In my last post on Altered Books we focused on finding meaning in the random words on the page. Today we’re moving on to adding layers on your pages using colour and texture.
One of the reasons that I find Altered Books so exciting is that there is something very freeing about there already being marks on the page before you get started. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can find a pristine white journal page or a blank canvas equal parts exciting and terrifying. For the perfectionists among us there’s always the fear that as soon as you make a mark you might be making a mistake. No matter how many times people tell you that there are no mistakes in making your own art, there can still be a voice in your head saying, ‘Eek – it looked much better snowy white and perfect before you got let loose on it…’
With an Altered Book page there are already marks all over the place: there may be some words you want to keep – or you might decide to cover the whole thing up – but the process seems less frightening because it’s not you making that first, terrifying mark.
There are loads of different possible ways of adding colour to your Altered Book pages and a huge range of media you can use, but here are a few I’ve tried and liked:
- Ink/watercolour pencils. My favourite are Derwent Inktense pencils. You can use them like an ordinary pencil, but when you brush water over the top something magical happens and the pencil marks turn into really intense, rich inks on the page which dry quickly and set permanent. If you want a really light, loose wash of colour, you just pencil more lightly and/or use more water. The pencils also work really well when you combine water and a bit of white gesso (an opaque, chalk-like paint usually used to prime canvases). Again you can vary the amount of gesso you use to lighten the colour of the ink pencil and to hide or reveal the layer of type underneath.
The first two photos on this post both use ink pencils and a bit of gesso and water to create washes of colour which still allow some of the text underneath to be visible.
The only things you need to be aware of when using these are to make sure that you use a water resistant pen if you are going to write on your page and then splash water on it, and not to go too heavily with the pencil/gesso on bits of text you hope to keep.
- Acrylic paints. These can create very thick layers of colour. They dry quite quickly and if you hate what you’ve done, it’s easy enough to paint over the top… Acrylic paints can also be watered right down or mixed with gesso, but personally I don’t like the effect quite so much as with the ink pencils.
- Felt-tipped pens, chalk pastels (spray hairspray over the top to set them), oil pastels and watercolour paints can all work really well too. Have a go and see what happens!
Altered Book pages start looking really interesting to me once a bit of texture has been built up on the page. Try out a few of these ideas on your pages and see which appeal to you most:
- Scrumple up some tissue paper, unfold it and stick it down with PVA glue or Golden Gel medium. If you only use one layer you will probably still see some of the original text peeping through.
- Photos or scraps torn from magazines and old cards can also be used to add colour and texture. There are times when you might want to cut something out and stick it on the page (like photo 3), but usually it is easier to blend the added elements in if the edges are torn.
- If you paint with acrylic paints and sometimes have unused paint which has dried out on your palette, peel it off and stick it on the page with glue to create an interesting nubbly texture.
- Mix sand with glue, paint or gesso and paint it on the page to make a coarse, scratchy background, which you can overpaint.
- Make a mirror transfer of a magazine image by using Golden Gel medium. Tear the image out of the magazine and smear the face of it with Golden Gel, then stick it onto your Altered Book page. Leave it to dry completely (it doesn’t work well if you cheat – I know!) and then wet the back of the magazine and rub the paper with your fingers, Gradually you will rub all the paper away and be left just with the mirror image ghosting through (see photo 4).
- Remember that if you don’t like the look of something you can cover most of it up with something else and just have a tiny tantalising bit showing: it won’t look like a mistake, just an intriguing extra layer you planned in the first place!
And A Few More Things…
Have fun and play around:
- Add something silly which makes you laugh – you needn’t show it to anyone else.
- Design flaps, cut-outs, pockets and windows.
- Add found objects and attach them in novel ways – stitching, masking tape, beading.
- Find a book with lots of pictures in and add your own details.
If you’re feeling brave, upload a picture – we’d love to see it!