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(Como surgió este librito)

(Ver la versión española a continuación…)

It’s an Offspring

Maureen’s Kitchen / La Cocina de Maureen, my recent bilingual limited edition of recipes and hand-pulled, hand-colored prints was a response to a year and a half of semi-stagnation, something I suspect many of us have gone through. I was finally able to convince myself–with a little help from my friends–that the way out of the labyrinth was creative work. Get to work and make something beautiful. The edition was limited to 19 portfolios of 16 recipes and prints, because that was all the large sheets of hand-made etching paper I had left in my studio. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s the simple truth.

The invention worked too well. The edition sold out in three weeks. And I still had requests for more–but there weren’t any more. It was the brilliant idea of Ricardo Calvente, our neighbor and the owner of Granada’s finest print shop, la Imprenta del Arco, to publish the content of the portfolio as a book. Using digital technology and incorporating some images from my sketchbooks to add interest, he could print up however many books I required, as the need arose. These books have no fine-art pretensions but I am, nonetheless, delighted with the results.

The smaller format, the spiral binding and glossy paper, encourage the use of the book in the kitchen. On a kitchen counter the open book will lie flat, and if you spill something on it you can wipe it off with a damp cloth. And it can be sold for a fraction of the price of the limited edition portfolio. It’s not the same, of course, but it is an elegant solution to the problem at hand.

Es un descendiente

Maureen’s Kitchen / La Cocina de Maureen, mi reciente carpeta de edición limitada en inglés y español, de recetas y grabados tirados a mano, fue una respuesta a un año y medio de estancamiento/paralización, algo que sospecho que nos ha pasado a más de uno. Al final pude convencerme a mí misma–con la ayuda de mi familia y amigos–que la salida del labirinto pasaba por el trabajo creativo. Pónte a trabajar y haz algo bello. La edición se limitó a 19 portafolios de 16 recetas e imágenes cada uno, porque no me quedaban más hojas grandes de mi papel favorito de grabado. Sé que eso suena ridículo, pero es la pura verdad.

Al final, el invento funcionó demasiado bien. La edición se agotó en tres semanas. Me quedaban solicitudes de más portfolios, pero no quedaban más. Fue la genial idea de Ricardo Calvente, nuestro vecino y dueño de la mejor imprenta de Granada, la Imprenta del Arco, de publicar los contenidos del portfolio en un libro. Usando tecnología digital e incorporando unas imágenes de mis sketchbooks para añadir interés, él podía imprimir cuantos libros que yo necesitara, según surgía la necesidad. No puedo pretender que estos libritos sean “fine art”. Sin embargo, estoy encantada con los resultados.

El formato más pequeño, la encuadernación con espiral, y el papel brilliante, animan a usar el libro en la cocina. En una superficie de cocina el libro abierto se queda plano y si se ensucia, se puede limpiar con un trapo mojado. Y se puede vender por una fracción del precio de la edición limitada. Desde luego, no es lo mismo, pero no deja de ser una solución elegante al problema.

(Click to enlarge, haga clic para ampliar.)

How to Get your Copy of This Charming Little Book

I’m asking 15€ for the book. There are two ways to get it:

  1. If you’re within striking distance of Pinos Genil (eight kilometers from Granada on the old Sierra Nevada road), just drop by the studio and we’ll have a coffee or something and you can take your book home with you.
  2. If you can’t make it in person I’ll be happy to send it to you, and you’ll just have to pay the postage. Drop me an email (maureenluciabooth at gmail.com.) and we’ll discuss the arrangements.

Como hacerse de un ejemplar del libro

Pido 15€ por el librito. Hay dos formas de adquirirlo:

  1. Si puedes acudir a mi estudio en Pinos Genil (a ocho kilómetros de Granada en la carretera vieja de Sierra Nevada) puedes pasar por el estudio, nos tomamos un cafe u otra cosa, y puedes llevar tu libro personalmente.
  2. Si no puedes acudir al estudio, te lo enviaré por correo con mucho gusto. Tendrás que pagar el franqueo. Simplemente, envíame un email (maureenluciabooth arroba gmail.com) y concretaremos el pago y la entrega.

