Final Reflection

“Reflections (A)” by Camil Tulcan. Creative Commons licence CC. Image retrieved from

At the beginning of this subject, we were asked to define what we thought a book was. Broadly speaking, I described a book as a ‘container’ of a collection of ideas, thoughts or knowledge. And with e- books and audio-books in mind, I stopped short of saying that a book must be able to be held in the hand. However, I did say that a book in any format must have a beginning and an end, which could be represented physically by the front and back covers, or perhaps by the introduction and conclusion, or something else that denotes a start and finish.

Looking back now from the end of this subject I would still hold to my view of a book as being a container of ideas. However, I would most likely amend, and expand upon the idea of a book needing a beginning and an end and move more towards the idea of the importance of sequence within a book. Ulises Carrion (1985, p.31) described in a far more elegant fashion than I could that a book is “a sequence of spaces…each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment- a book is also a sequence of moments”. When I read this, I was able to see how the idea of sequence must be included when defining what a book is. That is why, I suppose that although the artwork in some picture books may be worthy of being on a gallery wall, they are more successfully viewed as part of a sequence of the book in which they came from, their context is defined somewhat by the images that came before and after them.

The bookmaking interludes that I participated in during the subject assisted with this new understanding as well. I could see that even though the format was changed, the pages still were still set in a sequence (by me, the book’s creator) for viewing. I think that this idea of sequence being one defining quality of a book could still hold up the digital environment. Artist’s books found online still have sequence, hyperlinks may make take the reader on a non-linear journey, but there is still sequence, one thing comes before the other, and as the links are laid to be explored out by the author, the reader never really strays too far from the idea or the message set out by the books creator.

My initial idea of what an artist’s book is has dramatically changed over the course of this subject. My previous thought was that an artist’s book was something like a notebook, or a visual diary used by an artist to plan and to gather ideas as part of their process, and that sometimes these were visually appealing enough to be published. I realise now that an artist’s book is a work of art and a vehicle for expression for the artist that can sit beside and is as relevant as other forms of visual expression such as painting, sculpture and drawing. My new definition of an artist’s book is that it is a container of ideas that is a work of art in its own right, created with purpose by an artist with the intention of communicating their vision. I feel regretful that I have overlooked an entire genre of art form, and look forward to exploring the field of artist’s books with enthusiasm.

Learning about the relationship between image and text in children’s picture books was of particular interest to me as I have young children. I now understand that they are carefully constructed products which rely on a dynamic partnership between two complex systems of communication, image and text to impart their meaning. Of additional interest were the theories relating to the symbolic codes attached to images and how colours, and character placement can be used to impart meaning.  I will certainly use this information to inform my choice next time I choose a book for my children, or for storytime in the library in which I work. I most definitely will never casually read a picture book again.


Carrion, U. (1985). The New Art of making Books. In Lyons, J. (Ed. ). Artists’ books. (pp. 31-43) Layton, Utah, Rochester, N.Y.: G.M. Smith Visual Studies Workshop. 


Books in the Digital Era


joves brother
‘Jove’s Brother’ by Meg Green © 2015 Image retrieved from

Working through this week’s topic of artist’s books in the digital age, we were asked to think about paper based forms that could be considered hypertext. This question made me think about Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series and similar books like the Dragonology and Monsterology ‘manuals’ where non-linear reading is encouraged and you are free to explore and go off on little tangents within the story. I think that they could be considered a paper based form of hypertext, where instead of clicking a link to open up additional text or images, one can open an envelope or lift a flap to reveal other elements of the story.

