we make artist books

Making an artist book is one way of telling a story.

In April, I will be giving a two day course at La Cala titled El libro de artista (The Artist Book)


A Little Story about How I Like to Tell Stories. A small handmade edition I made to explain my creative process, 2014.


During the course we will explore the art of creating books by looking, touching and making. We will begin by studying different formats of artist books, tracing their origin from illuminated manuscripts, books of hours, scrolls, concertinas (accordion books) to more contemporary formats. We will think about the the materiality of the book as an object, searching for coherence between content and format, use and aesthetic, narrative and material. We will debate over the principle of the Bauhaus which states: "Form follows function”.


An artist book I made inspired by Kipling's The Jungle Book. The transparency of the paper allowed me to create a sense of depth in the jungle, 2013.


Following a theoretical introduction, we will begin making and creating. Using a predetermined concertina format, we will each create our own artist book. The course will conclude with a small exhibition and critique of the work.


Original artwork from Este cuerpo es humano, 2017.


This course is open to photographers, musicians, designers, writers, artists, lawyers, illustrators, fishermen, firemen, cooks...the list is endless. Better said: it is not required to have previous experience, just curiosity and a desire to make something with your hands.


The Life of an Anchovy, work in progress.


The course will be held in La CALA on the 6 y 7 of April, 2018. From: 11h. to 14h. and from 17h. to 21h. Inscription fees: 200 € including 14 hours of the course and two nights in an individual room in a rural guest house nearby. For more information and to enroll, click here

Convocatoria en español:

En El libro de artista exploraremos, a través de la vista, el tacto y el hacer, el arte de crear libros singulares y hechos a mano. Arrancaremos el curso estudiando distintos formatos de libros, haciendo un recorrido desde los manuscritos iluminados, los libros de las horas, pergaminos, concertinas hasta formatos más contemporáneos. Pensaremos en la materialidad del libro-objeto, buscando la coherencia entre el contenido y el formato, el uso y la estética, la narración y la materia. Debatiremos sobre el principio de la Bauhaus: "La forma sigue a la función”.

Tras un inicio teórico, pasaremos a la creación. Usando un formato de libro acordeón preestablecido, cada uno crearemos un libro de artista propio. El curso se cerrará con una pequeña exposición y critica de las obras.

Dirección: Karishma Chugani Nankani. Máster en Edición. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. MFA Design Futures. Goldsmiths College. BA Fashion Design with Printing. Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. Foundation Course in Art & Design. Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design.

Público: La convocatoria se abre a fotógrafos, músicos, diseñadores, escritores, artistas, abogados, ilustradores, pescadores, bomberos, cocineros...la lista sigue. Así dicho: no es necesario tener experiencia previa, sino solamente curiosidad y ganas de crear algo con las manos. Modalidad: presencial, en la sede de La CALA. Duración: 6 y 7 de abril de 2018. Horario: de 11h. a 14h. y de 17h. a 21h. Inscripción: 200 €. Incluye 14 horas de curso y dos noches de alojamiento en habitación individual en Casa Rural. A través de https://lacala.es/cursos-talleres/#inscripcion

Song of the day

Joanna Newsom - The Sprout & The Bean


it ends with the dance of death.

If we can say that human life begins at the origin, we can equally say that it ends with the dance of death.

In the chapter dedicated to the skeleton in Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human, Grassa Toro writes:

“There are two kinds of skeletons: living skeletons and dead ones. A dead skeleton is always laughing and when we try to stand it up, it looks as if it wants to dance. But that’s not true. It's just that it has nothing to lean on and it becomes disjointed. Dead skeletons have been used throughout history as a way to scare us, to paint paintings, to remind us that vanity is disconcerting, and to give us an idea what a live skeleton looks like, because we never see a live skeleton.”

While collecting material to make the images for the book and to write this post, I found it interesting to see how despite the underlying taboos of talking about death, so many cultures share a pictorial identity of representing it. It seems poking fun at our mortality is a very common way of facing it.

This idea of personifying death as a dancing skeleton is found throughout history, in most cultures and eras.

