When life gives you lemons, draw them, 11 x 14 inches dry pastels, graphite on paper

"When life gives you lemons, draw them". (Nikki)

"Trust your intuition, it's just like goin' fishin'; you cast your line 'til you get a bite." (Paul Simon)

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Colours For Cameron, first book for my grandson2012: Colors For Cameron

When my grandson was born in 2011, I had already decided to make him a book every year for his birthday. One-year-olds are receptive to colors and textures, so a soft book for Cameron at this age was perfect. Using Monte as my muse, the work evolved into a sort of stuffed toy-book hybrid that is much bigger than was initially planned, but it’s quirky, fun to read, and Cameron likes it. Each 6 x 6 inch page is quilted unbleached cotton sewn over heavy cardboard from a disassembled book purchased at the dollar store. I bought a lot of the things there actually, like many of the textured materials, including a dog toy with the squeaker removed and incorporated into the last page. The savings were spent on tractor buttons and more costly embellishments I knew he would like.

Colours For Cameron, first of many books to come for my grandsonEach page has quilted appliques of Monte in different colors, with big googly eyes. The outer edges of each page have shallow pockets to grab the page, covered whatever textile corresponds to each Monte. The ten or so chubby pages are sewn together – 2 inches of fabric were left on the book’s spine-side for that purpose. The combination was then attached to a sturdy cardboard spine with a glue gun. No turning back after that, because hot glue is permanent on fabric. The entire cover of black linen wraps around with straps that Velcro together, creating a handle. Little button-vehicles adorn the handle area – he loves tractors and cars. I’m happy with the finished piece, and so is Cameron. It’s one of a kind, like him.

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2013: Cameron Can Count to 30

8 x 8 inches markers, watercolors and fixative on canvas. Thinking that acrylics paint would make pages stick together even when dry, I chose watercolors on primed canvas instead, barely diluting the paint so the colors are dense.  Krylon workable fixative works best to protect the work, as it brings out the colors very nicely and it doesn’t hold the caustic smell that regular varnish does.

  1 sunshine 2 shoes 3 blue frogs 4 cups of tea 5 eggs
  6 cats 7 letters 8 balloons 9 trees 10 fingers
  11 toy vehicles 12 T-shirts 13 strawberries 14 colors 15 goldfish


Each page has a hole peeking through to the next page and the one before, where colors match up in such a way that the hole may only be noticed when the page is turned. The holes were filled in for the sake of aesthetics in the images shown here. This peek-hole detail was an afterthought, and since I had already painted most of the pages I was committed to using certain colors, which made the process take longer than it had to. When using this idea next time, the peek-holes will be larger and be the main focus of the book. Large binder rings through grommets on each page hold the book together, so the pages are fairly easy to turn and the book can start anywhere.
 

  16 footprints 17 flowers 18 clouds 19 bubbles 20 teeth
  21 blocks 22 bugs 23 crayons 24 candies 25 balls
  26 apples 27 snowflakes 28 birds 29 leaves 30 rocks




2014 – 2015: Cameron Can Count Backwards from 10 Cover page

When Cameron was still two years old and I asked him what kind of book he’d like next, he answered “Cameron Can Count”. To fulfill his wishes, and my own for a clearer direction, the compromise is a ‘backwards edition’ in the form of an interactive pop-up book. Searching the internet, there are a whole spectrum of paper-oriented art forms, from the craftiest, stamp-iest, cutsey Kricut machine-cut pop up cards to stunning, intricately engineered paper sculptures. The best website sharing easy-to-learn pop-up basics is Extreme Cards and Papercrafting.

Spelling CAMERON, removable magnetic game activity on page 2Starting with research and experimentation, I spent a couple of weeks making prototypes out of plain card stock. There are fantastic selections of decorative paper, tapes and trim designs available in craft stores now, and purchasing these things helped spark imagination and theme visualization. Supplies can be pricey, but less so if using coupons and waiting for sales. There were plenty of miscellaneous materials already on-hand, and the dollar store is always a good resource for finding things like the magnetic car game which was pulled apart and reassembled into a name-spelling activity. Page 2 detail

After the initial creative buzz, somewhere along the way a certain amount of restraint is called for, not just in shopping, but in choosing which pop-up tricks to put where. For me, this stalled the process quite a bit. I was fairly overwhelmed by wanting to include all the bells and whistles, but it’s just not feasible to do every idea that “pops up”. Not only will the pages seem muddled by too many ideas, but increasing the mass presents a super challenge when binding the whole thing together. Mechanisms also need space to work properly, and a book like this needs to be comfortable to read. These were things that only experience could teach. Admittedly, there are a few clunky pages with things falling out of this book. Perhaps with the next book I’ll be able to exercise more of that restraint. Ah, realistically, probably not! Waterfall pull tab assembly, Number 5 page - measure twice, cut once

Balanced with the fun, more ornate facets of book-making, particularly with a pop-up / interactive book, learning and perfecting the basic structural elements cannot be overemphasized. The mathematics of paper mechanisms are unforgiving, and a millimeter off at the start can add up if things are not corrected as much as possible before going forward. Some of the folds are tricky, especially with pop-out lettering. Clean hands and work surfaces are extra important. Some papers show finger marks or buckle too easily, not practical for pop-ups or for children’s books. It becomes necessary to slow down, simplify, think ahead, see how things work, take extra care, and find the kind of patience you didn’t even think was obtainable.

