contain it.
It’s a pleasure to spend my days surrounded by people who can conjure images out of nothing, translating a few simple gestures into expressions of beauty and intrigue.
And all in five minutes.
What do you think we do here all day? Work? Psshaw to you then. No, we transcend the mortal confines of phone calls, the postal service, and emails. In just five minutes, Matthew and I discovered a loop hole in this dimension called “reality.” At the strike of 1:00, I announced that we would draw “The Most Fantastical, Mystical Band of Cosmic Dancing Angels Ever”, then our pens set to paper and by 1:05 we had tapped into the voices of our limitless brethren of the deep space beyond. They showed us how to sing and dance and float. And then they told us to get back to work. Well, it was nice for five minutes anyway.
Matthew’s angelic ancestors at the gates of heaven:
Tilly’s winged, wild ones with the winds of time:
A five minute break to draw some random, fantastical hullabaloo can go a long way. Try it sometime.
It’s the middle of summer and the creatures are out. Especially at night. I love to go on night walks down the road between soybean fields and trees. Often, there is an owl hooting or a fox screaming, which sounds like a shrieking person in agony. As you know, when it’s hot out there are lots of bugs. The lightning bugs sparkle and get mixed in with stars. And as you also know, there are mosquitoes, and when those mosquitoes aren’t eating you, bats are eating them.
Well, I didn’t have to go outside to see a bat the other night. The bat came to me. “What is that little fuzz ball on the floor?” It was a real live bat! And so cute!
Its tiny ears! Its rabbit-soft fur!
We put it in a plastic bag to let it go without actually having to touch it. Who wants rabies? Not me. It wasn’t so cute then.
Adorable, terrifying, beautiful. What strange creatures bats are. It reminds me of a song.
Bats may freak you out, or tear you up emotionally by deceiving you with their temporary cuteness, but they are a beautiful part of summer nights, and so good at counting.
Robbi, Matthew, and the crew are out of town again for a few days, so here I am feeding cats and soaking up the silence. Without the Idiots here to assign tasks, or the children to show me tricks, all I can do is notice the play of daylight on the discreet, mundane objects that are the stuff of life.
This is where Oscar the cat gets his food. The color of the dish is a bright, deep red that shows up frequently around here on such things as plant pots, doors, and rugs.
I noticed this conversation of lines and colors just above Oscar’s dish. There’s that red again in a ribbon that hangs from a curtain rod. Its end once wrapped around a tiny teddy bear, acting as a cat toy.
After noticing these quiet, but delightful scenes I turned around and saw this on the floor. Remnants of Alden as she left them.
I wasn’t looking for any of these things. They just stuck out to me. It’s easier to notice the dynamic interaction between nicely lighted objects when no one is around. No one except cats.
Hello there! This is Tilghman speaking. You may call me Tilly. If you were paying attention, you would know that I am taking care of the barn while Matthew, Robbi, and their crew are in Alaska. After taking a scrupulous inventory of the foodstuffs, I tackled the mailing of Volume 35 of Idiots’Books. The tackling took place partly at the Chestertown Post Office. Thank you, Chestertown for being small, but not too small for a post office.
Congratulations if you are going to receive a copy of Volume 35. You will be pleased not only with the contents of the package, but with the package itself. A tube! You can bonk creatures on the head with it! Or remove the caps and use it as a telescope!
But seriously, it’s a wonderful 35th volume. Again, if you have been paying the least bit of attention to this very important blog, you would already know that this hot, new book is actually not a book at all. Matthew and Robbi are taking advantage of the poor, gullible subscribers once again. It’s a poster! Okay, a fancy poster. So fancy that you can call it a broadside. It was printed on a beaut of a letterpress printing machine called a Vandercook.
So, even though subscribers are getting jipped out of a book, I guess it’s okay because these fancy posters are pretty darn nice.
And check out the cool plates that were used to print it- photo polymer plate for printing letterpress in the contemporary world.
Once subscriptions were mailed I had more important things to think about, like that food inventory. . . my friends and I decided to eat all of Matthew and Robbi’s goldfish. What are they gonna do about it? They’re all the way in Alaska. Ha!
In other news, Chestertown is as hot as a whale’s armpit, but it’s still lovely.
As I admired the lush gardens of Chestertown’s fine homes, I found a little Robin’s egg.
Absolutely nothing else has happened.
That’s right folks. I, Tilly was there for all the action. At the Williams Reunion I was a passive observer as the nostalgia and camaraderie took full force on the beautiful campus strewn with 37-year-olds and their hordes of children. After a weekend of bouncing babies and chasing children, Matthew and Robbi provided me with the glorious privilege of running down the tallest mountain in Massachucetts, Mt. Greylock.
