Erin McPhee, Iceland Landscapes. Erin McPhee, 100 copies, 2016
If ‘chapbook’ has any association for a person it’s usually poetry. But of course the chapbook form is being used these days to present all kinds of material, including visual. Erin McPhee is a Toronto freelance illustrator and art director (I know because I looked her up) who has self-published this travelogue/diary of a week-long artist residency in southern Iceland. It’s primarily a gathering of drawings, presumably made on site although there is no information here, including the medium (pencil? charcoal?). The drawings leave people out. They are all of natural formations–rocks, waterfalls, sky, twigs, and a particularly attractive and sensual striped stone found on a beach.
On opposite pages of most drawings is a paragraph or two of handprinted text. These have something of the feel of postcard intended for a distant friend, as if to say, “Here I am in this amazing place. Can you believe it?” They feel quite genuine and make me want to be standing alongside her. Perhaps McPhee’s observations are no more insightful than anyone else’s, but they are enjoyable to read.. Once she gives a little more of herself away (“I was certain I was going to die (as so often I am)” but I think the real purpose of the text is visual, as a nice counterpoint for the image across.
This chapbook is printed (at Pindot Press) by Risograph, a process I have only recently heard about and that is something like silk-screening. I gather this kind of printing works best on heavy matt paper and is particularly good for visual content. It has made a very nice object in Iceland Landscapes with its subtle variations of black and grey on paper that feels good to the touch.