Painting into books: the creation of readable art

The overwhelming majority of books fall into formats and categories required for mass production. Novels are unbroken pages of text, with the occasional prestige edition that includes either color plates or line illustrations…graphic novels, with few exceptions, follow the sequential panel/word balloon/caption formula. Art monographs display large visuals accompanied by usually terse descriptions or title/history information.

I’ve always been attracted to books that break out of those formulas to create an experience that feels new. That was the ambition for the Talos books, and the creative process that went into them was equally unconventional. Independent streams of creation became blended and then symbiotic.

Iason Bellerophon doesn’t just paint artwork for books, he literally paints on the books themselves. The Talos books went through multiple phases, from story-writing (in longhand, transferred to typed text…a rarity in today’s world, I refer to it as “the Lovecraft method”, in honor of HPL’s handwritten manuscripts for his stories. It allows me to write in very odd places…generally with my back propped against a tree in the woods or a park) to selecting images from Iason’s huge output of drawings and paintings and digital art, to placing them into a typed manuscript, to delivering that manuscript as a printed workbook to Iason…which he then paints directly onto. Those are scanned, rebound into a new workbook, and Iason paints into that one too, expanding and enriching the melding of text and image. On and on the process goes, through phase after phase, draft after draft, until what is to me a mesmerizing hybrid of novel/graphic novel/art monograph emerges.

This is the format of the Talos books. It’s hoped that by breaking apart the traditional boundaries of book publishing we can offer a unique, visionary, exciting and visceral experience to the reader.

Here is Iason, in his New York studio, leafing through the pages of one of those painted books.

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