If they dropped me off at mountain tops on a regular basis, this internship could last forever. From beautiful Berkshire County, we moved on to meet Matthew’s lovely mother in Andover. There we strolled around the greens of the prestigious Phillips Academy where a recent famous movie was filmed. *(Email me if you know what movie that is and whoever answers correctly may ask me to make them a drawing of anything, and I’ll mail it to you!)*
We went to the ICON7 Illustration Conference for the last part of our trip in Providence, Rhode Island where so many things happened and even more were seen by my eyes as I walked through the city with August strapped to my chest. There were men making a tape mural on the side of the hotel we stayed in. They’ve made more than FIVE HUNDRED tape murals so far! And they weren’t even very old men.
In fact, they were youngish, and very friendly and knew where to find good pizza. With the intention of following Doug the Baker’s expert opinion for some award-winning, New York style, whole-wheat pizza, we were too wooed by the tape snake men and so we took their recommendation instead.
With my keen navigation skills, and against Robbi and Matthew’s flawed navigation skills, I found the most popular spot to relax by the water in Providence.
“Narragansett Bay Commission. Wet Weather Sewage Discharge” mmm.
After the pleasures of pizza and pondwater, the Idiots had some serious lecturing to listen to at the conference and it was my duty to find food for them to eat between lectures so that they could continue learning with all of their synapses firing properly. And so, with many lectures to attend, and no way to get food except from me at their brief lunch break, they had to take whatever I gave them.
“This Could Be Your Last Five Minutes Alive” … Providence is rough, ya’ll.
Chewy starch log in a soup of Korean spices and mysterious little bits.
And what was there a lot of on this trip? Well, there were a lot of aliens.
Aliens with good taste, I’ll have you know. They had the best seats for the Idiots’ lecture.
There was also a lot of time spent with August while his parents were off becoming smarter and famouser.
And, as I’m learning is the usual with these Idiots and their excursions, there was a lot of stuff.
All in all, a great road trip.
Hello! This is Tilly! I’m still here doing book related things with Matthew and Robbi, and I will be for a while, so expect more of me.
Today I went over to Washington College’s Literary House to help our friend Jim, book connoisseur and printer extraordinaire, with the printing of Idiots’Books Volume 35. The work in progress is a broadside detailing the opportunities, or lack thereof, that any given baby can expect in the life ahead of them. The chart comes from Idiots’ Book Volume 32, Avoid Disappointment and Future Regret.
Jim has been practicing letterpress printing since the 80′s when he found an old Chandler Price press in a barn and asked someone what it was. I’ve practiced other forms of printmaking like etching, lithography, and offset, but I hadn’t yet tried letterpress. Jim showed me how to line up the registration marks, a tricky task involving miniscule adjustments that make a big difference. Once it was all set up, I handed Jim blank sheets and stacked the printed sheets in a pile. The yellow layer was printed successfully. Tomorrow it’s blue and then we still have to do a black layer, which will be the trickiest part to line up.
It was a joy to be back in a print-shop. After three semesters of offset printing, I knew I would miss the print-studio environment. I had been to the Lit. House only once before to see the Idiots’ mural when it was freshly finished. I’m glad I got to go back and make stuff in it.
Hurrah for printmaking!
For all of you subscribers out there (I know you’re out there SOMEWHERE…) – here’s a little peek at what’s coming down the pike:
Delicious, supple, watermarked Hahnemühle paper:
Brand, spankin’ new photopolymer plates from Boxcar:
One for each color – yellow, blue and black:
(Baby manufactured in-house.)
Yep. It’s coming. Volume 35 is going to be a letterpress broadside (read backwards for proof):
It’s going to be intern Tilly’s first Idiots’Books project – though I love to slave over a hot press, I figure it’s a learning opportunity I can be gracious about letting go of. We’ll keep you posted.
I promise, it’s going to be GOOD.
We were so excited about Tilly’s arrival in the Barn. Things were going to be great. All of the less-than-critical-but-still-pretty-important stuff that we don’t have time to do was suddenly, as if by magic, going to be done by someone else. Tilly showed up, eager and willing to dive into anything and everything. For the first four days of her internship, it was smooth sailing.
But this morning, August woke up with other ideas. All week, he has listened attentively as we walked Tilly through her responsibilities. And just now, before any of us had a chance to say otherwise, he climbed up onto Tilly’s stool, and the coup was on.
As an intern, he was utterly ineffective. His file management protocol is less than laughable. His sense of layout is pedestrian. And he has a childlike affinity for comic sans.
And Tilly told him so.
Pulling no punches, I might add.
Four days into her internship, Tilly has proven several things:
1) she works hard and listens well
2) she is smart and capable
3) she won’t put up with sass from babies
August has slunk of into some corner to bask in his wretched irrelevance. All that remains of him is a tear-soaked Kleenex.
Give it another 22 years, kid. Maybe someday you can hope to equal the magnificence of Tilly.