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.

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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.

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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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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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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.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Working on the Fairy Tale series has unexpectedly led me to making paper cut work. It’s become more of a focus (or rather obsession) since I made the wolf for the Little Red Riding Hood book. The books I’ve been working on for the last two weeks are the Three Little Pigs with each pig in their own house-shaped book. I wanted to make a Big Bad Wolf to go with them and envisioned this as a large paper cut to flow around the books.

This is what I came up with and I love it.

The Big Bad Wolf

I foolishly cut it from paper that was too flimsy and it curled in a very unhelpful way. I had to back the whole thing with a thicker paper and then recut the shape. I decided to paint the whole thing to make it more dramatic, using black and white acrylic paint. I’m relieved that part went so well because painting, like drawing, is not my strongest artistic skill.

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.

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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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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.

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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.