Fore-Edge Book Art – Historical Examples

When I first saw this concept in the movie, Crimson Peak, I didn’t think fore-edge book art was anything mainstream… ever.

Now, I’ve learned that it’s a legitimate book art. (How did I never hear of this, before?)

It’s something I’m considering including in my altered books art, and perhaps other projects.

Another example, from 1801:

Here’s a 1947 video showing one way fore-edge art was added to books:

And here’s a modern artist working with this concept:

For more historical insights, this 28-minute discussion explains the fore-edge tradition and practice in more detail:

Saving Images for Your Collage Art

Saving collage photos, papers and ephemera… it’s always a challenge. But, I’ve found a system that works well for me. It might help you, too.

Step One: Sort collage elements by themes

I save my collage elements — especially magazine photos — by color, in manila folders. I start with the major color groups (red, blue, green, etc.) and then expand (lime green, turquoise, etc.) as my collection of saved images becomes too large for anything simpler.

I include all kinds of papers in my folders. So, when I want something blue, I open my “blue” folder and I’ll see my primarily blue magazine images, but also blue tissue paper, maybe some bits of blue ribbons or fabrics that I intend to use in collage, and so on.

Of course, my collages are usually more color-driven than image-driven, per se. So, organizing by color makes sense to me. (If you’re not familiar with my torn-paper collages, you’ll see many of them online at

For someone else, it might make more sense to organize by other themes, instead of (or in addition to) by colors.

Your categories might be “faces” or even more specifically, “women’s smiling faces,” etc. Or, “dark-looking castles,” “cute cottages,” “kissing,” “fast cars,” “vintage images,” or whatever.

Step Two: Store the folders in a big portfolio

All of my manila folders are stored in one large, flat old-fashioned artist’s portfolio thingie. You know, those huge black folders made from heavy cardboard, covered with a black, textured surface, and they tie at the top and sides with cotton tabs.

(Collaging the outside of that big portfolio is optional.)

You may prefer a portfolio that’s easier to carry and comes in a color. But, any good, big portfolio will work fine.

In my studio, my portfolio fits nicely on top of my chest of drawers that holds my fabric art and mixed media supplies, like my iron, fusible webbing, frequently-used fabrics like muslin, etc. (It’s a small chest of drawers that fits underneath my sewing table. So, the big collage bits folder is pretty much hidden unless I’m looking for it.)

You can also hide the folder under a bed, behind a door, between or in back of bookcases, and so on.

I’ve tried many organizing systems for my stacks of wonderful papers and collage images. This has worked the best for me.

ACEOs – Production-line shortcuts

ACEO - in progressI’m trying some oil paintings as ACEOs.  (That stands for Art Card limited Editions and Originals, a kind of artists’ trading cards.)

Because traditional art cards (including ACEOs) are the same size as other trading cards (like baseball cards, etc.), the 2.5″ x 3.5″ ACEOs can be tricky to work with if you’re painting with oils or acrylics.

My first attempt revealed a few flaws that I’ll fix with the next batch.  However, here’s what I did:

First, I covered a masonite sketch board (shown below, at right) with newspaper, held in place by a Very Big Elastic. (The elastic comes with the sketch board when you buy it at any arts or crafts store, or you can simply use one from other packaging… but you may not need it at all.)

Then, I positioned a series of blank ATCs (artist trading cards) approximately where I figured they should be, to mask them. (Michael’s and other stores sell these canvas-textured blanks in the same aisle as their fine art drawing & painting supplies.)

Next, I used blue (easy to peel off) painter’s masking tape to tack blank ACEOs in place.

After that, I laid down strips of that same tape, masking the edges of the cards, usually about 1/4 inch.  (That’s not shown in the photo.)

And then, of course, I painted them… at least with an underpainting (my signature cadmium red) and then the first layer of oil paint.

Impatient to see how they’ll look, I peeled off the long strips of masking tape.  The result is in the photo on the right.