A mouse is hidden somewhere on each number page

Translating the 2 dimensional into 3 dimensional can be frustrating, but as is repeated so often in my blog articles about creating anything, mistakes are a beneficial part of the learning process. It’s definitely hard to have faith in that when pages have to be redone several times though, and some papers are pretty expensive or hard to find again. Well, experience and confidence are earned, and it ain’t cheap!

9 soccer balls move back and forthEach year my books for Cameron will be age-appropriate. He and his little visitor-friends are likely to turn pages harshly and press books open beyond stress points, that’s to be expected. These pages are made primarily with card stock and paper, and some have delicate parts far from durable or practical in a three-year-old’s hands, but young children already know about special things, and if they don’t, it’s the best age to guide them to treat things respectfully. Books are not like toy cars, and Cameron knows the difference. This will be more fun to read with an adult anyway, and it will be given a safe spot on a shelf until it’s time to read.

‘Cameron Can Count Backwards’ was started in July 2014 and just needs finishing touches. It’s March 2015 as this is written, and the book has been bound, but fairly ineffectively. The spine is not wide enough to open pages effectively. It could pass, but why do all this work to have it not open adequately? This setback offers a chance to sew the cover in soft faux leather and improve the overall quality. I’d like it to look like a very old, important, expensive book.
 

  Cover page detail Title Page - letters stamped, cut and glued to separate colors 3 times Page 2, Cameron Page 2 central detail Each side of page 2 has a removable name-spelling activity
  Page 2, a dollar store purchase, plastic alphabet. Letters are removable, can be put on a window or back on the enclosed surface Page 3, Cameron CAN Count, Cameron's Soup labels Page 3 detail Page 2 Cameron's Soup label Page 4 "COUNT"
  Page 4 detail Page 3 has a pocket of removable 3D numbers to count backward or forward Page 3 numbers in hidden pocket Page 3, 10 paper dolls Page 6, number 10
  Page 5, number 10 detail Number 9, soccer balls move back and forth Number 9 mouse 9 soccer balls move back and forth Number 8
  Number 8 details Number 8 mouse Number 7 pages Number 7 mouse in pocket Number 7 extra hidden mouse
  Number 6 Number 6 mouse Number 6, wheel turns to count forward and backward to and from 6 Page 10, Number 5 Number 5 pages: arrow pull-tab reveals "waterfall" technique, flipping open, revealing 5 cars from the movie 'Cars'


There is a title cover page, then a page is made for each separate word in the title, ‘Cameron’, Can’, and ‘Count Backwards’… three extra pages because I absolutely had to make that can! Throughout there are interactive components, and on each page a mouse is hidden somewhere. It took so long to perfect each page, by the time the last pages were under construction the first ones already seemed amateur and needed to be re-done, either by disassembling parts or completely starting over. A person could forever be perfecting one book, but it’s time to finish this one and start the next for Cameron’s fourth birthday.

  Number 5 page detail Number 5 mouse Number 4 page Number 4 page Page 12, number 4 details
  Page 12, number 4 mouse Number 3 pages have three activities Number 3 pull-tab opens both ends at the same time Number 3 pull-tab opens both ends at the same time The threading activity can be removed from the page
  Pocket snap opens, revealing a removable, fun little game Number 3 pocket holds a fun folding game Number 3 pocket holds a fun folding game Number 3 pocket puzzle Number 3 pocket puzzle
  Page 14, number 2 Page 14, number 2 Number 2 mouse Page 15 - last page, number 1 Number one opens up and goes flat
  Last page, number 1 Waterfall pull-tab flips open to all 10 mice Waterfall pull-tab flips open to all 10 mice Left side, top, a removable paper folding / unfolding game counting down from 10. Hands made 3D by layers of nail polish Front page of paper game. Hands made 3D by layers of nail polish
  Paper game opens 10 through 1 Paper game pages open up-down and left-right Number 1, left side: little guy sleeping Little sleeping guy's head lifts up to wake him up A face flap lifts to show goofy face. The feet move sideways and move him up and down