Altered Books: Experimenting with Book Bursts

I recently picked up a copy of The Repurposed Library by Lisa Occhipinti at Oscar’s Art Books, and last week I began exploring some of the projects from its pages.

I was drawn to the elegant simplicity of these book bursts, which are made from cutting a book into sections and then folding the pages. I chose a fairly thick book so it took quite a long time to do all that folding.

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Each one is done in a slightly different way, and it’s interesting to see the patterns and texture that emerge in each. I’m going to experiment a bit more with something different again with the remaining section of the book.

Book bursts

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It feels really good to be exploring books in a different way than usual and I’m curious to see where this will lead.

Upcycled Collage: The Wading Birds

The bird collages made from upcycled materials continue this week with three new pieces almost completed. This is the first of the three, and also my favorite of them all.

Upcycled Collage- wading birds

The canvas for this collage is the cover of a wooden box, the rest of which I used earlier this year in another mixed media assemblage piece. The Japanese characters are part of the original cover design and I tried to incorporate them into the composition because they’re lovely.

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It was fun to try different things with the same materials. So far I’ve mostly been making clouds with the scrap book pages and security envelopes, but this time it made more sense to reference water because these are shore birds.

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The finished artwork feels very Japanese, and I love how beautifully all the elements come together.

Upcycled Collage- wading birds-4

Materials used: sewing pattern paper, security envelopes, book pages, paper birds, wooden box lid, and gel medium.

Altered Book: Thumbelina

Memory is a funny thing. As I began to write this blog post I suddenly remembered a song from my childhood about Thumbelina sung by Danny Kay. I haven’t thought about it in ages, and it certainly didn’t occur to me while I was working on this book.

Altered Book Thumbelina-5

The Thumbelina book is the fifth and final fairy tale altered book I have made for the show at Seymour Gallery. I was inspired by the imagery of a tiny figure in a flower and wanted to make something three-dimensional from paper. The figure inside the flower pictured here, is a photograph of my friend Siobhan curled up and pretending to rest.

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Altered Book Thumbelina-2

In the story of Thumbelina there are many animals she encounters on her adventures, and I chose to reference only two of these. A mouse gives her shelter in her time of need, and she rescues the swallow who eventually rescues her in return. I cut the swallow from an old bird field guide, and made the mouse as an original paper cut painted with brown acrylic paint.

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The leaves were also hand-cut from paper and added to fill out the composition. I’m not one hundred percent happy with this book but I am out of time to make it better. The part I really want to do over is the flower because it’s rather clunky, but once it was glued in there was no going back. I think it’s a case of liking pieces of this composition more than the whole thing.

Altered Book Thumbelina-4

Altered Book Thumbelina

There is one week to go before the show opens at Seymour Art Gallery. Details here in case you missed it.

Materials used: book, green card stock, pink card stock, paper bird, tissue paper, acrylic paint, white glue, and gel medium.

Altered Book: Three Little Pigs

Do you remember the paper cut Big Bad Wolf I shared a few weeks ago? Well these are the Three Little Pigs altered books that go with him. I decided to make each of them their own house from a book – one of straw, one of sticks and one of bricks.

Altered Book Three Little Pigs

When these are hung together the wolf will flow around them, from the left side to underneath them. He really completes the whole picture. I decided to treat this more as an installation piece to better tell the story, and I’m saving the final view of everything together for the show.

The piglets I’ve used are toys I bought from Michael’s art supplies, which is not a store I normally visit, but I figured they carried this sort of thing. I painted two of the pigs and left one of them clean and pink so they would look different from each other even though they are exactly the same. The book houses are covered in raffia, dried stems from a lemon balm plant, and paper I hand cut to look like bricks. A special thank you to Horst for cutting the corners off the books with his bandsaw and making them look like houses.

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Altered Book Three Little Pigs-2
Altered Book Three Little Pigs-4

Materials used: three books, raffia, dried lemon balm stems, Japanese paper, white card stock, three plastic pigs, acrylic paint, white glue, and gel medium.

Altered Book: Four & Twenty Black Birds

Normally I photograph and share new work as soon as I’ve completed it, but lately I’ve been too short on time to do so. I’ve still been working away on the Fairy Tale series of altered books and just put the finishing touches on the fifth (and final) one today. The book I’m sharing with you today is part of the series but it was inspired by what is considered a nursery rhyme rather than a fairy tale.

I’ve always loved the line from “Sing a Song of Sixpence” about the “four and twenty black birds baked in a pie” and wanted to attempt to recreate this as an altered book. I thought, “how hard can it be to make a book look like a pie?” Apparently, it’s kind of hard.

