I have great respect for art, and an abiding love for handwritten journals. I often sketch on my journal pages, or insert small watercolors or photos in between entries to illustrate a point. In magazines like Cloth Paper Scissors I've seen mixed media artists altering print books into art journals. I had some reservations -- destroying someone's book to make art seemed a bit like cannibalism to this writer -- but I could also think of a couple of novels that I'd like to rip to pieces, too.
I picked up two how-to books to get some ideas: Bev Brazelton's Altered Books Workshop (the nuts and bolts of how to alter a book), and Art Journals & Creative Healing by Sharon Soneff (how to create meaningful personal content and exorcise some of your demons.)
Ms. Brazelton's book was terrific; the instructions were easy to understand and I really liked her approach to turning print books into art. But I had to grab the Kleenex as I was reading Sharon Soneff's book, as most of the author/artists who contributed to it told some heart-wrenching stories.
Once I felt ready, I bought a small, short hardcover book from a library sale. Once I read it (and I had to at least read it first) I didn't think I'd have a problem destroying it. Come to find out, I did. I hesitated, long enough for some paint to drip from my brush onto the first page. That splatter sort of forced me to start painting over the text. Once I'd tinted all the pages, the book morphed into a canvas and it was a little easier. I painted, ripped, folded, altered and glued for the next three days, and the end result was a little messy and amateurish but intensely satisfying.
Here's one page from the finished product:
I don't think I can seriously get into altering books as a regular hobby, maybe because I have too much reverence for them. Still, I'm glad I gave it a whirl because it was fun, I got a lot of angst out of my system, and in the process I even came up with a couple of story ideas.
Today I'm going to give away the two books that I used to prepare for the project (they have been read once but are in pristine condition, no paint or glue splatters) along with some stuff to get someone else started. In comments to this post, write a line that might appear in your altered book/art journal (or if you'd rather keep that private, just throw your name into the hat) by midnight EST on Saturday, March 29, 2008. I'll draw one name from everyone who participates and send the winner unsigned, read-once copies of Altered Books Workshop by Bev Brazelton and Art Journals & Creative Healing by Sharon Soneff, along with some creative materials to use for altering books into art journals. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.