The image below is attributed to the Persian physician, astronomer and thinker Avicenna (also known as Ibn Sina, 980-1037). His written work included the books: The Canon of Medicine and The Book of Healing.  Source: Anatomía Rehabilitación y medicina física


Coloured plate of a human skeleton, included in one of Avicenna’s books.

The formal idea of the death dance or the Danse Macabre, dates back to the Late middle ages as an artistic genre of allegory of the on the universality of death. I came across this website which has a wonderful source of images from the period, such as the one below. Unfortunately, the site does not include the information about each piece, so I have no reference as to the artist, title or date.


If anyone has the information to this image, please email me at karishma.chugani@gmail.com


The Three Living and the Three Dead is a moral story from the 14th century in which three figures, often aristocratic and flaunting their vitality, meet three corpses who remind them about the inevitability of death. The numerous variations of this story and their accompanying illustrations provide a stark contrast between the beauty of the living and the worm-eaten corpses of the deceased. Moral messages about the importance of living a virtuous life on Earth are typical amongst Psalters and Book of Hours. Source: British Library.


This image illustrates a version of Ars Morendi (The Art of Dying), a series of related texts from 1415 and 1450 which act as instruction manuals to the protocols of dying well.


Marseille - BM - ms. 0089, f. 063. Ars moriendi. France, late 15th century


The Bardo Thödol (Tibetan: བར་དོ་ཐོས་གྲོལ), Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State by Karma Lingpa (1326–1386) is known in the West as the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The Tibetan text describes, and is intended to guide one through, the experiences that the consciousness has after death, in the bardo, the interval between death and the next rebirth. The text also includes chapters on the signs of death and rituals to undertake when death is closing in or has taken place.


Colour plate from Bardo Thödol (Tibetan book of death)


The next image is included in a book of anatomical studies by John Banister, a member of the Company of Barber Surgeons, who were licensed by Henry VIII in 1540 to anatomise the bodies of four criminals a year.
Banister joined the Company in 1572 and soon became their Lecturer in Anatomy. He has been called ‘the turnkey who released anatomy [in England] from its mediaeval bondage into the daylight of the Renaissance’ (Buckland-Wright 1985). Source: University of Glasgow.


Painting commissioned by John Banister Ca 1580, table 3


In Japan, the artist Kawanabe Kyosai painted scrolls such as this one, which depicts a skeleton seated and playing shamisen while other skeletons, some with bamboo swords at their sides, others with towels bound around their foreheads, are enjoying music and dancing. Source: The British Museum.


Kawanabe Kyosai (1831 - 1889) - Skeletons dancing - Painting on silk, hanging scroll


Also from Japan, between 1603-1868, during the Edo period, medical illustrations depicting the human skeleton seemed to have a minimalism and humour to them.


Medical illustration of the human skeleton, Japan. Artist unknown.


Memento mori (Latin: "remember that you have to die") is the medieval Latin Christian theory and practice of reflection on mortality, especially as a means of considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. This image belongs to a collection from the Southern German School of painting from the 18th century.


Artist unknown.


Jumping straight from there to more contemporary references, Marcel Dzama’s video installation Death Disco Dance is a wonderful version of the above mentioned pieces.
The video is accompanied by a series of drawings, studies and three-dimensional paper-theatre models.



The video is accompanied by a series of drawings, studies and three-dimensional paper-theatre models.


These final images are the my own laughs and giggles at death; the illustrations for the chapters about cranium and the skeleton in the book This Body is Human.



Song of the day

Around the World - Daft Punk


The human body begins at the origin,

This Body is Human · Este cuerpo es humano, written by Grassa Toro and translated by Claudio Cambon, begins like this:

“Penis, penis, penis, penis, penis, penis, penis and scrotum, testicles, prostate and seminal vesicles: the male genital organs.

Vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina and outer labia, inner labia, clitoris, vulvar vestibule, vulvar vestibule glands, hymen, mons pubis, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries: the female genital organs.

Feet are not called feet because we use them to dance, but genital organs are called that because they generate the raw material used to create new life. ”

Unlike most anatomical atlases I had come across growing up, this text celebrates the sexual organs, describing them without any trace of shame or modesty. Instead of being safely tucked away in the back of the book as an afterthought, or hidden within the many chapters describing various body parts, organs and systems; in this book, the sexual organs are showcased in the very first pages.
In order to illustrate them with the same sense of celebration, I felt the need to undo a lot of the cultural conditioning I had been fed through the years, and so I began to look at ancient atlases for some source of wisdom and orientation.