One card tore slightly as I was peeling off the tape.  (The tear was a small surface tear and it can be repaired with glue.) I’m not sure if that issue can be wholly avoided with this process, but I’ll keep experimenting.

I tweaked some of the cards while this first layer of paint is wet.  I wanted to cover the cadmium red that had seeped under the tape more than the oil paint did.  Alas, some of the tweaking ventured into the ACEOs’ white margins.

While these cards dry, I’m starting a new batch of ACEOs.  This time, I used a ruler to position the cards and the tape, so it’s more regular.  So far, so good.

The oil paint will take at least a week or two to dry enough for the next layer of paint, so these cards won’t be completed very quickly.   I’m aiming to have the first batch of ACEOs ready to ship in about a month.

However, I see several merits to using ACEOs for oil paint (or acrylics):

1. These allow me to experiment with designs on a small scale, to evaluate them for larger paintings.  These cards are sort of like thumbnail sketches, but more finished.

2. I can sell these ACEOs for far less than my paintings, making them easy for new art collectors to purchase.  (I’m very enthusiastic about the Cheap Art Manifesto as much as it’s practical… while still being a professional artist.)

3. Shipping the ACEOs will involve wax paper (to protect the surface of the card) and some cardboard rectangles as support in the mail.  Then, each card can go in an envelope… cheap and easy!

As soon as I’ve worked out more of the bugs, I’ll create a sheet that you can easily use to layout the blank cards yourself, if you’d like to try a painterly approach to ACEOs.

Foam Brush Notes

PaintbrushesPaintbrushes are important for many artists.  I have jars & jars of them for all purposes.

Foam brushes are useful in almost every kind of art I create.

When I’m creating collages, especially torn-paper collages in my artist’s journals, I apply the gel medium — as an adhesive as well as a sealer — with a foam brush.  (That same gel + foam brush works fine for applying glitter or metallic leafing to my art, too.)

I also use foam brushes to apply cheap, vivid, cadmium red paint (acrylic) as an underpainting when I’m working on an art shrine (that I’ll also paint) or a fine art painting.

Stores such as Michaels, A. C. Moore, and Hobby Lobby often feature foam brushes on sale.  For example, from 16 – 22 January 2011, Michaels were selling 14 foam brushes for $1.

Check your local Michaels’ weekly ad to see if the same sale is at your store.  (I don’t know if this link will work for you, but I view their weekly ads at )

Two more notes: I generally get at least three to five uses from each foam brush.  I wash them thoroughly and promptly after using them.

And, if you use the kind with wooden handles, the wood can be recycled in a variety of projects.  (For some of my cloth dolls, that handle is the perfect size to reinforce the doll’s neck, as the wooden dowel will extend from the head through the neck and then into the torso.)

ATC – Spalding Inn, NH

Spalding Inn, Whitefield, NH - ATC by Aisling D'ArtThe subject of this pen & ink ATC is the Spalding Inn. I’m not entirely sure why that hotel fascinates me, but it does.

Oh, it helps that the hotel is currently owned by a couple of friends and their families.  In addition, my uncle and his wife used to vacation there.

But… I don’t know.  It’s more than that.

The Spalding seemed a logical subject for an ATC.  It’s the final ATC in this series of six, and obviously the most detailed.  (The previous ATC, displaying a rose, led up to it.)

Though this country hotel has a few great ghost stories, it’s not actually associated with UFOs.

The reason I put a flying saucer in this ATC is because the Spalding Inn is along the flight path described by America’s first known alien abductees, Betty & Barney Hill… and I wanted something interesting in the sky.  (The design of the card is based on my fine art painting of the Spalding Inn, in progress.)

The Spalding Inn is located in Whitefield, New Hampshire.  It’s near Mount Washington, and it’s generally in a perfect location for exploring the White Mountains.

That also makes it a great location for any artist to set up an easel and paint from; from any spot on the hotel’s property, there are amazing views in any direction… all year ’round.

(And yes, I’d say that even if I didn’t know the owners.  You’ll find me there — on sunny days and snowy days — whenever I need a break from everyday busyness, and want to clear my mind with clean air, natural beauty, and art.)

