Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Not many people know this. But not many people know about artists' books and even if they do, not so many people know that they can go to public institutions, museums, university and other libraries who have such things in their collections and ASK TO SEE THEM!

If you're a fan of contemporary art, you can see, up close, examples from the hand of super-famous artists like Matisse - his magnificent livre d'artiste Jazz for instance, a copy of which is the Victoria & Albert Museum Library - and also from not-so-famous ones like, ahem, me. By the way, the V&A Library has quite a few bookworks of mine and gave me an exhibition in 1990.

Public collections are exactly that: open to the public. They may have different rules for accessing items, but nothing off-putting. The brilliant British Library in London, for example, asks that you register for a reader's card if you want to consult the Library - not a problem! Go and check out work of mine (quite a lot of it) in their collections, including recent acquisitions described at that link.

Monday, January 14, 2019


Still some air left in the trumpet so here's something more or less completely different. I'd Rather Be a Masochist Than An Analyst. 1988. One-of-a-kind bookwork.

If you're a visual artist, what's your reply if someone asks you to describe your style? I have as much trouble answering that question as I've had with saying what my age is. The truthful reply to both questions is: it varies.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


You might not see my Quantum Leap as a book and I wouldn't blame you. Art objects in the genre Artists’ Books can have all kinds of odd characteristics which make them unsuitable for bookshelves. The Bibliothèque Nationale de France has categories such as livre d'artiste, livre-objet, livre de peintre etc. to describe the variety of artist-made book-like things which grace their special collections. These un-bookish expensive artefacts are stored away, unless visitors specifically ask to see them, because if they were constantly handled they would gradually disintegrate. So, of course, would paintings, drawings, sculpture etc. in museums if they were daily caressed by the crowds.

If they consider the definition of ‘book’ to mean what it familiarly does, some people see the price of certain artists’ books as exorbitant. The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. bought my one-of-a-kind Quantum Leap for $5000 in 1990. Some people would say “They paid that for a book?” Yet if it was not classed as 'book' but simply as 'art' then the price would seem to them normal, or even low. Perception, context!

As a painter/printmaker/writer/builder the artist’s book genre was a way to bring together my interests and skills so I started NdA Press in 1974. It’s a 'press' only in the loosest sense and an etching press is my only printing equipment. Visual content is my principal focus. The bookworks I’ve made are either very small editions or consist of just one copy. Text is usually brief and my own but occasionally by others.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


Trumpeting for today. Another artist's book: Mozart, Matisse, Blanche et Moi. Drypoints, 32 pages.
Below are a couple of the images.

Drypoint is an intaglio printmaking technique. The difference between a drypoint, an engraving and an etching (all three of which are intaglio) is that lines drawn on a metal plate with a drypoint needle don't break the surface very deeply. The tool cuts a rather jagged furrow which, when filled with oily printing ink, produces a furry, shadowy line. An engraving is drawn with a much harder, chisel-like tool (burin) which cuts a deep groove in the metal. When inked and printed, engraved lines have a sharp, precise look. Etching, which relies on acid biting unprotected areas of a metal plate, can achieve a wide variety of effects in line and tone according to the length of time in the acid bath and other factors.


Okay, trumpet blowing in the wind. For a start, I'll post a daily selection of some of my artist's books.
 Here's For A Song seven poems and etchings.

Monday, January 07, 2019


When is the right time to blow one's own trumpet, loud enough to reach the ears one would like to reach? You know what I mean.

If, as a child and later on as well, you often felt you weren't heard, a plaintive desire to be heard persists. But you learn how to be quietly modest (or comically boastful) about your achievements.

Time to beat the drum?

Sunday, January 06, 2019


Categories. I hate categories. But to function efficiently, successfully, our society demands that you define your category.

Who goes there?
Me. Moi. Io. Eu. Ya......
What category is that?
I don't want to define it.

Then you can't expect to be given the kind of recognition you're asking for. You have to be a product, a brand. You have to fit into a slot. 

I want to redesign my website completely. Built it myself in 2002 and I tweak it now and then but I think It's got too many doors leading to other doors.

