New website for illustration work

Hello!

You may have noticed that I recently removed zines and artwork from this blog. This is because I created a professional website for art and illustration! In the future, this blog will continue to focus on writing projects.

You can find my new website here: https://rotemannadiamant.com/

rotemannadiamant.com

Canada Comics Open Library!

I was so swept up in work that I forgot to post about work!

This is the most exciting project I have ever worked on, and I’ve had the complete pleasure of leading this non-profit comics library for the past 9 months— and can finally talk about it!

The Canada Comics Open Library is working on creating an inclusive physical library space to help showcase how diverse and wonderful comics are. Right now we have an online platform with plenty of resources about Canadian comics,  and we are hosting pop-up libraries and events in existing accessible spaces until we are able to rent a space of our own.

This is a poster from our recent launch event

Launch event poster 4 small

And here are a few photos of community members enjoying comics at our recent pop-up library!

Pop-uplibraryCCOLPop-uplibrary2CCOL

(Photos by Ramtin Teymouri)

Zine Making Guides

Here are a few templates for making zines! There are so many great tutorials online you should check out. I prepared these images for an “introduction to zines” booklet to give away at Maker Fest this summer at the Toronto Reference Library, where I tabled with the  Toronto Zine Library. Feel free to re-post and share.

8 page mini zine made from one sheet of paper (8.5 * 11″)

8 page mini zine guidefinalcolour copy

Accordion zine made from one sheet of paper (8.5 * 11″)

Accordionfoldcolour copy

accordionplayer copy 2

Computerpageguideforacccordionbook copy 2

Simple hand-sewn binding

Handsewn binding guide colour copy

A few general tips

Zine Layout Tips copy

Have fun!

A post about the new Toronto Zine Library OPAC and DIY library software

This is an updated version of a piece created for the Toronto Zine Library’s winter 2019 Zine-O-File, published by the TZL Collective.

First, for those who are unfamiliar, zines are self-published booklets that can be about anything— from garlic recipe zines made of garlic paper to comic zines about socialism in Canada. The term “zine” comes from fanzine and fan magazine, rooted in sci-fi fanzines, and made popular with the rise of punk in the 1970s, queercore in the 1980s, and the feminist punk movement well into the 90s (Bikini Kill! and riot grrrl). Traditionally, zines were a way for niche communities to stay connected and share information that wasn’t picked up by mainstream media.

It may seem obvious, but zines are still being made! People still have things they are concerned about and excited about; marginalized communities are still left out of mainstream publication and censored online; communities of like-minded individuals still want to communicate with each other to share knowledge, ideas, and wisdom in a meaningful way; people still want to connect with each other, with people who have had similar experiences, and with people who have had different experiences —  you get the idea.

The beauty of zines is that anyone can make them— there are no rules. Zines do not have to be perfect, and they do not have to be pretty. Often, master copies are made by cutting and pasting images and texts by hand, mixing print media and handwriting, which are then folded in proper page order, photocopied, refolded, and hand bound or stapled. They are filled with uncensored personal experiences and perspectives and therefore differ from mainstream publication. They allow diverse communities to share their experiences, knowledge, and wisdom.

You may be wondering, how does an independent, volunteer-run zine library keep track of all these wonderful zines and share them with the public?

While we all highly valued the old paper and pencil method of record keeping, at well over 3600 zines (and growing rapidly with weekly donations!) and 200 members (also rapidly growing!) the method had become untenable. The Toronto Zine Library now has an online public access catalogue (OPAC), a searchable online catalogue which you can check out here: https://www.torontozinelibrary.org/catalogue/opac/

Rotem managed and facilitated the library science side of this project, while Brandon supported the tech side of the project — and along the way we received support from the rest of the TZL’s lovely volunteers.

We decided that this beautiful collection would best serve the public if we could afford not only  public research and access to the catalogue but also a more streamlined user management and circulation system. In librarian lingo, this means using an integrated library system (ILS). An ILS is an umbrella term for library management systems that usually, at minimum, serve the desired functions of user management, circulation, and an OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue). For our integrated library system (ILS), we used the open source software OpenBiblio. Open Source software enables small independent organizations like the TZL to function without the monetary constraints commercial software creates. The TZL runs on Open Source already, for example we use Linux at our circulation desk and office tools like LibreOffice to manage documents. However, adapting an existing library’s collections and operating history, managed partially on paper and partially in digital, is no simple task.