The Presentation

My dear friend, the Spanish poet, Ángeles Mora, will present the book in the Pinos Genil village square on August 4 at 9:00 p.m., during the Pinos Genil Culture Week. You are cordially invited.

La presentación

Mi querida amiga, la poeta de Rute (Cordoba), Ángeles Mora, presentará el libro en la plaza de Pinos Genil el día cuatro de agosto a las 21:00 horas, durante la Semana Cultural de Pinos Genil. Os invito cordialmente.

Thank you for following, commenting and sharing.
Gracias por seguir, comentar y compartir.

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This project wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable help of my
studio assistant, María José Braojos and her daughter, Silvia Romera Braojos,
as well as Ricardo Calvente Chacón, of the Del Arco Print Shop in Granada.
And, of course, Mike, my photographer, webmaster, and husband.

I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

Much as I have tried over the past long year to stay positive, I confess it hasn’t always been easy and at times events have taken a toll on my morale. The pandemic took us all by surprise. Life was different and we suspected it would never be the same again, but first we had to survive the virus. (We have a friend who did die–briefly–and came back and told us about it.) We couldn’t see friends and family, which in Spain form the cornerstone of life on this planet. We couldn’t go out for a drink and tapas. Or drive down to the beach. Our life was reduced to a recurring supermarket-pharmacy-laundromat routine. Though, I shouldn’t complain too much. We were never without our inspiring riverside walking path, nor the loving company of Cuca, Diva, Bundy, Rosey and Susu, whom Mike refers to as “our little people.”

As I mentioned before, it was María José who inspired me to get back to work in a serious way. Let me tell a bit about her. She has become for me more of a daughter than a helper. We met 20 years ago when her husband, Juan Carlos Romera, was planning the production of a 38-minute short film called “Bive,” (“Live” in semi-literate Spanish). He needed a foreign woman artist for a story set in a fishing village in the Mediterranean province of Almería. As soon as he saw my studio he said, “You’re the one… and we’ll shoot the studio scenes in here.” María José was his assistant on Bive. Working on the film with Juan Carlos, María José, and his professional crew from Madrid was all new to me. It was hard work during a hot summer, but intensely interesting, and included some good fun. (You can see the complete film here on YouTube.) But I’m meandering again. What makes working with María José so gratifying is her limitless good humor, her sweet demeanor, her careful work, and her readiness to learn. She’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever known.

It Turned Out to Be a Healing Process

So we decided to start on the prints-and-recipes project. I prepared the originals on acetates and when they were all ready María José stepped in to help me burn the plates and pull the prints. That was our usual procedure. What was new in the process was the hand coloring (“illuminating” is the delightful traditional term) of all the prints, for which her help was invaluable. It was an extremely limited edition of 19 portfolios, but each one had 16 prints and they all had to be colored by hand. It was a demanding, meticulous job that required concentration to the exclusion of everything else. That exclusion included all forms of worry, anxiety, or stress.

A few days after we finished illuminating the prints and had wedded them with the introductory texts and the portfolios (which I made to measure myself), and sold the first few books, it occurred to me that I was feeling quite a bit better. People liked the portfolio. I was full of pride and optimism, and had some money jingling in my pocket. I even had some new projects fall into my lap, a couple of portraits and a big job for our village’s new Sierra Nevada tram museum. It seems I have been renewed by a combination of art, work, and loyal friends. I have always prided myself on being a working artist, and this is just one more proof of its miracles.

I wonder if this simple formula might not work for you, too.

P.S. There are still a few portfolios left. If you need one you can contact me via email: maureenluciabooth (at) gmail.com.

