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Recycled Art: Book Pages

December 23, 2010

I used to hold every single book sacred; I wouldn’t have considered to hack apart a book as a source of raw materials.  My friend Pam Batista, who makes art with a great deal of recycled materials and found materials, helped to corrupt me.

The completion of my recent corruption hails from all of the books one is prone to find on a corner or stacked in the alley.  City apartments are small, we have to run lean and mean; we don’t have to room to gather up tons of stuff.  I’ve carried home my share of orphaned books and sold my share of my own books to used book shops.  Found books and the odd library cart purchase provides a block of paper for free or cheap.

I have felt like doing some multi-media critter art with the pages of a book from 1937 on Darwinian theory, human evolution and the evolution of language.  It’s that whole thing leftover from youth urge to draw animals, which is fun and good drawing practice.  I had started to use Prismacolor pencils on the pages, but the paper was too old and brittle; the pencil leads were hard enough to tear the page.  I wound up drawing in graphite, using a transparent wash of Liquitex gesso, and then using watercolor and water color pencil to paint in the images.

I have this old set of German Staedtler Karat watercolor pencils which I love and have been using for many years; these are excellent in quality.  I used about fifteen shades of the water color pencils.  If you have a hard time with watercolor paints or even painting in general, water color pencils are great.  You just color with them like crayons or colored pencils.  Then you add water with a brush, the pencils become wet paint, the blended colors flow together.  If you want to, you can let this dry and do another layer or two of coloring with the water color pencils and continue to work the colors.

I did a lighter blue gray wash and then darker blue gray wash on the background in just regular watercolor.  The old book page was so rigid and brittle, the paper has a hardness to it, and the book page did not warp or cockle from the moisture.  Maybe it has to do with how dry the page is or its age.  Neither the gesso or watercolor paint warped the page.

I had found on other pages I have been working with that the gesso was repelling an India ink I was using.  The ink did not absorb, it just puddled around leaving darker opaque areas interspersed with thinned out washy areas; inconsistencies that I did not want.  I switched to using very watered down black acrylic paint instead of ink.  Viola!  Tiger painting.

I also painted some smarmy cute song birdies.  I just felt like noodling around with something.  It keeps me out of that damn street gang.

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