Looking Back at 2019’s Art Books – putting our stamp on it

Some blogs ago we talked about the importance of getting inspired by your art heroes, that’s all well and good, but copying alone isn’t going to get you far. The key to creativity is to put your spin on it.

So, when it came to our 2019 art books, just how had each SEVEN member put their individual stamp on their chosen artist or art movement?

Kim – Robert Rauschenberg

“My own practice – mixed media and collage – were a good fit. I threw everything at it really, including the printing we had previously done as a group, and the use of fabrics.”

Yep, SEVEN regularly get together to experiment with new creative techniques, one of which was gelli printing. Jo shared this technique with us early in the art book process, and the results were pretty interesting – although some of us wound up with mouldy gelli plates…

Jo – Hundertwasser

“Hundertwasser was primarily a painter, architect and ecologist, my practice is collage art, design and print.”

Jo continues:

“I reinterpreted a selection of his paintings in my collage style using found ephemera and tissue paper to emulate the translucent quality in his paintings.”

She also:

“[M]ade a lino cut of his spiral” and used it to “make prints on tissue paper”.

While a stream of consciousness doodle proved the ideal way in which to incorporate Hundertwasser’s spirals and organic shapes.

Then, taking inspiration from both Hundertwasser’s ecological interests and current Earth Day Network projects, Jo used her collage technique to:

“[Focus] on environmental issues using found ‘letters to the earth’ published by Extinction Rebellion…”.

Amanda – Matisse

“I am not sure my own style has shone through this book, I have borrowed heavily from Matisse, but perhaps the one area that is me is that the pages were created through chance experimentation with water based paint and ink, something I use a lot in my paintings.”

Amanda goes on to say:

“I felt that an additional ideas guide would be useful for the viewers as research into the themes brought my interests into play: history, mythology and the natural world. So another more conventional book [Amanda’s book was based on the Turkish map fold] was made for this purpose.”

Helen – Surrealism

“I had a few symbols and interests I wanted to explore. These include: Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s ideas around hands, red shoes and the handmade life; mythology and tales of metamorphosis; alchemy; Jung; dreams and nightmares; etc.”

She goes on to say:

“And I chose to do all this largely through collage. I’ve always been drawn to collage, and as it turned out, so were many of the Surrealists.”

Juliet – Art of the Pacific

Oceanic art is often filled with organic forms and intricate patterns, so Juliet brought her embroider’s eye to her art book:

“I wanted to do more stitching onto this theme, and also experiment more with gelli printing to create a variety of backgrounds.”


So, that’s how each SEVEN member put their personal spin on our 2019 art theme: A favourite artist or art movement. Finding your own artistic style is a process, a journey – an adventure! One that involves taking inspiration from the world around you, then playing with those ideas again and again in different ways. Enjoy it!

SEVEN’s Amanda Jackson – a painter inspired by nature

So, Leigh Art Trail 2019 came and went in a blink of an eye. And, while most of SEVEN just about manage showing our creative projects at one venue, some of us exhibited at two – yes Amanda Jackson, we’re talking about you.

Amanda’s #LAT2019

While most of SEVEN lead various creative lives Amanda also happens to be a talented painter who has shown her work at a number of Leigh Art Trails. This year she shared a space at the Birdwood Bakery with printmaker Shelley Jupitus, where she showcased a series of oil paintings which Amanda described thus:

“Painting the littoral zone; a celebration of the nature of the places where water meets land.”

Essex Is An Inspiration

As Amanda explains the natural Essex environs are key to her creative practice:

“I have lived beside the Thames Estuary in Leigh-on-sea and Westcliff-on-sea most of my life and my work explores my sense of this place and the surrounding landscape of Essex coast and countryside.  My painting practice is sustained by a deep sense of the familiar and entrenched memories of the landscape, walking and drawing and returning to the studio to paint”

The Artistic Process

As you know SEVEN is always keen to peak behind the scenes of the artistic process, so how does Amanda take her painting from inspiration to finished artwork?

“[L]earning more, making contacts, expanding my horizons – literally East to West – and whilst there, soaking up the landscape that I love.”

  • How has this experience impacted her practice then?

