In Paul Johnson’s Ark

September 28, 2014

Paul-Johnson's-Ark

Paul-Johnson’s-Ark, detail

This past Tuesday the North Main Gallery in Salem. New York hosted an Art Party for Paul Johnson’s work, which included an animated presentation by the artist himself.

Paul-Johnson's-opening

Paul Johnson’s opening

Johnson’s  Noah’s Ark pop-up book was part of the presentation, though not part of this generous show. During his talk, Johnson first showed us the ark as a completely flat piece, then with a dramatic flick of the wrist, he expanded into a structure that was so detailed and dimensional that we gasped. He threatened to teach us how to make one of our own in the workshops the following day.

Model for students, Paul Johnson simplified ark

Model for students, Paul Johnson simplified ark

Which, fortunately, was not true. We were challenged enough with this diminished version, especially when it came to filling it with animals.

Keith-and-Susan's-Ark's-(I-think)

Keith’s and Susan’s Arks (I think)

Rather than make two of every animal, Keith filled his ark with cattle couples, and Susan feautured Noah. Each of the dozen students came up with their own solutions.

We also made a pop-up theater card, which Johnson successfully taught us in ten minutes flat (lunch was in the offing).

Model for Pop-Up Theater Card

Model for Pop-Up Theater Card

And then there was what he called the Vaudeville Theater, which gave us a chance to try out the dimensional slot-and-tab techniques that Johnson uses in many of his mulit- layered books.

Vaudeville  slot-and-tab Theater construction directions by Paul Johnson

Vaudeville slot-and-tab Theater construction directions by Paul Johnson

The highlight of the day for me was asking Paul Johnson about the dovetail joint technique that he sometimes uses to create hinges. I had studied the look of this method of building a hinge, and but my attempts at making mine work had failed entirely. Left to my own devices I know would have persevered beyond reason to figure this out, so I was, gulp, really really happy that I could actually show him the self-disassembling box that I had sort of put together.  Turns out that my way of thinking about the dovetail joint was all wrong. If you can imagine a dovetail joint you will know that it is made with two trapezoids: one negative, one positive. I had wrongly envisioned that these two trapezoids echo each other exactly in their shape. Instead, what’s going on is that top(short side) of the positive dovetail/trapezoid is the same length of the longest (base) side of the negative dovetail. If this made no sense to you, well, know that it made no sense to me either. So Paul showed me a model that he had prepared for just this kind of inquiry (aw, there’s always one…) and gave it to me since no one else had asked. Thank you! Passing on the favor I made this template:

Dovetail template for making hinged panels, inspired by Paul Johnson

Dovetail template for making hinged panels, inspired by Paul Johnson

from which I made this lovely box which lies flat…

Paper panels, with dovetailed attachments

Paper panels, with dovetailed attachments

.and then opens into three dimensions. Yeah!

Paper Box with Dovetail hinges

Paper Box with Dovetail hinges

I made this 4″ cube with Hammermill 80 lb Color Copy Digital Cover Paper. Paul Johnson makes his constructions with 140 lb Saunders Watercolor Paper.
Okay, this is it for my Paul Johnson posts. Fact is I could probably do another 20 posts of the books in this show (which is up until October 4) but I won’t…

the Good-bye Hippos on Paul Johnson's Noah's Ark

..the Good-bye Hippos on Paul Johnson’s Noah’s Ark

…so it’s time to say goodbye. And many thanks to Ruth Sauer’s North Main Gallery for opening the doors for this show, and hurrah to Paul Johnson for visiting our little village of Salem here in upstate New York, and thanks to Ed for his hand in making this all come together well. What a gift!

6 Responses to “In Paul Johnson’s Ark”

  1. Candy Says:

    Thanks for sharing, especially the dovetail hinges.

    Like

  2. Anne Newton Says:

    Thanks Paula. Lovely seeing Paul’s new work.

    Like


    • I’m glad I could offer you this peek. Did you click on the link in the second sentence, Johnson’s Noah’s Ark? It will give you a full view of the book, which really defies any photographic representation. But I tried…

      Like


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