Would any of you like to take a slow virtual walk through it and tell me if you agree it's overloaded?

Friday, January 04, 2019


At the end of 2007 I was joint winner of the Mary Stott competition held by the Guardian. On my main blog Blaugustine I wrote on the 8th November 2007 (see blog archive November 2007).
about the Guardian party where I found out I'd won. (The cartoon below was about the painful boots I wore for the occasion.) The prize was to spend a week at the Guardian as guest editor of the section then called Guardian Women.

That week was fun and focused. I wrote Where are all the older female geeks? (Guardian 13 June 2008), comissioned an interview of Paula Rego by Emine Saner Age shall not wither her (Guardian 18 June 2008) and in that same issue wrote a piece Choosing art means you have permission to be a child forever.The geeks article was reprinted in another publication and quoted on line, an organisation asked me to speak and I was invited to be one of the guest speakers (all expenses paid!) at the Women’s Global Forum held in Deauville in 2013.

A few weeks ago, in the small hours of the night, I had a sudden urge to write about why I fear admitting my age. Scribbled a few lines then thought: why not ask the Guardian if they’ll commision an article? I contacted the features editor I met in 2008, sent her a brief outline and reminded her of my stint in her office 11 years ago. Didn’t mind whether I’d get a Yes or a No - I wasn’t even sure I really wanted to make a public confession. It was just one of those late night things.

So when I got a positive response I was chuffed and, as chance would have it, the Guardian was planning a feature on ageing in the first week of January. So my idea arrived exactly at the right moment. The article was commissioned, I wrote it fast, met the 30th December deadline. Et voilà!

Thursday, January 03, 2019


Might as well milk this for all it's worth, tomorrow or the next day it will be forgotten and I'll slink back to comfortable and safe obscurity.

Here are photos of the G2 cover and of the article inside, for the benefit of those who didn't rush out to get the paper Guardian today (shame on you!) and those who are too far away from metropolitan centres to obtain it.

Today I spent all day, ALL DAY, gloating. No, what's a better word for what I mean?... glooning?...over the effects of this sudden media exposure. I checked facebook about 100 times, logged into the online version of my article about 100 times, read the comments below it maybe three times, then after I bought the printed newspaper spent about an hour in the cafe re-reading my article and glooning. Now, suppose this mini-version of actual celebrity was a daily thing in my life, would I become a total and absolute and irreparable GLOON?? This is too horrible to even contemplate so I'll stop right here. In my next post I'll tell you exactly how this media thing came about.


The Guardian sent me a photographer yesterday. I thought he'd just take a couple of shots but David Levene (lovely guy) turned up laden with equipment, lighting gear, screens, etc. and stayed for over an hour snapping away up in my studio and down in the living room. He did say that it wasn't up to him to decide which shot would be used with my article but ay ay ay! ! Why why WHY did they have to pick that one? Hand on heart, I really don't look that old in real life. Must recover from the shock before I say anymore.
Here's the link. Don't look at the photo! I had sent a cartoon as well.The Guardian didn't use it but here it is anyhow.

For those who can't link to the Guardian for any reason, here's the full article.

The Guardian   Thu 3 Jan 2019 06.00 GMT

Natalie d’Arbeloff is a full-time working artist – but it is only now, in her 90th year, that she has decided to openly admit her age. Why? Because of the patronising preconceptions about getting old.

‘I don’t feel, think, or look my age’ … Natalie d’Arbeloff. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

For the past 30 years, I have avoided mentioning my date of birth except when bureaucratically, medically or legally required to do so. In all social interactions, I avoid the subject. If I am asked directly why I won’t say how old I am, my default answer is: vanity. It is the truth, and why not? I have reasons to be vain. I have been extremely fortunate with my genes; my mother and father lived until they were 97 and 101, respectively. I’m still a full-time working artist, still exploring, discovering and getting better and better every other day. I don’t feel, think, or look my age.

