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Looking for Vintage Illustrations?

I used to have an online business selling reproductions of vintage illustrations such as maps, posters, Japanese prints and a huge variety of other materials. I gave this up to concentrate on my own work, but still have thousands of scanned images available. This post is simply putting down a marker for the future for anyone looking for vintage illustrations. I’m slowly going to add a selection to the site, but in the meantime I’m happy to talk about providing images for interiors and similar. In the past I know they have been used in bars and cafés, escape rooms, even tattoo parlours, but they are equally suitable for B&Bs, guest houses, reception areas or any public facing area. You give me a theme and I almost certainly meet your requirements.

Depending on the nature of the original, I’m flexible on sizes. Some can be printed almost to bedsheet size, others were originally tiny and don’t really scale up. Others again can be resized quite dramatically. Strangely, this is often easiest with the poorest quality originals, such as comic books from the 1940s and 1950s.

Here’s a selection to whet your appetite. They are not in the shop yet, but are available for sale. I’m going to post some guideline prices soon.

If any of this interests you, then get in touch. You can find more blog posts on this topic here.

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New Digital Prints – now in the shop

I’ve posted before about using my monotype prints as source imagery for digital prints. I’ve started adding some of these prints to the shop. You can find them here, but I’ve added a few tasters below. I’ve bitten the bullet and made them limited edition (they will all be in editions of 50}. I don’t like doing it, but every time I ask others, they seem to prefer a limited edition to open. They will be in a mat sized for a 50 cm x 50 cm frame, so will fit readily available commercial frames, or you can have one made.

I’m thinking about offering some of them in a portfolio form, perhaps with some additional material. I don’t know what the market would be for something like that, so any observations or views would be welcome. When I have a better idea of what I want to do, I’ll put up a form so you can register an interest.

  • digital abstract print in pastel colours
  • Digitlal abstract print
  • digital print with rounded abstract shapes
  • Abstract Digital print in bright colours
  • Digital print mainly in blue and yellow
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More about the Site Update

Shows words Gift Voucher over landscape image

I’ve now finished rearranging the menu structure, so the site update is almost complete. The menu bar is currently a bit messy, but it gives access to the items in the shop with fewer clicks to find specific pieces.

I’ve added Gift Vouchers to the menu as a distinct product. Terms and Conditions, Returns Policies, Privacy etc can be found under the About option. I have also added a specific Contact Form under that too, so if you have any questions that’s where to look.

I now have to continue editing the products I brought in from my Etsy shop to put them in the correct categories so that they show up in the right place, as well as adding more of the many I’ve been working on during lockdown.

Longer term, I’m going to set up an Exhibition of the Week/Month, which will draw together a selection of images to create an online show. This is likely just to be a slide show for now, but there are some exiting developments that allow creation of virtual gallery shows. I need to look into those in a bit more detail before I commit myself. In particular, I don’t want to have to do yet another site update.

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Site Update

I have started on a site update. The About page has already been rewritten, and the main menu has been rearranged slightly. My next step is to review the shop structure and of course add more content to it. Once that is completed, I will be adding some internal links to help with navigation of the site. If you find any problems, please let me know.

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Artist book ‘Grafia Callada/Hushed Writing’

This isn’t the post I intended for today, which I’m still writing. Instead, here is a YouTube video about a wonderful artist book I came across only this week. It is by Pepe Gimeno and is described as “a book about writing without a single word.” Watch the video, and you will see how apt that description is.

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Using your gel prints as a resource for digital printmaking

I haven’t finished cutting the stencils from the previous post, so I’ve been playing with combining the files digitally. The results were quite interesting in themselves, but also triggered some ideas about combining these stencils with dry points also made from digitally cut plates. I will be parking those for now, but it is definitely something I want to explore at a later date. In this post, I want to concentrate on using these separation files in digital printmaking.

As I said in my previous post, Paint Shop Pro (PSP) can create colour separation files, but these are too ‘busy’ to use directly for cutting. Once cleaned up and simplified, the new files can be recombined in the same fashion as the originals. This is the start point for this post. I’m using images made by gel printing, but you can of course use any digital image, including photographs.

This is “Waterloo Sunrise”. Like those in my previous post, it is a monotype made with acrylic on paper. You can buy it here.

