Tag Archives: book

A Book With Illustrations

You may know that I have another blog, Claudia McGill Writes Poetry, Did You Know That? – or if you didn’t, well, now you do! I also create print books containing my poetry. I’ve done quite a few in the past several years because…I like to write, and I like seeing my work in print. (The volumes are all available on Amazon, if you want to take a look.)

All right. What’s my point? Well, I’ve just published a book that’s a little different. It’s called Minuscule, and it contains very short stories followed by a summing-up haiku/shadorma/tanka. And…it is illustrated, which is why I am telling you about it here.

As a little background, I started writing the stories from a prompt about two years ago – it was Halloween time, and the idea was to write a horror story in two sentences. Well, I did, and though I didn’t send it in to the site that issued the prompt (writing it being enough for me), I kind of got hooked on the 2-sentence format. The poetry addition was my idea and then, when I has gathered a collection of the stories, I went further and decided to give them pictures.

Here are a couple of examples – this lady…

…and this blob…

I think that I will post some of the images sometime down the line, but I don’t plan to post each story/poem/image as it appears in the book. I will let the book be the definitive source of my Minuscule moments. If you are interested, the book is available on Amazon right here.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending July 27

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art! Let’s do some art!

Saturday, July 21 – Last night I had the four paintings in progress upstairs in my living room, staring at me as I tried to watch TV and do a crossword puzzle. As you know, I put work in progress there in order to let it sort of soak in, let me see if I am done with the works or not. The answer for this group was – the beachgoer painting continued to bother me. Here’s how it was:

AD 7-20 #102

Sometimes, it is better to start a painting over than to continue to work on it. When my husband said he thought the lady’s arm looked like a turkey leg (I had to agree), it was just the push I needed. I grabbed that painting and took it back downstairs to the studio.

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To me, the painting had too many problems. I judge my work by the feeling I get from it – I can only describe it as things being in balance. If the painting is not at that state, I have an uneasy feeling.

It sounds airy, I know. But years of doing art have taught me to listen to this feeling.

Not knowing where I was going with this painting had left me with a work that lacked that spark I want to see. In frustration, I revised the lady again. Still no good. In more frustration, I turned the painting 90 degrees. Now the lady was sitting in a beach chair. It seemed right. So here she is. I hope this will be it for this lady. I bet she does too.

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All right. On Saturday morning I stopped at the Ceramic Shop in Norristown to buy more underglazes.

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I wanted to start work on my recently fired figurines. You remember that I had prepared their faces last week. Here are puff people waiting for color.

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I’ve made this style of figurine before but never with color patterns applied in the fashion I am using today. I was not sure how things would go. I put Jet Black Velvet underglaze over their bodies, leaving their faces clear.

Then I applied color in patterns as usual. I think things went pretty well. Here they are at the end of the session.

I took them out and set them in the kiln (which is half-loaded with other work).

Sunday, July 22 – I worked on this painting for a little while. I am happier with it now, too.

Next, I went into the basement to work on some clay figurines. Today, the cats and some of the round women figures. I gave them their Jet Black Velvet underglaze base coat:

AD 7-22 #3

Then I set to work. I did not finish them all, so I’ll continue with them and ad more to the crowd, maybe tomorrow. I also worked on the clay rocks.

Monday,July 23 – I decided to work on some illustrations for my anticipated Minuscule book. I’m making pictures to go along with the tiny stories and poems.

I usually make more than one version of the image idea I have chosen. I’m not always happy wit the first version, though I never know what I’m going to get with the second or later versions. I’m not the kind of artist who can do the same thing twice in a row. Sometimes that is good and sometimes less good. Luckily, these stories just need one picture. I choose the one I like best. Then, the discards, I either keep the whole picture, figuring I can do something else with it later – or I cut it up. I’m saving these pieces for collage works later on.

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Tuesday, July 24 – I worked on clay today. I finished up the color details from the figurines I was working on earlier in the week. Then I prepared this group:

to be colored later on, by giving them their initial coat of Jet Black Velvet underglaze.

