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Forest Altered Books

As a child I loved pop-up books. A friend once sent me a pop-up postcard of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain featuring a thoughtful, solitary figure. It was a beautiful, inspiring card. I have mislaid my card but I found a photo of it on the web:

Alhambra Postcard
Postcard showing the Lindaraja Balcony within the Alhambra.

I am now altering books. I made my first altered book, angel wings a few years ago. Now I am working in pen and ink and with the forest as my inspiration, I’ve started with a square paperback book, a sort of thick pamphlet.

Book to be Altered
A book to be altered as an experiment.
Altered Book Half Finished
Forest altered book half-finished.
Altered Forest Book
Forest Altered Book
Detail in Altered Forest Book
A deer in the glade.

Altering a book is like creating a stage-set, a little window on to life or on to a dream. Life seems very much like that at the moment, I am in the wings, I have a secret view into a strange, alternative world that is sleeping or buzzing, busy with dreaming, busy with weaving dreams. (I am reminded of a lovely folktale from the Isle of Skye called The Dream Makers. It is about deer too. Sharon Blackie has written a lovely version of it on her blog here.)

I am fascinated by burrows, badger setts and secret havens. I like to find signs of the presense of animals – smeuses (gaps in vegetation made by the passage of animals), ‘couches’ of flattened grass where animals like badgers have lain while away from the sett; feeding signs. It is interesting to think that beneath my feet, along a woodland trail, might sleep a badger.

Badger Sett
One of the entrances to a badger sett in Newtimber Woods.

I bought a couple of the small Observer field guides secondhand. They’re not rare or valuable but I do like them and treasure copies I’ve had for decades. I thought that I’d work with an image that I’ve drawn recently, of a badger sleeping beneath tree roots which is inked in with a gold sky:

Slumbering Badger
Can you see the face amongst the roots?
Books to be Altered
Old Observer field guide books.
Badger Altered Book
The badger altered book underway.
Badger Altered Book
A badger sleeps beneath tree roots.

With another old book, I have created a forest scene, again with deer and a central tree with spreading branches and roots. I cannot decide whether to complete the picture behind the deer or leave the pages of text. I quite like seeing the writing, the essence of the book still evident.

Forest Deer Altered Book

Forest Deer Altered Book
Click on the image to see a larger version.

The book of the forest. I have other ideas for altered books – portraits, goddesses, icons – but I don’t think I have quite finished with forests, trees and deer yet.

17 thoughts on “Forest Altered Books

  1. These are so wonderful! I love your drawings and the intricate paper carvings that went into these altered books as well as the nature themes.

    1. I too love your altered books. Interestingly my word suggestion came as altered time. Love your themes. Growing up in the Adirondacks your art resonates with my childhood memories of hours in the woods. Anyways wish you many more hours of inspiration.

      Tina T.

      1. Thank you very much for your lovely comment Tina! I wish you some more wonderful hours in the woods wherever you are now :)

  2. Such detail, sooo fine and exquisite. I just love your work Alexi…..you are so original and come up with the most enchanted designs. Very magical.

    1. Thank you so much Tania, your comments mean a lot to me :)

  3. I cannot even put into words how extraordinarily beautiful your altered art is. What an enchanting world you’ve created. Thank you so much for sharing the photographs. Absolutely incredible and breathtaking.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Diane, it made my day. It makes me very pleased when my work is so appreciated :)

  4. This is magical! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thank you Denise :)

  6. These are beautiful I would love to know how to do this do you have a tutorial or how did you learn?

    1. Hi Julie,
      Thanks for your comment, I’m glad you like my books! I put a little “slider” on the blog post: http://www.alexifrancisillustrations.co.uk/wordpress/making-an-altered-book/
      31st July 2016. These days I don’t take out additional pages between illustrated pages. I learnt by trial and error – just getting an old book, sticking in paper, drawing, cutting away and seeing how it looked. I hope this helps :)

  7. Your books are exquisite. Truly and beautifully transformed. Your sincere spirit and love of your work shines out. As well as your immense generosity in sharing your ideas and practise. Thank you so much for sharing such rare treasure.

    1. Thank you very much Trish, such praise means a lot to me. I’m pleased you like them x

  8. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m speechless, this is a creation by a genious, my god, I’m overwhelmed by your talent. Absolutely adore this. Thankyou for creating and sharing such a masterpiece. xxxx

    1. Thank you very much Deb, your kind comment has made my day :) x

  9. Did you decide to leave the text behind the deer? Beautiful!

    1. Thank you Victoria. With this particular altered book I decided to leave the text behind. These days I tend to draw a scene on the pages underneath. It would be good to know which you prefer, text or illustrated scene :)

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