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An interview by Bart Sedgebear

Manchester Girl Came Long Way

Maureen is from Manchester, U.K. In her last incarnation there she was a suburban housewife with two small children. That was in 1964 and she was feeling restless again. She had always been restless, at school, in church, in her job as a secretary earning coolie wages in the Manchester textile sector. This time it was bigger. She wanted out of suburbia, out of Little England. She had experienced only two weeks of sunshine in the previous year and yearned to feel the sun. She had painted her children’s bedroom walls with a bullfighter theme. Painting made her happy. She had attended a few night classes with a professor from the Stockport College of Art. “I needed to know how to stretch a canvas,” she says. After a half-dozen lessons the art professor said to her, “You don’t need to come any more. Just go home and draw everything.” She sold her first couple of portraits and thought the life of the artist would be easy.

One day, when her husband arrived home from work as a sales rep, she said to him, “Let’s move to Spain.” They had been on holiday a couple of times on the Costa Brava on Spain’s northern Mediterranean coast and enjoyed it.

In July 1964 she stepped off a plane at the Málaga airport, a thousand kilometers south of the Costa Brava. She was shepherding her two children and struggling with the carry-on luggage. Her husband was waiting there to drive them to their new home, a cobblestone, Roman-tiled fishing village 50 kilometers up the coast. As she stepped out the door of the plane she was buffeted by a wave of heat like nothing she had ever experienced before. She wondered if she had done the right thing.

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Time Flies

Flash forward a half century. She’s sitting midst easels and etching presses, stacks of canvases and exotic papers, worriedly anticipating the return of the wren that built his nest outside her studio window last week–and looking back over a life that took her by surprise.

Q: What happened?

A: We sold our house in England and pooled the money with another English couple to build a restaurant/bar and 12 apartments on a bluff over a Mediterranean beach in southern Spain. We ran the business working alternate weeks for a few years, the wives cooking and the husbands doing the shopping and tending the bar.

A couple of years in I rented the whole top floor of an old house overlooking a big vegetable patch and made it into a wonderful studio. The woman who owned the house was called Conchita Bueno and she was truly buena. I would paint there during the off weeks and any other time I could steal. Sometime during the fourth year, with the business taking off and me selling some paintings, I got restless again. We didn’t speak hardly any Spanish and we had never really integrated with the villagers. What’s more, the town was turning into a tourist trap for wayward Brits and Northern Europeans who formed English-speaking cliques and whose idea of adventure was to go to a “native” bar. It wasn’t an ideal place to raise children. I felt that I needed to get out of there. But how? I badly needed some serendipity.

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It came along in the form of an American lad who wore cut-off jeans in mid-winter and always carried a couple of cameras. He moved into the ugly new block of flats opposite our restaurant and began coming over for breakfast, and we had time for long chats. It turned out he was writing articles for American newspapers and was determined to stay in Europe. He liked fried bread, had never heard of it. One morning he and I made mayonnaise together in the kitchen, him pouring the oil slowly into the bowl and me whipping it into the eggs with a wire whisk. Shortly afterwards we coincided at a party of those boring expats and spent the whole night in a corner reading aloud to each other from a book of Yeats’ poems. We read Beggar to Beggar Cried. That did it.

Q: What happened then?

A. Two weeks later I was back on the plane with my kids, headed to my parents’ house in Manchester. I was there for six months working in my brother’s flower shop while my soon-to-be second husband searched for a “real” Spanish village well off the Mediterranean coast, found one, rented a house there, and helped the owner install a bathroom. We’ve lived in that village ever since. It hasn’t changed much as it’s in a steepish valley that doesn’t have much room for “development.” Here we raised my two kids and one of our own.

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Becoming a Printmaker

Eventually we bought an old house and fixed it up. As we had no money left nor collateral, the village mayor co-signed a loan for us to do the renovation. That is how our pueblo has treated us. Some years later we built the studio and converted the goat shed into an office for Mike and have happily lived and worked here ever since. Much later we built a cabin to accommodate the print artists who came from all over the world to attend my printmaking workshops. Workshops are what you do when a disastrous world economic crisis slows your flow of art sales to a drip. Even in this I was lucky. My husband was a freelance journalist and photographer who had worked in PR in the US, so it didn’t take him long to adapt to being an artist’s online publicist. Try googleing “printmaking courses in Spain”  and see the first results.