Grey scale images

These are the grey scale images from the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK channels.

It is worth noting here that PSP can also make RGB separations, i.e. Red, Green, Blue, which can be cleaned up and simplified in the same way. This is what you get from those separations.

Creating combinations

These greyscale separation files can be used in various ways to extend your digital printmaking and allow you to try out ‘digital proofs’ before you start on the physical print. I’ve provided numerous examples below.

Here for example is the image made using the simplified CMYK files.

Version of original image made using simplified CMYK files
Image made from simplified CMYK files

Here is the image made from the simplified RGB files

Version of original image made using simplified RGB files
Image made using simplified RGB files

Mixing things up

But what happens when you swap the Cyan file out for the Green?

Version of original image using Green in place of Cyan in CMYK files
Image from Green, Magenta, Yellow and Black

Or replace the Magenta with Red?

Version of original image made using Red in place of Cyan in CMYK
Image from Cyan, Red, Yellow and Black

Or indeed Blue with Magenta

Version of original image made using Magenta instead of Blue in RGB
Image made using Red, Green, Magenta

You don’t have to use the simplified files. The original separations can be recombined in this way too. It is off-topic for this post, but try doing this with photographs. The effect ranges from slightly ‘off’ to wildly surreal.

Other effects are possible if the colours are juggled around as say YCKM or KCMY.

Version of original image shuffling CMYK files as YCKM
Image made as YCKM
Version of original image shuffling CMYK files as KCMY
Image made from KCMY

You can of course combine the different separations and juggle them.

Version of original image shuffling CMYK and RGB files as MCGR
Image made as MCGR

It is possible to use the same file more than once

Version of original image made using Cyan twice, second copy replacing Yellow as CMCK.
Image made using cyan twice as CMCK

The duplicated file can also be rotated (if square) or flipped/mirrored otherwise. In this one, Cyan is mirrored horizontally, with this version replacing Yellow. You can see that the green bar – a mixture of cyan and yellow on screen, is now shown as the two separate colours with a tiny slice of green where they overlap.

Version of original image made using Cyan twice, the second copy mirrored as CMCK
Image made using cyan twice but second copy mirrored.

Taking it further

By now, it should be obvious that the original content is irrelevant. We are using these files simply as abstract shapes. With the seven possible files from the original image, you have over 800 possible combination if you treat them as CMYK. (That’s 7x6x5x combinations.) It would be many more if you allow the same file to be used more than once. Throw in a second image and the number of permutations mushrooms to over 24000! (14x13x12x11)

There are obviously a lot of choices available, although as you try them out you will start to get a feel for what is likely to work best for you. While It is almost miraculous how colours appear as if from nowhere, the prosaic explanation is simply that whatever file is used in, for example the ‘C’ location, the computer thinks it represents Cyan and treats it accordingly when the file is displayed.

‘Real World’ parallels

There are ‘real world’ parallels. In the later years of their lives, both Bert Irvin and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham made large numbers of screen prints. Independently they both seemed to create a ‘library’ of screens from painted marks which were then combined in various ways to produce their prints.

Even if you never print any of these digital recombinations, the process I’ve described can be used as a kind of digital proofing, to get a sense of how shapes work together before you ever apply ink or paint to paper or canvas. If you want to try digital printmaking, this approach gives you a useful entry point. Give it a try. I would love to see what you come up with. If I get enough responses, I’ll put them together in a post.

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Making stencils for gel printing with a digital cutter – part 1

This is the first of a planned series of posts about making stencils for gel printing using a digital cutter. In my case it is a Cricut Maker, but the principles are general.

These stencils came out of some thoughts I had about making silk screen versions of my gel prints. I was hoping to use colour separations. This is the process by which original full-colour digital files are separated into individual colour components for four-colour process printing. Every element in the file is printed in a combination of four colours: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. This is known as CMYK in the world of commercial printing and in silk screen printing. This isn’t an original idea, of course. Anyone familiar with Matisse will almost certainly be aware of his stunning cutouts, but may not be aware that they were also published in silk screen versions.