I was thrilled to find many sources of exquisite references depicting the sexual organs.
In ancient medical illustrations, such as the ones below (both undated and unsigned, probably dating form the 18th century in India), images of female sexual organs tend to reflect fertility and male sexual organs tend to reflect virility. Source: Islamic Medical Manuscripts


The image on the left shows a pregnant woman. Her abdomen and chest are opened to reveal the internal organs and foetus. Around her are two hearts, the lungs, and something unidentified.
The image on the right shows a male figure with his abdomen and chest opened to reveal the internal organs. He holds a second set of genitalia and a horn. Around him are the liver and gallbladder.


The image below is from a text called Provisions for the Traveller and Nourishment for the Sedentary, written by Ahmed Ibn al-Jazzar in Tunisia at the end of the ninth-century. He was the son and nephew of physicians, and set up his own practice where he examined patients, and had his servant administer the medicines. He was also a prolific writer, with medicine being the main topic.The book’s title is misleading since it offers an in-depth guide to healthcare. It covers various diseases and problems, and supplied treatments. Among the topics covered were sexual diseases and their cures. Source: The medievalist

This image accompanies a chapter covering men’s sexual problems: It follows al-Jazzar’s theory that having a proper balance in the testicles was the key factor in male sexual health.


I found these pregnancy illustrations are from a copy of Ishinhō, the oldest existing medical book in Japan. Originally written by Yasuyori Tanba in 982 A.D., the 30-volume work describes a variety of diseases and their treatment. Much of the knowledge presented in the book originated from China. Source: Pink Tentacle


The illustrations shown here are from a copy of the book that dates to about 1860.


This woodcut illustration with hand colouring shows the figure of a pregnant woman. I was fascinated at how the body resembled that of a frog ready for dissection.


The image belongs to Fasciculus Medicinae, first printed in 1491 in Latin.

As well as delving into ancient manuscripts, I also turned to more realistic medical diagrams of human anatomy such as the ones below.

The image on the left is antique human anatomy lithograph in colour by LyraNebulaPrints. On the right, Human penis; forms dimensions & angles. Dickinson & Legman (1943-1947)


I was surprised to find this print of plant anatomy, whose lines and structure resembles the lines and shapes of the female vagina.


Grew, Nehemiah, 1641-1712. The anatomy of plants - Biodiversity Heritage Library


I turned to some of my favourite artists such as Egon Schiele, Louis Bourgeois and Kiki Smith. And through the process, discovered artists I was unfamiliar with such as Jamie McCartney, whose project The Great Wall of Vagina impressed me. Other work I discovered were the vagina portraits of Ida Applebroog, and embroideries by various artists including Hanna Melin and Gareth Brookes.


Egon Schiele (1890-1918), Woman with Black Stockings, 1913. Gouache, watercolour and pencil, 48.3 x 31.8 cm. Private collection, courtesy of Richard Nagy, London


There are so many images that I could have posted of Louise Bourgeois, I chose this one because I found it powerful and appropriate to the subject of my post.


Caption image 11: Louise Bourgeois. The Cross-Eyed Woman Giving Birth, 2005


Kiki Smith, Vagina (ink on paper). Source: artnet


Ida Applebroog, one of a collection of over 100 drawings of her vagina. The Source: BlouinArtInfo


Illustration by Hanna Melin for the Guardian


Embroidery of the female reproductive system. Artist unknown


My list of inspirations is ever-growing, especially now that the book is published, and I have more time to continue my research the human body which has become a fascination for me. At the moment, this has lead me to reading some wonderful books and graphic novels on the subject. Here is a brief visual list:

L’Origine du Monde is Liv Stromquist grapgic novel entirely dedicated to the female sexual organs. It includes historical documents, medical references, myths and stereotypes. It is not only a great reference source, but also an extremely sensitive and hilarious piece of work.


I have already cited Katy Couprie in a previous post, and I'll happy repeat it here. Her book, Dictionnaire Fou du Corps is one of my favourite books about the human body.


Chapter V from Dictionnaire Fou du Corps, Katy Couprie


I was very surprised to find Black Project in a bookshop over the holidays. Who would have thought someone would be capable to embroider an entire graphic novel. As well as being fascinated by the technique, Gareth Brookes shares an intimate and ambiguous story which moved me.



I am currently reading two new graphic novels that I received as gifts. The first is Une Histoire de Sexe, by Philippe Brenot and Laetitia Coryn. The second is Libres, manifesto pour s'affranchir des diktats sexuels, by Diglee and Ovidie. You can read a review of the book here.



After all this talk of the images that inspired my work on the sexual organs in the book, I wanted to close this post with some of my own images. If you wish to order a copy of the book, which is now printed and published, you can do so at here.


Song of the day

Hedwig & the Angry Inch - The origin of Love

and my heart went BOUM!

When asked to make the images of Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human, I didn’t do anything.
I didn’t make a single sketch or image. I waited. It turns out waiting is also a way of working, who knew?

While waiting, I thought a lot about the human body in general, then I thought about my body.
I read the texts of the book over and over again.
Then I began to I read other books.
My reading included books such as: Dictionnaire fou du corps by Katy Couprie, L’Origine du monde by Liv Strömquist, Así me veo by Josune Urrutia Asua, On the Nature of Things by Lucretius, and many others.

Extracts from Katy Couprie’s Dictionnaire fou du corps. The entries include a range of playful and serious definitions.
In Liv’s Strömquist’s comic, she provides anecdotes, historical references and myths about the female sex. I will write about it in more detail in the next post (entirely dedicated to the sexual organs).


Josune Urrutia’s book Así me veo (This is how I see myself) is a manual for learning how to look and draw at oneself. It accompanied me throughout my creative process.


Unfortunately, I did not read On the Nature of Things in such an antique edition. This image is from a bookseller’s blog you can visit here.


I looked all kinds of images of the body: anatomical drawings, old medical plates from encyclopedias. I found plates from medieval and oriental manuscripts that include all kinds of curiosities, myths and ailments.

I looked at miniature paintings and medical illustrations from Iran, China, Japan, Pakistan and India.


Here are two of six anatomical drawings that are included at the end of a volume containing Tibb al-Akbar (Akbar’s Medicine) by Muhammad Akbar, (d. 1722/ 1134) in an undated copy probably made in the 18th century India. The drawings are of individual organs in inks and watercolour.
In the left hand image [upper left] the liver with gall bladder, [center] the stomach with intestines, [lower left] the testicles, [lower right] a detail of the stomach, and something unidentified in [upper right].
In the right hand image: [on top] a composite rendering of the tongue, larynx, heart, trachea, stomach, and liver; [left] a composite drawing of the ureters, urethra, kidneys, testicles, and penis; [right] the external female genitalia; and [at bottom] a composite rendering of the internal female genitalia with a gravid uterus.
Source of images and information: Islamic Medical Manuscripts.



These anatomical illustrations (artist/date unknown) are based on those found in Pinax Microcosmographicus, a book by German anatomist Johann Remmelin (1583-1632) who entered Japan via the Dutch trading post at Nagasaki. Source: Pink Tentacle.


I found these Chinese public health posters from the early 1900s.
On the left: Human body is like a factory, 1933.
On the right: Skin, urinary system, and kidney, 1933.
Source: US National Library of Medicine





I researched contemporary artists I admire who have worked with the human body such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Marcel Dzama, José Antonio Suárez Londoño and Bill Viola. I rediscovered the collages of Hannah Hoch (some images are currently on display at the Musée de l’Orangerie).

Prints and stamps by José Anonio Suárez Londoño. On the left: Untitled. No. 276. Source: Bernal Espacio. In the middle, Litografía número 3 Source: Milpedras. On the right: Untitled No. 129. Source: Colección de arte del banco de la republica.



Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity by Bill Viola, is a diptych of high-definition colour videos projected onto large vertical black granite slabs. Shown at his exhibition Electronic Renaissance, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence.



