Tuesday 28 November 2023

Summerhall Christmas Market: 2 - 3 December 2023

On Saturday 2nd December, I'll be one of the ninety independent makers taking part in this year's two day Christmas Market at Summerhall in Edinburgh. 

The following day on Sunday 3rd December there will be another set of ninety stallholders, making this year's Christmas market weekend at Summerhall the biggest one that they've done yet.

Doors open from 11am until 5pm on both days.

Entry is £3.00 and under 18s can attend for free.

You'll find me and my stall on Saturday 2nd December from 11-5pm in the Back Courtyard marquee (stall 15) - hope to see some of you there!

More information at https://www.summerhall.co.uk/sh-event/summerhall-christmas-market-2023/2023-12-02/


Saturday 4 November 2023

Cover illustration for Probability, Causation, and Inequality of Opportunity by Lennart Ackermans


Earlier this year I was asked to create an illustration for the cover of Lennart Ackermans' PhD thesis Probability, Causation, and Inequality of Opportunity

The illustration needed to depict a cityscape and include two or more streets, with one showing references to a life of opportunity and privilege, with another street featuring bars, casinos and other places that could foreshadow personal ruin. 

The image was to be similar in style to an illustration that I'd done a few years ago titled City and appeared in the fourth edition of Techne by Pittville Press:

City (2015)

A few ideas were tried out before we settled on a symmetrical composition that allowed the viewer to see down each of the two streets to the end. 

On the corner between both of the two streets stands an unassuming looking building: the Experimental Philosophy Lab.

At the end of each street (and where the two vanishing points land) there are two buildings: one has lights on in every window and smoke rising from the chimney: 

...while the other is in a state of dilapidation: the front door is boarded up with a warning notice on it, the roof is falling apart, and a bird has made a nest in the disused chimney:

This idea for including an end-point for the two streets as a metaphor for the two different trajectories in life came about as I worked on the pencil drawing.

This composition and the placement of the two different buildings just above the vanishing points felt like something out of a William Hogarth print to me, despite the lack of figures in the image.  (I've written in more detail about this at the end of the post, see below)  

I was sent a copy of the thesis in October and I have to say I'm really happy with how it looks in print! 

Lennart suggested removing a few of the tiles in the foreground of the illustration, which worked well on the printed page and helped to break up the the two areas nicely:

Probability, Causation, and Inequality of Opportunity by Lennart Ackermans can be accessed at the link below:


A little more on William Hogarth

Anyone who knew me from my time at University College Falmouth's MA in Authorial Illustration might remember how much I loved and admired William Hogarth's work.  There were so many things going on in his images: from the action of the main figures, to the background artwork on the walls in his interior scenes, to the narrative devices he used in the composition of an image itself. 

This admiration for his work took me into the study of pictorial composition and formed a large part of my MA at Falmouth.

Hogarth wrote in 'Analysis of Beauty' that the eye enjoys being taken on a ‘wanton kind of chace’, which comes with intricate forms in picture composition.  Two of the best examples of this are his prints Gin Lane and Beer Street, both of which were created as an attempt to educate people about the evils of gin next to the comparative wholesomeness of beer.  Both prints can be ‘read’ thanks to their careful composition, but perhaps more so with Gin Lane:

William Hogarth, Gin Lane (1750)

As the viewer looks at Gin Lane, attention is immediately focused on the dishevelled figure of a woman in the foreground, who appears too distracted to notice the child falling from her arms, while on the left of the picture is a thriving pawnbroker's business.  The lines of the building on the left all point towards the rioting crowd on the right, while the vanishing point for the crumbling buildings on the right lead the eye past a hanging coffin and to the ruined buildings in the far background.

Leonardo da Vinci once commented on how to use vanishing points to draw attention to something:

(The artist) should make his viewpoint as far beneath the thing that he is portraying as it will itself be above the eye of the spectator when executed.

 - Puttfarken, Thomas, Discovery of Pictorial Composition (Yale University Press, 2000), page 87.

