Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What is Altered Art?

What is an Altered Artist?

I'm often asked what exactly is an altered artist? Sometimes I get the classic puzzled look when I mention altered art. An altered artist aka: re-possession specialist looks at something ordinary or thrown away and sees endless possibilities of how they can transform or "alter it", if you will, into something uniquely new and different from what it was intended to be used for. A shoe is not merely a shoe, A book is not just a book to read (How many of us have been been taught not to write in books...come on raise your hands!), but for an altered book artist a plain book holds fabulous possibilities of how they can create, alter and transform the book into a creative piece of art (click here to view some altered book examples). When I look for products for my online store Outside The Margins I look for items that can be transformed and alter into something beyond what its original purpose is. For example when I came across wooden artist's palettes one day, in my mind all I could see was how cool they would be to use them as a substrate to paint on or to use as a base for a doll or some other creation. When I look at shipping tags, game pieces and small glass bottles (click here to view my altered Alice in Wonderland tag) ideas pop into my head of how I can use them in my art!  Dominoes are not just a game piece they're a necklace, bottle caps are embellishments and jewelry (click here to view some of my past tutorials). For some people this ability to see beyond the ordinary comes naturally, but for others its something that has to be cultivated and taught to grow. If you've been raised in this type of creative environment, which I was, then it just comes instinctively. For others that I've met they had to be introduced to the idea and then slowly it grew and took hold and in some cases created a monster even :-)

In this age of the push to go green and to recycle, its all the more reason to look at things you might otherwise have thrown away and see their "altered purpose." One must be careful though, as it does have it's down-fall, in that you can easily get caught-up in hoarding and accumulating too much "stuph!" Heed some words of advice that I had to learn the hard way.... You don't have to keep everything, something else will always come along when you need it. Also, don't be such a hoarder that your afraid to use or part with the things you've collected. Go forth, alter and re-purpose! When you find yourself looking at junk mail, picking up found objects off the ground that might have been headed for the garbage and think how can I use that in my art, then you know you've succeeded in becoming an altered artist!

Art Doll
In this particular piece I used a paper mache torso and added a wooden finial for the head, writing pens shaped like hands were used for the arms and copper mesh for the wings. I have yet to finish it because I was waiting for the perfect base to come along which finally did when hubby brought me home a gift recently, so stay tuned to see it finished.

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  1. love what i see...can hardly wait for the finished artwork!!

  2. Well stated definition. I look forward to seeing the finished doll.

  3. What a great article! You said it all so well! And I had forgotten all about your fantastic shoe clock - steampunk art at its best!

  4. I seem to be receiving fewer and fewer blank stares now when I discuss mixed media and altered art. Maybe the message is going forth ;-)

  5. I love to repurpose items from nature. Twigs become woven place mats, wreaths, book spines and closures for books and purses. Does that count?

    Can't wait to see the finished doll. She looks very promising.