Book Review: Altered Art

Altered Art Book Cover

Altered Art: Techniques for Creating Altered Books, Boxes, Cards & More by Terry Taylor. (2004). New York: Lark Books, a division of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN 1-579-90550-1

There is a kind of art, heavy on the use of ephemera and non-traditional surfaces, that intrigues me, but seems just out of my reach in terms of executing it in the styles that I have seen. It goes beyond technique into the realm of developing a visual language and, perhaps for me at least, a willingness to let go of what I already think I know about color, balance, and composition.

This art form is altered art, which, as Terry Taylor explains in the book, Altered Art: Techniques for Creating Altered Books, Boxes, Cards & More, "uses an object instead of a canvas to convey a singular, artistic expression." And, as I find rings true, "It literally alters perceived notions and ideas about that object. It challenges a viewer's conventional way of looking at, and thinking about, an object." (p. 6).

 Publishing information and Contents page from  Altered Art: Techniques for Creating Altered Books, Boxes, Cards & More .

Publishing information and Contents page from Altered Art: Techniques for Creating Altered Books, Boxes, Cards & More.

Altered Art starts with a brief history of the use of objects, text and imagery, focusing on how imagery can transform objects. The reader is then introduced to some image transfer methods (collage, rubber stamps, heat transfers, water slide decals, etc.) and an overview of some basic materials. Taylor discusses copyright issues, which I have not seen in a lot of other books and is an important aspect of learning how to use imagery that is not your own or photos "borrowed" off the internet. It is good to develop good practices right from the beginning. Included in the book are also projects, which help artists learn construction and cutting techniques.

And, as a side note, I am going to state what SHOULD be the obvious: when Taylor outlines cutting techniques in the book, it is actually considered vandalism if you use an actively circulating library book to practice your cuts. Unfortunately, I see pages ripped or sliced from library books quite often. Just because you can borrow the books, people, does not mean they are yours to alter.

 Vandalized library book. Cut out section of a page in Altered Books.

Vandalized library book. Cut out section of a page in Altered Books.

The galleries are great in this book, as are the projects. My head kind of explodes with the possibilities. I love Taylor's idea of giving similar thrift store books to several different designers to alter using varying techniques: Niche and Page Extension, Polymer Clay Embellishments, Stamped and Collage Pages, Cut and Folded Pages, Digital Imagery, and Creating a Cover. You know that these techniques just scratch the surface of possibilities. Then, there are the boxes, game boards, cards, blocks, clothing, and dolls that can be transformed.

I like this book a lot. It contains easy to follow instructions for projects and photographs of the work of dozens of designers and artists for inspiration. I came away with new appreciation for altered art and have a sense that some of these design ideas will eventually show up in my own artwork.

Have you read this book? Tell me what I've got wrong (or right!).

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Cheers!--Janyce