This was the etching studio of the Rodríguez-Acosta Foundation in 1979-80

Q: How did you become a printmaker?

A: More serendipity. Louise Waugh, a wonderful English watercolorist friend, stopped by the studio one day with some beautiful etching proofs. I was astounded. How did she do that? She said she had been accepted to study in the etching studio of the Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta in Granada. “You just take a portfolio of your work and leave it with them, and then go back after a week to see if you’ve been accepted.” I did. I was. A whole new world opened up for me. I worked there for two-and-a-half years, under the direction of the magical printmaking maestro, José García Lomas, “Pepe Lomas,” who had been exquisitely formed in Barcelona and Paris. Pepe liked his students to be earnest and I was certainly that, so he spared no effort to see to it that I mastered his traditional techniques. It’s a good thing I did. Everything starts there.

The Creative Life

Q: Let’s talk about the creative life. How do you see it looking back?

A: And forward. That’s something I need to clear up. A writer friend of ours recently turned 40 and expressed concern about being “past her prime.” What nonsense. You’re never past your prime until you stop struggling. I made my first print when I was 37. Consider Georgia O’Keeffe, nearing 98, virtually blind, and still painting.

As for “the creative life,” Mike and I have discussed it a lot. We agree that authentic creativity goes beyond putting paint on canvas or ink on plates. For us an artist’s first mission is to take responsibility for crafting a creative life. That can mean different things for different artists but the essential part is about making a vital and artistic ecosystem for yourself, tailor made for your own needs, tastes, challenges and aspirations. And don’t fail to leave some space for serendipity.

Don’t worry what other people think of your lifeplan. It’s for you, not for them. Do you want to raise chihuahuas or learn Mandarin. You can do that, and more. When I was headed back to Spain in 1969 to start a new life my two brothers, both successful businessmen, expressed their grave concern for me. They thought I was crazy. Forty-some years later they came down individually for visits, and both confided to me, “I wish I had done what you did.”

Q: Do you have any advice for young artists who are starting out, say, where you were in the mid-sixties?

A: I can make some general suggestions, but every artist is a world apart. First and foremost is the importance of actually working, filling sketchbooks, painting, making prints. If you don’t do that conscientiously it’s all pointless. Inevitably, what you are seeking, to live from your art, entails some risk, but it need not be an impediment. There’s a simple formula for taking the stress out of it: Figure out what your wildest dream is and give it a try. The worst that can happen is that you have to go home and get a job.

You’ll have to sell some work, of course. You’ll need to exhibit and participate in art fairs and other cultural events. Whether or not you ever sell much work over Internet, a compelling presence on the Web will be an important element in your success. Your story is just as important as your work and you’ll need to develop it and find interesting ways to divulge it. Right now the media for that are websites and blogs, videos and podcasts and, of course, social media. Later there will be something else but the essential element will still be your story: your humanity, your humor, your best teacher, your hopes, your unexpected successes, the morning light on your nasturtiums, your cat, and your trip to Tasmania or the Grand Canyon. Don’t worry about including any sales pitches. The captivating life and times of a full-time professional artist is sales pitch enough, and your potential clients will appreciate your low-key presentation.

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More Preparation

It would be good to study something, too, regardless of whether you get a degree. You will learn how to learn and this will serve you well when it comes time to build a a website or a sailboat. Don’t laugh. A dear artist friend of ours in Colorado makes lovingly- crafted three-quarter size Indian canoes and people hang them from their ceilings.

Travel all you can. Read all you can. Without it you cannot become a complete artist–or person. Read quality fiction and non-fiction. Everything fits into the artist’s blender.

Q: Do you have more suggestions, something to help artists survive a crisis?

A: I discussed that more extensively in an article I wrote some years ago. Here’s a link to it.

