Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fun with old books

The way I was raised, books were pretty much sacred in our house. When my dad invested in encyclopedias for us kids, we had to wash our hands before touching them. We were not allowed to leave books open and face down, even if we were only taking a short break from them. Even folding the corners of pages in library books that were already well worn was frowned upon. A book was an important thing, and it was meant to last, to impart the wisdom from the pages within for generations. So, anything that might distort, damage, or destroy a book was strictly forbidden.

Even in my art classes in high school, I never thought about using books for anything but what they were intended for--reading and study. Even when we'd make collages, there would only be a few types of things that we were given to cut up. Perhaps some cheap or pop-culture based magazines might be up for grabs, but I never considered cutting up a National Geographic. And, surely a person would never used a bound book for collage material. There were certain things that were off limits.

Since high school texts are reused time and time again, we weren't to to write notes in them or write answers in the quiz portions. So, when I first got to college, I had a hard time even highlighting and writing in books for the purpose of enhancing my studies. Basically, I had a complex.

In college some of my art classes required me to collage. I eventually did start using old National Geographic magazines since they were so readily available at local thrift stores and their images were far superior to fashion magazines. But it was a rough transition for me at first.

Then, my last year in college I took a book-binding class. I got to make books! That was such a joy. However, I did have two projects that required me to alter books that already existed. So I scoured the thrift store for books that looked totally out of date to use. (Things like old psychology texts, or engineering books from the 1960's.) I still have a tough time thinking about taking apart or writing in books that I think someone might still find useful or interesting. But with these books that I felt sure would never find another home, I found that I could cut pages out, glue pages together, paint, draw, and doodle, and collage without feeling like a terrible person.

I was at a friend's place last week and we decided to collage together. I was aghast when he pulled out books to collage from. There were old Time Life books as well as a few other nature/science books in the mix. I don't think I would have dared to use some of those books except for the fact that they were already cut up and there was nothing salvageable about them. That's when I decided to really go for it.

This is what I came up with:

Flight, mixed media

Besides the astronaut, there are two other figures about to take a leap.This was basically a stream-of-consciousness type collage. From start to finish it took me about an hour to put it together and I just grabbed up images that I liked, without really thinking about how they'd work together. (Which explains the imbalance going on...) Most of the images came out of various science books, with that splash of color behind everything as the only thing I got out of a magazine. I've colored in some of the images and added pen and marker to it. I'm realizing what a find these vintage science books really are. They have all kinds of cool scenes and old-school technology. I'm just beginning to scratch the surface. I had a lot of fun with the process, and think I might just do it again soon.


sir mister landlord sir said...

Any time you say doodle I think deedle.

So you've never taken a big fat book, cut the center out of it and used it to store your handgun?

Nelka said...

I sometimes think deedle when I write doodle these days as well. Oh yea, I got him to say it again when you were bringing your friends in. You missed out.

And as far as what purposes I've had for cutting into big fat books, I'm not telling.