After visiting the suggested online hypertexts, I could see advantages and disadvantages to this form of media compared to traditional modes of publication. Advantages, in the case of the valley of the shadows being that large amounts of different types (images, text) of information could be contained within the document and easily accessed. Hyperlinks that change colour after viewing make for easy navigation as one can see where one has been. Disadvantages for all of the sites would be that you need equipment (computer, tablet etc.) and an internet connection to view them. Also, there is an issue of the impermanence of web-based text. Hayles (2003, p. 274) explains that electronic text documents can be reprogrammed, whereas print does not move once impressed onto paper. This disadvantage was demonstrated to me when I wished to access some of the online artist’s books discussed in Lovejoy’s (1997) article Artist’s Books in the Digital Age and was frustrated to find that they could not be viewed as the web pages no longer existed.

Looking back on my post comparing versions of Blake’s Infant Joy page in Songs of Innocence and Experience for the last topic, and thinking about the implications of digital reproductions of original artist’s books, I realised that although the book’s ‘aura’ may have been diminished through digital reproduction, the digital environment has afforded us the luxury of being able to view the copies of each version of his text side by side. A feat, described by Hayles (2003, p.264) as being nearly impossible to achieve using the actual books which would reside in libraries and private collections across the globe.



Hayles, N. (2003). Translating Media: Why We Should Rethink Textuality. The Yale Journal Of Criticism, 16(2), 263-290.

Lovejoy, M. (1997). Artists’ Books in the Digital Age. SubStance, 26(1), 113-134. doi:10.2307/3684835


Studying Artist’s Books

Book of hours
Laura Davidson. Book of Hours. Image retrieved from

Laura Davidson is an American book artist who began her artistic career as an illustrator but found the vehicle of the book to be a more suitable form for her artistic expression. She uses books to document and remember, finding inspiration in her travels, and neighbourhood and the past. Maps, vintage ephemera and her love of books are recurring elements in her work.

Davidson uses various formats, tunnel books, accordion books, miniature as well as the traditional codex to express her ideas. Her books are created as either one-off handmade objects or hand-printed limited editions which incorporate many types of materials such as wood, metal, paper and gold leaf.

I think that this book would fall into Drucker’s categories of both a rare or ‘auratic’ object (as it is one off and unique), it could also be considered a structural investigation. The book’s only resemblance to traditional book format is the ‘cover’ which is hinged in the middle allowing it to open in a book-like manner. The information contained within however, is symbolic and partially three dimensional. What is most intriguing to me, is how the words written on the volvelles invite interaction and when the wheels are turned they produce poetry about time. This brought my mind back to a traditional book of hours which was used as a guide for quiet contemplation, and I am interested in the idea that although the format has been dramatically altered, it could potentially be used in the same way. The form has changed but the function remains the same.


Davidson, L. (2017). Work. Laura Davidson. Retrieved 18 May 2017, from


Fletcher, E. (2013). April // Book Artist of the Month: Laura Davidson. Flash of the Hand. Retrieved 18 May 2017, from




tennis ball
Linda Newbown. Tennis Ball. Image retrieved from


Linda Newbown is an Australian book artist and librarian who, through her book ‘tennis Ball’ like, Davidson, chooses to subvert the format of the book, which would place it within Drucker’s category of ‘structural investigation’. However, conversely to Davidson’s ‘book of hours’ the cover is the element of the book that has been re-structured as it is in the form of an actual tennis ball, while the pages, in format, bear a resemblance to the pages of a traditional book (they are made of paper leaves joined in the middle and are to be ‘read’ in a traditional sequence.)It could also be seen to fall within Drucker’s category of ‘self-reflexive’ books as the words written on the pages refer to its status as a book, the first page reads “this is not a book” while the last page reads “sometimes this is a book”.

Newbown states “Tennis Ball is the concrete form of my thinking about the intersection of book as an abstract idea, as an object and as the carrier of information.” and I like the directness of the representation, it is literally, a book and an object, and despite its untraditional format it is still a carrier of information.


[Tennis ball] / Linda Newbown.. (2017). Retrieved 18 May 2017, from



peter lysiottis
Peter Lyssiotis. Homeland. Image retrieved from


Peter Lyssiotis is a filmmaker, bookmaker, photographer and writer, who has chosen to express himself artistically through the medium of a book because, in his view, all of his aforementioned streams of expression can meet and combine within the pages of a book. Lyssiotis’ book ‘Homeland’ combines image and text to explore green lines in areas of conflict and how they come about and how they rule people’s lives. It is this political commentary that would place it within Drucker’s category of a book as an ‘agent for social change’.

The book is traditional in structure with a sequence that is governed by a green line that runs through the middle of each page of the book. It is this visual element that I think gives the book it’s power, as the line increases as the book progresses to eventually eliminate entirely the human element which is represented by the photographs of people.

The book was/is digitally printed through a computer giving the images a fuzzy quality, which is meant to represent memory. More importantly though, this method of production places it in Drucker’s category of the ‘democratic multiple’. I am drawn to the idea of the democratic multiple and how, in itself, it makes a political statement by allowing art (in the form of a book) to be owned and accessed by anyone, not just the wealthy elite. It also reminds me of how the printing press democratised the distribution and ownership of books, placing them in the hands of many, not just those who could afford them.



Peter Lyssiotis. (2017). Retrieved 21 May 2017, from


Artist’s Books

Gilpa trap
Charmain Pollok. Gilpa Trap. Retrieved from

To summarise Drucker, an artist’s book is something that is created by an artist that is innovative in form, with the intention of making a vision available. In her view, artist’s books are both an exploration and an interrogation of the structure and meaning of the book as a form. And through this exploration, as with other art forms such as poetry or music, they are able to facilitate a change of consciousness in the reader/viewer. Although innovative in form, in Drucker’s view, book sculpture or book-like objects cannot be considered artist’s books as they do not provide the reader with a reading or viewing experience on the same level that is realised through an artist’s books interrogation of the traditional book form.

Drucker explains that the difference between livres d’artistes and artist’s books is that the former could be viewed as simply a publishing enterprise, a production bound by traditional book format and materials. Conversely, artist’s books are creations, unbound by conventional format and materials, that serve to investigate the conceptual form of the book as part of their intention. It was precisely this comparison that led to my understanding of what an artist’s book is. When Drucker declared that livres d’artistes were productions rather than creations, I understood immediately artists books to be more like a work of art, likewise when she stated that livres d’artistes are products rather than visions, it was clear then that artist’s books are the embodiment of an idea borne from the imagination of the artist.

I found Drucker’s statement that an artist’s book must have some soul, some conviction, some reason to be to be particularly enlightening and something that I could relate to. It is this idea of conviction and reason for being that intersects with Bodman and Sowden who speak of  with the importance of the existence and emergence of the artist’s message when attempting to define an artist’s book. As I was constructing my tunnel book for the previous topic, I felt that it became more than just a form of book to me although I lacked the terminology to define it as anything else. And, although it shares the element of sequence with a traditional book form, it was borne from my vision and desire to interpret an experience, I think that it it has soul and a reason to be. Therefore, I might tentatively declare that by this definition I have created my first artist’s book.




Bodman, S., & Sowden, T. (2010). A Manifesto for the Book (1st ed., pp. 6-10). Bristol, UK.: Impact Press. Retrieved from


Drucker, J. (1995). The artist’s book as idea and form. In The century of artists’ books. (pp. 1-19). New York: Granary

William Blake



William Blake’s Infant Joy (1826 copy). Retrieved from


When asked to compare different versions of the same page of one of William Blake’s books found online on the William Blake archive, I looked at the Infant Joy page in Songs of Innocence and Experience, and observed the following:

  • Every single copy is different, with variations in colour, thickness of line and border size.
  • The colour saturation varies from bold and bright to slightly washed out like watercolour, some pages contain many colours, in some pages, the palette is limited to two or three colours, one page (1789 copy) is simply black and white.
  • The thickness of the line varies, in the 1795 copy, the text and outline of the drawing are executed in a thick, black line. (Surprisingly, this is not the earliest copy, which I would have guessed as being the reason for the heavy handedness with the ink, perhaps Blake was just experimenting with different effects).
  • Border size varies from none at all to taking up a sizeable portion of the page and having the appearance of an actual frame.
  • The shape of the image on the page is echoed by the shape of the space occupied by the writing.

The differences that I observed, particularly in relation to colour would affect the way that I might read and interpret the poem. In some of the copies where the line is not too heavy, the colours are many and harmonious and the background is filled in to resemble sky, I feel like I am about to read a lovely nostalgic poem about motherhood. In the copies where the line is heavy and the colours few and unnatural, the image depicted takes on a sinister tone and the plant appears ‘triffid-like’, and I wonder if the poem that I am about to read has something to do with punishment.

Through the eyes of Nodelman

Jeannie Baker (2004)  Belonging. Retrieved from




I chose Jeannie Baker’s book ‘Belonging’ to view through the lens of Nodelman’s theories on the ways that illustrations work in picture books. The book itself is wordless, and the images which are photographs of detailed miniature collage scenes, trace the story of a family growing up and the gradual re-greening of an urban environment. Within the detailed images, the visual information provided is more than enough from which to glean the themes and the storyline.

The book uses the device of a window in a house for each two-page scene through which to observe the community and environmental changes that make up part of the storyline of the book. In Nodelman’s view, the window frames strictly defined boundaries would be seen to imply detachment and objectivity. As the reader, one can sense that one is an observer and that this frame provides a glimpse into the private world of somebody else’s life and/or memories.

In Nodelman’s view, the mood of the picture is an overall quality, like the tone in text, which affects the meaning and our attitude to the story. In the beginning of the book the sombre shades of a grey cityscape, populated with predominantly square and angular shapes reflect the urban environment and gradually give way to brighter shades and saturation of colour and softer, more natural shapes within the scenes reflecting the environmental changes as the story reaches its positive conclusion.

The same progression can be seen displayed in the colour choices, which in the beginning come from a limited palette of greys, browns with small splashes of unsaturated colour, which, as the story progresses to evolves to an extensive palette of bright blues and many shades of green. In Nodelman’s view, the colour green is a cultural code associated with peace and joy. The colour of the sky in the beginning of the book is pale and virtually colourless and gradually changes to a vibrant blue through the course of the story, this can be seen to evoke the idea of the passing of time.

Nodelman refers to the meanings of visual objects and how symbolism can be used to infer meaning within an image. In ‘Beginnings’ objects are placed on the windowsill among them a child’s teddy bear in the start of the book, a pencil case, a make-up mirror, a university prospectus, and finally a wedding invitation which can all be seen to symbolically represent growing up of the main character and the passage of time.

Gestures of the characters seen through the window demonstrate Nodelman’s theory of codes and gestures, as in the beginning their faces are downturned and gradually become more upturned as the book progresses, indicating a progression towards happiness. Without words, the book relies upon what Nodelman describes as the context of other pictures, the story is implied by the sequence of pictures/scenes which are connected through the repetition of the use of the window frame.

It was interesting to analyse the book this way as the process helped me to understand Nodelman’s theories practically, I probably won’t look at picture books in quite the same way again!

Understanding Picturebooks


child and books
Image by George Hodan. Retrieved from


I initially found working through the readings of Schwarcz, Nodelman and Mobius, to be quite interesting albeit a little difficult due to their conceptual nature. However, after acquiring a number of children’s picture books for reference material for assignment 2, I was able to view them with these theories in mind and the concepts became a little clearer to me.

Part of Schwarcz’s discussion relates to the actual mechanics of reading and how the reader must assemble and make meaning of two distinct codes of communication (image and text) as they go, first observing one and then the other. He notes that this is a complex activity because each mode of communication discloses its contents in different ways; language has a linear progression, disclosing its contents in time and an image presents an immediate whole, disclosing its contents simultaneously. He explains that the combination of the two modes of communication ultimately achieve what each medium alone could not. And, it is the interplay between the two media that creates a composite narrative, providing what Nodelman (p.153) describes as a “third story” more interesting than the story told by the pictures or words alone.

