I love books. I love book stores and libraries, and I love reading. Books offer so many possibilities, both as reading material, but also as art material! I use book pages in my art all the time, and I also save books by making them into artworks. These are a few pages from my journals, all created inside books.
If you take a close look, you could see that my words were written on top of the original story inside the book I had chosen.
Using old books has many advantages over buying a new journal:
- Saves you money.
- Saves our planet, because you recycle, instead of buying new product.
- Since you’re working inside an old book, by definition, there are no white pages, so no fear of white pages!!
- Old books offer a wonderful start, since they already have a title, illustrations, content, and a past!
If you’re horrified by the idea of wrecking books, rest assured! I don’t vandalize them, I save them :-). All the books that have become my journals are ones that I have either found in the trash, or in various odd places. I can assure you I don’t use great literature for my journals. All these books would have been trashed, had I not saved them.
Ok, now that we’ve taken care of that, here are a few tips for choosing the perfect book for your art journal. The basics, a thin, sewn journal, are detailed in this post about how I like my art journals. The same applies to using old books, and here’s a good example of why I choose sewn books. This was a lovely embroidery book, but it’s not sewn, it’s glued, and this is what happens once it’s opened. It actually breaks. So… not a great book to try and make art in.
And this is what a sewn book looks like, opened perfectly flat in the middle, without the spine breaking. If you look closely, you could see the white thread in the middle.
Another way of recognizing a book that would be able to hold up is this little piece of cloth on the inside of the spine. In this picture, it is red and white. This is traditional book binding, and it will hold the pages together very well, so you don’t have to worry putting in too much mixed media goodness.
This is what it looks like in my Japan art journal. It’s 10 years old! I wrote this journal in Japan, on my honeymoon, and we recently celebrated 10 years of marriage!
So, if your book is not too thick, and it’s sewn, check the title, its pages, the fonts and illustrations. I love working inside books that I connect with. I need their content to be interesting! It so happens, that most of my books turned journals are dictionaries and encyclopedias, I love those! What are your favorite books? Which book would be your ideal journal?
So, now that you’ve chosen a good book you can relate to, it’s time to start working in it! I like brushing gesso on my pages before working on them, it gives them some “tooth”, and I like the feel the pages have once gessoed, but that’s not a must. If you plan on making a glue book, or collaging inside the book, you don’t need gesso at all.
For my art journaling classes, I enjoy working in different types of journals. So we always start with a plain white one, and then move on to an altered book. It makes for a super interesting start. These are a few pictures from my classes.
It’s always fascinating how every student can find a book that suits her perfectly, and how she finds herself inside those pages and images.
One of the things I love best in working with old books is how each time I open up my book to start making art, I find a surprise waiting to be unfolded inside those pages. Instead of plain white pages, there are words, ideas and images waiting for my interpretation! And if I do want some white pages, I can always gesso them down. In the page below, one of my students began painting her pages with gesso, and I really liked how that made the building in the picture look foggy, waiting to become something new. It is no longer an image of a building, rather it is now something personalized, already in the process of becoming her piece of art.
So… ready to start journaling in old books? or have you already tried that? I’d love to hear from your experience, tell me what kind of books work best for you.