Don't Be Afraid. Be Board.

I love books.  I adore them.  Always have.  New books, old books, used books, small books, big books. 

My heaven?  A bookstore.  That offers chai.  And comfy chairs.

So you can imagine my interest when I first discovered mixed media work where typed words crept around the edges of an altered book or scripted fonts in a foreign language whispered around soft, muted bits of worn paper in a collage.  This was quickly followed by a horror, though:

They PAINTED and GLUED in a BOOK?!  They TORE the pages of an OLD BOOK?  *Gasp*

However, my fascination kept growing with each work of art I discovered that incorporated actual books.  This past summer, at a Red Cross book fair, I came across several old books that were falling apart...and only $.50 each.  Fifty cents?  With a big, anxious sigh I purchased a large grouping and knew I was about to do something that I'd either love...or regret and cause me to go to therapy.

As I prepare to unleash the big project at which I keep hinting, I thought I'd revisit some of the journeys and projects that got me to this place.  This particular sucker was a doozie.  I started and completed it back in January.

WARNING: This is a tad long & photo-laden.  I decided to share most of my steps for a few reasons:

  • I know we all start somewhere...and keep starting, and starting, and starting.  I'm trying to share my "oops-es" and foibles to encourage every single reader to be honest with your work...and most importantly, to enjoy the process and not fret over the final outcome

  • I have learned a great deal from other kind souls who have posted their processes on their blogs & websites.  I want to continue to pay forward the kindness...hopefully at least one reader will find at least one helpful tip in here.

  • It's a nifty way for me to document my own process.  (admittedly selfish!)


I had a great amount of distress ripping that first page out of that first old book. Seriously. There should be a psychology group for artists. But I remembering reading somewhere (see how valuable reading is?!) about the lack of good an item does just sitting on a dusty old shelf. The value comes in how it is loved and shared. How better to honor this lovely book and preserve the work of its author than to breathe new life into it through infusing it into more art? (At least that's how I've come to terms with it.)


I had collected a variety of scrapbooking papers in the colors to both complement and enhance the beauty of the old pages. I played around with the layout (knowing I wanted to keep a few of those lovely French words visible) and just snipped away.

One tip?  I'd let the paper hang over the board (just a rectangular scrap of plywood) knowing I'd cut it after.  Silly me, I tried to use my craft knife and cut with the board facing up...ever so delicately trying to follow the unseen side of the board.  (You can see I made a slight error up there.)  I figured out about halfway through to turn the board over and cut the paper from the back.  The craft knife can just trace along the side of the board, leaving a nice, clean cut paper edge.  Just call me Mrs. Obvious.


The final board, covered with the papers and the beloved bok pages.  I believe I had inked the sides of the pages (take a distressing ink pad, such as the Ranger ones, or a matching ink color, and press the ink pad along the edges of the paper) before adhering.

I used good old Mod Podge and a foam brush to adhere each of these.


Speaking of Tim Holtz / Ranger inks...I used this ink pad to randomly stamp the top and edges of the board.  I literally just pushed it down on the top...I wanted a very worn look.


Heh heh heh...

Ok, I want to quickly explain.  As with my longing / fear dynamic with ripping old books, so too do I have a longing / fear of drawing faces / human figures.  I knew I wanted to incorporate one here.  I sketched her on a regular piece of copy paper and decided to use chalk pastels to color her in.

First, I'm not happy with the face.  She looks too out of proportion, too cartoony...but she is the work I had drawn and I knew I just had to keep going.

When I pulled out the pastels, I simply could not get the skin tone right.  (I've since learned that if you are going for Caucasion, pink seems to be the color with which to start)  Seriously, she looks totally jaundiced here.  I kinda freaked out when I saw this color.

But, I knew that once I started to let JUDGEMENT speak up, my art was done for.  So I kept playing, kept moving.


I finger-tore the drawing from the copy paper, Mod-Podged her to the board (no turning back now!), and started inking the heck out of her using my finger....hoping that with enough distressing she might look "normal"...or at least blend in enough to not look too out of place. 

