Altered Book Page Story Card by Cathy Nichols

Art that tells a story is compelling, interesting, and engaging. This guest post from Cathy Nichols, author of Storytelling Art Studio, shows an easy and fun way to create a small artwork that relates your unique story. ~ Jeannine

One of my favorite ways to use storytelling in art is to create an altered book page. By starting with a canvas full of text, you avoid that fear-of-the-blank-page feeling that so quickly stifles creativity. You can use this method whenever you’re feeling blocked. Instead of starting with an empty page, you start with one that’s too full, and you selectively salvage the parts you like. It’s very freeing!

Nichols Cover
Learn how to tell compelling stories with your art with Storytelling Art Studio: Visual Expressions of Character, Mood and Theme Using Mixed Media.

For this project, start with a small wood panel (mine is 3″ x 5″) and a page torn from an old book (I used War and Peace). Create a viewfinder out of a piece of cardstock by cutting out a small piece the size of a line of text. Use the viewfinder to scan for interesting phrases in your book page. Even in the most boring text, there are usually some dramatic phrases. Choose a phrase that creates a bold image in your mind, even if you have no idea yet how to illustrate it. Circle that phrase lightly in pencil. Then, cut the page to size and paste it onto your wood support.

Altered Book

Surround yourself with your favorite bits of collage paper, ephemera, acrylic paints, stamps, paint pens, stencils, scissors, brushes, and glue, and meditate on the phrase you circled on your book page. For my phrase “and she boldly began,” I imagined a ship setting sail on a new adventure. What do you see when you look at your phrase? Do you see a person? A landmark? A geometric shape? Don’t censor yourself. Whatever you see will be exactly right, and I guarantee it will create a story for others.

Once you’ve settled on a focal image, paint everything on your book page except the circled phrase. For my piece, I painted a simple ocean and sky.

Altered Book

Next, add your focal image. I collaged a boat out of watercolor paper and glued it onto the support. Then, add any other collage or painted imagery that seem right. I stamped some waves onto a piece of white paper and added it to the ocean. I also cut out colorful shapes and glued them into the sky.

Altered Book

As a final touch, balance out the composition by making marks with a paint pen or stencil. (I used my Kilim Patterns stencil from StencilGirl Products.)

Altered Book

When you’re finished, you will have a brand new piece of art that showcases the art of storytelling!

Altered Book

CATHY NICHOLS is a mixed-media and encaustic artist and the author of the book Storytelling Art Studio: Visual Expressions of Character, Mood, and Theme Using Mixed Media from North Light Books. See more of Cathy’s work at



5 thoughts on “Altered Book Page Story Card by Cathy Nichols

  1. What a great idea. I have had a block lately. I tried painting a few pages with background colors but that didn’t help. This has already spoken to me and given me an idea. I am itching to start it. Thanks again.


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