Project 2: An artist’s book – Research

Artist books are tricky for me to get my head around. I think they offer a great way of exploring a theme and can result in some fascinating work. They allow the artist to tell a story, or explore an idea in much greater depth than a single image could ever do. “It becomes an experiential medium for creative expression” (Chen, 2013). I have been to an artist book fair and admired the skill and artistry of this form of work, and could even see myself exploring using this medium for certain projects. But I do think they fall down in their means of displaying the art work to the viewer. If I bought an artist’s book, it would get enjoyed initially, but then it would get confined to a bookshelf and never seen again, whereas a framed drawing would bring me much more enjoyment as I pass by it. Similarly, the display of an artist’s book in a gallery would have to be in a display case and would then only show a few pages to the viewer, so not allow them the full intended experience.

My research for this section was carried out using the book ‘500 handmade books. Volume 2’ (Chen, 2013). This book contains images of many artist books, but without explanations of what they are about or why they were produced, so my impressions of them are solely based on the look of them and any interpretation drawn from the book title.

‘For Bees Who Travel by Truck’ (Kaylynn Sullivan Twotrees, 2011) uses burnt edges for some of the pages and combines random and placed mark making on the book cover.

‘Walks with Rosie’ (Andrew Huot, 2009) looks like he has drawn maps of his walks over time, without the context of the background to place them in space. This offers interest by leaving the detail of the route up to the viewers imagination.

‘Untitled’ (Kaitland A. Marek, 2011) looks like contour lines from a map. It is hard to say from a small picture in a book, but whilst these would be interesting for me due to my love of maps, on their own I don’t think they would hold my attention for long as the mark making is very uniform.

‘The Fire Extinguisher Family Reunion’ (Sarah Smith, 2009). From the 2 pages on display, I can tell that she is quite clearly bonkers, but I like bonkers! As a humourous book, I really like this one, but as a drawing book, the drawings are straight illustrations which don’t provide interest to me as drawings.

‘Chasing the Sun’ (Frank Hamrick, 2010) uses a line through a book apparently made using tea. The slightly controlled but random nature of this line hold interest for me and producing a book following a line though it is a possibility for my response to this project.

‘Fibonacci’s Tower’ (Jamie Ash, 2009) is an interesting sculptural piece based on/around a book. The wood or aluminium pieces are painted in the same way as the bronze pieces I make and he also uses burning on the edges of his pieces of text.

All these books are inspired by whatever the artist is interested in and offer a way to explore that subject on a greater depth than other mediums would have offered.

This research led me to two different ideas of artist books I could try:

  • A book of burning – using burning experiments and descriptions of what was tried
  • A continuous line using different mediums through a concertina book (continuing ideas from the mark making experiments in part 2 of this course)


Chen, J. (2013). 500 handmade books. Volume 2. New York: Lark Books.

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