You can download a free, printable copy (at 150 dpi) of this Spalding Inn ATC by clicking on the image above, or by clicking here.

ATC – A Simple Rose

ATC - roseFor me, this ATC (artist’s trading card) was about design.  I wanted to see if I could use a simple subject and create enough visual interest so people don’t simply glance at it and say, “Ho-hum, it’s just a rose.”

I’m not 100% certain that I achieved that, but I think the various shading techniques work well enough.

This ATC actually repeats an exercise that I did in my junior year of high school.  I’m not kidding.  I’d learned a lot from it, and it’s stuck in my memory as something very positive.

Like my other ATCs in this series, this card was drawn with a Size 0 (zero) point rapidograph-style pen.  It’s a Koh-i-noor Rapido Drawing Pen, and I love it.  Unlike older rapidographs that I’ve used since college (when dorm friend/artist Darcy Grimm showed me her rapidograph), this one doesn’t seem to clog easily.  That’s a huge plus, and it’s one reason why I’m doing far more artwork with it.

Anyway, it’s all dots & lines in this ATC, and I’m pleased with it.  You can download a printable copy (at 150 dpi) by clicking on the card image, above, or by clicking here.

ATC – City/Stars in pen & ink

ATC - pen and ink - city stars This ATC is typical of the scribbles that decorated my class notes starting around age 12.

Bored out of my mind in junior and senior high school, I only half-listened to teachers. (Yes, I regretted that later.)

Instead, I drew a variety of designs, usually a series of connected images like the one at left.

For me, the squares and rectangles represent the architecture of the city.  The swirls represent the city’s energy, and the stars are the dreams and real-life stars, while the circles are clouds and bubbles of creativity.

Free download

You can download your own copy of this ATC by clicking on the image at left, or by right-clicking here and saving it to your hard drive. Print it at 150 dpi so it’s 2.5″ x 3.5″.

This is one of six ATCs that I created in October 2010, experimenting with a new pen.  (It’s a Size 0 point Koh-i-Noor Rapido Drawing Pen.)

Evolution of this style

When I was a teenager, I sometimes drew these designs in ink and just left them as-is.

Others were drawn in pencil during school.  Later, at home,  I drew over the pencil with India ink and my crow quill pen.

When the ink was fully dry, I’d add color.  My mother had paints left from her years as an air brush artist (Dr. Ph. Martin’s radiant, concentrated watercolors) and I used those because the colors were so vivid.  Generally, my color choices included magenta, turquoise, lime green, and yellow.  I used purple as well, but carefully; it’s a color that can dominate artwork very easily.

One of these drawings — painted with acrylic paints — decorated a residential elevator on Marlborough Street in Boston (MA) in 1970.  I remember showing it to musician Jaime Brockett when he visited me, and he could barely believe I’d created it.

Even then, I don’t think my appearance or demeanor matched who I really am.

Another  of these designs became a wall mural in an office just outside of Salt Lake City (UT) in 1973.  It’s no longer visible, of course, but I like to think that it still exists under layers of paint and tasteful wallpaper.

(Hmm… have I mentioned that I was a rather mobile hippie in that era?)

The art themes

These kinds of scribbles have a lot in common with work by Peter Max, but I don’t think he was popular when I began drawing these.

In fact, I think the art in my class notes (and this ATC) drew upon the same cultural icons that inspired Max and others. (The posters for the Grateful Dead and for concerts in general —  particularly around San Francisco — also featured similar imagery.)

When I adopted elements from any popular art, it was probably from a TV show that (I think) aired in the afternoons when I returned home from high school. It had a title like “The Amazing World of Dr. Silver”, but that’s not quite right. I’m pretty sure it was on PBS and produced in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Does anyone else remember this show?)

Mostly, there was a certain style to the art of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  It was happy but also complex, in its own way.

This ATC reflects that.

