Book Art · Book Artists

Jonah, the Whale, and Paul Johnson

Jonah and the Whale by Paul Johnson. Photo by Paula Beardell Krieg
Jonah and the Whale by Paul Johnson

Yes, this sculptural construction is a book. Ed was setting up this piece at Paul Johnson’s show at North Main Gallery in Salem, New York (up until October 4) when I questioned him, because I just didn’t see how this piece could possibly “close.” So he closed it for me. It’s many thick pages long  –here, below is a peek of some of the inner pages…

Inside Jonah and the Whale by Paul Johnson
Inside “Jonah and the Whale ” by Paul Johnson

… which includes a magnificent view of the whale’s tail–and I couldn’t fathom how this undulating, many layered, detailed piece could be shut. In the interest of showing off as much of this book as is reasonable in a blog post, here’s another view of the book with the explanation that I needed in order to structurally understand what’s going on to support the visuals.

Jonah and the Whale, by Paul Johnson, left side
Jonah and the Whale, by Paul Johnson, photo take from the left side

The thick spine of this book doubles as the whale that is about to consume poor Jonah. The alternating  right and blue stripes on the pole, which are on either side of the whale/spine are hinges, known in the bookmaking world as piano hinges, which allow the book to open and close.  Enough said about that. Now for a closer look at the artwork.

detail of Jonah and the Whale by Paul Johnson
detail of Jonah and the Whale by Paul Johnson

These pages, I’m told, are constructed out of heavy weight watercolor paper.

Poor Jonah
a close up of Jonah and the Whale by Paul Johnson

Here’s poor Jonah, just before the decisive moment.  I’ve noticed the house-like structures in many of Johnson’s books: the sweetness of these little structures resonate with the homebody part of me ( I love my home).

Ursula's Garden by Paul Johnson
Ursula’s Garden by Paul Johnson

Here’s another piece in the show with a little house. The writing up top identifies this a Johnson’s mother-in-law’s garden. The writing to left says ” In total contrast to the brilliant colors in my unique pop-up books, my editions are softer in tone comprising pencil crayon and delicate penwork illustration. The laser printed originals are hand cut and hand assembled.”

One more view of Jonah before I sign off on this post. I doubt I will ever again have the opportunity to see this extraordinary piece, so I want to keep these images of it around.

detail of Jonah and the Whale, Paul Johnson
detail of Jonah and the Whale, Paul Johnson

If you are happening to read this post on the date that I’ve written it, and you are within driving distance, this message is for you:

ART PARTY at North Main Gallery, Salem, NY on Tuesday September 23, 6-8 p.m.

You are invited! Paul Johnson will be in the building, giving a talk and showing us books that have never been seen before. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Ed Hutchins assures me that there will be plenty of Saratoga water, local cheeses and other gastronomic delights on hand to round out the evening. You can take it on my word that there will be lots of good company.

If you aren’t nearby, I have some good news for you, too. I have a handful of catalogs that I would like to give away. I will send out copies to up to eight people who request one. I don’t expect I will be inundated by requests, but if I am I will give preference to anyone who has previously left a comment on this blog at any time before today.

I will be attending Johnson’s workshop on Wednesday, so expect one more Paul Johnson post soon!

16 thoughts on “Jonah, the Whale, and Paul Johnson

  1. Paula, I am in deep envy. I would love to take one of Paul Johnson’s workshops. And I would also love to have one of the catalogs. You are so generous. You can email me privately for the details. Thanks. I love your blog.


  2. I love the whale book. I’m in NY but not able to make the show. I was going to forward the email to Ed, but then you mentioned him. Of course he would know about it.

    I would love a catalog. Thanks for all the photos.


    1. I wish you could join us as well. But you’ve been in our conversations, and I hear that Ed will be sending you a gesture of his and Paul’s regards.

      I’m glad you like the images. I could have taken many photos of many pieces, but that would have done none of them real justice, as each is do thick with detail and nuance. Also, the Jonah piece is so spectacular that it was hard to stop taking photos of it.


      1. Hi Paula,
        I received a delightful parcel in the mail a day or two ago. I must say, I felt a long way away from you all and just wished I could teleport. (Not the first time I wished I had a magic carpet or wand.) Thank goodness (and clever people) for the internet. I love your envelope line. I’ll give it a go next Sunday with a couple of my friends when on duty at the Basketmakers of Victoria.


      2. It would have been lovely to have you here. I stopped in at the gallery the day that Ed was preparing your envelope…I’m glad that it arrived and that it delighted you. I like this thread of connection that Paul Johnson’s exhibition/teaching creates.

        Let me know how it goes with the envelopes/ number line book… There’s a number of not-so-obvious surprises about the structure –one of which is that, after it’s been accordion folded and then unfolded, one needs only to twist it from the ends and it practically refolds itself.


  3. Would love to be there! I have several books by Paul and treasure each one. I would love to have one of the catalogs if any are left. Thanks for the wonderful posts. I look forward to any emails coming from you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s