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It takes time to apply the black around all the details of the figure while leaving neat edges and a good solid coat of underglaze. If I wanted to sell figures such as these in production, I would need to do some redesign so as to simplify and speed up this step. (I also probably would never do the amount of color detail work that I do).

Now, I might sell these, and I might give them away, but in either case, I don’t really care how long it takes me to do them. It’s not production, it’s really more for my enjoyment. So I’m good with the way they are designed.

Friday, July 27 – Some family issues that require my attention have come up over the past week, and so art has had to take a back seat. Depending on events, I’m sure I’ll be working on projects but I don’t know on what or how much. I’ll just see how it goes.


See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending June 15

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Happy Art Week to all.

Saturday, June 9 – After a walk in Norristown Farm Park, my husband and I stopped by the Ceramic Shop in Norristown to pick up an order I had placed earlier in the week.

I am very lucky to have this resource so close to my house – clay supply outlets are not plentiful and shipping is very expensive for clay (for example, I only bought 100 pounds, and shipping of $60 was more than the clay itself cost). Even better for me, this store used to be located in Philadelphia in a warehouse-type spot on one of those smallish city streets, and no parking. They moved here about a year or so ago and I was thrilled.

We parked in the lot:

AD 6-9 #2001

and went inside.

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You can buy just about any clay-related item here, from kilns to wheels to clay to tools to glazes. I have learned it is better to order on the internet and then go in a few days later to pick up – your order is all ready for you to take right away. I will show you some of the things clay people find in this store:

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Tools galore.

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This is the Velvet underglaze display, these being the products I use. Notice the sample board above the jars. It shows each color, fired at the correct range for the product, and how it will look with or without glaze. This type of display is found with each coloring product so that you can get an idea of what it will look like when fired. It’s especially necessary with glazes, as how they look in the jar is not how they will look when fired. At all.

AD 6-9 #6005

Underglaze pencils. They “write” on the clay like a colored pencil (you can see the samples on the mugs holding the pencils). I have used a similar thing, underglaze pastels, in my work, and I like the crayony look they offer.

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Whisks – Or you could just get the one out of your kitchen…

These  whisks can be used for stirring large buckets of glaze mixture. In large production studios, glazes are often mixed from powders and chemicals with water added. Production work requires large quantities of glaze so it’s more economical to do this, plus it ensures color matching for all items glazed from a particular session.

A bucket-load of glaze is literally what is needed – production work is usually dipped in the glaze rather than brushed on. Saves time and ensures a very even coat of glaze.

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Kiln furniture. These items are all used for glazed items that have a glaze coat on the bottom or otherwise can’t be set on the kiln shelf. Remember, a glazed piece will glue itself permanently to a kiln shelf if any glaze is on its bottom, ruining the piece and the shelf. These furnitures are set on the shelf with the nails up – the glazed piece rests on the little pinpoints of the nails and does not stick.

I wandered around for a while and treated myself to a couple of small jars of underglaze – new colors to try. I never can resist. When I had paid for them, we drove around to the street side of the building and they brought out our clay to us.

AD 6-9 #1008

I had chosen a couple of tile-cutting tools I carried out separately on my own. I’ll show them later on when I try them out in a new session of clay work.

Sunday, June 10 – Calendar note – I graduated from high school 42 years ago today. Just saying.

Last night and today I spent some time working on a project I mentioned some weeks back – I want to make a print book of my Minuscule story/poem combinations (read an example here) and illustrate it. The writing part of the endeavor moves along apace. I think I need about 100 entries to make a nice book and I’m maybe halfway there.

Illustrating a book is not new to me, but – I’ve always done the pictures first and fit the words to them later. This is a different slant – words first, pictures second. I have been wondering if I can do it. I decided to take the plunge right now and start to find out.

I printed out the writing done so far. I bought paper. I bought India ink (my idea is to do  B/W pictures, very simple, using the ink and my Chinese brushes).

AD 5-5 #4

I got to work. Now, I am a newborn baby as far as this kind of thing goes. I have no idea how to illustrate anything. Be literal? Allude to some element of the story? Sketch something out first? Remember, these stories are only 2 sentences long. Imagine if I had a full-length work to illustrate!