I began with a scan from one of my prints. I created the CMYK colour separations with Paint Shop Pro (from now on PSP). Unfortunately, I no longer have access to screen beds, so this is currently not an option. In practice, I don’t think I’m fit enough any more, to spend several hours pulling ink through the screens. However, having already used scans of pen drawings to make stencils, I decided to experiment with these separations. The print I’m using here is called ‘Area 52’, available from my shop.

The image below is an example of one of the colour separations. This is from the magenta colour channel. In this form, it clearly can’t be used directly to make a stencil suitable for gel printing.

Magenta colour separation from original image file. Not suitable for making stencils in this form.
Magenta colour separation from original image file

Simplifying the file

To create a version that can be cut as a stencil, it needs to be much simplified. I did this using various tools in PSP, which led to this. (More details of the process by which I did this, will be in later posts. If you can’t wait though, get in touch and I’ll try to help.)

Simplified magenta file suitable for making stencils
Simplified Magenta channel

PSP allows me to digitally recombine these simplified images, which led in turn to this image. This is closer to what you would get with screen printing, but is useful to visualise the outcome.

Digitally image from recombination of simplified image. Simulation of effect of using stencils made by digital cutter.
Digital image created from recombined and simplified channels

Be flexible

However, just because a file is called magenta, doesn’t mean that it has to be used that way. PSP allows me to digitally recombine the image files in any order. With four files to combine, there are 24 possible combinations, so this one below is just one. It helps to make a point though. When the stencils are cut and used to make gel prints, you have complete freedom in the colour you use.

Digital image created by shuffling colour separation files when recombining. Simulation of effect of using stencils made by digital cutter.
Image created by recombining channels in different order.

In the real, as opposed to the digital world, there are other variables. Varying the opacity of the paint used, and varying the order in which you use the stencil, will also give different results.

Finally, just as an experiment, here is a combination image using CYMK files from two different images. I’ve included it just to make the point that once you have the stencil you have complete freedom in their use.

Abstract Digital print in bright colours
Electric Avenue – limited edition digital print

In many ways, this last image is analogous to making a collagraph print from multiple plates. I have experimented with this many times in the past.

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Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers

Quilt by China Pettway of Gee's Bend Quiltmakers

I’ve only recently discovered the work of the wonderful Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers (also here and here). These quilts have been created by generations of women in the isolated African-American hamlet of Gee’s Bend, in rural South West Alabama. The earliest identified quilt maker was Dinah Miller in 1859. Throughout the post-civil war years and into the 20th century, the women of Gee’s Bend made their quilts from scrap materials such as old shirts, overalls, aprons and dress bottoms. They did this from necessity not art. Even now the average income is less than $10,000 and these quilts were needed to keep themselves and their children warm in unheated shacks that lacked running water, telephones and electricity.

Gee’s Bend and the Civil Rights Movement

Gee’s Bend is very isolated. Until the 1960s there was a primitive ferry which reduced the journey time significantly. However, when black residents of Gee’s Bend began taking the ferry to the county seat at Camden to try to register to vote the local authorities reacted by closing the ferry service.

“We didn’t close the ferry because they were black,” Sheriff Lummie Jenkins reportedly said at the time. “We closed it because they forgot they were black.” 

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/fabric-of-their-lives-132757004/

The shutdown of the 15-minute ferry ride forced the residents of Gee’s Bend to drive, if indeed they had a car, 40 miles over narrow rural roads to get to the county courthouse in Camden, then 40 miles back. They would be without a ferry service for over forty years. Even when federal funding was agreed in the 1990s it still took until 2006 before it reopened. Such enforced isolation made already hard times even harder.

Recognition

From the 1960s onward, the opening of the Freedom Quilting Bee in nearby Alberta, which had many from Gee’s Bend as members, began to generate increased attention, although the aim of the Quilting Bee was to meet commercial contracts for the likes of Sears, not sell the work of individual quilters. It took until the late 1990s to generate real interest after art collector, historian, and curator William Arnett began to buy quilts from Gee’s Bend makers.

Arnett organized an exhibition called, “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. This later travelled to a dozen other locations across the USA. The exhibition featured sixty quilts created by forty-five artists. When it reached New York, one critic rather gushingly described the quilts as “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced. Imagine Matisse and Klee (if you think I’m wildly exaggerating, see the show), arising not from rarefied Europe, but from the caramel soil of the rural South.” In 2006, the US Post Office issued a set of stamps to commemorate their work, but without giving individual credits.

