The idea to create ”Alexander’s Library” slowly emerged after taking Laurie Doctor’s class “Speak to me from Everywhere” at the very beginning of 2021. This was an appropriate follow-up to my December retreat because of the contemplative nature of approaching art making that begins with meditation and then writing on the art paper. Rilke’s poem “Only in our doing can we grasp you” served as the first inspiration. Being the new year, what appealed to me was using new techniques and format, a paper new to me, Rives BHK, and a limited palette of three colors that I don’t use; Alizarin Crimson, New Gamboge Yellow and Indigo Blue. (see note below)

“Speak to me from Everywhere” book, front, by Kathleen O'Brien

“Speak to me from Everywhere” book, front, by Kathleen O’Brien

The poem resonated with me, as it has been my practice since I began as an artist to meditate first so I could perceive the energy of the present moment. My imagination was and is the reference point. The poem and the class direction were about meeting the muse. I hadn’t thought of it this way. If I am not amused it becomes difficult to begin.

All the thoughts and inspirations of the moment were written on the large sheet (22 x 30”) using a variety of pens and pencils. The white china marker is invisible on the white paper, making it handy for writing things best kept hidden. After the writing comes the watercolor painting. Finally, the sheet is torn, folded and sewn into a book.

The process of constructing then deconstructing and finally reconstructing was so empowering for reasons I was to unearth later, that I just continued with making books all year. It occurred to me that I had beloved artworks in storage that I could reconstruct into books. What they all have in common is my invented language and mysterious scripts. The next three books were produced from my previous art, after painting on the reverse side before tearing.

“There Is No Hurry” book, pages, by Kathleen O'Brien

“There Is No Hurry” book, pages, by Kathleen O’Brien

“There Is No Hurry” book, front, back & spine, by Kathleen O'Brien

“There Is No Hurry” book, front, back & spine, by Kathleen O’Brien

From this process, I learned that the subject continued to be about the seasons and directions, the same track I’ve followed since the 1980’s. This informed me that they were guidebooks. OK, but why and for whom? My art is always the teacher, so as its student I continued writing, painting the expressions of our deep snowy winter, valentine love and each mid-season‘s potent transitions. I painted marks reminiscent of the change in bird song and first flowerings.

Reverse side of  “Songs From Little Landscapes” book, by Kathleen O'Brien

Reverse side of “Songs From Little Landscapes” book, by Kathleen O’Brien

There was something very comforting in being able to hold, turn the art, and feel the papers. Some of them were on my favorite, Arches Cover, others on Fabriano Rosapina, Saunders Waterford, vellum, translucent papers. I remembered a small book our family made of original drawings, poems, memories for my mother in her last years. She kept it in her side drawer so she could look at it often. That’s when I realized this was a legacy project, one of putting my art in a form that could be easily viewed and preserved. I named the collection after one of my grandsons, with a play on the idea of the Alexandria Library. When I add to this library, I attempt to add my knowledge and experience to objects worth cherishing.

Drawings in “Mom's 90th” book, by Kathleen O'Brien

Drawings in “Mom’s 90th” book, by Kathleen O’Brien

In terms of the empowerment of the process, I notice that often the first painted marks are chaotic. Inherent in the creative activity is the chaos I experience in today’s world. The painting is “destroyed” like the Tower in the Tarot. Then it is rebuilt as a book that conveys a visual reinterpretation of finding a peaceful outcome. Transformation.

”Alexander’s Library” is a collection of journals, really. They are filled with secret writings and tips of the day based on the direction I face, wanting to report the essence of the moment to my grandsons who are far away, and one can’t even read yet!

Grandson's first art in “A Journey Memory Theater” book, by Kathleen O'Brien

Grandson’s first art in “A Journey Memory Theater” book, by Kathleen O’Brien

Note: It turns out, I used the original limited palette for several months, then chose a second limited palette of Organic Vermillion, Marine Blue and Imidazolone Yellow for the summer months. Now I’m on my third limited palette of primary colors, Quinacridone Red, Cadmium Yellow Lemon and Windsor Blue. The study of how many colors can come from three primaries is one that is coming late in my career.

Second pallette, Organic Vermillion, Marine Blue and Imidazolone Yellow, bamboo

Second palette, Organic Vermillion, Marine Blue and Imidazolone Yellow, bamboo

 

%d bloggers like this: