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News from Minnesota

Staying connected is not always an easy thing to do. Regaining the routine of working in the studio, once lost, is another feat which I have yet to achieve. In the past I’ve referred to art as being a habit. For a while I lost my taste; now my appetite has picked up.

As an arts family we have annually participated in the fall Book Arts Festival at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and this year was no exception. Our table was tucked away in a far corner. Traffic was slow. The weather cooperated and parking was tight. How did we do at the sale? People made their way back to Lucy going right by the rest of us; I presented some monoprints & books from my found object print series Icanography™ while Lucy sold her Tooth Fairy Kits, monoprint greeting cards, & recycled blank books in a steady flow. We will be back next year.

It was by accident that Lucy and I ended up sharing a table even though she requested sharing with a different artist. Was I offended by her request? Not at all. Actually I was quite enthused by the idea. Over the last year she has evolved as a professional artist to the point of being ready to work her own retail space. Lucy’s ability to take a project from conception through completion rivals that of my classmates at art school. Pretty amazing for a young girl in grade school. I can’t wait to see what she does in the coming year.

What about Lilly? She is not so much into the book arts scene. She prefers acrylic painting. Books are not gone from her interests. She has a healthy reading appetite and a head filled with many thoughts. Lilly has begun what will likely be a long journey of self-discovery. I have a feeling she will pleasantly surprise herself when all those thoughts come out through her fingertips in profound ways.

I love being a father and I love my Girlies. It is such a wonderful gift being there with them as they continue to evolve and go forward. And it has reached a point where it is time to direct some focus back to myself. Keeping a journal is another habit which I have all but dropped. Writing for the Chronicle has become an extension of that. The life of an artist is not an easy one with so many things to balance.

While the Book Arts festival wasn’t a financial boon for me, it was good to get back at it and see old friends. And for the first time in twenty years I was able to happily choose a design for a simple business card — for an artist/designer/printer this is even more difficult than choosing a single bookplate to use for life. I made many new contacts bringing new opportunities already in the planning stages. Something always comes from getting my work out on display, even from the smallest of presentations. It’s a faith I had all but forgotten about.

Yes, I’ve mentioned bookplates and am finally getting to the bookplates portion of the column. In 2012 I designed a bookplate for James Keenan. The theme is Bacchus with a cluster of grapes containing “Ex Libris James Keenan.”

“Grapes” Ex Libris JAMES KEENAN, 2012, X3, 2” x 2 3/8”,  50x61mm

Some time had passed between making the Bacchus plate and the next design for myself. It was made apparent just how rusty I had become. To be honest, it frightened me a little. The design is based upon some sketchbook doodles and sculpture I have been working on for the last few years. It’s image may or may not make its way onto these pages as it’s fate is still being considered.

Ex Libris Derek Black Opus 72, 2013, X3, 2 7/8" x 1 7/8", 76x51mm

Since then another image has been completed, this one much more satisfactory to how I perceive my skill set, and is for Lucy’s friend Amanda. So I could go to work without being as late in the mornings, the girls have been going to Amanda’s house before school. Lucy and Amanda’s friendship has blossomed over the last few years. One of the things they like to do is watch the television show Psych. Yes, it is painful to admit that I too have become familiar with the story line as well as main characters. For those more fortunate than myself to be unfamiliar with the show, pineapples always make their way into the story line and scenes. And so the main bookplate image is a pineapple to pay tribute to the show which they often reenact, made shirts to commemorate, think of how they can enter the fan club with an amazing pineapple photo, and to symbolize their friendship.

“Pineapple” Ex Libris AMANDA Opus 73, 2013, X3, 2 13/16" x 1 13/16", 73x41mm

The other hat I wear is a Chef’s hat. For over twenty five years I have worked in the hospitality industry. Food can be like art which you not only get to look at, but you get to eat it, too. Same process of layering of information/flavors and art school certainly helped me with how I present food.

With my last birthday I made one of my all time favorite dishes for all of us to eat; aged white cheddar mac ‘n cheese with roasted duck. And as for every gift giving holiday which comes my way, I requested a bookplate design at the top of my list. In honor of my favorite dish, this year Lucy surprised me by giving me a linocut block with a bookplate image of a duck standing in a bowl of pasta.

“Duck” Ex Libris DEREK B. BLACK, Lucille E. Black, 2012, X3, 2.5"x1.25", 62x45mm

And here as I sit and write about how I too am on a journey of rediscovery in myself, I still find my way back to my family. Art. Life. One does not imitate the other, they are intertwined.

Derek B. Black • Pandemonium Press®
1067 Como Place • Saint Paul, MN 55103-1320 • USA

P.S. To my friends around the world who I have not seen for some time, I am looking forward to seeing you in person. Until then, please use my permanent contact information to stay in touch.


Article originally published in the Ex Libris Chronicle Volume 12 No. 2 & 3