Hannah Höch, Dada puppen (Dada Dolls), 1916/1918. Textiles, cardboard and beads. Source: The Red List


Untitled by Hannah Höch, from her series From an Ethnographic Museum (1930)


I discovered artists I had never heard of.

Celine Guichard´s ludic and disturbing bodies intrigued me. These are from her book “Feutres”, Editions Marguerite Waknine, 2017.


Sun in your eyes, by Izziyana Suhaimi


On the left: Red Rivers, embroidered book page. On the right, Mixed media image both by Lynn Skordal.


In the works of Izziyana Suhaimi & Lynn Skordal, I found embroidery skills that made me green with envy, in a pleasurable way.

I continued to research and think. Once in a while, a little voice in the back of my mind began to remind me that I had to start making the images soon. I tried my best to ignore it, and continued my research.
After six weeks, I finally felt like making an image. I opened a new Japanese sketchbook, made of rice paper in an accordion format that I had been saving for a special project. I cut the silhouette of a heart from the pages of an old anthology of Latin Literature.

I thought about the heart and all the things it does.
The heart beats. It pumps blood, it pulses, it trembles, sometimes it tremors.
When the heart tremors, we take it to the doctor. It palpates. It tick tocks, tick tocks, tick tocks, like a clock.
It breaks. But does it really break? It stops. And sometimes, with or without help, it starts again.

In the graphic novel Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi, Nasser Ali Khan wakes up one day and decides to die of his broken heart.


While cutting, painting and stitching frantically, I realised I wanted the image to pulsate, to palpate, to say BOUM. The entire process of make the images for this book was moving, different, potent.
Through it I learned a lot about the body and worked with the idea of pleasure for survival.

“Love is not born in our hearts. It is an empty muscle that fills with blood and empties it, fills with blood and empties it, fills with blood and empties it, and which lacks the raw materials to fabricate love. Nor can hatred be fabricated in our hearts. To see where love and hate are born, just as one searches for the source of a river amidst a thick, green forest, we have to look higher up.” (text from chapter The Heart by Grassa Toro, translated to English by Claudio Cambon). Image in progress.


“If our lymphatic system were not our own, we would think it loves us like crazy, because it is always ready to defend us against unwanted elements, bacteria, and cancerous cells. But our lymphatic system, with its incredibly sensitive ganglia, is us. So, we can say, if we were to say anything, that we love ourselves a lot.” (text from chapter The Circulatory System and the Lymphatic System by Grassa Toro, translated to English by Claudio Cambon). Image on the left in progress, image on the right, finished work, photo by Maria Pascual & Miki Hernández.


“We know everything that we know because we have a nervous system, and we have a nervous system to seek pleasure, and we need pleasure to be alive, which is the only thing we need to do while we are alive.”( text from chapter The Nervous System by Grassa Toro, translated to English by Claudio Cambon). Image of finished work, photo by Maria Pascual & Miki Hernández.


The next few posts will be dedicated to various body parts. In each I will share a little bit about my process and a lot about my sources of inspiration. The book, Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human is currently available on the crowd-funding campaign Bibilioteca La Cala.

Song of the day:

Charles Trenet – BOUM

when I discovered (that) This Body Is Human

Making the images for the book Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human was a wonderful surprise. It is a poetic atlas of scientific anatomy for both children and adults. When I first read the text written by (Carlos) Grassa Toro I fell in love with it, because of its joy and joked about wanting to do the images if ever the book was published again. A few months later, Carlos invited me to make the images of the book and explained the launch of Biblioteca La Cala.

Working on the images of the book at La Cala

This book is very different from others I have illustrated. It has nothing to do with my family, my cultural heritage. It does not talk about my personal story. It talks about the human body, its functions, its organs, its strengths and weaknesses.

Details of hands and the nervous system · photos by Maria Pascual & Miki Hernandez Pluviam.

While making the images I tried to imagine the kind of body book I would have loved to have as a little girl; one that did not transmit shame of private parts, one that explained things with a sense of humor. I learned tons making this book and I am very excited to share it with you after so many months of silent work.

In this video I explain a bit about my creative process while making the images for the book.

The crowd-funding campaign for the Biblioteca La Cala is still open so you can preorder your copy of the book.