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Four and Twenty Black Birds-4

This is the second book I folded to use because the first one didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. I did some cutting after the folding that ended up looking more like a mushroom than a pie, and it was then I gave up on that detail of the rhyme. Four and twenty crows flying out of a book is pretty awesome all on its own, thank you very much.

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Four and Twenty Black Birds

I sourced the bird outlines from google images to make three templates to trace onto black card stock. I then cut out twenty four black birds from the paper using an xacto knife. It was fun to have a small pile of crows on my desk before they were attached to the pages using glue. Yet again I could not resist incorporating paper cut work into an altered book, because I am a little bit obsessed with the process.

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The only splash of colour to this is provided by the patterned paper I added as end pages, and I’m really glad to have it there.

Materials used: book, black card stock, scrapbook paper, glue, and gel medium.

Altered Book: Rose Red & Snow White

Rose Red & Snow White is the story of two little girls, a very angry dwarf, and an enchanted bear. [The full story] I decided to choose this as the inspiration for my second fairy tale altered book because I had photos of both Monique and Siobhan I thought would be perfect for it. The figures in this book were shot separately but worked very well together. They were both spinning while posing and I really liked the way their arms and skirts flared out. It made me think they could be dancing or skipping together in the forest.

Altered Book: Rose Red & Snow White

I cut through the cover and then removed pages to about half-way through the book. I actually cut a smaller opening inside the larger one to create a “shelf” of pages for the inner level of paper cut leaves to rest upon. The book cutting was probably the simplest part of making the whole book and the least amount of cutting effort.

Altered Book - Rose Red & Snow White-4

Creating the wolf for the Little Red Riding Hood book started a new obsession with the art of the paper cut, so with this book I chose to incorporate more of this type of work. I like this idea because instead of trying to find something to use, I’m making it myself.

The leaves took a REALLY long time to make because I first had to draw it all out and then go back and carefully cut everything piece by piece. I did the lower level of leaves as one piece and the upper level as four separate pieces to maximize the cardstock I had on hand. I don’t do much drawing but leaves are one of the few things I am aces at.

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The delicate little red and white roses are also made with paper and were a very lucky find at Michael’s art store. I wouldn’t normally go there for supplies but I really wanted roses for this book. I’m very grateful they not only had the two colours I needed in one package but they’re also exactly what I was hoping to find.

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The bear paper cut is made from a black patterned cardstock to suggest the enchantment he is under. I used a photo of a bear I found in google images as my template for the outline and I freehand cut all the details to create the facial features, and fur. I’m really happy with how well the bear turned out.

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Altered Book - Rose Red & Snow White-7

As with the Little Red Riding Hood book the two figures are cut from photo prints, and come from the same photo shoot I did with Monique and Siobhan to kick off this series. They and the paper bear are resting on top of carefully placed wooden sudoku tiles to raise them from the background and create depth.

Altered Book - Rose Red & Snow White-2

I’ve already started and almost finished the third in this series, which actually consists of three books. I have yet to finalize the last two stories I’ll be interpreting so let me know if you have a favorite fairy tale you’d like to see as an altered book.

Materials used: book, recycled wrapping paper, mulberry paper roses, cardstock, sudoku tiles, photographs, glue, and gel medium.

Altered Book: Little Red Riding Hood

I need to come up with a proper title for this work because while it certainly is about the story of Red Riding Hood, it’s not a great title. But that aside, I am REALLY excited to share this altered book with the world. It’s the first in a series of Fairy Tale inspired work I am creating for an upcoming show.

As mentioned previously, I was hoping to combine photography and altered books in this work so the first step was photographing models as fairy tale characters. This led to a hilarious shoot with friends Monique and Siobhan playing pretend and wearing costumes. I made some of these images into paper prints to figure out sizing, which amused me because I realized I’d made friends into paper dolls. With the size figured out, and poses selected, I had a set of photo prints made and this is what you’re seeing as the Red Riding Hood figure in this book.

Altered Book: Little Red Riding Hood

I should mention those are real tree branches standing in for a full sized forest of trees. I gathered these along the ground from a nearby park, cleansed them of dirt and applied a coat of gel medium to each.

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I used a large encyclopedia volume as the canvas for this altered book, and decided to cut the niche about half way through the thickness of the pages. I used two crumpled up pages from the book to create the ground for Red Riding Hood to stroll upon.

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The flowers were added for colour, and I made them using a paper punch. The leaves were actually the last detail I came up with. I felt the forest looked too bare and decided to make leaves using another paper punch and recycled wrapping paper. It’s the right bit of whimsy and warmth even if there is a big scary wolf out to get the little miss.

