Sunday, July 19, 2009


An artist never really finishes his work; he merely abandons it.
- Paul Ambroise Valery

This quote definitely describes my approach to art in general but is especially true of DIE SCHÖNSTEN SAGEN DES RHEINS. When I first became interested in altered books over a year ago, I picked up this little beauty of a book by Wilhelm Ruland at the local thrift store. I was immediately attracted to it's small size, yellowed pages, German text, and quaint line drawings scattered throughout. As a novice to the art of altered books, it didn't occur to me to inspect the overall condition of the book before buying it and diving straight into altering. I went home, ripped out a number of pages,, and started slapping on acrylic paint. It didn't take long to realize that the poor condition of the book and the nonstrategic way I had ripped out pages was going to be problematic. The book was falling apart and I had barely begun.

You can see from the inscription inside the cover that the book is over forty years old.

No wonder it's a little worse for wear and no wonder Bob Hamilton got rid of it.

I decided to abandon DIE SCHÖNSTEN SAGEN DES RHEINS and chalk it up to the first lesson in book altering--check the condition of the book before altering. I considered tossing the book in the trash so I wouldn't be reminded of my folly, but instead I set it aside with the rest of the art studio orphans. Months later I picked up DIE SCHÖNSTEN SAGEN DES RHEINS and thought that maybe I could "fix" it by collaging tissue paper across the spreads to hold the pages together. 

I got out my gel medium and bin of tissue paper scraps and went to work trying to revive this abandoned book. The theory worked and the pages were now intact but the process left them totally wonky and out of whack. DIE SCHÖNSTEN SAGEN DES RHEINS was abandoned again.
The next time I picked it up, the wonkiness didn't bother me nearly as much as it had earlier so I decided to stamp circular shapes on the pages using acrylic paint and various sized lids from household products.

I think I went a little too far with the stamping (a re-occurring problem for me) and decided I hated the results. DIE SCHÖNSTEN SAGEN DES RHEINS was abandoned again. 

The next time I picked up the book I was in a doodling state of mind and thought that maybe I could "fix" it this time by doodling with a white gel pen and maybe that would tone down the stamping which seemed a bit harsh.

This theory seemed to work and I had so much fun scribbling and doodling in white gel pen that I added blue, purple, pink, yellow, gold, and silver.

I finally started to like where this altered book journey was heading. Uh oh. Wait. I went overboard again and went from loving to hating the results. DIE SCHÖNSTEN SAGEN DES RHEINS was abandoned again. But not for long this time. I've been altering this little book on and off for well over a year and I'm determined to make it work. When in doubt I usually return to what I'm most comfortable with and that's a combination of collage and paint.

A little more tissue paper, a couple of washes of my favorite metallic gold paint and a little blue to match the cover, and I think I'm finally there. I like it! I like it!

Wait. The original problem is rearing its ugly head again and the book's spine is completely coming apart. How am I going to "fix" this? Stay tuned for the continuing saga of DIE SCHÖNSTEN SAGEN DES RHEINS.


lori vliegen said...

oh, i'm SO glad you didn't give up on this little gem! i've loved reading this saga....and can't wait to find out how you resolve this book's spine! :)

Cathy said...

So you've gone "over the top" again! Sounds like a recurring theme. Hmmm. What to do with that?

By the way, the translation of the title is something like "The Most Beautiful Legends of the Rhine" -- a somewhat over the top title!

Anonymous said...

You're so creative! I have never altered a book...but I thought about it. These pages are lovely.