The first step to moving to an ILS was the server side setup. For this, we needed to setup a MySQL database and user for OpenBiblio to use and then install the software itself. Fortunately, OpenBiblio comes with good install instructions and the setup was straightforward. At this point, we wanted to begin converting our information from one system to another. However, each preexisting system had its own caveats.

First, the membership database was entirely paper based across binders that spanned all the years of the TZL’s operations (over a decade!). Additionally, OpenBiblio requires members to be associated with barcodes, since typically libraries scan cards as a means of user identification. Our member database had never kept track of its users this way, so the first feature we added to the OpenBiblio functionality — barcode generation!  We chose a simple format and made an automatic generator that would populate the barcode field in the membership form with a unique barcode. Finally, because we’d be storing user information and moving circulation to a web based platform, we needed enhanced security. Since login information over an unsecure channel can be easily “sniffed”, we needed to ensure our admin logins were secure! So we used the Let’s Encrypt Free SSL/TLS certificate service and moved the entire TZL website to Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). This means all of our communications to the OpenBiblio system, and the server in general, were now encrypted and secure! At this point, we were able to move from heavy binders to a sustainable and secure digital database thanks to the hard work of volunteer zine librarians who transferred membership information manually. We can now better track individual copies of zines and run circulation services through our library computer and remotely.

Second, we had been cataloguing the zines using a small custom made app and database for years. It was mostly textual and in a straightforward format that captured the organization of the catalogue. However, OpenBiblio uses the MARC 21 format internally. MARC 21 is a format for machine-readable bibliographic information developed by the Library of Congress. On one hand, this system codifies the storage of bibliographic information and is used broadly in the library community. On the other hand, the system encodes certain assumptions about the medium being catalogued and these assumptions are not necessarily commensurate with zines and zine culture. The first step to this process was understanding the structure of the database in use and getting the preexisting information out in a usable format. To facilitate this we used the SQLite DB Explorer to dump the entire database out into a tab delimited text file. The next step was getting the information into a format for OpenBiblio, this means MARC data, since, fortunately, OpenBiblio has a MARC data importer. To do this we used MARCEdit, a MARC editing and authoring tool made by Terry Reese, a librarian at The Ohio State University. In MARCEdit we were able to map the fields in our custom database to MARC fields we thought would serve them well. For example, we mapped genre to 650$a (650 => Subject Added Entry-Topical Term, $a => Topical term or geographic name entry element), and zine format to 300$b (300 => Physical Description, $b => Other physical details). At this point we were able to export the database as MARC and import it into OpenBiblio. The one caveat here is that OpenBiblio requires call numbers, which the TZL does not use.  To handle this, we were able to simply remove the requirement by commenting out a few lines of code (a hack, yes, but it works!). The very last step is to create an actual copy entry for each item imported, since the bibliographic information and the copies are separate. This is a straightforward process outlined on the OpenBiblio website and requires a little bit of SQL (fortunately copy/paste will do here). Now we had 3400+ entries and a fully functioning OPAC and circulation system!

Third, we wanted to ensure that the medium of zines was captured as best as possible online so our members could do their research and see what they were getting in to. We decided early on that, since OpenBiblio did not already have the feature, that we needed pictures! This led to the second addition to the OpenBiblio feature set. The first task was to understand the inner working of OpenBiblio — we needed to go under the hood for this one! Fortunately, a past contributor had made a patch for an earlier version of this feature. Using this, decoding the inner workings became much more straightforward and made the transition from OpenBiblio user to OpenBiblio developer much more easy. Since it was for an earlier version and didn’t quite have all the features we wanted, we still had our work cut out! This involved several steps: using an experimental MARC field in the 900s to store the image location; adding support to render the image in the bibliographic searches and individual entries; and adding support to upload the image using some fancy jQuery ajax client-side and a dollop of php server-side; and finally building out a thumbnail system so the entire thing was efficient. This year, we held a fundraiser to raise money for a scanner for the library (and for other projects), and since then, we have started the process of scanning zine covers.