Q: What about working space and conditions? How important are they?

A: Ample workspace is essential for a visual artist, especially considering that you might need to mount courses in there. That studio is your sacred space and you must devote some thought and resources to it. You also need privacy and tranquility. At first you may need a day job, but don’t let it prevent you from spending quality time in your studio. Program that into your life. Set some objectives, make some plans. Write them down. They will help you navigate the hard times to come.

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Think about what kind of work you’re going to do, how commercial you can go without compromising your creativity and your self respect. Who are you going to sell to and how? Resist the temptation to spend time and effort cultivating rich clients. Normal people–teachers, nurses, programmers, office workers, small business people and the like, are better, more loyal and constant. They will think of you when they need wedding presents or portraits. Then, if a rich client comes along, that’s OK, too.

Don’t despise anyone. My best client for paintings (this was before etchings) when I started out in Granada was a young pharmacy employee. He would phone me occassionally and say, “I’ve got some money saved, Maureen. Can I come out and have a look-around?” We’re still friends.

Q: What about the coronavirus pandemic? How do you think that is going to influence the lives of artists?

A: I think that’s impossible to predict at the moment. The first thing that occurs to me is that involuntary lockdown has given artists valuable time to think and observe, time they have never taken before. I hope they take good advantage of it. As for national and world events, they could go from revolutionary social and political changes to just more of the usual muddling through. Only one thing is clear to me: our creativity–in the broadest sense of the word–will be stretched to its limits Artists may have to plant potatoes. In any case, look on the bright side. Creativity is what artists are good at.

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Back for Seventh Successive Year

This group of high-school juniors, from Germany, Russia, the USA and Spain all attend Bremen’s  International Baccalaureate school and study art under Brenda Eubank. This is the seventh (eighth?) successive year that Brenda brings her students to Maureen’s studio to do a printmaking workshop. (Note: Brenda notifies us by email that the first workshop Maureen had with the students from Bremen was in 2011, so this year’s visit was the ninth. Time flies.)

This year, under Maureen’s guidance, they made three collective artists’ books. It sounds complicated and it was but the results gratified everybody.

Have a look at the photographs, below.

(Thanks, Brenda, hope to see you next year.)

 

Photos by Mike Booth and Brenda Eubank
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Children Loose in My Studio with Indelible Felt Pens

Our friends ask me frequently, “When are you going to do a workshop for children?I would love for our kids to participate.” So last Saturday I invited  a group of friends’ kids, along with our own grandchildren, to a day of printmaking in my studio. Some of them didn’t really know why they were here; they were sent. Some were frankly reluctant at first.

How does one overcome that reluctance and get them centered on the work. I found out a long time ago that it’s not so complicated as it seems. You put a sheet of acetate in one hand and a felt pen in the other and tell them to do whatever they like. No art teacher ever told them that before and it makes them feel empowered. That, and seeing their first print, maintains their enthusiasm.

Aside: One of the fathers was there when I passed out the materials, actually a well-known local painter. He stood over his daughter and started giving her instructions.  I suggested he might be more comfortable out in the sunshine and she immediately got seriously to work. Moral to the story: Children are actually people and people like freedom.

After creating their first image, seeing it burned on a solarplate and run through an etching press onto paper, they wanted to do more printss. I couldn’t keep up with them. The only way to slow them down was to announce lunch. What do kids like to eat? Anything followed by chocolate pudding.

They all went home with a couple of prints, some more, and a new  experience under their belts. The parents were also delighted. Some of them actually expressed an interest in doing some prints themselves.

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Photography by Miguel Ángel Martínez and Mike Booth

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Good morning Frances

I found this note below written in my visitors’ book a few days after Frances and Mike Parker left. It made me so proud I want to share it with you.

Teachers are born with a gift and you have this gift in bucket loads.

How can I ever thank you enough for your energy, talent, passion, wisdom and generosity? I have learnt so much from you in such a short time. Not just about technique and process, much deeper lessons in how to live an artistic and creative life, lessons that I will take with me and draw on to enrich my work and relationships.

