Those of you who have been here before know that I’m a regular old bookworm. I love reading, I’m passionate about books, and my biggest pet peeve is a badly-edited book. But, what does that have to do with altered books? And, some of you might be wondering, what are altered books anyway?
Well, an altered book is a piece of art created from an existing book that has been transformed by painting, collage, tearing, cutting, or any creative means. Some artists use a theme for their books others don’t bother with themes and some use old books to create art journals. The possibilities are endless.
For those of you gasping at this “defacement” of a book – consider this: Is it better to use old, unloved books to create art or to send them to the garbage dump or recycle center? While I would never cut up books like Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved (one of my all-time favorites), I wouldn’t hesitate to cut up How About A Sin Tonight. See what I mean?
Anyway…I started making altered art books about 8 years ago. I was hooked – not only to altered books, but to art in general. Creating these spreads gave me joy…kept me sane…made me feel alive. Then, somewhere along the way, I started thinking that I wasn’t good enough. I started comparing my art with other people’s art – and not just any people, with the work of popular artists in this space. And I was a complete art novice, so this was a downright silly thing to do. Eventually, I just gave up.
I did try to get back to the art room on numerous occasions. But I couldn’t. Then, last year, I took some online classes with Melody Ross and slowly, I started coming unstuck. It started, strangely enough, with stitchery. Then I started doodling and lettering. I hated my initial attempts, but with a lot of encouragement from the other girls who were taking the class with me, I stuck with it. I bought some books and started some boards on Pinterest. And – surprise, surprise – I got better at it! Then in February, I got back to making altered books. I’ve done three spreads so far (along with other arty stuff) and I’m really and truly loving it!
I still make mistakes, but instead of beating myself up, I learn from them and move on. And I still don’t think my art is as good as some of the awesome work I see online, but I’m ok with that. Because this is my art, it has meaning to me, and I know that as I continue down this road, I will only improve.
So, be it art or anything else you love doing but think you aren’t too great at it – stick with it, I say! If you love it, practice it. Be gentle and kind with yourself and you will get better and better at it.