All these adjustments and the shift to the new library software in general has improved the way we are able to catalogue zines and the accessibility of the collection. Cataloguing zines is difficult because zine librarians have to choose one out of several categories to organize zines into— but we desperately want to choose multiple. For the TZL, these categories traditionally include: Perzine, Fanzine, Litzine, Humour, Culture, Miscellaneous, Gender/Queer, Politics, Comics, Art (and many subcategories to choose from). Since zines can often fit into multiple categories, we read each zine carefully and cautiously choose what we hope will be its best home. Now we can also add comprehensive keywords to make the catalogue more accessible and showcase how diverse the collection is.

The other great thing about DIY library software is we can avoid the outdated vocabulary, racism, sexism, and other problematic bias that is built into other standard  library taxonomies such as Library of Congress Classification and Dewey. As mentioned, we also have the ability to alter MARC fields in OpenBiblio to match the needs of zine library taxonomies, which are still a work in progress (for us) to be honest. The other great thing about DIY library software is that we can incorporate feedback from zinesters and library visitors to improve the catalogue. For example, we can update tags to reflect current cultural language, from self-determination within marginalized communities to vocabulary within niche communities that we just do not have expertise on.

Limiting zines to one category might prevent someone from stumbling across a zine that they might be searching for (or not know they needed), maybe for research, interest, or other personal reasons. For example, a zine maker’s personal story of surviving a traumatic experience that deals with mental health struggles might be narrated in comic medium and catalogued in the Comics section— but it could just as easily have been shelved in Perzines (personal zines), or maybe Gender/Sexuality. As a result, someone going through a difficult experience and searching for zines relating to trauma and depression, might miss out on this narrative if they only search the Perzine section. Our hope is that by adding keywords to all zines, we can provide library visitors and staff with better information to locate and discover the right zines. The example scenario above (Comics vs. Perzines etc.) can be avoided because zines from any section can now be linked to terms such as: mental health, trauma, survival, grief, self care, personal stories, body positivity, feminism, diary, and so on — which makes us zine librarians very happy.

Also, anyone can now search the collection from their homes or anywhere else with wifi. Since, regrettably, the TZL’s physical library space is not as accessible as we would like (second floor, no elevator), the ability to search the catalogue remotely enables more people to see the scope of the collection and engage with zine resources. For example, a wheelchair user can now email us, ask us to pull zines from our collection that they have found in our online catalogue, and we can then deliver these zines to them on the more accessible main floor of the building.

For more information about the Toronto Zine Library: https://www.torontozinelibrary.org/

Please contact the TZL if you have suggestions for improving community-specific or intersectional keywords, or other ways to improve the language in the catalogue: torontozinelibrary@gmail.com

Below is a list of zines I prepared for the fundraiser to showcase catalogue records with zine covers and keywords added, to show the potential of what the catalogue can grow to look like in the future.

For more information about the Toronto Zine Library: https://www.torontozinelibrary.org/

Please contact me if you have concerns or suggestions regarding anything written about in this post.

 

FundraiserCataloguesheet

 

 

 

 

Zine trading event: The Toronto Zine Off

Toronto Zine Off

For those out there who live in Toronto,

The TZL Collective (Toronto Zine Library) will be partnering with the Toronto Zine Off to host a zine trading event happening this Friday, April 6th from 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM EDT at the Tranzac Club in the Tiki Room (292 Brunswick Ave, the same address where the cozy zine library is nestled on the second floor)

You can find all details about the event over here

If you like, bring 15-25 copies (or more) of a recent zine you have made to trade with other zinesters 🙂 There will be a small open mic as well. Myself and a few other members of the collective may be participating (if I can work up the courage).

Best of all, this is a free event!

Victorian Fairy Paintings

For the past few months, I have been researching fairy lore for an ongoing writing project. I recently came across an exhibition catalogue on Victorian fairy paintings, suitably titled Victorian Fairy Painting (1997, edited by Jane Martineau with contributing essays from curators and other experts).

I feel so lucky to have stumbled into this one at Balfour Books in Toronto while they were having a big sale.

victorian fairy paintings

The drawing below was inspired by Richard Doyle’s The Fairy Tree, which I saw in the book and immediately thought it would be a good excuse to draw monsters.

Richard Doyle was brilliant at drawing little fairy folk figures in imaginative wondrous landscapes. Unfortunately, his depictions carry racist, nationalist, and orientalist attitudes of the time.

He was also the uncle of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who later enthusiastically embraced spiritualism.

I love the dream paintings of self-taught artist John Anster Fitzgerald, included in the catalogue. His paintings below had several versions and were controversial because the earlier versions showed references to drug-induced hallucinations and darker themes.

