Sunday, January 6, 2008

and other observations

pen, acrylic & collage on altered book, book dimensions 6.25" x 4.25" [started in 2003, came back to it and reworked it end of 2007]

The book started out more as a collection of sketches, quick discreet sketches made while riding the bus. This was when i was still living in NY and the bus commute was about an hour to/from the subway. Some pages had paint laid out first before the sketches were made and others had color/texture added afterwards. I love the looseness and spontaneity of how the pages came about. It/I was not trying to make it become more than what it was, which was simply to observe and capture, take in and sketch, and let some pink help tie it all together.

I came back to it a couple of months ago, thinking i just need to touch it up a bit here and there before posting it up. Well, that was not the case.

I have kept almost all the pen drawings made in 2003 with only 4-5 small new ones created but the whole mood of the book has changed since reworking it. Almost all the pages have been retouched a bit, some with layers of new paint or paper, and a few completely reconstructed. I still miss before because it was more simple and just is what it is. Now, i see there is a trying to tell a story, maybe wanting/needing to be more connected and complete somewhere? Found myself consciously keeping some words on the page because they now have a more personal meaning to me than before.

View book as slideshow @ Flickr: redredday


  1. I like how this came out even though I don't know how it started out! I especially like page "13"; the profile of the old man with the baseball cap. Looks like he could be my grandfather or one of my uncles. Nice work! I love that there are glimpses of things; even that minimal information fills the senses with the person itself.

  2. Mien this is superbe.
    As you say "loose" the pages seem to create spotlights into someones life. I love double page 15...the hand that seems to scratch the itching arm, a gesture which is very familiar to me...
    Mieny have the most wonderful new year!!

  3. Hi.My name is Yuly. I find your work very interesting. It has a lot of power. I like because is not obvius it leave a full sense of what is not on the draw. I just wonder If you have publish any book?
    Much sucess, yuly.

  4. WOW! this is an incredible book and you are so generous to share so much of it. very wonderful. i feel that minimalism is one of the most difficult artforms to accomplish. you are *very* successful with minimalism and i admire your work greatly. i don't like to use words like "simple" and "loose", which might first come to mind, because they do not really accurately describe. i will have to learn a new word!!

  5. i love the title ...and other often i wonder about how people on the subway make such a strong visual impression in my sort of try to read what's on their know where everyone is standing or sitting....but i know that if you ask me the next day i will not remember at all...i feel like this is what this book captures so well...(for me at least...)

  6. Amazing, amazing work!

  7. Mien, after all that agony over re-working this book you’ve made something quite wonderful! The pain and uncertainty that were part of this process seem important to how the book works and how it affects me. I see/read/imagine/interpret several strands here, one is to do with looking, but not necessarily at what is visible. Not only in the figures who initially are all seen from the back and seem to be lost in thought, in their own world, worlds which we cannot enter, but in the book itself that makes you look beyond what is there. Another one is to do with the body, with how it is marked by time and what happens in a person’s life. I thought a lot about skin and wounds, surgical wounds, cuts into the body, sewn up, but also emotional wounds, and the way the body holds memory, scars being one way of manifesting that. Memory being the third important strand, not only in terms of the figures and what they may be remembering, but also in terms of what the book went through, its metamorphosis, of its skin, its body, how it was marked and worked over again and again. And I think the re-working is part of what makes it so interesting, the layers upon layers, juxtapositions of glimpses of text and images, of notions of time (the short intervals spent on a bus travelling and drawing, the time each figure holds within her/himself, the way so much is always withheld, invisible, but there), I like the lines of your drawings, some of the initial figures are as much delineated as (almost/partially) erased by the dense lines. And the progression of the book, with the sudden changeover from pink to grey, a bit of a shock, an obliteration, and from people seen from behind to people seen in profile or head-on, then figures dissolving more and more, they are barely there, just hinted at and then towards the end a pensive face, reflective, she feels closer somehow, as if you knew her, and me hoping that she is busy with the same thought processes as I am just now, looking through the book, connecting. And at last that lovely page with the plait, I imagine it hanging down a woman’s back, it lifted the sadness I felt looking at the book a bit, don’t know why I find that image hopeful, maybe because it connects to an image that has been important to me for years and which I used in my thesis. And last again the line from the first image, framing, reconnecting and making me want to start over looking and engaging and being drawn in and feeling that sadness and pain of never knowing another person completely, of always being outside, but also the wonderful mystery that brings, and the sadness of ageing, of time speeding up and us having to leave behind experiences, hopes, loves, loved ones, and our own once agile bodies.
    O.k., this probably all sounds a bit dense, and I’ve only touched on some of what I find in this book, but you can see that it moves me very much and I wished I could hold it in my hands and turn over its pages slowly and touch and smell and connect.

