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Detail of "Flock" artist book by Chandler O'Leary

I’ve been sitting on this post for months now—it’s just that after spending so much time hunched over this project, I needed some time off from even thinking about it. But now I’m ready to talk birds again.

"Flock" hand-painted bird linocut prints by Chandler O'Leary

From left: Cedar Waxwing; Steller’s Jay; American Avocet; Purple Martin; Tufted Puffin

Eighteen months, twenty-five birds, six hundred twenty-five individual prints and ten box sets later, my little Flock is finished.

"Flock" hand-painted bird linocut prints by Chandler O'Leary

Mountain Quail; American Bittern; Long-billed Curlew; Hooded Merganser; Laysan Albatross

"Flock" hand-painted bird linocut prints by Chandler O'Leary

Barn Owl; American Kestrel; Eurasian Coot; Anna’s Hummingbird; Herring Gull

It’s a little crazy to see these all together, like, well, birds on a wire. Each one has been broken down into its own little assembly line for so long that I forget sometimes to see them as a set.

"Flock" hand-painted bird linocut prints by Chandler O'Leary

Western Tanager; Lazuli Bunting; Northern Flicker; Bullock’s Oriole; Belted Kingfisher

"Flock" hand-painted bird linocut prints by Chandler O'Leary

Common Loon; Marbled Murrelet; Northern Shoveler; Harlequin Duck; Brown Pelican

As you can see, what’s represented here is a pretty broad cross-section of Washington birds. There are so many bird species ’round these parts, in fact, that I almost didn’t know where to start—and narrowing the choices down to twenty-five was by far the most difficult task.

Process photo of "Flock" artist book by Chandler O'Leary

Wait. I take that back. The hardest part was keeping the glue off of the pricey imported Japanese book cloth (glue plus cloth equals death—or at least wailing, gnashing of teeth, and starting all over from the beginning).

"Flock" artist book and hand-painted bird linocut print by Chandler O'Leary

You see, it seemed silly to have a set of prints with nothing to house it. My inner book artist took over (thanks to Jessica’s tricksy enabling), and insisted on encasing the first ten sets of the edition in handmade clamshell boxes.

Colophon page for "Flock" artist book by Chandler O'Leary

Even though the results are always worth it, I don’t have much love for making boxes—what I do love is printing the colophon. A colophon (or in today’s hardbound novels, the “note on the text”) is an essential element in any artist’s book; this is where the artist steps outside the book’s content and talks about the making of the book itself. For this I decided to go back to my letterpress roots, and hand-set the text in metal type.

Process photo of "Flock" artist book by Chandler O'Leary

While I’m rarely able to fit hand-setting into my projects these days (a drawback to all the lettering I’ve been doing), it’s still my favorite method of getting a block of text onto a page. And this beloved Bembo, cast locally at Stern & Faye, is so beautifully spaced and balanced that it’s a dream to set and a pleasure to read.

Detail of colophon page for "Flock" artist book by Chandler O'LearyProcess photo of "Flock" artist book by Chandler O'Leary

Here’s what it says:

The sheer variety of avian species here in the Pacific Northwest is staggering. Nurturing a fledgling love of birding was easy; the hard part was winnowing my list of favorites down to a couple dozen portraits. Here, then, is Flock, a motley kettle of songbirds, waterfowl, raptors, and shorebirds. While they’re not exactly birds of a feather, every member of this brood can be found either as a permanent resident or a passing traveler in Washington state—with just a wingtip of artistic license, that is.

Printed from October 2008 to December 2009 on a gaggle of presses, including Vandercook models SP15 and Universal One, a Craftsman 6.5 x 10 platen, and my little Kelsey 3 x 5—at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, Springtide Press in Tacoma, the University of Puget Sound, and here at Anagram Press, respectively. The colophon is hand-set in Bembo, and each hand-carved linocut print is hand-painted with Pelikan watercolor (no pun intended). Of a covey of 25 birds, a tweet of 25 prints each, and a parliament of ten box nests, this is number [2].

"Flock" artist book and hand-painted bird linocut prints by Chandler O'Leary

Okay, so maybe I went a bit overboard on the avian puns. It’s just that the thought of getting my hands dirty on type drawers again had me all twitterpated.

And I have a fluttering feeling that there might be even more birds in my future—one of these days, anyway.

Detail of "Flock" artist book by Chandler O'Leary

8 thoughts on “Flock

  1. twinsetellen

    These are fabulous. I just ordered both sets of greeting cards you have available and am hoping you will make more of the birds available in this manner.

    1. Chandler

      Thank you so much for the order, Ellen! Yes, there will be more birds available as greeting cards this fall. I’ll keep you posted.

  2. Maggie

    Perfection. What a beautiful collection and a stunning finished piece! And, I feel you on the glue + bookcloth = teeth gnashing…it’s nervewracking stuff, but you executed it beautifully!

  3. Geek Knitter

    Wailing and gnashing of teeth is actually worse than death. Theoretically, death would end the anguish… one could wail and gnash teeth for a very very long time.

    Beautiful prints!

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