All right. I decided to read over each entry and whatever came to me, that is what I would do.

AD 6-10 # 4002

All right, after some false starts, in fact, many false starts, I got more of an idea of how to proceed. For me, it’s best to just read – close my eyes and imagine -draw. That’s it.

OK. I made a good start.

I feel sure I will be replacing or amending some of these images. Well, that is fine. I can see that by the end of this project I will be much more proficient and confident in my drawing skills as well as my ability to illustrate something. Plus, it was fun to work in this manner.

Some of the failures, well, I cut out parts that I liked. I am sure they will come in handy for some other project down the line.

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Monday, June 11 – I spent a lot of the day doing poetry work, so I had just about an hour to fit in some art time. I had this half-hearted attempt at a tree painting (6″ x 6″) that was really more of an excuse to use up paint from earlier projects.

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Suddenly I saw a man in my tree.

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And another one in that ATC. OK, now I’m going somewhere. To be continued…

I also did a couple of drawings for my Minuscule book project. I’ll say one thing – I anticipate using up a lot of paper. I try to remember – relax, and just work quickly and without thought. Secondly, not to try to be realistic in my depictions – it’s not in my nature. And last, the brush has its way of doing things, don’t fight it.

I did a couple of new images (one with two different versions; I’ll pick one later on) and re-did one from the other day I was not satisfied with. I have the feeling there will be many re-dos but you know, I don’t mind it. I’m in no hurry. And setting myself this kind of assignment, to illustrate this book, well, it will build my skills.

Wednesday, June 13 – Today I thought I’d get into some clay – just sort of play around with it. I got out my 25 pounds of terracotta:

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It’s very fresh and wet. I rolled out a couple of slabs.

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I had only a short time before I was going to leave the house, so I made a few cylinders, wrapping a slab around and joining the edges.

I worked on a figurine or two.

Then I loosely covered the works with plastic (dry-cleaning plastic, the workhouse material of clay artists everywhere) and went off to the gym. In the summer, my basement is very cool and while not damp, it dries items slowly (in winter, the heater and the drier air make a difference in this room). I probably did not need the plastic but it is better to be safe. You cannot un-dry clay.

In the afternoon, I refined my earlier pieces and added some more. Individual shots:

and a group shot.

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Notice in the background of the previous photo the clay cylinder with a dowel running through it supported at each end. I have set this contraption up so that the cylinder can semi-hang from the dowel (it just touches the table) and maintain a more rounded shape until it stiffens a little. I can’t make anything with it until it can stand up on its own.

OK. I left these guys to their own devices and I got out new tools I bought on Saturday.

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What are they? They are tile cutters. You roll them through the slab, then cross the slab, to make the tiles. I read up on their use before I tried them. Interesting thing – you can use them on the clay, straight, to make tiles with sharp angled sides, or you can roll over plastic to make rounded edges. I thought I’d try the plastic option.

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I got some nice results right off the bat. I learned a couple of things. One, things work better when the clay is just not so fresh – let it dry a little and firm up. This reduces the distortion that can happen when the criss-crossing is done.

Two, move slowly and make sure you follow the previous track carefully so as not to double-cut an edge. Three, make sure you take off at a 90-degree angle when you criss-cross, to make certain of square tiles.

I’ll let these firm up a little and tap their edges to re-square them, but I really like the look of them.

Interesting note – if you roll the rollers directly on the clay, it sticks. The recommended treatment is cooking spray on the roller. I will try that next time.

Once I finished up with clay, I went back to painting black edges on paintings…

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Friday, June 15 – This morning I set out all my paintings for review, for two reasons. One, I’ll be at a show this weekend, and I needed to decide which ones to take.

The show will be held in a park and my booth will have all sides available for display, but the car can only fit so much work. So, I had to make some decisions.

Second, I needed to make an inventory of paintings that I will take to my upcoming gallery exhibit in July so that the organizers can make price cards and so on. Not all my work will be hanging but this way, they can make choices what to display without saying – Oh no, we have no information for this piece so it sits out the game!

