This is an ongoing project called "Ideal Bookshelf". I paint sets of books as a form of portraiture: a person's
favorites (of all time, within a genre or from a particular period in
their lives); the ones that helped make them who they are today.
We show off our books on shelves like merit badges (the ones not on our Kindle, at least), because we're proud of the ideas we've ingested to make us who we are, as we should be. The spine of a book, as I paint it—only a few inches tall and with slightly wobbly text—is a sort of code for the giant cloud of ideas the author included within it. Just ten of them together on a sheet of paper tells the story of the mind that picked them in a way that is easily digestible but allows for endless study.We also display our books hoping to connect with others. When I paint someone else's bookshelf and they have the same book I do, it instantly makes me happy. When people enter a space where one of these illustrations is hanging, they immediately say things like, "I love that book!" and "Oh, that was one of my favorites when I was a kid, too." That spontaneous emotional reaction is usually very difficult to come by with two-dimensional art; usually it's reserved for music or film.
Finally, I'm also fascinated by the design of books spines. It's such a small place for a lot of information, with very little room for distinct characteristics, even though it's exactly what you use to identify books first. As someone who does a lot of design work, I enjoy the process of turning graphics into "art". And I love that a book is something created very personally and then mass-produced in order to affect many other people very personally. I group and paint them to turn them back into something very personal and intimate.