This method could have been intentionally applied to Gin Lane.  The two vanishing points (illustrated below) are on the same horizontal line and if you take a ruler and match them both up and they would be at the same level: 

The two vanishing points in Gin Lane; one points to death, the other to a rioting mob  

This shows where the eye-level of the viewer is, as well as dividing the picture up between the foreground and background.  This could be a technique by Hogarth to make the coffin stand out to the viewer, as it sits just above the viewer's eye-level.  This motif of death is continued with the woman being put into a coffin and a child impaled on a spear, indicating the descent into barbarity.  I would argue that this is Hogarth’s way of including the passage of time within the composition. 

The fate of the woman in the foreground is indicated by the deceased woman in the far background and the whole composition can be seen as being a visual timeline.

I thought this would be a relevant footnote to share here, as there are some overlaps between some of the things I'd studied with pictorial composition at Falmouth and this cover illustration.  Perhaps it's not obvious to everyone looking at the finished cover illustration, but to me this reminded me so much of my studies of Hogarth.  I thought it'd be a good moment to re-visit and share the work of one of my favourite artists and my studies of his work.

Anyway I hope this has been interesting and thank you for reading!

Saturday 21 October 2023

New etching edition - Haven

 Haven is the first finished etching print from a series of images I worked on throughout the pandemic.  The image began as an illustration about social isolation, with the unlikely combination of peace, tranquility and listlessness against a continual backdrop of uncertainty and a sense of being adrift. 

There will be fifty copies in the edition and it will be a varied edition, which means that each printed image will identical, but the colours and tonality may vary slightly from print to print.

A framed copy will be included in this year’s Edinburgh Printmakers’ members show, which opens on Saturday 16th December 2023 and will run until Sunday 17th March 2024.

Copies of Haven are currently available to buy through my online shop now at https://joannarobsonillustration.bigcartel.com

For updates on new Haven prints being released for sale, please do check my Instagram account at https://www.instagram.com/joannakrobson/ 

Thanks for reading!

Monday 1 May 2023

But Is It A Book? A recent exhibition at the University of Chicago

The University of Chicago hosted a fantastic looking exhibition earlier this year called 'But Is It A Book?' with a selection of examples of many types of book forms from their collection:

"If you think you know all the attributes that make a book a book, turn back to the gallery door and conclude your visit to this exhibition.

If you think there might be more to the seemingly familiar and ultimately knowable book—one of the most innovative and adaptable technologies for making and sharing meaning devised by humankind—then take a moment to browse and consider the many wonderful, sometimes contradictory, and occasionally confounding aspects of the book.

But Is It a Book? is a choosable-path exhibition that invites inquiry into the nature of material text, considering in turn the attributes that signal “bookness”—format, shape, binding, pages, and text. You will see examples covering the long arc of book history and book technology, from a clay tablet made in the 3rd century BCE to audio- and e-books manifesting themselves materially the instant you press “play.” But is a clay tablet or an e-book really a book?"

Two pieces of my book art - Nylmah and Vasilisa and the Witch's Fire - were featured in the exhibition, curated by Elizabeth Frengel, the university's curator of rare books:

The exhibition was given coverage in both the University of Chicago news' website and in the Chicago Tribune -



All photos by The University of Chicago Library
I was delighted to have two of my artists books included within the exhibition, and especially Nylmah and Vasilisa. Like many of the books I make, they're both designed as concertina books, but each ones takes on a new form and structure when fully opened.

But is it a Book? ran from 3rd January until 28th April 2023 and was on display at the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center at the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago.

Full information on the exhibition can be found at https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/collex/exhibits/but-is-it-a-book/

Friday 10 February 2023

The Fruitmarket Gallery Presents: Artists' Bookmarket 2023

Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th February 2023
Open 10:00 - 1800 on Saturday and 10:00 - 17:00 Sunday
Free Entry

Next weekend, Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery will hold this year's Artists' Bookmarket for another two days of workshops, talks and the opportunity to see and buy work from exhibiting artists. 

The fair will be open from 10 til 6pm Saturday and 10 til 5pm on Sunday, with free entry on both days.

I'll be exhibiting with much of the work pictured below, alongside many other artists and small publishers.  A full list of the talks and workshops happening over the weekend can be found at https://www.fruitmarket.co.uk/artists-bookmarket/

Hopefully see some of you there next weekend!