AD 6-15 #1003

My clay work is drying very slowly in the basement. I plan to work on it a little, if time permits. In that case I will show what happens in next week’s Diary. I thought I’d get this one done early today because I have a variety of non-art things to get out of the way. So that’s it for this week!

See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.

Nothing But Sunshine

In the fall of 2014, Sharon Mann and I started a project that has lasted until today. This post marks the achievement of a goal we set back then – to collaborate on two artist books, using our art and our words.

Nothing But Sunshine -detail woman in pocket small

I have made quite a few artist books, many of them using discarded library books as their base. I’ve posted about them in the past. I have never worked with anyone else on a book, though. Yet Sharon and I have worked together in the past – we exchanged figurines and displayed each other’s in our home towns. Doing an art project seemed to be something that would be fun.

Nothing But Sunshine -detail sun small

Here’s what we did. I grabbed two old books from my pile of ancient library books – these were originally written for children and so were pretty short. We needed books of equal length, so I pasted pages together to form a better surface for artwork as well as getting two books with the same number of pages. I sent one to Sharon and I kept one for me to work on – the idea was that we would do 4 pages and then exchange, keeping that system up until at the end, when we would do the covers and write text.

Nothing But Sunshine detail lady and stove

The books went back and forth between Las Vegas and Philadelphia several times. We worked on things as we could. Life continued on and often got in the way of our artwork, but we persevered. Since we scattered the pages we chose to work on all throughout the book, many of the page spreads feature Sharon’s work on one page and mine on the other. We did not try to construct a narrative with the pictures or even necessarily respond to the other person’s work, but somehow things seemed to flow together. When it came time to write the text in the book I had, I noticed that a sun appeared on almost every page. This image gave me the inspiration for the text I wrote.

I really feel that this experience was something special. Sharon and I have been blog friends for a while. I loved her work from the start. I felt a bond with her just by looking at what she does: it is clear that her family, her home, and her everyday life are her personal and her artistic focus. I feel the same is true of my own work and life. She has always been supportive of my work and generous in her comments. I have made a friend, though she and I live across the United States from each other and will most likely never meet in person.

Nothing But Sunshine detail flowers at night small

So these books express the tie of a friendship that would not have been possible before the internet, and yet they do so in the old-fashioned way. We have created real objects with our art and now we can hold them in our hands. The tangible nature of the work seems important, an attachment between us. It’s a cliché that friends bring sunshine into our lives, and yet it is true, isn’t it? I am amazed that this book somehow blossomed with this message.

Nothing But Sunshine plus flowers book 2-16 small

So, thank you, Sharon, for all you have given to me.


Here is the book. I have shown the images of the pages first and the text is written out below, in case it is hard to see in the pictures. You can find Sharon’s book here.


Nothing But Sunshine

When I started out
I was small.

I see the world.
The sun shines down
on a house
on trees
pink and red and warm.

The sun sees me. Tells me. I hear its voice.
I hear it new
every day.

I hear the sun sparkle on the river.
I listen to the rays
as they fall on the green leaves.

The face of the sun is very old.
The voice of the sun is young each day.

The leaves on the trees and the ferns in the ground
and every other living thing
rest in the warm breeze
under the sun.

I am small.
In the garden I wait.
Sun and sunflowers and sunhat.
The earth under the sun.

Even in the house
calling me to come in for dinner
I hear the voice of the sun.

– I have somewhere to go
Other things to do
But –

– If you reach up to the night sky
and catch a ray of starlight –

– it will keep you company
until tomorrow when I return.

I know
at night
the moon and stars keep watch
over the flowers in the purple-blue world.

They watch over the cat
the lady next door,
the people in cities
fish in the sea
the mountains
everything and everyone under the sky

And when tomorrow is today

I will rush out to meet it

with a wave of its hand
the sun will greet me
and you

Whoever you may be
wherever you live…
in the sea

in a hot bright city

If you are
a doll
a house
a bit of paper
a little girl

a lady just waking up to
a green and gold day

or a cross old woman
the sun can coax into a smile.
Just wait a minute and see.