  8. marjojo says it all best.

    but also, it has the feeling of when i used to get 'stuck' places with bad cramps. i felt vulnerable, in pain, like everyone was watching, but also invisible, because i would be there, on a wall, a seat, a bus shelter for so long i became background. people didn't see me at all.

    but i saw them, their troubles (though i could only see mouths move, but not here the words, the reasons for their tears) unfolding in front of me. i would guess at their stories, but of course i would never know.

    somehow an essence of which ones were important would develop, the quieter ones - often. two people saying very little, but saying so much by keeping quiet.

    your book reminds me of those days, of how i felt, of imagining how they felt. a sense of poignancy.

    you've done a superb thing here.

  9. Hi Mien,
    WOW!! The book is so beautiful and I love the sparse, open feel.

    I know it has been a lot of work, but the end result is wonderful.

  10. Hey Mien, my head is over the parapet today, hope it'll stay like that but even if not, I had a rather better day than I dared hope for. A day at a time and all that. No posting from you here - makes me wonder if you're o.k. Maybe you're busy ogling your new printing press and planning projects? Are you o.k.?

  11. :). Thank you Everyone for your comments. this book means a lot to me so it pleases me greatly to receive such positive feedback and various connections through it. although i am okay with criticism too (i think).

    Paula, it's funny but that drawing also made me think of my grandfather too.

    Thank you, Uschi. i hope your new year is going well too! :).

    Thanks, Bridgette and Ph&R and Lindsay! :). those simple words mean a lot to me coming from you guys.

    Yuly, i wish i have already published a book. thanks for thinking i might have. :). i hope to one day. ***

    speaking of published books, Bobbi, i would so love to have a book of your blog writings, along with a collection of your art and photos. thank you for your encouraging words.

    hey MML, i've been meaning to write you to wish you a happy new year! so glad for your comment because i know you know how it is to be riding on the bus in that amount of time along that similar route.

    Cally, i like what you said about the feeling of being invisible and watching. that is so much about how it was while working on this book on the bus.

    thanks Claire! i've been wondering where you've been. so good to see you back at your blog. :).

    Marjojo, Marjojo, you are just incredible. you write what i am afraid to write down, what i only have pieces of, not fully able to connect and articulate so cohesively. afraid afraid of committing to words and thoughts that maybe the work fails to convey on its own.
    while reworking the book, i found myself thinking a lot about wounds and passage of time, just as you so perceptively pointed out. i love that you noticed the changes in the colors and the profiles of the figures, which i myself was not really aware of but they all make more sense to me now why. and what you wrote towards the end about the speeding up of time, leaving behind of things and not ever being able to know someone completely are so poignant to me...

    p.s. i am also very curious about your thesis!

  12. Well, I don't know how it looked before but I think it's splendid now.

  13. Fantastic sketchbook! A pleasure.

  14. I missed this when you first posted it. Wow, this is incredible. You get such emotion into your drawings.

  15. All I can say is stunning, just stunning!!

  16. Thank you for showing us the world through your red journal.