“My studio practice has changed – which is a good thing. I am learning what parts of my old practice can stay and what needs to step up a gear.” 

She continues:

“I also made the move out of my home into studio space which allows me freedom to work on several paintings at a time enabling one painting to influence another.”

Amanda’s studio space
  • So how does Amanda go about a specific painting?

“I am working more intuitively,” Amanda tells us. “With a starting point but no idea of what the outcome might be, a particular painting had been troubling me for some weeks and I thought I would share the process with you.”

We’re all ears! Well…

It begins with a rejected canvas that I had painted in the spring for an exhibition, but rejected it. I have become a champion of reusing canvases and rather than paint over in white, I just start painting.”

  • Does she work straight onto the canvas or does she have a sketchbook?

“Working from a photo of some rocks and associated drawings and colour studies, the initial process took place over a period of two months.” 

  • Did she hit any rocky* patches? (*pun intended!)

“The final version has been turned through 90 degrees,” Amanda says.

“I needed to stop, there was something problematic about it, it is not unusual for me to like small areas of the painting more than others and at this point I knew that much of the existing painting needed to go.”

Sounds a bit dramatic! What happened next?

“The painting remained on the studio wall for a while, we had Open Studios and it was interesting to hear visitors’ thoughts about it, but it still niggled me. The painting journeyed to Newlyn and discussions with Marie Clare (one of the tutors) gave me more food for thought: Was I just trying to give too much information in one painting, should it be more pared back?”

The unresolved painting

So Amanda went back to some of her colour studies:

“I laid out all the photos and drawings from the beach at Newlyn, which is where the initial ideas sprung from. I was drawn to the pile of boulders. Other paintings in the series are hanging on my wall, drawings are laying out on the table and all of this feeds into the painting.”

Photos and drawings from the beach at Newlyn
  • What about the colours?

“The choice of colours that evolve from this point on were drawn from those already used and the colours in the landscape but I cannot explain how this comes about as it is an intuitive process.”

  • When does she decide it’s finally finished?

“The final version or should I say, this version to date will stay on the wall for a while, my pondering time… I am happier with it than I was.”

The final painting (to date…)

Find Out More

Follow Amanda on Instagram at @amandajacksonart to keep up to date with her latest artworks, exhibitions and inspirations. And of course, she also shares her creative sketchbook projects as part of SEVEN over at @sevenartistsuk.

Deadline Looming? A Tip For Creatives Stuck in a Rut

Repetition, repetition…

Every journey has its Bog of Eternal Stench moment. Remember the film Labyrinth? Yes, the one with David Bowie and the tights. Well, if Sarah had given up on saving her baby brother when she got stuck at the Bog of Eternal Stench, he would’ve been lost to the Goblin King and Sarah would never have realised GK’s magic had no power over her.

The point is, we all get stuck or lost, or downright cheesed off. And, the creative process is no different. You might start off with good intentions and big ideas, but the middle can be sticky. Stenchy even.

And, with the Leigh Art Trail deadline looming it’s turned out some of SEVEN are making super slow progress with their art books. Some of us might even be a teensy bit stuck. Eeek!

So what help is there for the frustrated creative stuck on their creative project?

A Creative Unblock Project to Try


Well, Danielle Krysa, aka The Jealous Curator, is the brains behind Creative Block: Advice and Projects from 50 Successful Artists. This book features the thoughts and practices of a variety of artists on dealing with inner and out critics, blank page block, and more.

In her post on the book Maria Popova of Brain Pickings shares some of the books most thoughtful snippets, including this “Creative Unblock Project” used by artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon:

“Choose one thing you love to draw or paint (and feel comfortable drawing or painting) already: an animal, object, a person, whatever. For thirty days, draw or paint that thing thirty different ways, a different way every day. You can use different mediums, expressions, positions, colors, whatever. Each day, push yourself to do something much different than the day before, but keep the subject the same. See how keeping one element constant (in this case, the “thing” you love to draw or paint) can allow you to break out creatively in other ways.”

Will SEVEN get unstuck? Will Amanda’s origami birds be strung in her Turkish map fold? Will Juliet get her concertina stitched in time? And, will all our art books make it to LAT 2019? It’s a cliffhanger alright!