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When I started this I wasn’t going to include the wolf, but then as things came together I realized he had to be in there. I decided to create him as a paper cut figure and went searching through google images for reference I could use to create an outline because my drawing skills aren’t very good. I printed out this wolf to use as my template. I traced it onto a piece of black paper then modified and added details by cutting freehand.

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I was pleasantly surprised by how well this worked out because it’s not a technique I’ve worked with much before. It’s inspired me to try and incorporate paper cutting into the rest of the Fairy Tales books.

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I’m really excited by this series because it’s allowing me to try new things and push boundaries with my artwork. I’ve already selected the next few Fairy Tales and will be starting another altered book this week.

Materials used: book, Japanese paper, recycled wrapping paper, photograph, paper punch, tree branches, straight pins, book pages, glue, and gel medium.

Altered Book: Constellation Of The Great Bear

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When I pulled the bear out to work with I started thinking about polar bears but then inspiration led me (and I can’t remember how) to the constellation of Ursa Major. I felt this was a much more interesting idea to work with and sorted through my other materials looking for further items to incorporate into the composition. I was glad to find a star map in my paper box to use as the end pages in the book. But when I rediscovered the rusted bed spring, scavenged from Bowen Island a year ago and forgotten about, I then had everything I needed to complete the work.

Altered Book - Ursa-2

I really wanted to do more with this book. The last two I’ve made have left the books as flat canvases. With this one I decided to fold and cut the pages and make it a three-dimensional piece. I spent a long time cutting and shaping the space in the pages where the bear would rest because I wanted to make sure he would sit flat and be well supported. The rusted bed spring also needed a lot of careful work to have it supported where it’s inserted inside the book. I reinforced things between the pages with cardboard so the spring would float over top rather than rest on the pages on the outside.

Altered Book - Ursa

The metal stars and red thread were a final touch. These are meant to echo the star shapes and the lines that connect them on the end pages map. I always find working with thread rather aggravating because it slips away from me as I wind it around things like the spring and stars, but I love the affect.

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Altered Book - Ursa-4

This work will be available for sale during the Eastside Culture Crawl in November. I’m creating as much new work as I can to entice people to visit me for the Crawl.

Altered Book - Ursa-3

Materials used: book, wood bear, rusted bed spring, red thread, metal stars, star map from an encyclopedia, glue, and gel medium.

Altered Book: Heralding The Dawn Of A New Day

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The bag of animals made of wood has been a wonderful thing to work with so far. I’m enjoying pulling out each animal and choosing a different one each time to create a home for in an altered book. I’ve always adored this rooster for his proud posture and decided to run with the cliche of having him crow at sunrise.

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As I began work on this I took a detour into studio cleaning as I went through my storage boxes of paper looking for things to use. All of the boxes were a complete mess and sorting through them allowed me to discover paper I’d forgotten all about. I used two of these to create the very colourful sunrise in the book. The triangle with bricks printed upon it is from collection of wooden toy blocks I picked up at RubyDog’s Art House, and it serves nicely as a rooftop for the rooster to stand on.

Altered Book - Heralding The Dawn Of A New Day

This altered book came together quickly and easily, which surprised me. It always feels a bit wrong when an artwork seems too easy, but I’m not really sure why. I’m really happy with it though, and love how colourful this is.

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Materials used: book, sewing pattern paper, origami paper, wooden rooster, wood triangle, glue, and gel medium.

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables

For the next little while, I have decided to focus on creating two series of altered books, one based around a collection of toy animals made from wood and the other around the blank books Siobhan gave me. It’s been awhile since I’ve made new work so this week I dove into the bag of animals looking for inspiration and came away with the idea to use four of them at once.

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables - detail

I started thinking about fables and folklore using animals to teach lessons and explain things about the world. I couldn’t find a suitable tale on which to base my composition but I kept thinking about Chicken Little and the Town Musicians of Bremen. The calf, goat, piglet and chick are in a tale all their own. It involves piling one on top the other to try and reach the sky, but also the wearing of special party hats. I leave the details of the story up to you.

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables - detail

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables - detail

I’m starting to make new work in preparation for the Culture Crawl in late November. This piece will be framed and available for sale at my studio, along with much of the work currently listed in my etsy shop.

Altered Book: Of Animal Folklore and Fables - detail

Materials used: book, wooden animals, tissue paper, Japanese paper, cardboard, acrylic paint, wooden blocks, and poppy seed pods.