What is an Artists’ Book?

This week I have been printing an edition of artists’ book I made.  It’s a handmade concertina book with the images made of linocuts.  Artists books are not widely known but have been made by many artists and are in  public and private art collections all over the world.  They are, as the name implies, a piece of art in the form of a book.

So if you’ve never heard of artists’ books this might be a good place to start.   Here is a picture of the one I made.  (For more pictures please go to http//:www.shanajames.com

Thinking Differently - artists' book
Thinking Differently - artists' book

click on artwork then artists’ books.) I use printmaking techniques to make my books but artists’ books don’t have to be made from limited edition prints.

Some artists rework books from 2nd hand stores  by cutting, folding and/or marking the pages they turn the books into a piece of art.  Others make one off pieces, drawing or painting images or words.  There are even artists who take their idea to a comercial printer or binder and have the book printed and made.

Although hard to define, to me what makes an artists’ book is whether or not you regard it as art,  which leads us to the question – what is art? and that is too big for me to attempt here. What defines a book as an artists’ book  for me, is the idea behind it – it must be more that just well made or handcrafted it must speak to the viewer in some way.  The idea must be concieved as a book and a book needs to be the best way for the artist to communicate his or her idea.

I like the intimate quality of artists’  books each page is an episode of space and time and when the viewer chooses, the page is turned to reveal the next image.  All of my books so far are images without words but I have a plan for one which will include words. I also like the concertina format so that the book can stand up and inhabit 3 dimensions. I make the entire book by hand from archival materials.

In my book a lone figure walks through the pages from left to right with every second page having another figure walking in the opposite direction. Each tree she passes has more leaves on it until she gets to a forest, and she is still walking.  It has 8 pages and tells the simple story of one persons progression towards the place they want to be, the story is not definitive and raises more questions than it answers. I called it Thinking Differently.

I have editioned the work to just 3 as they are quite time consuming, once I have printed it I score and fold it by hand, make the covers from raw silk and carboard and assemble and glue the book (with acid free glue of course).

Here is a picture of the printed pages of the book before it has been made, (you can also see on the easel I am still

My studio -  the printed pages of the book
My studio - the printed pages of the book

working on oil paintings for the exhibition too see first post -Working towards an exhibition).

If you would like to understand artsts’ books in more depth Wikepedia has a great definition and history of artists books:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artist%27s_book#Early_history

and don’t forget to visit my website

www.shanajames.com

 

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10 thoughts on “What is an Artists’ Book?

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