Thursday, 17 April 2014

Altered Book Art - Found Poetry

I recently came across a portfolio of artwork left over from my art school days, buried at the back of my wardrobe under the pile of Christmas presents I have already begun to stash away and the bursting bag of camera lenses with mismatched lids. I looked over it with a bit of fondness, a bit of embarrassment, and the occasional 'actually, that's really good'. And I realised just how much my work has moved on from art school.

I still was - and forever will be - drawing-mad, but spent most of my time with a camera in my hand, full of confusion, floundering for direction, and struggling to pinpoint exactly what it was that my tutors, and the course, 'wanted from me'. I don't think I found the answer to that at art school, frankly. I needed a lot more practice and a lot more life to even touch on the answer to that. A husband, a daughter, a few losses, a few scares, and twenty sketchbooks later, and I feel closer to it. Still not there, but closer.

But there were a few pieces of 'me' hidden away in the pages of battered sketchbooks and crammed folders. Most of the guilty-pleasure drawings that I knew didn't really fit the project I was working on but which just demanded to be drawn anyway. And my found poetry.

My very favourite class at art school was not a class on art at all, but on writing. Run by the brilliant Dr Mick Gowar, it was my first introduction to Edward Gorey, and for that alone was worth the price of admission. But it also introduced me to a delicious altered book technique called - variously - 'altered poetry', 'altered pages', 'found poetry', 'discovered poetry', and 'blackout poetry'. Whatever your term of choice, it involves, essentially, the hunting down of hidden poetry within larger pages of text, and the subsequent obliteration of all superfluous words, to leave behind a brand new 'secondary' text.

I was hooked.

While Tom Phillips, the king of this technique, uses drawing, painting, collage and colour in his A Humument, I never managed to make the figurative drawings work with this technique, and found myself favouring minimal pages of black or white, which I produced a veritable tower of during my university days.

There is something so appealing about the notion that these little 'secondary texts' were sitting there in the page since the 1970s, when most of the original books I used were published, just waiting to be found. In fact, although I am not in ANY way, shape or form comparing myself or my work to Michelangelo, I am reminded of a Michelangelo quote that I have always adored: 'Carving is easy. You just go down to the skin and stop' (The Michelangelo Gallery), and his reference to seeing an angel in the marble and carving 'until I set him free'.

Perhaps it is best for me to abandon my post here, in the wake of such a beautiful notion. Feel free to leave at this point. Truly. Won't be offended. I can't compete with Michelangelo.

But, nontheless, here is my little nod to this notion. A small selection of my little pieces of discovered poetry, unpolished and awkward - but perhaps forgiveably so, considering the forty years they spent sitting on a page, waiting for someone to find them and set them free.

(Have included transcripts, since since some of the scans are a little small and fuzzy)

He Is Not Their Father
He is not their father
But so tolerant
Must be admiration for the dominant
And desire to please
This is not love
Those feelings may leave another isolated

A Comfort Sound
A comfort sound
A pleasing little sound
A piece of warm happiness
Learn to know joy
Learn to understand

Learn To Be Frightened
His usual fear raised
Terrified by first glimpses
Clinging so hard that he left marks
His mother stood looking
And they called to each other
Through the ensuing storm
Fear is learned
The sound of alcohol in a man's voice
Learn to be frightened
It is hard to avoid

Her mother still wants to help
'I'll do it myself', she says
She smothers
Make a sharp break with mothers

I don't need to transcribe this, do I? Every full stop on a double page spread? Really? Oh, go on then.



Friday, 11 April 2014

New Moving Home Design - The Tortoise Family

It seems that I am destined to forever invoke the spirit of my family in my designs. Specifically, two exhausted parents and a child that Just. Never. Gets. Tired.

Oh, if I could siphon off some of that energy. Not for me, you understand. Just to SIPHON OFF SOME OF THAT ENERGY. 