ATC – Desk chair

ATC of desk chair, printable copy linkedThe next ATC (artist’s trading card) in my pen-and-ink art experiments features my husband’s desk chair.

I drew it with a Size 0 (zero) point technical drawing pen.  I’ve been using this kind of pen for art since I was introduced to them by a college friend, Darcy Grimm.

The ink is called Ultradraw, and it’s Koh-i-Noor’s India ink for artists, illustrators and draftsmen.

Once that ink is dry, it’s usually waterproof and I can paint over the ink with watercolor paint or use watercolor pencils with water.

It’s ideal for sketchcrawls and other sketches that might become more formal artwork.

This ATC shows a comfy chair upholstered in a grey tweed, and our cat loves to sit in the chair when my husband isn’t in it.  (Otherwise, the cat likes to sit in HT’s lap.)

To protect the chair from our cat’s long hair, we have a (now somewhat ragged) piece of flannel that’s laundered regularly.  The fabric was on the chair when I drew this ATC.

To print this ATC, right-click on the picture and save the higher resolution copy on your computer.  Then, print the artwork at 150 dpi; it’ll be a 2.5″ x 3.5″ ATC after you trim it to size.

ATC – Pen and ink, fan

Printable ATC - click here to downloadMy second ATC in this series  of six shows our living room fan.  It’s one of those huge grey fans that, on the high setting, blasts you like you’re in a wind tunnel.

Drawing it was sort of a challenge.  I mean, there’s a lot of detail and shading in the actual fan.  Deciding what to include and what to leave out… that was the challenge.

Scaling it down to ATC size was even more interesting.

There are things I might do differently if I were to draw it all over again, but — of course — this was just an ATC… a one-time sketch.  I’m generally pleased with it.

This ATC was drawing with a Size 0 (zero) Koh-i-Noor rapido technical drawing pen on regular paper in my sketchbook.

I started by drawing (in pencil) the 2.5″ x 3.5″ dimensions of a standard ATC.  Then, I began drawing with my pen.  There was no rough sketch to start with, just the outline of the card so I’d get the size right.

About five minutes later (maybe less), it was an ATC.

Pretty simple, huh?

These are super easy.  A good pen makes all the difference.  Sure, you could use any drawing pen, including a felt-tip (like a Sharpie) or a rollerball pen.

However, I think there’s a different quality to more traditional pens, and I think it shows up in the finished artwork.

ATCs are like miniature works of art.  That makes the materials and workmanship more important, in a way.

(Don’t let that scare you off; if the ATC doesn’t look good, you can always put new/different art over it, or throw it out altogether.)

So, for this ATC and the others in this six-card series, I used a rapidograph with Koh-i-Noor’s Ultradraw black India ink. (The ink comes with the pen.)

Right-click on the image to download a printable copy (at 150 dpi)  of this ATC.

ATCs in Pen and Ink

ATCs - Umbrella ATC - October 2010ATCs have always been dear to my heart.  From the 1990s when many ATCs were created on 3″ x 5″ cards, to the 2.5″ x 3.5″ size that became more standard, to the smaller variations that have emerged: ATCs are fun, fast art.

Recently, I purchased a new rapidograph, also called a “rapido sketch pen.”  It’s an easier way to create the kind of drawings I did as a teenager, when I used a crow quill pen and an ink well.

My new pen has a Size 0 (zero) point, and it’s a vast improvement over rapidographs from even 10 years ago.

Anyway, to get used to my new pen, I decided to sketch a few ATCs.  My first is shown at right.  (Right-click on the image to download your own copy.) It’s a contour drawing of my silvery umbrella… the one I take with me when I go outside to paint landscapes in nature.

Like all of my recent ATCs, the original of this card is 2.5″ x 3.5″ and — by right-clicking on the image, above, and saving it to your hard drive — you can print a full-sized copy (at 150 dpi).

This is the first of six ATCs I’ll be posting over the next few days, showing my progress with my new drawing pen.

The signature (ais/em 2010) on these ATCs is sort of a segue between my online name of Aisling and the (real) name I paint under.