Friday, July 21, 2023

Judge a Book by its Cover - by Claudia Neubacher

Yes, yes...I know...the actual quote says the exact opposite, but I am talking about real books here and I had some at home where the covers didn't do the content any I decided to change that and give them new covers.

I am talking about these little fellas.

The Reclam series is (greatly feared by pupils and) meant to provide literature classics (like "The Nibelungenlied", Ovid's "Metamorphoses" or poetry collections for example) at a very cheap price (so they were affordable for use at school) and their signature look has always been this bright yellow and a pocket size paperback format with very thin paper, so you can carry them with you easily and at any time. Most people I know associate these books with boring High School German lesson reads...but there were some works I and my husband liked so much that we kept the books until today as we still love the content. If only the covers looked a bit more inviting and did its contents justice...

Much better now, aren't they? 

I indulged in some happy playing around with stencils, layering and using various tools to apply paint and create different marks. 

I mixed different kinds of paints and inks as well and from the pre-selected pile of StencilGirl® stencils these were the ones that I used in the end: 

Valeri Sjodin

Tracie Lyn Huskamp

Pam Carriker

Mary Beth Shaw

the smallest stencil from the 
StencilClub set 

and the smallest stencil from 
June Pfaff Daley's

I always gather more stencils than I will really use to not only have a wide variety to choose from but also browsing through my stencils often inspires me or helps me define the direction in which I want my project to go. Often I only use a very small section of a stencil design because during the process I find it is the perfect fit. Especially when you want to build layers you often need a bit of texture in a particular corner as a contrapposto (=a contrasting detail that visually emphasizes an already built part of the compostion). 

The picture shows all the tools and paints I had prepared, two water bowls to put the used applying tools in (one for tools I applied black and dark greys with and the other for the brighter colour tools), and a spool with a grey linen ribbon that I planned to put on the books' spines. 

That grey from the ribbon defined the grey base colour to start with. 
I mixed that on my palette using Titanium White and Lamp Black DecoArt Americana acrylic paint and applied it with a sponge paint roller. 

Using another sponge paint roller I applied pure Titanium White right through the stencil onto the prepared book covers. 

That was followed by a little rabbit and a face's half in Lamp Black. This time I used a stipple brush to apply the paint. 

Time to use translucent colours - so I switched to Ranger Distress Stain Sprays (salvaged patina and rusty hinge). I used the 

I used the Circuits Mini stencil like a stamp - I simply misted it with Salvaged Patina, then put it on the cover face down, covered that with a clean sheet of printer paper and rubbed across that with my flat hand. To dry the layers I used a heat tool. 

For my next layer I misted the Stone Tilings stencil with the Spray Stain, then removed the wet stencil and pressed one of the covers partially into the residue on the palette. 

That led to a beautifully smudged layer! Yummily grungy and a great contrast! It also mixed beautifully (layering-wise) with the Golden Straw marks I had applied before that using the specially shaped sponge paint roller (I later used the same roller to create the black right border on the cover...I really love the marks it created!!!). 

But back to the rusty hinge layer - it was the perfect contrasting colour to use and its translucency created great depth!

The left over Distress Stain on the stencil got "stamped" onto the books' back covers (no paint should be wasted, right?). 

As I had covered up part of the rabbit's silhouette during adding more layers, I put the stencil back in place and traced the lost part with a fine tip Faber Castell PITT pen. Afterwards I added some swirls in black using the lovely small stencil from Mary Beth's StencilClub set. 

Final touches (a bit of scribbling and some marks here and there) were added using a white acrylic paint marker and then I sprayed on a thin coat of matte DecoArt Acrylic Sealer to prevent the inks from being reactivated by any moisture. 

The grey ribbon got glued in place using DecoArt matte Decou-Page... voilá!

Finally my beloved collection of Modern Nature Poetry and the Nibelungenlied looked as worthy from the outside as they truly are a read! The ugly (sorry, Reclam!) yellow is gone and I now love having these little gems lying around at home, looking as inviting as possible! Now one can finally correctly judge the books contents by their covers! ;)

Thanks for stopping by (and maybe you also have some particularly loved books at home that have covers that don't do their contents any justice and therefore get misjudged...). Enjoy a lovely summer with some good reads and a lot of creative fun! 

Claudia xxx


  1. Claudia, good to see your art again in Stencil Girl. Thanks for sharing your "roller tool", must be on the lookout for it. As usual your work is quite satisfying and inspiring!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Linda! Yes, that roller tool really helps create beautiful random marks. Keeping fingers crossed you'll find one soon. Have fun! xxx

  2. What a wonderful idea! I've often thought a book's cover didn't do the book justice. Now I know what to do about it!

    1. Thank you, Terry! So glad you like the idea! Have fun! xxx


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