Sarah is a yoga teacher, custom framer, babysitter, and artist. She loves painting and spending time with her rat, gerbil, and hamster.
Mixed Media Artwork
Altered books are books that are changed from its original form into a piece of art. This can be accomplished through many techniques: cutting, gluing, painting, drawing, collaging, melting, burning, and more. The results can be simple or complex. Everything is up to you, the artist. The possibilties are endless. One of the advantages of working with books is that you don't have to stare at a blank canvass. Already there are words on the page. You can choose to use them, or not. You may want to highlight certain words on the page by painting in everything else and create your own poem. Or you may choose to paint light washes over the text so that its presence is more subtle. Altering a book is a great way to try out different tools and techniques that you have never done before. So lets get started!
The Perfect Book
Finding books you can alter is easy. You don't have to use your precious copy of The Hobit to get started. I suggest starting at the library. They will usually have a used book section where you can buy books for a very reasonable price. Thrift stores and garage sales are also great places to look. In most cases you will want a book that is sturdy with a hardcover. A thick book is ideal for cutting out compartments and for inserting thick objects. Thinner books are fine if you are not planning to add anything bulky. Once you have chosen the book, rip out several pages (not all from the same section). This will enable the book to close properly once you have added layers of paint, paper, small objects, etc.
Where to Begin
A good place to start once you have your book ready is to choose a theme. The theme will run throughout the different pages of the book and tie everything together. If you want you can tell a story which may or may not be related to the actual story of your chosen book. Now comes the fun part...actually altering the book! There are many methods and mediums that you can use. Altering books is a great form of artistic experimentation.
What About all the Text?
One thing that all books have in common (unless it is purely a picture book) is that they have text on all or most of the pages. It is up to you if you want to use the existing text or not. In some cases, you may wish to use the text as more of a background. In this case, the words become more of an element of design rather than a page that is meant to be read. You may also choose to cover pages entirely with a layer of paint or by gluing on a blank sheet of paper on the page so that you have a blank surface to work with. Another nice thing to do is to cover some text areas and leave some spaces exposed. Don't be afraid to experiment with multiple pages and books. If something doesn't look quite right, you can always layer on top of it, or even easier, just rip the page out!
Experiment and Have Fun
As long as the pages of your book are not too old and brittle, you can do quite a lot with them! You can add paper ephemera or somewhat flat objects to the pages. Sewing pages is a unique way to fasten objects, or as a medium on its own. You may choose to have a scrapbook feel for your book, where you can add to it as you collect objects from different experiences. Of course, this is your artwork, so it is your choice if you want it to look a bit messy like a junk journal, or have a more clean and put together look. If you have more than one book to work with, you can try different approaches. It is also nice to work with more than one book at a time so that you can go back and forth if you need to wait for any paint or glue to dry. (You don't want the pages to stick together!)
Keep It Going
After you get started, you will find that the possibilities of what you can do here are endless. Altering books is a lot like keeping a multi-media sketchbook. You will begin to feel more comfortable using a variety of tools and mediums. It is also a nice practice to learn about yourself, what you like, and what you don't like. You may notice that you learn something that you can apply to other art that you do. Of course the most important thing is to simply enjoy the process! You will be amazed at what you discover.
Sarah O'Brien (author) from Pennsylvania on January 11, 2021:
I appreciate your comment! With some time and experimentation, you could create a unique and beautiful piece of your own!
Anna Javier on October 03, 2020:
I want those! Beautiful!
bulzomi laura on September 12, 2015:
beautiful books the artista!!!!!!!
Kaylynn on January 04, 2015:
Cool! That's a clever way of lokniog at it!
Aira on January 03, 2015:
Reading this makes my desniiocs easier than taking candy from a baby.
Anil from Kerala on December 08, 2013:
beautiful, pictures are very cute, thanks for sahring
Sarah O'Brien (author) from Pennsylvania on October 18, 2012:
Thank you! I hope you are inspired to start experimenting yourself! :)
Donna Herron from USA on October 18, 2012:
Wow!! You picked some really great examples. Love these!
Sarah O'Brien (author) from Pennsylvania on June 02, 2012:
Beautifully said! I myself have recently been turned on to the idea of altered books and absolutely love it. If you ever give it a try there are lots of possibilites and fun techniques to try on books. :)
Claudia Tello from Mexico on June 02, 2012:
Waw! again! I wasn´t aware of this magnificent art form and I find it astonishing. You have included some great pieces her (loved the art-quake and the ephemera collage). It is true that wherever creativity and imagination is present, wonderful things can be done.
kartika damon from Fairfield, Iowa on June 01, 2012:
I love art jounaling and have created an altered book - still in progress! Great Hub - it is inspiring me to get back to my project! Thumbs up!
mwilliams66 from Left Coast, USA on May 27, 2012:
I love this hub. I had no idea this was an art form. Now I'd love to own one if not attempt my hand at one. Fantastic use of photos.
You may want to consider rechecking for spelling and grammatical errors.
Thanks for posting.
Voting up, interesting and beautiful.
Dixie from Texas on May 26, 2012:
RTalloni on May 26, 2012:
Altered books are neat projects and keepsakes. Thanks for highlighting these examples!