The Library of Reclaimed Books – a collaborative project

Altered Book project

Last year SEVEN took a day trip to Turn the Page – the Norwich-based artists’ book event. No sooner had we stepped into The Forum than we were signing ourselves up for a project, The Library of Reclaimed Books. And, March 2019 was the deadline for submitting our entry:

“The Library of Reclaimed Books is a collection of altered ex-library books that started as a personal endeavour to give new lease of life to books that have lost their original use value. The library has now evolved into a social art project, involving different libraries and the public.”

Below you can read the words which accompanied our collaborative entry, an altered book called Découpage, which you can see on The Library of Reclaimed Books website.

And, if you’re thinking “what the heck is an altered book?” check out this post.

Many Hands Make New Work

“This altered book is the collective reimagining of SEVEN, a small group of artists who come together to experiment with creative techniques and idea-generating prompts in sketchbooks and art books. Exploration is our destination. And reclaiming unwanted books is our favourite.

Altered book pages

While some might view this as a sticky end for a lovely little ex-library book, we like to think we’ve breathed new life into its neglected pages, using the photographs, diagrams and words within, plus the work of our fellow SEVEN members, as creative catalysts.

We picked this book on decoupage because its theme spoke to us. Turns out cutting and sticking pictures onto things – usually furniture – was enjoyed by everyone from Marie-Antoinette to mad, bad and dangerous with a pair of scissors Lord Byron. While those arty types Picasso and Matisse dabbled too. Who knew!?

Cutting, composition and color

Never ones to be deterred by big shoes, and suitably armed with paint, glue, cutting tools, and a clutch of everyday materials – think sweet wrappers and nail varnish – we set to work, taking turns to add to the book. A year later and this ex-library book has been transformed into something unplanned, unexpected and unique.


Want to Create Your Own Altered Book?

Intrigued by the idea of altered books? Starting couldn’t be easier. Charity shops are a great source of unwanted books. Our SEVEN tips:

  • Look for books which have been drawn or written in, or which have pages missing – this helps overcome the squeamish feeling some people have when it comes to creating art in ‘proper’ books
  • Slimmish books with hardback covers are ideal – Helen’s first altered book was an encyclopaedia (she never finished it)
  • Choose books with a mixture of images and text
  • Avoid books with glossy pages – matte paper is usually better for this type of work

And you’re away!

Our art journals begin to take shape – sort of…

Mind map – planning stage

Wondering how you get started art journalling or making a creative sketchbook? This year, so were SEVEN. But by February our books are starting to take shape. The one thing they have in common? We all started differently.

Kim Loves Bookbinding

Kim, whose chosen artist is Robert Rauschenberg, has really taken to bookbinding – like a duck to water. So she chose to create her – ultra neat – book first, then work into it.

Jo’s Mini Mock-Up

Jo, who is also a graphic designer, mocked up a teeny tiny version of her book idea, before starting on the pages she planned to make into the full-size version.

Amanda’s Map Fold Technique

Amanda had fallen for the Turkish map fold, discovered in our book-making class with Chris Ruston of Art Book Art. So she has been playing with some special paper and soaking it in paint to get the effects on which to place her planned Matisse-inspired collages.

Helen’s Wardrobe Wonder

Helen’s Surrealist project would start with a wardrobe. And maybe a mermaid. So, she planned to make a wardrobe-style book which would open up to pages going forwards and backwards. Simple. No?

Juliet Returns to Concertina

Juliet’s pacific-inspired designs were starting to flow. Across. Pages. And so, once she got started Juliet had come to the conclusion that the good old concertina format would actually be perfect for her creative explorations.

Over To You…

Inspired to create your own creative journal? Then we’d suggest checking out some of the weird and wonderful book creations on Pinterest. SEVEN collective got quite addicted to scrolling the many Pinterest posts and boards dedicated to bookbinding, but we warn you, the interwebs can be a real rabbit hole. Our top tips:

  • Keep your first handmade art books or journals simple
  • Use online tutorials to get you started
  • Get your bookbinding hand in, then experiment…

Good luck!