But this year, on my birthday in August, I will reach a particularly inadmissible number, therefore I have decided it is time to conquer my fear of admitting “the number”. I am finally ready to liberate myself – here goes ... On 7 August 2019, I will be 90. I was born in 1929, the year of the Wall Street crash, which ushered in the Great Depression. Keen to list for this piece some lesser known and less depressing events to commemorate my birth in Paris, I googled the date. But please don’t be amazed that a nearly-90-year-old uses google as a verb and understands the internet. It is normal if they have been that sort of person all their life. True, I don’t know any other 89½-year-olds, but I’m fairly sure there are thousands out there at this very moment, thinking deep and/or funny thoughts, writing and painting, building and dancing, gazing at the stars and generally contributing to the world.

I doubt I would have clung so stubbornly to this phobia of admitting my age if patronising preconceptions about ageing didn’t exist. If I am at a party and someone asks “Are you still working?”, I want to punch them in the face. (I don’t, of course, because I’m only 4ft 11in, so I can’t reach.) But such questions are stereotypical of people’s perception of age.
I will admit to a few age-related physical glitches. For instance, I use hearing aids, but only if I am with people who mumble. (Why can’t people speak consonants clearly?) And I’ve got only eight of my own teeth left. In fact, the possibility that I might forget to put the synthetics back in before going out – along with the probability of a man-made apocalypse – is why I sometimes worry about the future. There is also my right hip. It began, absolutely unacceptably, to go a bit wonky a few months ago. This is at the top of my list of issues to resolve this year, along with finding someone to give me a major retrospective exhibition before it is too late.

For me, being a certain age doesn’t feel as if it is set in stone – why not be several ages at once? I chose art as a career very early on and the insecurities of the profession, together with its incomparable joys, have no doubt contributed to my indifference towards ageing. Artists who are in it for the long haul are often age-indifferent, even if their bodies aren’t. The aged Matisse created his magnificent cutouts from his sick-bed. We are all different, from the moment we are born until the moment we die, and the eighth or 80th – or any other – year of my life was not the same as yours. Identity is fluid enough to be exempt from categorisation, so why should people who have accumulated a large quantity of years be perceived as having uniform characteristics? Individuality does not drop off automatically, like old skin, when we reach a certain number.

Maybe it is because I started writing a diary when I was nine that I see my life as a film that I can stop and examine at any point. It also hasn’t been a still life and perhaps my refusal to see myself defined by such a static word as “old” has something to do with the fact that, since the age of about six, I was on the move. My father, a restless, enterprising Russian émigré, transported my mother, a Parisian, my older sister and me, and later on our much younger brother, from Paris to Paraguay, Brazil, the United States, Italy, England etc, for varying periods of time. I have never felt that I had a fixed home, even though I have lived in England since 1963.

I do salute all the brave, bold age-admitters. But I must confess that the fear of becoming invisible, in a sexual sense, played a major part in my refusal to admit my age. People may say sexual invisibility happens to all of us, sooner or later; that’s life, biology, so what? And I certainly don’t want to pretend to be physically young. But it seemed perfectly rational to me that the sexy buzz that accompanied me all my life would still be there as long as I didn’t mention my age.

My father, even when he was nearly 100, believed in the same kind of magical unrealism. If he met a neighbour, a sprightly 70-year-old, say, he would tell us: “I saw that Mr X – he’s such a starichok!” (“little old man” in Russian). Sacha literally did not see himself or Blanche, my mother, as old. Blanche herself began to paint at 94, climbed six flights of stairs every week to attend an art class and had her first and last solo exhibition at 96. Whether my parents’ misperception of themselves contributed to their longevity is anyone’s guess. Some people are starichoks. Some refuse to be. There are no rules in age, only exceptions. My only advice is: be the exception.

So this “little old lady” has made her confession. But you still haven’t got my number.


After midnight now so it's the 3rd of January and I can reveal that you should buy The Guardian newspaper as soon as it's out, preferably a hard copy so you can cut out and frame the relevant page in the G2 section. If you're far away, you can also find it online.

 I'm going to bed now. I'll post the link later.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019


Tomorrow's the day. Watch this space. Where are my smelling salts?