Fingers are funny tools...sometimes they can just be too big and squishy to work.  In this case, I think I was trying to provide shading for the side of her neck and ended up giving her a 5-o'clock shadow.  S/He eventually glared at me that enough was I moved on.


I found this stamp awhile ago and couldn't get the quote out of my head.  "The artist's duty is keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world." - GK Chesterton. 

Here, I stamped the stamp in clear ink, stamped the board, poured gold embossing powder over it, lightly tapped off the excess, and used the heat gun to heat emboss the remaining powder on the phrase.  (In case you haven't done this or can't tell, the embossing leaves a gorgeous raised image.)


I repeated the embossing with letter stamps (to spell out "I am") and stamped a few more images (a bird in gold, the white "adore" and red flower you see here).  I decided the letters didn't stick out enough so I took a black brush marker (I think I found these in the kid's section of Hobby Lobby) and provided shadowing/outlining for the letters. (fairly easy since the embossing raises the can just trace along the side)


My poor little girl (whose 5 o'clock shadow I had worked into more of a scruffy "I've just been playing in the dirt" type look by rubbing with my fingers) was still looking a bit lost. (I had used some markers to outline her shirt and add some lowlights to her hair...ah, if only beauty were so easy.)

Since I had the black brush pen in my hand, I decided to try and enhance her eyes at the least.  Unfortunately, this pen/marker was a bit thick...she ended up looking like she was trying a bit too hard.  I've apologized but she's still a bit I've agreed to be a good friend and totally over-do my makeup if we ever go out.  80's night anyone?!?!

Never one to turn away from bling, I decided to add a small jewel to the center of the red flower I'd stamped.  (It helped divert a bit of attention from the mascara, too.)

I used my fun CropADile Big Bite (with which I have a love-hate relationship...) to chomp a hole.  (This tool pops 1/8 and 3/16 inch holes through massively thick materials and sets eyelets and grommets with a simple push of the handle.  I love it when it works...but have had numerous occasions of ruined eyelets.  We're still learning how to get together.)

I then added a crystal brad through the hole.  (Hey!  With a 5 o'clock shadow and oodles of mascara, that could be my girl's name...Crystal Brad!  Wow.  *groan*  And yet, I'm not hitting backspace to delete that.)


Once I was at a comfortable stopping point, I figured it might be a good idea to have a way to hang this little piece of art.  Again using the big bite, I put eyelets at the top corners of the board.  (This is the back side of the eyelet that gets flower petals secure it to the board.) 

I used a piece of twine through the eyelet holes for a method to hang it (if I ever choose to).

(Prior to doing this, I gesso-ed the back of the board, drew a few flowers back there just because, and put a coat of Mod Podge over both the front and back to protect it.)


In case you are interested, here are all of the materials I used to create this.  (There's a better picture of the finished board further down in this post.)  If you have any questions about the materials, I'd be happy to answer.  For those new to art-ing, please know that even this small pile of stuff was collected over several months...much of it using coupons and found on sale.  I love having a wide variety of materials and tools with which to play, but also don't have oodles of money to spend!

See the book in the corner?  It is missing a page.  It sacrificed it for the greater good of ART.  *sigh*  May we please take a moment of silence....


Speaking of that lovely book, I had to use every single bit of the page I tore from it.  (Kinda like certain cultures respect a killed animal by using every bit of it for food or shelter or clothing or the like?)  I had a remaining scrap, so I Mod Podged it to the back and reminded myself that I created it (and when).


The final piece of art.  (You can click on it to see it larger if so desired.)

I was so happy that I literally carried it around with me - I even put it on my nightstand that night.  While the girl on the side still taunted me (I'm not done!  I've too much around my eyes!  Shave my chin!), this whole thing represented a huge leap over a few giant fears.  It was part of the beginning of this wonderous journey I am on ...

Might you leap over a few of your fears and join me?

Lisa Wilson11 Comments