So many fairy paintings from the Victorian period were heavily inspired by Shakespeare, ballet, and theatre – but my favourites are inspired by more traditional lore, spiritualism, and psychological themes 🖤

fairy drawing

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Version 2

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Version 2

doyle fairy tree 2Richard Doyle’s The Fairy Tree

fitz3The Artist’s Dream by John Anster Fitzgerald (1857)

fitz2

The Nightmare by John Anster Fitzgerald (c.1857-8)

fitz1

The Stuff that Dreams are Made of by John Anster Fitzgerald (1858)

Completely unrelated, as I was browsing the children’s section in the bookstore, I noticed that staff had subtly placed an unwelcome book in the children’s section. I found this offensive to children’s literature 😦

bad book

 

 

 

Adventures in Printing

Back and Forth by Marta Chudolinksa

Cover illustration from the beautiful graphic novel, Back and Forth, told in linocut illustrations, made by Toronto artist Marta Chudolinska

Recently, I decided to take a break from hand drawing and learn how to create block prints, mostly using the linocut printing technique, which is a type of relief printing.

Having taken a rare books course last year in the beautiful Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto, I was somewhat familiar with the process of relief printing, but I wanted firsthand experience, and I was curious to see how the drawing process translates into print images. Well, I was quick to learn that printmaking is an incredibly labor-intensive and frustrating learning process of trial and error— but it is also incredibly satisfying and rewarding. While carving linocuts, I was forced to map out my drawings beforehand using pen on the block, simplifying my images (which is something I almost never do), or else the detail can obscure the image of the final print; this is true especially if you are a beginner and opt to use cheaper tools and blocks with a more malleable but less durable surface.

Lino blocks are less easy to carve and cut than thicker softer rubbers, however, these lino blocks will last longer and survive multiple printing sessions over time. Sadly, these durable lino blocks are more likely to lead to actual “linocuts” 😦 Behold this heavily bandaged blogger:

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For those of you reading this post who are beginner print-makers or do not know much about printing,  here is a brief overview of 3 different illustration printing processes, traditionally used in making artist books, or what are now considered rare books. I will mostly focus on relief printing.

**Much of this blog post is compiled from course notes and power point slides**

Three main illustration processes

  1. Relief Printing:  woodcuts, wood engravings—raised printing methods
  2. Intaglio Printing: metal engravings, such as copper engravings—engraved printing methods
  3. Planographic Printing: flat processes such as lithography, which rely on chemical properties (that oil will not mix with water)

Note: Silkscreen might not be considered a planographic process because the pigment is pushed though a screen, but it is a very similar process to lithography.

William Caxton's The Game of Chesse, c1474

Early woodcut: William Caxton’s The Game of Chesse, c1474

Relief printing: This printing is done from a raised surface, much like type was used in the printing press. Traditionally, this process included letterpress, wood engravings, and woodcuts. During this process, ink is applied on the raised surface, and then the paper is pressed down on it, or the block is pressed into the paper in the case of smaller blocks; in the case of my block printing, I applied the ink by hand with a small roller. The ideal outcome is that only the surface prints, although if ink is over-applied this might lead to some unexpected but aesthetically pleasing results. Traditionally, pear was the commonest wood used, and the flat plank side of a piece of wood was cut with the grain using knives and gouges; the area cut away would be lighter, so the raised lines would be darker, thick, and angular. Achieving detail can be very challenging in relief printing, such as cross hatching, however error can be corrected by gluing on pieces of wood and re-carving. Initially, illustrations would be inked by hand with paper laid on (the way I do it now), but then later a printing press was used, in addition to type (letter blocks) which could be printed then at the same time as the illustration. Albrecht Dürer is a well known  illustrator from the 16th century who miraculously developed awe-inducing fine relief print lines, but then copper engravings quickly became popularized. In the 18th century woodcutting had a revival thanks to the influence of Japanese woodcut illustrations, but blocks are more fragile than other printing techniques, and sadly do not last, so other printing techniques are much more common.

rhinoceros_print

Rhinoceros 1515 woodcut print by Albrecht Dürer

Wood engraving was also a popular form of relief printing, made popular by Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) in England. During this process, wood blocks were prepared with a solution of zinc white in gum arabic, onto which the artist drew their design, or else a drawing could be pasted on the block, much like how now many images can be ironed onto blocks to be engraved. Designs are then cut into the wood block, at the grain end, with a steel graver so that they lie below type height—which results in the design being made of the white lines that the ink does not pick up, as opposed to woodcuts which pick up the design in black ink lines above the type height. Sections of the block could also be painted or washed over with ink to be toned, for more depth or detail. Boxwood was most often used for the process of wood engraving. Blocks that were glued and then bolted together made it possible for newspaper to print full-page illustrations in the 1840’s, and then by the 1860s photographs could be printed right onto blocks to be engraved. Wood engraving was popular until the end of the 19th century, when photo-mechanical processes took over.

