X-RAY. A New Work.

This week I’ve been finalizing X-RAY, a new book. Fortunately, much of the process around X-RAY has been documented with the film and photographs which follow.

I’m quite often asked “How long does it take to create one of your books?” The truth is similar to that expressed by Abraham Lincoln when asked “How long should a man’s legs be?” Lincoln reportedly replied “Long enough to reach the ground.” Each work takes as long as it takes. That’s the way of creation.

This book was started in April of 2018. That was almost a year and a half ago, which is common studio practice. I always have a number of works in progress. The physical parts need to dry and set, curing like bacon. The conceptual parts need to steep and develop at a pace that is often determined by reading, divergent research, sketchbook work, deep self-doubt and a lot of messing around. If I have learned anything, it is this: The process cannot be hurried.

The Name

This book started with its title. In winter of 2018 I had been fighting various challenges of the airways (colds, some pneumonia, etc.). I was sent for a chest X-ray and walked directly into a sign with the word “X-RAY.” It was eye-level and while I waited I stared at the only typography available to me.

It struck me as a lovely word, a resonance — a hyphen, lots of angularity, and the one curve of the “R.” And it’s a word suggestive of an entire world of thoughts — things atomic, things medical, and things universal.

The Folios Progress

The X-RAY pages quickly coalesced into ideas I found compelling and the work was helpful to my documentary team of Garnett & Garnett, who grabbed the opportunity to pan across all the pages before they were sewn together. I also set up the Dripatron 2000 for them for a demonstration and the folio was impressive.

Early on, I felt X-RAY had potential and it began to feed the ideas for the rest of the book on how to see behind the veil. Naturally my eccentric gathering [the library] contains several volumes on X-ray technology. The whole structure of the book is perhaps a method set for piercing surfaces. 

This video clip is a good introduction into parts of the process. It’s a wondrous thing to see them this way. I like doing slide lectures for the same reason as I can see the books at the size of a garage door! The clip also amplifies the idea of how one book is essentially a solo show bound into a compact construction.

From Folios to Sewing the Text Block

My process is not minimal. I work with many materials and vintage drafting tools and, with luck or intention, swing between a rarified technical line and a more leisurely brush mark — a neurological dance between what is thought to be a hemispheric oscillation. It is a nice but funny metaphor for imagining the strange phenomena of creative thinking. So many of us and so many different ways to think and to think about thinking.

That said, I like the patient transition from folios into gatherings finally to codex form which makes the work intimate and tangible for a viewer to leaf  through the images — like watching seeds sprout.


Folios in a place, I turned to the cover. A lovely bit of orange leather became the spine. This is a sewn binding complete with endbands, hollows and a bit of tooling.

Covers in my work are designed as much as each page. There are different considerations as the covers of any binding are essentially the armor for the text.  Protection and ornament — I like this part very much. The covers are the place where I can really play with fluid dynamics: the wet work — beautiful near random occurrences that happen with suspensions and emulsions with pigment, dyes and aggregates in liquid.

Control comes from gravity and viscosity as well as tools. As I want the physical folios to be flat and compact, the applications of very wet material on the folios is a different kind of task.

Works in progress are progressive. They also are platforms for change. I learned many years ago that a plan in a sketchbook is a nice conceit but, more often than not, it is really much more about examining options than creating a final to-be-followed plan. In my world anyway, that is the case. Spontaneous combustion is more the game.

Here is the finished front cover as well as a detail of the cover.


At this point, I am finalizing the box in which X-RAY will be delivered and stored. This is essentially a presentation “frame” for the book. A well designed box sets up the initial flash of recognition and an equation of expectations. If all is well it is an “ah ha!” moment.

What Next?

X-RAY is available for purchase. If you are interested contact me. It’s an enigmatic work and I want it going to a good home.

Should X-RAY become part of publicly viewable collection, I’ll let you know where you will be able to see it. Stay tuned.

© 2019 — Timothy C. Ely — All Rights Reserved





  1. Larry Ellingson

    Nice! Thanks for including me on your “shameless commerce” mailing list. I’m eager to see some of the new work when next we meet.

    Speaking of which, I’m taking Jan and her friend/travel companion Judy to Seattle on Tuesday for their 20 day Italy trip. Could we arrange for me to make a pilgrimage to Colfax in the next couple of weeks. If you’re too caught up in the throws of creating the new Libby book, I understand and could wait till you’re done.

    Let me know if that could work.


    Sent from :|:E:L:L:I:N:G:S:O:N:|:



  2. Pingback: The Girl in the Golden Atom | Byopia Press

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