While this exhibition brought fame to the quilts, Arnett’s relationship with the quilters was troubled and in 2007, two of them filed lawsuits alleging they had been cheated out of thousands of dollars from the sales of their quilts. The lawsuit was resolved and dismissed without comment from lawyers on either side in 2008. From the outside it is hard to work out what really happened, but it seems that the issue is in part the nature of the art market, where pieces travel from dealer to dealer at ever inflated prices.

The future

Despite the controversy, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, created by Arnett, continues to collect and organize exhibitions for Gees Bend Quilts. It is also managing multiple campaigns to support the quiltmakers and African-American artists in general. They aim to provide documentation, marketing, and fund-raising, as well as education and opportunity for quiltmakers. The foundation is also involved in a multi-year campaign with the Artists Rights Society to protect intellectual property rights for the artists of Gee’s Bend. Some of the quilters have been selling on Etsy for a while, but from February they are creating their own brand presence.   Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the site is however already overrun with knockoffs and attempts to cash in on the name. The domain name geesbendquilts[dot]com appears to have been hijacked by someone in Indonesia.

The work of the women of Gee’s Bend raises many questions about the nature of art, challenging as it does the mainstream view that art is made by people who call themselves artists. The utilitarian nature of these quilts is married with a real aesthetic sense that has created objects of great beauty which are indeed art. In achieving that state, they need no validation by comparisons to Klee or Matisse or any other artists. Nor are they ‘outsider art’ except from the perspective of those who wish to control the cultural narrative. They are not ‘naïve’ or ‘folk’ art – their artistic decisions are just as sophisticated as those of the artists with which they are compared.

The artists

The community of Gee’s Bend are just as much an artistic community as places like St Ives. Even more so perhaps, since their art genuinely springs from the community and continues through the generations. Reading various interviews with the quilters it looks as if they are finally being recognised as individual artists and the money generated is finally beginning to have an impact locally. The Gee’s Bend Quilting Collective currently has 50 members, working as ever to make each quilt unique. Two members (China and Mary Ann Pettway) now run quilting retreats, passing on their skills to quilters and makers across America.

I would love to list all the artist’s names, but I haven’t been able to find a definitive list. The list of quilters on the Souls Grown Deep website numbers 120 but over the generations there must have been many more whose names are now lost to us. The list below is drawn from the Foundation website and is based on the works acquired by Arnett and then held by the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

Nellie Mae Abrams 1946 – 2005

Willie “Ma Willie” Abrams 1897 – 1987

Ella Bendolph 1904 – 1995

Louisiana P. Bendolph 1960 –

Annie Bendolph 1900 – 1981

Mary Lee Bendolph 1935 –

Quilt by Mary Lee Bendolpg from Gee's Bend
Quilt by Mary Lee Bendolph of Gee’s Bend