But life would just not be as much fun without our little bundle of wriggles and giggles, so instead of craving the rest I'm unlikely to experience again for about 18 years, I choose to celebrate the craziness. To be honest, this mostly appears to involve recreating our family dynamic with increasingly random and obscure characters. Peas (here). Comic characters (coming soon). And tortoises.

Like these.

'Just Moved' Tortoises by Amanda Moussa
This will hopefully be finding its way onto a 'Moving Home' greeting card soon, but I wanted to share it now, while it's all fresh and newborn.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a shell that needs a polish.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Two Peas in a Pod

In the wake of the encouraging response to my 'Pea Pod Family' (thank you to all those who gave me some really lovely responses!), I have created a little glimpse into our peapod couple's earlier newlywed life before their little addition.

I won't tell you which couple served as the inspiration for this.

Because you can probably already guess.

Two peas in a pod

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Parenthood in the Pea Pod - new illustration for Mother's Day

Well, it had to happen. Sooner or later, I was going to feel hemmed in by pure digital tools and start yearning for the dirty hands and wet brushes of traditional techniques.

And I did. Mostly, though, I missed line, and texture, and... faults. I missed the 'looseness' of paint, the small accidents that only happen with traditional tools. So, I've been working on new illustrations that combine both traditional and digital tools. The results are messier and much less polished, but perhaps more... well, 'me'. We'll see.


As Mother's Day approaches, and I am becoming acquainted with the experience of SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT after two solid years, I was inspired to make a little homage to the parental experience of those early baby years.

With a pod of peas.


There's a new pea in the pod

Friday, 17 January 2014

Sneak Peek - Picture Book double-page spread

Ahh... a week of essay-writing, 3am bedtimes, buckets of strong coffee and a toddler who has stopped her daytime naps, has very nearly killed me. But, I have completed my module, I am free until Monday, and can actually *gasp* do something other than study in the evening. Like... well, breathing. Breathing would be good.

And posting a little project taster. That would be good too.

So here it is.

As I mentioned in my previous post, here, I have been working on a large project that will take, well, a couple of centuries to be properly unveiled... but in the meantime, I will be posting a few snippets of the artwork here and there.

Or, more specifically, here:

Double-page spread, How To Catch A Cloud, (c) Amanda Moussa 2014

Sunday, 5 January 2014

2nd Birthday T-shirt Design

Happy 2014!

My little girl turned two on New Year's Day, and after a bit of an up-and-down year, I thought she deserved a special little something drawn for her. I had been intending to create a child's birthday range of designs for a while, so this was the (infant) boot in the behind that I needed to get them done.

So, let me introduce my personalised Birthday range of designs, available for ages 1-5, with customisable gender, eyes, hair, skin colour and t-shirt colour...

Here is my little one's special t-shirt design:

And here is the birthday girl's thoroughly over-excited reception:

Available Personalisations
  • AGE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • GENDER: Boy, Girl
  • HAIR: Light Brown, Dark Brown, Blonde, Red, Black
  • EYES: Blue, Green, Brown, Hazel
  • SKIN: Fair, Mid, Dark
  • T-SHIRT: Red, Blue, Pink, Green

Eyes: Blue, Brown, Green, Hazel

Hair: Black, Dark Brown, Light Brown, Blonde, Red

Skin: Fair, Mid, Dark
Listings for t-shirts and cards will be added soon, but in the meantime, if you would be interested in a design, feel free to contact me! 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

SNEAK PEEK at a new project!

Well... two weeks trending on Etsy - not too shabby for a first time! Thank you to everyone who placed Christmas orders with me!

Tis the season to be flat out busy, it seems, but (woohoo!) I'm very excited to share a little sneak peek into a big project I'm working on:

'But it's so high!'

It is actually part of a much bigger double page spread, but this isolated image will also be available separately, on cushions, melamine plates, and children's t-shirts, as well as standard prints. They aren't quite ready to be sold yet, but here are the prototypes:

Very excited!