The studio space, the adorable Gallinero, the village, the river and most of all Mike and your hospitality and generosity have made our visit so memorable.

Frances & Mike Parker

Thank you for your too-kind words, Frances. I wish you and Mike the greatest success wherever you go, whatever you do. I suspect you’re going to etch a deep mark on Australian printmaking.

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Homenaje a Maureen

Somos Pineros

Homenaje a Maureen.
Hom

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In recent months a couple of my galleries in Granada have been asking, “Could you make us some miniature prints?” These are my first proofs.

 

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Your first portfolio is a milestone. This is the point where you’ve practiced enough printmaking techniques to make a respectable showing with your first formal project. Your confidence has grown to an almost viable level—along with an equally-heightened case of nerves and apprehension. This is the big time. What subject should you choose? What techniques should you employ for this first effort? If I may offer my advice, choose a subject that is familiar to you, something you love and is close at hand. As for techniques, keep it simple. You’re just starting out. There’s plenty of time to get fancy as you go along.

Shall I tell you about my first portfolio? It was 1978 and my maestro, José García Lomas (Pepe Lomas to his friends), suggested that I might be ready to make my first portfolio of prints. I had been studying with him at the Rodríguez-Acosta Foundation in Granada for more than two years. Pepe  offered to guide me through process of making the portfolio. What a luxury that was.

He was delighted when I told him I had chosen a nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussycat, by the English artist, illustrator, musician, author and poet, Edward Lear. This was a poem that, for some reason, I remembered vividly from my childhood. Pepe agreed with me that it offered splendid visual possibilities.

I must confess that the five plates that I created for The Owl and the Pussycat were not precisely simple. I worked on them for six months, pulling untold proof prints. Encouraged all along by my maestro, who wanted to see me show off the techniques he had taught me, techniques that I had practiced every weekday morning for more than two years, I went to work enthusiastically. So the etched zinc plates incorporated line work, aquatint, and soft ground. The Rodríguez-Acosta workshop had a wonderful big aquatint box with paddle bellows and we were still in the age of immortality. I suspect we all breathed a lot more resin than was good for us.

Before I even touched the first plate I did sketches for all five of them. Any comments Pepe made were always limited to technical considerations, as he always scrupulously respected his students’ artistic criteria. I started by varnishing five zinc plates and lightly etching in the basic drawings, then working the plates all up together starting with the aquatint. Though all the plates were different, this approach insured some degree of coherence across the whole portfolio.

We decided on an edition of 50 portfolios and 50 loose sets. Multiply that by five etchings plus a cover illustration and it adds up to 600 prints. Pepe insisted that the whole job be done by Angel and Pepillo, the workshop’s two printing technicians. The artists at the Foundation seldom touched the etching presses. While they did that I went off to find an offset print shop to print the cover text and colophon.

I presented The Owl and the Pussycat along with other work in an exhibition at Granada’s wonderful Palacio de la Madraza, the 14th-century building opposite the cathedral. La Madraza housed Granada’s first university and belongs to the University of Granada today.

This was the most successful portfolio I ever did.

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“I’d like to go back home and teach these techniques…”

Jess is a lovely girl and was a pleasure to work with. She seemed to have a sense of purpose beyond her 20 years, learning the techniques of creative printmaking very fast. I was able to let her do her own printing after a few days. She has a lot of natural charm and also very keen to learn about solar plates and the liquid metal technique. Jess left with some very interesting prints which we made together and also a lot she created on her own. She also loved the city of Granada, where she would go lots of afternoons using the local bus service. We will miss you, Jess. Come back when you can.

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.From the visitors’ book:

I will always remember my time here with joy. I have learnt so much about art, Spain and myself. It’s an experience I will always treasure. Maureen, you and Miguel have been more than accommodating during my time here. So thank you. You have taught me such a mass of things. Perhaps I will see you in New Zealand!

Love, Jess — Keep in touch!

17 August 2015

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