Margaret Bennett 1916 – 1994

Polly Bennett 1922 – 2003

Linda Diane Bennett 1955 – 1988

Mary L. Bennett 1942 –

Amelia Bennett 1914 – 2002

Agatha P. Bennett 1919 – 2006

Delia Bennett 1892 – 1976

Loretta Pettway Bennett 1960 –

Maggie Benning 1891 – 1985

Willie Ann Benning 1927 –

Sarah Benning 1933 –

Della Mae Bridges 1905 – 2000

Emma Lee Pettway Campbell 1928 – 2002

Minnie Sue Coleman 1926 – 2012

Minder Coleman 1903 – 1999

Ruby Gamble 1918 – 2001

Rachel Carey George 1908 – 2011

Eddie Lee Pettway Green 1926 –

Queen Hall 1938 – 2015

Pearlie Pettway Hall 1908 – 2000

Gloria Hoppins 1955 –

America Irby 1916 – 1993

Ella Mae Irby 1923 – 2001

Sally Bennett Jones 1944 – 1988

Marlene Bennett Jones 1947 –

Rebecca Myles Jones c. 1896 – 1986

Ruth Kennedy 1926 – 2020

Nettie Jane Kennedy 1916 – 2002

Mary Elizabeth Kennedy 1911 – 1991

Clementine Kennedy 1904 – 1974

Seebell Kennedy 1915 – 1981

Nazareth Major 1947 – 2020

Lizzie Major 1922 – 2011

Helen McCloud 1938 –

Gertrude Miller 1884 – 1970

Lucy Mingo 1931 –

Lottie Mooney 1908 – 1992

Lucy Mooney c. 1880 – 1969

Quilt by Lucy Mooney from Gee's Bend
Quilt by Lucy Mooney from Gee’s Bend

Flora Moore 1951 –

Aolar Carson Mosely 1912 – 1999

Ruth Pettway Mosely 1928 – 2006

Sadie Bell Nelson 1936 – 1981

Addie Pearl Nicholson 1931 –

Mertlene Perkins 1917 – 2015

Martha Pettway 1911 – 2005

Candis Pettway 1924 – 1997

Leola Pettway 1929 – 2010

Lottie Pettway 1914 – 1997

China Pettway 1952 –

Henrietta Pettway 1894 – 1971

Emma Mae Hall Pettway 1932 –

Nellie Pettway 1940 –

Lola Pettway 1941 –

Louella Pettway 1921 – 2006

Arie Pettway 1909 – 1993

Plummer T. Pettway 1918 – 1993

Quilt by Plummer T Pettway of Gee's Bend
Quilt by Plummer T Pettway of Gee’s Bend

Arlonzia Pettway 1923 – 2008

Beatrice Pettway 1928 – 1988

Edwina Pettway 1950 –

Essie Bendolph Pettway 1956 –

Belinda Pettway 1957 –

Joerina Pettway c. 1881 – 1945

Mensie Lee Pettway 1939 –

Jennie Pettway 1900 – 1990

Joanna Pettway 1924 – 1993

Nancy Pettway 1935 –

Lillie Mae Pettway 1927 – 1990

Lucille Bennett Pettway 1921 – 1999

Annie E. Pettway 1904 – 1972

Katie Mae Pettway 1950 –

Creola Bennett Pettway 1927 – 2015

Mary Ann Pettway 1900 – 1953

Vera Pettway

Annette Pettway 1964 –

Allie Pettway 1916 – 2010

Sweet T. Pettway 1903 – 1983

Indiana Bendolph Pettway 1913 – 1996

Jessie T. Pettway 1929 –

Marie Pettway 1926 – 1987

Malissia Pettway 1914 – 1997

Loretta Pettway 1942 –

Annie Bell Pettway 1930 – 2003

Rita Mae Pettway 1941 –

Nell Parker Pettway c. 1914 – 1981

Lorraine Pettway 1953 –

Lucy P. Pettway 1930 – 2003

Martha Jane Pettway 1898 – 2003

Missouri Pettway 1902 – 1981

Lutisha Pettway 1925 – 2001

Pearlie Kennedy Pettway 1920 – 1982

Linda Pettway 1929 – 2012

Pearlie Irby Pettway c. 1898 – 1955

Qunnie Pettway 1943 – 2010

Arcola Pettway 1934 – 1994

Lucy T. Pettway 1921 – 2004

Stella Mae Pettway 1952 –

Quilt by Sally Mae Pettway of Gee's Bend

Sally Mae Pettway Mixon 1965 –

Quilt by Sally Mae Pettway Mixon of Gee's Bend
Quilt by Sally Mae Pettway Mixon of Gee’s Bend

Bettie Bendolph Seltzer 1939 – 2017

Sue Willie Seltzer 1921 – 2010

Florine Smith 1948 –

Mary Spencer 1949 – 2017

Gearldine Westbrook 1919 – 2016

Hannah Wilcox 1896 – 1973

Irene Williams 1920 – 2015

Andrea Williams 1973 –

Nell Hall Williams 1933 –

Patty Ann Williams 1898 – 1972

Liza Jane Williams 1916 – 1988

Magalene Wilson 1898 – 2001

Lucy L. Witherspoon 1953 –

Estelle Witherspoon 1916 – 1998

Aestean P. Young 1936 – 2001

Deborah Pettway Young 1916 – 1997

Ethel Young 1910 – 2000

Annie Mae Young 1928 – 2013

Nettie Young 1916 – 2010