Book Art ~ Heart-chitectureHeart-chitecture is an altered book with a special place in my heart. It was such a struggle to take the picture I was imagining in my mind for this art book and have it turn out the way I wanted. Of course, looking back at it now, I know there are some things I would have done differently. But when I read the poem, it feels as though someone else wrote it, and it makes me smile every time.
There were no words at her command
to describe what she had seen
When first she opened up the book
and fell into its dream.
She saw a world before her
that she drew the way she wished,
And everything she found there–
birds, butterflies, and fish
Were just as she imagined
and sometimes even more
And each page as she turned it
was a window or a door.
She came to understand then
the word and its effect.
She’d be the draftsman of her life–
the perfect architect.
At a library book sale, I found two board books which are fourteen inches long when opened. I snatched them up, drawn to the unusual length. I wanted to use the whole breadth of the open page with a continuous image for this altered book.
I have a wonderful big Dover book called Images of World Architecture. I started looking through it one day and found a section filled with lovely old English buildings, the kind with elaborate awnings and chimney tops and rounded windows and turrets and towers. I decided that I would put a string of houses across each page of my altered book.
I scanned the pictures and resized them using Photoshop. I had to make sure that the scale of the houses matched each other. I copied and pasted the houses side by side and printed them out on some 11″ X 16″ paper so that they came out in a single strip. It probably would have been much easier to just print them on 8 1/2″ X 11″ paper and glue them close together, but I liked the challenge of making the 14″ image.
Preparing the Book
I prepared this altered book in my standard way: sanding off the plasticky surface of the book, using two coats of gesso to cover up the pictures on the page. I also wet sanded the gesso after each coat dried so that it would be super smooth.
I then decorated the backgrounds. I laid down two coats of paint in the basic colors I wanted – green, blue, and ochre. Using various sponges, I applied FW acrylic inks and other shades of acrylic paint over the surface of the page. I also used a toothbrush to spatter gold paint on the surface. In addition, I sprinkled a tiny dose of glitter into the wet paint. I was so happy with the way the backgrounds for this altered book turned out, that I felt a little sad about covering them up.
I carefully trimmed my house print-outs and covered both sides with Golden fluid gloss acrylic medium. I found a lot of images of children from another Dover book called Children: A Pictorial Archive. I tried to find images of children that were drawn in a similar style. Again, I scanned and resized these images so that they would be in a similar scale and would appear to dwarf the houses. I repeated the process with the various fish, bird, and butterfly images. I wanted those to be very large in comparison to everything else on the page. All of the images were printed out and covered on both sides with the medium. I also covered the backgrounds with medium.
When the paper is encased with the medium, it becomes slightly tacky to the touch, which is exactly what I wanted. I had decided to use Jonathon Talbot’s method for a “glueless” collage. One of the advantages to using this method is that you can play around with the placement of the collage elements. The dry, medium-covered pieces, stick to each other just enough to stay in place, but are easily moved if needed, so you can play around with the design until it looks just the way you want it. Once you’re happy with the lay out, the collage is covered with a sheet of silicon coated paper. This paper is similar to the kind that is under address labels, although much sturdier. You lay the paper over the collage and run a small heated tacking iron over the silicon coated paper. This heats the collage elements causing medium to soften and meld together as though they had been glued. In this process, and a smooth seamless layer of images is created.
I typed my poem and printed it out on tissue paper. Then I cut it apart and glued it to the bottom of each altered book page. I covered each double page spread of my altered book with another coat of gloss medium.
I did have some problems at the gutter of each page. Despite my desire for a continuous string of houses across each spread, I feel that it would have been better to cut the image in two at the gutter so the page could open and close more smoothly. I would also have avoided having crucial elements, such as the girl’s face or a fish’s tail, lying across the gutter; opening and closing this altered book puts too much stress on those images.
On the outside of the book, I first cut off the cardboard spine. The book had swollen so much that it was now impossible to close. I covered the spine with a piece of Tyvec. I then covered the gessoed front and back covers with tissue paper which had been printed with architectural drawings. After that I mixed up a paste of acrylic gel medium and Liquitex’s glass beads medium. Then I used a palette knife to smooth the mixture onto the front cover. It took a long time to dry, but when it did, I flipped the book over and put some on the back. After that was dry, I sponged shades of green, blue, and then gold on top, letting each color dry before applying the next.
I used some Letraset letters colored with a gold leaf Krylon pen to make the title and placed the butterfly, fish, and bird image on top of the altered book cover.
This altered book was originally eight pages long, but I was turning it into a book with three double page spreads. I always glue the pages together last, just in case I want to add something. I was glad I did that this time because I got the idea to add some colored wire embellishment along the top. This is Artistic Wire which is soft and easy to bend and comes in beautiful colors. I used pliers and a dowel to create the shapes and then I taped them to the back of the page until I was sure it looked just right. The next-to-last thing I did was use acrylic gel to glue all the remaining altered book pages together. I used clothespins to hold the pages together while the medium dried.
Finally, I put down a coat of Golden acrylic varnish over all the pages. This seals and protects the pages and also helps to keep them from sticking to each other when the altered book is closed.
A Word about the Poem
I must tell you that the poem was the last part of the book. I came up with the title “Heart-chitecture” very early on, but I wasn’t exactly sure why I was attracted to that combination of words or how I would tie it together with the imagery.
On the evening that I finished the book art, but before everything had been assembled, I was just staring at the piece, thinking. And then all at once, the words for the poem flowed into my brain and out through my pencil. I looked at the poem, fully formed on the page, and found that I only had to tweak one or two things to get it to flow. I almost feel that I didn’t write the poem; it came too easily. I think that it wrote itself. I had spent so much time creating this altered book in my brain before actually finding the time to make it real. Divine inspiration.
To find out more about Jonathan Talbot’s method for glueless collage, visit his web site at http://jonathantalbot.com/.
In addition, if you enjoyed this altered book, you might also like looking at my Altered Board Book ~ Sea Dreams or my Altered Book Tutorial ~ The Astronomer’s Apothecary.