When Cat Gibbard talks about artistic energy, the Newlyn Art Gallery Education Officer means the collaborative kind required for a mammoth all-night bookbinding session rather than solitary creation.
"She had a break of about three hours when she went home and did some dawn gardening," she tells us, reflecting on a local GP who responded to a call-out for artists and would-be publishers to take part in the Museums at Night all-nighter in May 2011 at the Penzance gallery.
"She was another one of these people who said 'I'm only coming for an hour.' I think she thought she was going to sleep, but then she came back."
Starting at 8pm and continuing for a full turn of the clock, a core of 18 page planners (sporadically expanding to 28) concocted the sheets of the thick and exquisite work of bound art.
It has 26 pages, which range from bold lettering and numbers, fairytale moonlight scenes and impressionsitic rectangular fields of color and light to primitivist prints and poems. The works are as diverse as you’d expect from a team made up of printmakers, artists and writers with a common passion.
"A lot of it was word of mouth," says Gibbard. "We wanted to think of something that had energy, so it wouldn’t be a case of 'oh God, 12 hours, what are we going to do?', but it would have a product at the end of it.
"What was important was that the artists who signed up didn’t know who was coming, so when they arrived in the evening it was a case of looking around to see who was there. There was constant activity. People came in with typewriters and source books."
The variety adds to the magic of the finished article, an original artwork which reflects the renowned ferment of Newlyn artists. "I think Blair [Todd, curator] was just amazed that we could bring people together without a strong idea of what they were going to produce and come out with something so remarkable."
Their visitors' creativity and productivity has been matched by the excitement surrounding the event.
"People are asking what we’re going to do next," says Gibbard, who is sending the book to auction to raise funds for the gallery.
"There's a great deal of interest in next year's plan. People gave so much this time. I think Museums at Night is the perfect event for it because it creates that energy. To be honest, I'm not sure people would volunteer to work through the night otherwise."
From cover to cover, these night owls have fashioned something worth skipping bedtime for.
- To keep up to date with auction plans for the book contact the education team at the gallery on 01736 363715.
- Take a look inside A Book of the Night.
- More on Museums at Night at www.museumsatnight.org.uk
More pictures from the book: