Book Arts with TJ Goerlitz, Part 2

A guest post by TJ Goerlitz

In the second of three posts in this series on Book Arts, I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about creating content for an artist’s book as well as some considerations you might want to think about if you’d like to tackle one.


Until recently, I would make a journal or a handmade book that basically started somewhere and ended somewhere else. My Moleskines used to be a mix of lists, meeting minutes, journal pages, project ideas and entries from vacations. Woah Nellie! This method is the book arts equivalent of stone soup; it probably tastes really good but who really knows what’s in it! Hanging around book artists has changed the way I think about how I work. Now my Moleskines are for lists, business ideas and planning. My handmade sketchbooks are strictly for sketching or journal pages and my gratitude journal is my personal book with family content and naturally the one I’ll let kids or guests make entries in.


Book artists spend a lot of time planning how they are going to deliver their narrative. They painstakingly lay out the content and intentionally decide how it’s going to go together. They also decide on the structure they want to use by thinking about how the content is best shared. Here is where they also start making choices on format and size.

For instance if the book is about something really intimate, the artist might make a very small book, using a tiny font pulling the reader in really close. If a book is something that is best displayed all at once, then they might consider an accordion structure for that kind of story.


Book artists think about what they want the reader to experience and then work backwards. They zoom out and think about their project in the big picture before they start breaking it down into its littlest parts.

This is where mock-ups come in handy. A little planning can really change a project. Think of mock-ups as trying on different outfits!

Take text weight everyday computer paper and make some dummy books.

Think about how an idea comes across in different outfits! How does it look? Does one “fit” better than the other? Don’t know any book structures? This is where the learning comes in from my previous post in this series.

Once book artists decide on their structure then they lay out every page and spread. This is how they plan fun surprises with the images and text. This is when they figure out something is going to work or not. This is the point when they discover it “can’t go” like this or “doesn’t fit” like that. This is when the problem solving kicks in.

This is when they WANT to discover the problems, before they cut up those expensive materials or that handmade paper.

Keep in mind that experience is gained with each project made. There are many classes out there to start bookmaking. If you want to get into the book arts, ease in by starting with a zine or a comic at first! Use good quality but less expensive materials on these early projects. It hurts less when the inevitable mistakes pop up.

Tip: When exploring various book structures, think about consistency. Learn how to make a jig, learn about paper grain, how you can lay out your project and how many pages you can get out of each big sheet. Think it through, analyze and adjust if necessary.

Discover the public art book collections in your area. Go look at art books. Go to galleries displaying art books or go to book art sales.

You don’t have to buy anything! Put on the white gloves, examine the merchandise and talk to the artists. Tell them you want to understand their project, ask them how they learned what they know.


The next and last post in this series of Book Arts will be about a cool product called Flexi-Cut. And don’t worry; you don’t need to have a printing press to try it out!

TJ Goerlitz is a mixed-media artist whose book art will be featured in the premier edition of Incite, Dreams Realized: The Best of Mixed Media to be published by North Light in September 2013. You can find out more about TJ by visiting her website,

Z2489_BookplusArt_CM.inddYou might also enjoy the Book + Art eBook by Dorothy Simpson Krause.







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