Altered Books: Ideas for Choosing Your Canvas

The idea of telling a story through art with a book as the vehicle appeals to so many artists. Whether you create new handmade books or turn worn volumes into altered books, the process and the results can be gratifying.

altered book by jane davenport
Jane Davenport uses an altered book as the
canvas for her Inktense block experiments.

When it comes to altered books, ideas are as handy as your nearest shelf or yard sale. There are so many used books looking for good homes, and making art is a beautiful way of recycling them,

Here are some ideas for choosing books to alter:

Children's board books. These have sturdy pages for collage and often come in fun shapes. You should lightly sand the glossy paper covering the pages before gluing on paper or fabric. Because board books have few pages, they are perfect for your first altered book project.

A favorite story. Get a well-used version of your favorite novel or a chapter book from your youth and alter it with the imagery that comes to mind every time you read it.

A book with a good cover. An interesting vintage cover-especially one with an intriguing, fun, or meaningful title-can serve as the springboard for your creative collaging, drawing, and painting inside. I so wish I had held onto that copy of "Money, Love, and Kate" I found at an antique shop decades ago.

altered book ideas inktense blocks
Jane Davenport uses water-soluble Derwent Inktense
blocks for drawing and painting in her altered book.

Thick books. Books with lots of pages lend themselves to three-dimensional altered book techniques. You can remove sections of pages to create space for 3-D embellishment or glue pages together and cut out a niche to hold some ornamentation. You can also insert your own pages-plain watercolor paper or found papers like maps-for additional journaling space.

"Ruined" books. If someone has already written or drawn on the pages of these old books, so much the better. You can use these scribbles as jumping off points for your own art and journaling or use the "abuse" as an excuse to give it artistic life.

Once you have chosen your book, the next step is to use it as your canvas.

In our new Art Lessons 2014 series, Jane Davenport takes one altered book and practices with 12 different art supplies. The series debuts with Art Lessons 2014 Vol. 1: Inktense Intensive. Join Jane on this art adventure and learn about mixed-media supplies using an altered book.

P.S. Do you alter books? What do you look for when choosing a book to alter?


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