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Altered Books

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susan phillips

on 26 July 2014

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Transcript of Altered Books

In 1966, British artist, Tom Phillips, set out to find an inexpensive book to experiment with. He found an old book from 1892 and began to alter each page with collage, painting and other techniques. The book was published in sets of pages. Since that time there have been several more editions. Each new edition has 50 pages added. Tom Phillips's goal is to re-purpose his own altered book so that eventually none of the original pages will be left.
Read a note from www.ladybugsgarden.com/books/:
The Humument: (the book's title)
British artist Tom Phillips purchased an obscure Victorian novel entitled, A Human Document from a secondhand bookshop. He then proceeded to "alter" it: he colored and blacked out many of the lines and even pages so that certain key words and phrases formed new images and sequences; he cut up and rearranged other pages to form new narrative passages. Miraculously, the rather staid original novel was turned into an entirely new work The altered novel became known through literary and art magazines and quickly acquired a cult following.
As you can see, the practice of altering books has been around for awhile. The purpose in altering has changed from necessity to artistry.

Let's take a look now at altering for themes and style.
More Recent Alterings
Altering books has been a very popular art form for many years. However, it is not a new art form. The task of altering books can be traced back to the middle ages. Words on old vellum or parchment paper were erased and new script was added to create new manuscripts. Some of the former writing would at times show through the new text creating a "layered" appearance. At times, some of the old text was left after erasing and new text added to alter or create new meaning. Erasing script was done to save on paper, or in religious sects, to erase away what was seen as "pagan" writings.
In Victorian times there was a practice known as Grangerism, (extra-illustration,) named after a man who took bits and pieces of photos and text from various books to create a four volume series on the history of England.
Where Did This Idea Come From?
This art medium is about transformation. Books are re-purposed from the written art form to the visual art form. Altered book artists use mixed media/methods to create visual impact that either reflects a book's content, incorporates some of the book's themes and words, or alters the meaning entirely. Book artists use many different techniques. They can carve niches into the pages, paint or draw on pages, sew, re-bind, weave, sculpt, or add odds and ends. There is no right or wrong way to approach this art form. What's important is to have a theme or idea of what you want to accomplish with the surfaces of this unique art method.

Let's take a look at some inspired examples!
What are Altered Books?
Al-ter \`olter\:
to change (something)

Technique: drawing, painting, niche carving and added object.
Technique: page folding and
rolling; added objects and image.
Technique: paper sculpture using the book's pages.
The sculpture is attached to the open book.
niche carving and single word cut-out. The artist altered the context of the book by highlighting some words and deleting others. This technique is done with a small craft knife.
Technique: a clump of the book's middle pages were removed leaving a half inch space down the spine of the book. The artist filled this space with what looks like black beads.
What techniques did the artist use? How do you think the process was started?
~Five minute group discussion~
What kinds of art media did the artist use? Do these pages evoke a certain feeling or mood?
Discuss with your group.
Does this altered book have a theme? If so, what do you think it is? Discuss with your group the altered book techniques that you notice here.
Discuss with your group themes, techniques, and media use. What elements and principles of art stand out to your group?

Work individually in your notebooks to answer the following:

Now that you have seen examples of altered books, what is your impression of the art form? Does it interest you?

For your own altered book, would you be more likely to choose a sculptured or paper folded process, or work into the book itself?
Let's take a look at some altered book videos.
These videos show just a few ways each
technique can be approached. We will learn about several more options in class demonstrations.
In your notebook write about the following:

What kinds of themes would you like to explore in your own altered book?
Does your theme or idea fit the type of altering you would like to do-are your ideas compatible with the altering process you would choose?
Altered Book Artists:
Rachael Ashe
Jodi Harvey-Brown
Sharen Chatterton
Brian Kasstle
Suzette Morrow
Pavonte Studios Home
Jen Pazaro
Megan Weed

Altered Books
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