Song of the day:

Nina Simone - Ain’t Got No, I Got Life

about what’s keeping me up at night

There are many exciting things going on at the moment that are keeping me up at night.
They also wake me up at the wee hours of the morning to stitch, embroider, paint, and write about.

The first on of these things, is the launch of Biblioteca La Cala, a collection of publications born in a space dedicated to artistic creation.

La Cala, over the two years since I first discovered it, has become one of my many homes. Since, I have participated in 2 collective exhibitions: Retablo, retablo, kaavad, arból and Reino animal, one open artist residence, and made the images for the book Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human. You can read more about my activity in La Cala here.

Kaavad illustrating Rudyard Kipling’s story The Elephant’s Child from Just So Stories illustrated and designed by me.Photo credit: Rubén Vicente

The actual kaavad, which is a portable storytelling temple originating from the village of Bassi in Rajasthan, India was made by the carpenter Ana Perez in Madrid.

Telling the story of The Elephant’s Child at the the private view of the exhibition on the 1 November, 2015. Photo credit: Rubén Vicente
Working on a mind-map constellation of the project Las visitas de Nani during my artist residence in February 2016 at La Cala.
Drawing the miniature vignettes of Las visitas de Nani during residence.
Video documentary produced by La Cala following my residence.

La Cala is a space dedicated to artistic creation and research. A space, (in the words of it’s director Grassa Toro), “where for twelve years there has been uninterrupted activity including thought, contemplation, creation, research. Art, writing, film, theatre, illustration, reading, music, graphic design, thinking.”

It has been constant surprise discovering this space and collaborating in projects there. It has been escpecially exciting working on the launch of the ediotial collection, Bibilioteca La Cala, for which a crowfunding campaign has been launched exactly one week ago.

The collection begins with two titles. The first is El París, a novel by Grassa Toro. The second is Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human, with texts by Grassa Toro, images by me. It is a bilingual spanish-english edition that has been translated by Claudio Cambon.

To celebrate the launch of the campaign, La Cala’s 12th anniversary, the inauguration of the exhibition Reino Animal, Grassa Toro hosted a beautiful afternoon feast, which I was very happy to be able to attend.

Details of my piece at the exhibition Reino Animal
Grassa Toro, Diego Fermin, Helena Santolaya, Isidro Ferrer, Pep Carrio, Laura Bustillo, Ana Mareca, Aitana Carrasco Inglés, Alicia Ferrer, Karishma Chugani, Gonzalo Ferreró Marco. Director and collaborators of La CALA at the launch party on the 1st of November 2017.

By participating in the crowdfunding campaign, you will be supporting La Cala and you will be able to pre-order your own copy of the books.

Song of the day:

Stromae - sommeil

Let me tell you more

about what I am working on at the moment.  This will be the place where I will announce upcoming events, presentations, workshops. I will write about new projects and collaborations. At times, I will write new things about old projects, or about things I have stored secretly away in boxes and drawers. Just to air them out, to share them with you, to ponder on what to do next.

I hope to write every week, on Sunday mornings. Sunday morning are good for writing. They are also very good for sleeping in, and doing other such things, so if I don’t write rigidly every Sunday morning...you will understand that I am doing something equally  or more important.

Today’s announcement is situational - if you are reading these lines it is because you find yourself (intentionally or better yet haphazardly) in my blog.

This is situated inside of my brand new, squeaky-clean website, which will be launched at the end of the month. It is being carefully designed and constructed as we speak by Ana Mareca and Laura Bustillo La Particular.


Web work sessions with Laura Bustillo and Ana Mareca La Particular in the library of La Cala

The photographs of my work are by Maria Pascual de la Torre and Miguel Hernandez Miki Pluviam.

Constructing my website has been like making couscous among friends on Fridays: a feast, celebratory, requiring strategic planning as to what ingredients to include, preparation of each ingredient with care, music and dancing in the background while doing it all, dedicating lots of time and attention to all the steps.


Photoshoot sessions with María Pascual and Miki Hernandez, Pluviam

We started this many Fridays ago and are now just tending to the final details.

The launch of the web will be accompanied by imaginary fireworks.


Song of the day:

L’Arpeggiata - Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) - Tarantella Napoletana, Tono Hypodorico