One of my favorite altered book techniques is to use the text from a hard
cover book as the base for developing poetry and related imagery.
When I choose
a book to alter, I am most often guided by the title of the book. I pull
the book off the shelf and look more closely at a few things.
I look to see if the binding is stitched securely and if the pages are heavy
enough to stand up to some gluing, painting, stitching or whatever else I
to do to them.
This particular book, Dreams
and Delights met these requirements, and
as an added bonus, had wonderful chapter titles which I knew would inspire
I'm ready to start, I scan the first few pages of the book, looking for words
that speak to me of a
be found. I discovered these words of gold on page 9: ".
. . swam away on another wave of dream. . ." This phrase appeared on
the ninth line of text, so I looked above it for a pronoun to
the poem. There was the word "she" on the very first line. Perfect.
there, I look at each line of text, trying to find ways to connect words
and phrases to
create my found poem. I search for imagery and word combinations that
I like. I write the poem down on paper as I go along, referencing the paragraph
line numbers so that I can find the phrases again later.
poetry this way is an exciting process for me. Of course, I am relying on
the original author's ability to use descriptive language in his or her writing.
A lot of the prose written in the earlier part of the 20th century was very
flowery and overdone, compared to much of what is written today. These
works are wonderful for found poetry because I can pare down the dense text
and create something new, spare, and sometimes beautiful. But just as playing
with the text on the page
results, it can be the source of frustration as well. Many times I've
gotten into the rhythm of a poem that seemed to be turning out nicely, only
to come to a dead end with no text left on the page to create a satisfying
conclusion. Sometimes I can wriggle my way out of it; other times I have
to turn the page to make a new start. That's the beauty and the challenge
poetry in an altered book.
When I'm happy
with the poem, my next step is to mask the text out so that I can create
artwork around the poem without obliterating it; this is one of my favorite
book techniques. I use liquid Masquepen for this. It's a little bottle
when it dries. It's rather expensive, but a little bit goes a long way.
protect the paper. After the matte
medium has dried, I carefully apply the masque pen liquid over the words
of my poem. Make sure to let the Masquepen dry thoroughly before
doing any other altered book techniques. The masque creates
a film over the words which protects it from the glues and water media. [You
this technique in my article Tips for Using Masquepen.]
Once the masque
has dried, I create the art for the page. Since Dreams and Delights is
a collection of stories that are thematically tied to Persia and the Orient,
I decided to imitate the artwork found in Persian miniatures. I have several
books that I referred to, looking at the patterns, the clothing,
and the colors found in those ancient jewels of art.
I used several altered book techniques on these two double page spreads. The
background art work was done right on the book pages. I painted with acrylics,
and inks, and drew with colored pencils to create the background scenery. Even
though I'm using a lot of water media, I try to be very careful not to get
the page too wet because I want to avoid wrinkling the pages.
the pictures of the women separately on heavy matte finished paper. Drawing
people is one of those areas that I don't feel very confident, so I wanted
to make sure that I could get the women drawn and painted just right without
messing up the rest of the page. I used colored
tipped markers to draw the pictures of the women. Then cut and glued
them into the book.
After all the
art work was done, I used my finger and a pair of tweezers to carefully
remove the masquepen. I push and peel it off the page to reveal the words
underneath. I then spray the pages with a matte finish to protect
Although I have
only completed two pages in my book so far, I have written two more
found poems within it that are just waiting to be illustrated. Hopefully
to come back to this book soon and use these same altered book techniques.
If you're interested in seeing more examples of these altered book
techniques, take a look at another altered book of mine called A
Cup of Sky which also incorporates found poetry and water media.