Working with Your Reference Photos
You Wanna Put My Art... Where?
A Harmonic Connection of Body and Soul
Change Over Time
Richard M. Powers, February 24, 1921 – March 9, 1996
Change Over TimeHealthy Green Artists
by Janet Chui
Something struck me recently while I was working in my layout program, designing a book that's going to have (digitally) yellowed pages, tattered edges and cellophane tape stains: In the art supply store, artists can have their pick of materials promising that the art created with them will never change, and the irony of creating a work of art that looks old hit me. Artists can be caught up sometimes in using the best acid-free paper, light-fast printing inks, permanent drawing inks, paints with synthetic pigments (as opposed to natural) that will not fade or yellow, well, ever; meanwhile other artists are trying to fake yellowed or faded looking art or artifacts with sandpaper, paint mediums, heat (or in digital art, brushes and filters)... every trick we can think of, and more methods that are being discovered or tried every day!
I realize that in certain cases (especially in the case of prints to be sold), creating a product that will last as long as possible is important in keeping one's customers. Yet there is a market out there for works that look old, and that are old, where perhaps even the evolving of a work as time passes even adds to its appreciation. And before my research, I figured that the materials for these works were probably more environmentally friendly to use. I was not disappointed.
Altered books are becoming more and more of a recognised art form; The book is usually a printed work, old or new, that has had pages ripped, cut, sewn, carved, drilled, painted over, stamped, gold-leafed, or disguised with assemblage... and presented as a visual work of art. Sometimes artists may disguise the original book completely, or sometimes their creative interpretations depend very much on the book they are decorating/distressing. An old hardcover collection of love poems, for example, may have its pages decoration with love-themed pictures or montages. Many altered book artists start their projects on books that are marked to be discarded, some go as far as to try and use only objects in their artmaking that other people would treat as trash.
Not to oversimplify this art form, but some of its artists do spray their altered books with fixatives, glazes and/or lacquers to better preserve the finished works; but others (and it's the artist's preference) think that the ageing will be part of the work's appeal, or they create these works to just be enjoyed for the present.
I do love and respect altered books very much... and in real life often compare and contrast altered books to scrapbooking—perhaps unfairly! Both forms of art revolve around books, but the former involves more creating new stuff from old, while the latter (as scrapbook supply shops would have me believe) seems to need specially printed scrapbooking papers, specially laser-cut paper decorations and specially made metal "findings" from factory lines in China, amongst other things. The environmental mantra of "reduce, reuse, recycle" sometimes strikes me as a bit absent from scrapbooking classes and supply shops... but then again, they are supply shops! Meanwhile, free embellishments for scrapbooking can found and used without needing to buy new materials, things like cancelled postage stamps, ticket stubs, old postcards, fabric scraps, samples, wrappers, bottlecaps, rescued buttons, old ribbons, real antique keys and what have you—things already made and just waiting to be found...they may not be acid free, but let's be honest—some of us at some point must have admired something that looks old. The signs of ageing adds preciousness to a treasured artifact, perhaps a reminder to enjoy what we have when we can!
This is a tricky art form and sometimes confused with recycled art, when there is a slight difference (though by no means is there an open and shut definition, just as it's hard to define art sometimes!) But the results are usually mixed media works (either 2- or 3-dimensional) that are reusing materials that some might were consider already works of art or craft already. The results are usually more than functional objects as well (we're not talking about just repainting old furniture here) but carefully crafted pieces that evoke stories just like a piece of fine art. (Well, that's my definition!) And, highfalutin as that sounds, altered art can refer to re-interpreted Barbie dolls, altered antique costume jewelry and altered old photographs. I have to confess I especially love works of altered art that used smoked mirrors and glass... so much atmosphere and mystery can be evoked by objects smoky, rusty, broken, and/or beaten, and there's so much to beauty to be admired in them!
Old objects are artifacts with stories of their own to tell. It's almost a pity they cannot speak... but artists have been discovering that these aged-looking objects can be given a new voice with their help, and while doing that, they're creating art that not only makes trash into new treasure... but evokes timeless beauty.
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