Art Journaling, DIY and crafts
Comments 4

Using an old book as a sketchbook.


There once was a time when I would not have entertained the idea of using a book, old or new to draw in or cut up for pictures or words or just rip a page out of it to make a print on.

Well, now I do all of those things quite happily!  I did a class at the beginning of this year by Lisa Congdon on Creative Bug which required some collage which is something I really hadn’t done before, so I didn’t have any papers to chop up.

I decided to pop to the library and see if they had any books in the sale section (25 cents each thank you very much) which were colorful and interesting enough to use.  There were some books which would work,  and with some trepidation I cut the pieces I wanted to use out and stuck them down in a collage-y fashion.

Then I joined the Get Messy community and I saw some work being done in old books, not cutting them up, using the actual book as a sketchbook.

So I started to gather a few books at estate sales and flea markets which were interesting enough to use but not too full of overpowering images.

I bought ‘Herbs for the Medaeval Household’ at an estate sale and I liked the combination of line drawings and print enough to want to draw all over it! So I did, I drew on every other page to keep some essence of the book and because a lot of the paintwork was showing through to the pages either side.




I had to leave this page blank to preserve the mandrake information.  I thought JK Rowling made these up for the Harry Potter books! The root is supposed to resemble the human body, but I suspect not quite like the above illustration.


I picked up a larger book – ‘The Shelf Book’ at the library with a plan to just draw and paint patterns in it, using every facing page.  I went a little astray when I started to use paint, but I love the  graphics of the book under my patterns.  This book has lots more pages, so I can make simple patterns of all kinds without worrying about wasting paper.







Why draw in an old book?

They are cheap. Check out your local library for discarded books, they are often old editions from the 60’s 70’s and 80’s with cool graphics and ace covers. I like to use hardback books, but choose whichever you prefer. Estate sales, flea markets and yard sales are also old book treasure troves.

They are not precious. I find that I experiment much easier in book sketchbooks, I am not sure why, but I am happier to mess about with one pattern across a whole page then a slight variation and then again and again, with no worries that I should be creating ‘something’. These books allow me to mess about freely and sometimes it is rubbish and sometimes I hit on a winner.

The original pages/words and graphics/photos/illustrations can be used or gessoed over or ignored but still be part of the final page in a random way. I usually find that the original page usually enhances my ‘additions’.

They make the blank page less precious and less daunting, because the page is not blank unless you make it so by painting over it or sticking a plain piece of paper in to work on.

So when you need a new sketchbook, consider recycling an old book, give it some new life and create an interesting work of art!

Happy creating and happy Wednesday x



  1. Helen K says

    Good idea – not one I’d have thought of, but it looks really good! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I really get what you said about having to get past never having ‘altered’ a book before!! Looking at what you have created helps me see that it is an interesting and rewarding process!!

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