Review: The Decorated Page by Gwen Diehn

I picked this book up the other day while looking for inspiration for page layouts and the possibilities of books that integrate imagery and text. I wasn’t actually looking for a book about scrapbooking so much as a book about artists who use journals as something a little more communicative and meaningful than a daily record. This book initially appealed to me because of….. well… honestly? Its cover. The pictures on the front of the cover are much like my own journals, although I don’t always put that much work into my sketchbooks!

It has taken me three days to find time to actually READ it, but upon doing so I can honestly say that this is a really neat little book. It looks like a basic book, but what it actually is is a book that relies upon basic techniques to achieve highly refined results.

One of the beefs that I have with scrapbooking is its reliance on pre-made assemblages and expensive toys to overcome the inability of most people to draw or paint and to eliminate their need to learn. Now there’s nothing wrong with not being able to draw or paint. Nor is there any real problem with not being interested in learning. I think there is a problem with paying $200 for a toy or program that will take a photograph and turn it into a painting-like image that you then transfer onto fabric or paper and call your own. It’s the age-old technology over artistry argument. I won’t get into it any further, as, frankly, it just irritates me and today I don’t feel like being irritated.

This book isn’t like that. It relies on basic art supplies. Watercolours, pens, ink, gesso, gouache, acrylic matte medium, paper, glue, etc. Nothing fancy. It shows you the basic parts of preparing a purchased book for use and using it as an illuminated journal. Step-by-step, it works through making the blank page less intimidating and more unique. It covers the components of a book as well as possible techniques for modifying or embellishing those components. It breaks things down into manageable pieces and illustrates how the use of different media can be effective in communicating an idea or emotion. In essence, it’s a palette of ideas from which the book artist is free to chose according to his or her abilities and desires.

Quite apart from teaching such things as using a matte medium texturising powder to add texture to a book cover, or ideas for translating sounds into visual imagery, making stamps out of old wine corks, etc, it is full of the most amazing eye candy. Definitely worth it, for the ideas and inspiration alone.

The only part I thought was inadequate was the little insert on medieval illumination in manuscripts; it could have been better researched. But that’s a small thing.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. sarai says:

    Neat! I will have to look into it. It would be fun to read, even if I can only dream of learning the techniques…

  2. vickyth says:

    Interestingly enough, there’s a wide enough range of techniques in the book that you should definitely be able to find something you can do already and build on. The hardest part is starting….. but there’s a whole section on making that easier, too.

  3. Gwen Diehn says:

    Thanks so much for this intelligent review. You got it!

  4. Amy says:

    I bought this book awhile ago and absolutely love it. It is very inspiring and I wowed a few seasoned scrapbookers that have stuck to the store bought items and machanics with the techniques that I applied during a “scrapbooking weekend”.
    I highly recommend this book!

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