To what degree should you plan and prepare the art you create on the pages of your altered book?
I see the amazing benefits of altered books and art journals as a space for creative play and self-discovery. I don’t see a lot of tools on refining artist skill and voice in this medium. What if, with a little foresight, you could not only have fun, but create stronger, more skillful artwork?
There are a LOT of online and offline resources about intuitive art. I’d like to argue ALL art is intuitive. And you can use intuition AND skill to create better art.
Say you have this idea for a page in your altered book. You want to use ephemera from your recent trip to Ireland to capture a day in Dublin. You prep the pages of a 2nd hand guidebook for Dublin as the substrate (surface) for your art. But, not what? Where do you begin?
We aren’t finished yet, but we are getting closer. A little planning and intuition seem to work well for me together. Too much of one or the other… not so much.
This is where intuition AND skill (your planning) can come into play.
Intuition: which image do you want to work with first? Trust that excited, inner spark that triggers when you find the “right” image.
Skill: now use your knowledge of composition to place it in an interesting, dynamic way.
Over time, as your skills develop they become natural, intuitive decisions as well. Sometimes they are intuitive and we don’t even realize it’s a skill we possess! When we start out, it’s important to take conscious planning and consideration to bring our art to the next level.
Some teachers may encourage you to cover the pages of your book with colors and backgrounds and then to back to one page at a time. I recommend this for artists scared to make the first mark. If a blank page scares you, put some paint to that paper!
This, though, depends on your goals for your art. If you want to incorporate text from the book, you can’t cover every page with paint! Knowing even a little about the art you hope to explore can make all the difference in the outcome of your work.
There is no right or wrong approach to altered books, but a little planning and foresight could make the different between a creative playspace you are nervous to show others and an artwork you feel proud to celebrate.
I’ve created an ARTsheet that gives you five composition templates you can use to help plan the layout of your art. Sign up here to access your ARTsheets:
Knowing how you want to feel as you create is valuable. It helps you plan ahead and harness your art skills to make skillful, interesting art. A little planning can go a long way for your altered book.
Be Creatively Courageous: Review a page spread or a page you aren’t happy with and use the composition templates to help you plan another version of that page. What will you do differently?