The last of the artist books from the group I did back in the spring, this one looks very winter-y. I think I had winter still on the mind and the paint colors of the cover sent me in that direction. Remember, I put the little book together, then I do the pictures, and then I write the text, so you can see how that influence happened.

The images for the book are shown first and then I’ve written out the text below.


Oh I cry so hard when I say good-bye
the car slipping on the icy street
disappearing in the blue-gray
dark afternoon and snow falling

and I go back into the house
the only warm and yellow I have
I untie my boots
carefully and set them aside
I sit. I curl my toes in my socks
and I think of thin green leaves

and bright spiral sun
pierced by pointed brown mountains
in a hot summer desert
and I cry so hard
Light and air where did you go.

Hat coat gloves drip melted snow
hang on hooks recovering
from outside
and the window full
of snow and bare tree and
a lot of slippery
watches me
sit in here and cry

so hard I feel double or triple
of me crying and then
one and then two take my hand
I am crying no more three is doubtful but goes along and
now I hold on to warm and yellow and
I read a book.

I feel it inside

Here’s another little artist book. I made it back in the spring. I think I have another one to post from that time, and then I’ll be caught up – don’t know why I’ve let these photos languish in my holding bin.

When I make these little books, I usually have a group of them going at once, and I work on one, then another, a page at a time. I do it this way because the glue or paint or whatever has to dry on one page spread before I can go on to another one, so it makes sense to have several to work on at once.

I created the images with no idea what the text will be or even how the images will relate to one another. I like the serendipity and the formlessness of this approach for its utterly relaxing and undemanding lack of prescribed direction.

When I’ve finished the pages I write up whatever I think makes sense. It is always interesting how the book turns out to have a story or a theme even if I did not try to create it that way.

I am sure I’ll be doing some more books soon – I have some new ones all set up and ready to get to work on.

The images for this book appear first and then I’ve written out the text below.

I Feel It Inside

The orbit of my thoughts:
all the inquiring looks
the examinations
the mysteries
the layers of meaning
all the unknowns the sun shines on

a mirror image
a corporeal being
the colorful life
the everyday solid and sturdy
the landscape of the living
vibrant everything
the patterns the significance the known

The orbit of my thoughts.

Stepped Through the Barrier

Here is an artist book I did back in March. The images of the book pages appear first and then I have written out the text below them.

I painted the pages of the book first and then I created the text to go with the images. I prefer to work this way, rather than illustrating something I have written. Somehow seems to suit my way of thinking so much better! If you see photographs, they are ones that I have taken myself.

Stepped Through the Barrier

Did I tell you I saw her yesterday? Yes, you did.
How did she seem? She seemed the same as always.

I seemed the same as always.
Can you see me and say otherwise?
Another hot day, you told me.
Yes. I agreed with you. Another hot day.

As soon as I stepped into this landscape I knew
it would be empty no matter how long I stood here.
Under the red tree at the bottom of the hill there is only
the under of the red tree at the bottom of the hill. I see that
somewhere along the way I have walked off the road
into the sky, the earth, the paper, the pages.
I wonder if my footprints can be seen

or have I vanished leaving no trace
have I taken myself and left only the hollow remains
of a tree that once had green leaves?

Beyond Vision

This is an artist book I made a few months ago. The photos show the text and art, and then I have put the text on its own below the photos. If you click on the photos, you can easily go through the book pretty much as it is in real life.

Beyond Vision

I am asked if I have seen you.
The question confuses me.
I cannot get my bearings.

The inquiring face crowds me.
I can see nothing else.
Over there, maybe, I say, pointing.
Maybe, over there.

The starry sky hangs over me,
heavy and insecurely attached to
the moon no friend of mine.
I do not know the answer
to the question.

Ask all you want. I cannot tell you.
One face is very like another
to me. One place looks no different
from the next.
You may ask me.
But you must understand
I will answer.
I will tell you nothing.