Trash to Treasure: Turning A Thrifted Book to An Upcycled Art Journal Part 1

If you’ve never been thrifting for books, I highly encourage you to do so. Im fortunate enough to have a thrift store not too far from me that has all books for only 5¢ a piece- a price more than cheap enough that I can gather quite a handful of books to use to cut apart for pictures and if I’m fortunate, a few that I can transform into art journals. Kids books are the BEST by the way! Even if you don’t have a thrift store near you, check out your own books (and your kids books) or even your local library- they’re usually purging books every so often.

When looking for a book you want to upcycle, there’s a few things you want to consider in your search. First, you need to consider the journal size you feel most comfortable working in. Some people prefer standard paper size (8.5×11 or bigger -my preference-), some prefer a smaller one like a 5×7 or even smaller like a 2×2… and don’t forget the paper quality- the thicker the better! The board books made for babies and toddlers are a great start to make a mini art journal (especially the weird shaped ones).

Second, check the binding of the books. The best binding to have, although the harder ones to find, are the sewn in pages (you’ll see thread at the bottom of the spine) because these pages are sewn together and are not likely to fall apart- much like sketchbooks you find in a store. Generally, books are going to be bound by glue which are fairly stable if the book hasn’t been exposed to excessive heat to weaken the properties of the adhesive.

The children’s book featured here is roughly 9×11″ with a thick cardboard cover in great condition. I love working in the larger size to make double page spreads and its just thick enough and flexible enough that I can add quite a bit of medium in between the pages without putting too much pressure on the spine. The pages are a medium thickness, a little bit thicker than standard copy paper and have a good matte finish. I applied a generous coat of TCW 9001 White Gesso on both sides of the cover with a thick paint brush.

After I applied a layer of gesso on the cover, I drew through 12×12 TCW947 Beaded Mandala Stencil with a pencil.

Now to fill in the parts of this stencil, I used nail polish. I’m sure that sounds like an odd medium to use but the final result will be gorgeous. I brought a few bottles that were almost empty with me at a time, sat outside on my deck in the fresh air (this is must) with a drink and some chips and had a blast painting this cover. I’m not quite done yet, so the finished result will be featured in my next blog post. Acrylic paint markers would be my second choice of medium if I had one for this.

To prep the inside of the journal, I started with masking tape. Starting with the inside cover of the book, I applied a fairly wide strip of masking tape down the center of the spine, securing the tape in the middle with a bone folder. I did this for every other page throughout the entire book. This not only helps stabilize the book as the book grows thicker with added mediums and possible collage elements, but also prevents any dripping wet mediums from seeping down into the spine that would compromise the integrity of the binding. I would recommend this method no matter the type of binding your choice of book has.

To prep the individual pages, I used a thick kids paint brush to apply a watered down layer of TCW 9001 White Gesso. Yes, this took quite a while but it was an easy mindless task that can be done when catching up on a TV series or whatever you’re into watching or listening to. A heat tool would be a fabulous tool to use when doing this for any low level patience people like myself…

For the first real layers of the pages, I went through my stash of paints that were almost dried up or paints that I really wanted to use up so I could get rid of them. Journals like these are great for using up supplies that need to be used up or even ones you wish hadn’t bought- we’ve all been there friend. The layers can be any type of medium you choose!

After the background layer of paint, I applied different paint colors through various 12×12 stencils to create basic backgrounds. Stencils featured here: TCW945 Starflower Net Stencil, TCW925 Natures Circuitry Stencil, TCW963 Hanging Vines Stencil, TCW942 Tulip Hexagon Stencil.

Any leftover paint I had on my sponge blending tool, I could squeeze in a second background on an unpainted page like this one using orange acrylic through 12×12 TCW157 Flower Frenzy Stencil.

This a great project that can be done in layers… gesso, paint, stencils, doodles, journaling…. I’ll show more on my next blog post of how to turn one or more of these backgrounds into art journal pages.

Happy prepping!

Renae Davis, The Crafter’s Workshop Design Team Member

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