Both Schwarcz and Nodelman’s concern is with the relationship between words and images and how, despite being two entirely separate modes of communication, they are able to affect and influence each other. Schwarcz broadly describes two categories of image/ text relations as congruency; where text and illustration are in a harmonious relationship, and deviation; where the illustrations veer away from the text by opposing it in some way.

In their discussions, Mobius and Nodelmen both share a concern with the elements of design, the ‘graphic codes’, within the illustrations themselves, which I took to be the placement of objects and characters within the images, that are subconsciously understood by the reader and can be seen to influence meaning as the picture is interpreted.

I had some degree of difficulty in interpreting the definition of a iconographic code from Mobius’s reading but I have come to think that the iconographic codes must relate to pictures as even though they physically represent something, their meaning is not always entirely clear.



Moebius, W. (1990) Introduction to Picturebook Codes’.  In Children’s Literature:  The Development of Criticism.  Ed. Peter Hunt.  London:  Routledge, pp. 131-147


Nodelman, P. (1992). Picture Books.  In The Pleasures of Children’s Literature.  New York:  Longman,  pp. 130-157.


Schwarcz, J. (1982) Relationships Between Text and Illustration.  In The Ways of the Illustrator.  Chicago:  American Library Association, pp. 9-19, 197-199

Tunnel Book- Bookmaking interlude


tunnel book 2

fan palm book


Of all the ‘bookmaking interludes’ that I participated in for this subject, I found creating the tunnel book to be the most enjoyable. It went the furthest in terms of exploring the format of the book and it gave me the opportunity to be quite creative with the pages.

I was inspired by a recent trip to an ancient Fan Palm forest in the Daintree rainforest, (shown below) and found that the tunnel book format was a perfect vehicle for the expression of my inspiration, as I was able to use the sequence of pages to give the illusion of looking up through the canopy of trees.

Fan Palm photos

Through this opportunity to be creative within the book format, I have been able to solidify my evolving definition of what an artist’s book is to include the idea that an artist’s book is created with purpose by an artist with the intention of communicating a vision.

Author and Illustrator as one?

After looking through 12 children’s picture books which I happened to have on hand as reference material from assignment 2, I was surprised to find that out of the 12 only 3 were illustrated by a different person than the author. Somehow I assumed that it would be more of an even spread. Interestingly, those three books all display postmodern characteristics. The most common of which is described by Goldstone (2004, p.199) as nonlinearity, which is demonstrated through multiple story lines presented in the pictures and story and/or narrative text that is disrupted and goes in its own unique direction often contradicting the images. From this I can conclude that this type of picture book would work extremely well having a different author and illustrator, as in these books the illustrations have a sometimes contradictory relationship to the main story, so separate interpretations and perspectives from the author/illustrator would be ideal.


Books viewed

Author/illustrator the same:

Baker, J. Belonging

Base, G. Animalia

Bland, N. The Very Itchy Bear

Browne, A. Voices in the Park

Child, L. Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent

Jeffers, O. The Heart and the Bottle

Rudge, L. No Bears

Stieg, W. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble


Books with different author/illustrator:


Gaiman, N. and McKean, D. The Wolves in the Walls

Scieszka, J. and Smith, L. The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales

Scieszka, J. and Smith, L. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.



Goldstone, B. P. (2004). The Postmodern Picture Book: A New Subgenre. Language Arts, 81(3), 196-204.




Looking back on last week’s post on book illustrators, I realise that I have incorrectly included an illustrator of books, rather than a children’s book illustrator, which I see now was supposed to be the focus for the task. Given the amount of research already undertaken and my concerns about keeping with the suggested timeframe for the topic, I have decided to leave the post as is, possibly returning to fix it at a later date. On reflection, this has shown me that I need to pay more careful attention to the topic’s given task questions…