Tuesday, 9 December 2014

When I got to Dover, it wasn't there

Image from Dover Books' Human Anatomy, with my additions

I have for very many years been an enthusiastic fan of Dover Books - fab image sourcebooks of thousands of copyright-free and royalty-free pictures covering every subject imaginable, from Action Hero Tattoos to Zion in America. I have turned to them when I needed Mexican and Egyptian motifs, for repeating borders I could adapt for quilting, and for Victorian food-related images for a degree project that involved designing the (theoretical) menu cover for a (real) restaurant located in a former docks warehouse.

Images of food and diners taken from Dover books
"Menu cover" using Dover images

So when I needed anatomical drawings for my latest project, Lines of Communication, where else to go but Dover? The last time I looked, it was in Covent Garden, a small shop with floor-to-ceiling shelves loaded with, I should imagine, all of their hundreds of titles. Except that I couldn't find it. I rushed down all seven streets off Seven Dials, pausing in my panic and haste just long enough to buy a dress, cardigan and top in Gudrun Sjoden, my favourite shop, before ending up, panting and frantic, where I started. And still it wasn't there. "Where is it?" I demanded of the purple-haired computer game assistant in the shop where it should have been. (I imagined her sneering thought, "She wants books?") But of course it had closed.

Although available online, it is now impossible to browse a Dover book to make sure it has the right style of images you need before buying. But on the plus side, these days a lot of the books come with excellent CDs that give you high resolution images that can be resized and manipulated (I have "squashed" one diagram of a brain that was a bit too deep). Which is a whole lot better than tracing, photocopying or cutting out the pictures from the book. Which in turns means the books themselves are freed to become artistic works in their own right.

Just some of my reference books from Dover

Alas, the modified picture at the top will not find a place in my textile piece. I was indulging in some nostalgia listening to Aladdin Sane at the time and, well, it just happened. Another time perhaps.

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