Left: Here’s a quick photo of the final book we made at the Portrait Party. Top—the inside information page and the first page of the participants list (math is not my strong point and I wrote in 26 attendees when actually there were 27!); a portrait spread (all pairs were opposite each other on a spread) showing my portrait of Lynn Fisher (left) and Lynn Fisher's portrait of me (right—she took off years and years!); Ken Avidor’s overview sketch of the party participants; a cover with the optional title label. The book is 7 1/8 wide x 8 5/8 inches tall. I used Canson Mi Tientes to make the covers (people attending only had to bring cover paper). It is a 32-page, 5-hole stitch pamphlet. Click on the image to see an enlargement. (All artwork © of the listed artists who gave me permission to post.)
Last week I wrote a brief note about the MCBA Visual Journal Collective Portrait Party held on Monday, February 16. I wanted to give a more complete report, as well as provide a visual of the book which we made.
I arrived at MCBA at about 6:10 p.m. to start setting up for the 7 p.m. meeting. With the help of Emma Allen who is the adult programs coordinator at MCBA and the co-coordinator of the Collective I got extra cover materials set out (she and I both brought extra paper as we thought people would forget), organized our workspace, and I started creating “work stations.” I came with a plan all written out in steps because I knew once we started people were going to have questions and I would need to be several places at once. Having a written plan people could read was invaluable.
Also before the party I designed and printed up the front matter pages (title page, info page and participants list pages) and made drawing blanks—pages with a box on them so that everyone would know how big to draw and where to sign their names and the model’s name. Emma made copies of all these materials before people started to arrive.
That was the fun bit, people coming, then more people coming: the room filling up. To start the meeting off Ken Avidor, a local artist and cartoonist, agreed to give a little pep talk on drawing a likeness. He encouraged people to play with it and have fun. Ken was also my “wild card player.” If you throw a portrait party I recommend you have one of these. Ken knew that if we had even numbers he would be part of a drawing pair, but with an uneven number of people he would be drawing the overall scene (this is actually what he ended up doing). He provided a view that you can see was included in the back of the book, and then while I was pasting up the master pages he continued to work in his journal.
People asked what media they should use for their sketches and I recommended pen, preferably black ink, though red ink is read by the photocopier as black too. Almost everyone worked in pen of some sort. My friend Diane who is the queen of graphite made a wonderfully wise choice and worked with a Cretacolor Nero pencil. These black lead pencils are not as waxy as most wax-based colored pencils. They are made with carbon black and so have a rich, dense black line. The copier loves these pencils and will offer you some of the softness people love about the pencil line.
Lynn was rummaging through her large supply bag before we got started. I would hear mumbles as I tried to set my watch up as a 2-minute timer. She elected to use a thin nibbed pen, I believe it was a Staedtler Pigment Liner. When it was my go I grabbed my Faber Castell Pitt Artist's Brush Pen because I wanted something thick that I could fill up the space with: the live area to fill on the page was 6 x 7 inches. Other people used everything from ball-point pens and rollerballs to other brush pens like the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.
Once people had paired off I set my timer for 2 minutes and one person "warmed up" by sketching her partner (all the partners were female, Ken was the only male attending) on a page blank. (I suggested they hold on to those pages until they finished their "real" drawing, because sometimes our first warm up sketch is the best in gesture and line, and well, just better.)
I called two minutes and then the sketcher had 10 minutes to draw her partner on a new page blank. Most folks were pretty silent, but some pairs chatted away companionably. It was a nice mix.
At the end of the 10 minutes I called time again and then roles switched. Artist became model and model artist for another 2-minute warm up and 10-minute drawing session. I think that was a good break up of time. People need a warm up and on the other hand, anything more than 10 minutes can be overwhelming for some people—the need to create a perfect portrait increases. I think it's important to keep the pressure off.
Right: Ken Avidor continued to roam the rooms and sketch after the portrait pairs had completed their work. Here is a page from his journal when he sketched me working on the paste up. Click on the image to see an enlargement. ©2008 Ken Avidor.
When the drawing was completed the pairs made their way to another friend, Karen Engelbretson, who had agreed before the party to be stationed at the Xyron. She fed the sketches through it to apply adhesive to the backs of the sheets. She also made sure that everyone signed the participants list (which also doubled as a release form because the originals are being bound into a book for MCBA).
The Xyron can leave a sticky edge around things so when I use it I always put uncut items through it and then do a final tight trim. This eliminates any sticky edges. Rachel, Karen’s daughter, took care of cutting down the original art using trim marks on the blanks I’d created. Other people helped as well, but I was out of the room so I can only say thanks to them all, it was a great job!
As pages were trimmed and ready to be laid out they were brought to me at another table. The trimmed pages were essentially 1/2 a legal size sheet and I pasted them, two-up, on legal size paper to make a copying master. For each double-sided sheet there were two such masters. Before starting the paste up I made a small dummy with scrap paper so that I knew how many sheets to use and which pages would be back to back with which other pages, so that the sketching pairs would end up opposite each other on the same page spread.
As soon as I finished the two masters for one two-sided sheet Janice Paranto carried them upstairs to Emma who ran them through the copier. Janice then brought them downstairs where additional helpers waited to fold and collate.
Folks not actively involved in these procedures were sharing their journals, socializing, and in Ken’s case, still sketching!
When all 30 copies were collated we distributed copies to everyone (they had cut their covers while we were preparing the pages). We punched our sewing holes and used waxed Irish Linen to sew the covers and signature together with a 5-hole pamphlet stitch. (If you have a long-armed stapler you could consider stapling your pamphlets together, but I'm glad we sewed ours as they seem more tactile.)
The books I bound all start and end inside the book with the knot hidden. Several party goers elected to start their stitching on the outside and then add beads to the tail ends of their threads when they got home.
The group then broke out into spontaneous applause! It was a riot. Everyone was happy, we’d done it. And we were only 30 minutes off target. (Note to party planners, when you have this large a group, and of course it is fun to have this size, you will be pushing a lot of paper through the copier: they only run so fast!)
Now we all have a copy of all 13 pairs of portraits and Ken’s fabulous overview. It’s a great souvenir of a busy but fun evening. I really would encourage other folks to try this. Later this week I’m going to post some more information on the front matter and the blanks and also making the dummy, so if you decide to do a portrait party and make a book you’ll have an even more detailed idea of how to we did it. Maybe we could have national and international portrait party days, just like there are Sketchcrawl days.
But even if we can’t do that, I really recommend you get together with family and friends and hold a portrait party. And if you do, send your portrait pairs to Rama Hughes’ great site The Portrait Party.
Also next week I will be binding the master sheets together. I used the Xyron permanent archival adhesive because it would be quick during the party, but also, looking forward to making the originals into a book I thought it would be easiest to use this adhesive. PMA from 3M is another dry adhesive that would be useful, but it's not as quick to apply. I will be using PMA to stick the masters together before they are folded and bound into the "originals" book. This book, along with one of the photocopies will be given to MCBA for their library.
I want to thank again all the people who attended this party. It has been my hope that the MCBA Visual Journal Collective could have events like this to merge our interests in visual journaling, sketching, and bookmaking. Everyone at the party contributed to the fun and productivity and reality of achieving this goal. Some had jobs that I assigned and I’m grateful you accepted those challenges too. Others had the important task of keeping the party atmosphere going. I appreciate it all. I still have the book sitting out on my table and flip through it now and then. I just can’t stop smiling!