Intaglio printing: This type of printing process uses an engraved or incised surface, and can lead to very detailed results. Traditionally, this process  included metal engravings, such as copperplate engravings, and etchings.  Tools are used to cut grooves in the surface of a plate, these grooves are then filled with ink, the rest of the plate is wiped clean, and then the plate is put through a rolling press. Using a great deal of pressure, in this way the paper is forced into the inked grooves during the printing process.

Relief vs intaglio

Intaglio cont’d:

In drypoint engraving, the metal plate is first coated with a ground onto which the design is scratched with a needle, and then the ground is washed off; the design is cut onto the surface of a copper or zinc plate with a diamond or steel point. The design  is scratched directly onto the plate using a burin (engraving tool), which leaves a dark burr of metal, and during this process the plate rests on a rounded cushion filled with sand. The plate is warmed, and then ink is applied to the surface of the plate and wiped off, leaving the lines of the design. These lines are then deepened, but the burr (the raised metal left on each side of the cuts) is not removed, although the burr can come off during the process of engraving. Thanks to this burr, a drypoint image can have softer outlines. The plate is then inked, and wiped with a cloth and the palm of the hand. Then, with the paper placed on top, the plate is passed through a rolling press, where excessive pressure can be applied.

William Blake

Hand-coloured etching from William Blake’s Jerusalem (plate 51), 1820

Etching is another intaglio process. In etching, chemicals bite into a metal plate to create an image. Traditionally, a clean polished copper or zinc plate is warmed and covered with ground, which can be wax, asphalt and hartshorn), and the smoked over with a candle, which will colour it black. A tracing of  the design is placed over the ground plate and pressed down onto it, and then a rounded needle removes the ground from the lined of the drawing. Once this design is carved out using the needle, the edge and back of plate are covered with acid-resistant varnish, and the plate is immersed in an acid solution which “bites” the lines, repeatedly until the desired depth is reached. Lines that have reached the correct depth can be “stopped out” with varnish to prevent further deepened etching. Artist William Blake hand-coloured his etchings to beautiful effect (Songs of Innocence and Experience, 1789), and the artist Rembrandt left ink on the plate, which produced darker prints.

Other forms of intaglio printing include:

Aquatints were first used in the 1750s, notably used by Francisco Goya (1746-1828), who combined etching with aquatint.

Mezzotints, which were quite possibly invented by Ludwig von Siegen in 1642, reproduced tones as well as lines, and were often used in reproductions of portraiture works.

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Aquatint: Goya’s The Giant (1818)

Martin_Pandemonium.1833

Mezzotint with drypoint: Pandemonium, 1824, from John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Planographic printing: This type of printing is done from  a flat surface, as opposed to a raised surface (such as relief) or engraved/incised surface (such as intaglio). Traditionally, lithography and offset lithography  are planographic  processes. These processes are based on chemical properties—primarily, that oil does not mix with water.

Planographic printing, first used by Aloysius Senefelder in 1796, was first called “lithography” in 1804, and by early 19th century it had spread throughout Europe. Senefelder, who first drew on limestone, began by using acid to raise the text, but later realized that he did not need to raise the printing surface; by drawing with a grease-based ink and wetting the limestone, he discovered that only the greasy ink printed on the paper. In 1797 Senefelder built the first lithographic press, and  in 1798  lithographic transfers, which used a print to create a new lithographic stone, were used, and  in 1799 crayons were used for drawing on stones. In 1837, Engelmann patented chromolithography (colour lithography), which was the most common method of creating colour illustrations in the 19th century. Now modern methods use photochemical reproduction for an image, with zinc or aluminum plates in rotary presses.

P.156-1995

Lithograph: Desire by Edvard Munch, 1898

My printmaking tools:

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A few finished linocuts:

block print

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