You may have noticed Isobelle Ouzman’s work popping up on the internet recently. Her lush altered books re-imagine fairy tale narratives in the pages of discarded books with layers of drawings and cut paper. It’s right up our alley, and we’re delighted to share her work!  Enjoy– Erinn

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Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work. How did you get started?

Isobelle Ouzman (IO): I am a twenty-three year old illustrator residing in Seattle, Washington. I do not have any formal training but I work full-time at a print shop. In between my shifts, I wander outside and read my favorite fairy tales, gathering inspiration for my work at night– creating altered books and drawings. My work as a creative practitioner is driven by a strong love for nature, which is why I prefer to re-purpose materials for my projects whenever I can. Collecting items most consider useless is often a welcomed challenge. As a day-dreamer with a wild imagination, being able to translate the images in my head through art keeps me engaged and inspired.

My work … is driven by a strong love for nature, which is why I prefer to re-purpose materials for my projects whenever I can.

LAIP: What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

IO: A few years ago I stumbled across a box of discarded novels by a dumpster and decided to take them home with me. Most were damaged and weren’t books I was interested in, so I picked up a pen and began drawing inside one. I’ve spent the time since experimenting with altered books on and off, and within the last year have become more enthusiastic about them. I am currently working on commissions and a few pieces for a show coming up in September, so I am pretty excited about that and my future projects with these books.

LAIP: How do you see your work interacting with narrative or story? What does working with books allow you to do that you can’t pull off with other media?

IO: Getting lost in the world of a novel is something that many book lovers experience, including myself. Using books as my canvas has allowed me to take that even further. Most of my ideas come from a wandering mind, and I think the books help me navigate my thoughts as I work from page to page.

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Most of my ideas come from a wandering mind, and I think the books help me navigate my thoughts as I work from page to page.

LAIP: How have books or libraries informed your creative work? Tell us about the first book you remember playing a part in your artistic development.

IO: There is a magical quality to books that I have gravitated towards ever since I was much younger. I have always been very shy, and when I moved to America from England at age thirteen, books were my escape. I owe my pursuit of art to the imagination I developed through reading. The first story I remember being drawn to was from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. One dark tale called “The Owl” gave me intense dreams for a couple weeks following my reading of it, and I have been captivated by owls ever since (which is why a lot of my drawings revolve around them). I also read an endless amount of stories about gnomes and fairies – those will always have a special place in my heart.

I owe my pursuit of art to the imagination I developed through reading.

LAIP: Can you describe a particular library-incubated project for us? (The library / books and reading served as an incubator for a baby idea and helped it grow into a legitimate piece / series).

IO: “The Owl” tale inspired my show with Ghost Gallery last year. I first created a large drawing on some scrap 32” x 46” paper I found at work, of a girl being dropped by an owl into tangled foliage. From there I developed a series of drawings that involved owls, and the feelings I took away from the fairy tale I love so much.

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LAIP: As an artist, what would your ideal library be like? What kinds of stuff would you be able to check out, and what could you do there?

There would be amber lighting and reading nooks, art on the walls for inspiration, and indoor plants growing around the room…

IO: My ideal library would be full of vintage fairy tales from all over the world, beautifully bound, full of intricate illustrations, and smelling like an old book should. There would also be books for reference, such as botanical and animal studies, since those would be especially helpful. There would be amber lighting and reading nooks, art on the walls for inspiration and indoor plants growing around the room – just because I really like plants.

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My beautiful picture Processed with VSCOcam with b5 presetIsobelle Ouzman graduated from Tacoma School of the Arts, where she studied illustration and painting. She works full time at a print shop and spends her free time collecting and drawing the things that inspire her. Everything she makes uses repurposed or recycled materials, and she’s trying her best to keep it that way.

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