Tuesday, February 19, 2019


Always searching for sources of income which won’t require me to do things I hate doing, I started sending ideas to relevant magazines. One of them, Canvas (now defunct) accepted my proposal to write and illustrate a series called Experiments in Seeing. They published this series and others I sent from 1968 to 1970.

I then decided to expand the theme into a book and sent an outline to various publishers. It was accepted by Batsford and published in 1973 as Designing with Natural Forms
I didn’t like this title, preferring Experiments in Seeing (because that’s what it was) but I had no say in the matter. Didn’t have much say about remuneration either: sitting in the office of the head of Batsford, an old school English gentleman, I politely pointed out that the royalties offered to me in the contract were beyond ridiculous in view of all the work I was doing. He laughed in jolly English gentlemanly fashion and said that having my name on the book should be reward enough…ha ha! But he did, very slightly, increase the percentage of royalties to be paid to me. 

The premise of this book is an experiment: to take a few familiar subjects and look at them as if you'd never seen them before, allowing ideas to arise spontaneously from this concentrated but ‘innocent’ way of seeing. I didn’t want to know in advance what the results would be and they surprised me. Designing with Natural Forms got great reviews and, like An Artist's Workbook, made no money. The truth is that money and I have never had a close relationship. We don’t understand each other, don’t speak the same language, don’t iike each other, and that’s that.


Water was the first topic I chose to focus on. I filled a dish with water and asked Ted to take photos of the patterns made by the waves when I shook the dish. A lot of unexpected ideas arose from this. You'll have to get the book in order to see how this and the other experiments arose and progressed.


Hendrik said...

This reminds me of an exhibition at university, about 1961, some scientist (before chaos theory and fractals were of an age) had looked at the patterns in nature and how they are related to time. They grow, by mechanisms which are often mathematical. Like the shape of a nautilus.

You've really got an enviable knack for getting published.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Vincent, I really don't have that knack. Those books of mine which were taken up by mainstream publishers happened to be work that they believed would sell. Other book ideas or cartoons which I sent to publishers over the years got responses which said they loved the material but it was "not commercial enough". The only reason I self-published The Augustine Adventures, The God Interviews etc. was because they were rejected by mainstream publishers.