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Book Paintings by Mike Stilkey

For the past several years, artist Mike Stilkey has repurposed old books as a medium for his portraits of people and animals. Here are a dozen of his works, some of which will be on display in the exhibition Face to Face: The Changing Face of Portraiture in Carlsbad, California.

  • 1 of 12"Becoming Undone"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey

    "Becoming Undone"

    The title of this piece plays with the title of the book at its crown, The Surgeon by W. C. Heinz.

  • 2 of 12"Birds Attack Man on Bike"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey

    "Birds Attack Man on Bike"

    Form Line of Battle! by Alexander Kent and Fail-Safe by Eugene Burdick top this piece.

  • 3 of 12"Distinguished Gentleman"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey

    "Distinguished Gentleman"

    Stilkey has partnered with libraries and bookstores, as well as a publishing company, to acquire donations of withdrawn or remaindered books.

  • 4 of 12"Man Wanders Into Precarious Situation"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey

    "Man Wanders Into Precarious Situation"

    Among the books used in this piece is James Jones's Go to the Widow-Maker.

  • 5 of 12"Reminiscent"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey


    Stilkey is pictured here in the process of creating his installation Reminiscent last summer at California's Hurley )( Space Gallery. Click here for a video of the project unfolding.

  • 6 of 12"Self Portrait as a Horse"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey

    "Self Portrait as a Horse"

    To prepare his "canvas," Stilkey first sorts books by size then lays them like bricks and inserts a screw into each one.

  • 7 of 12"Slightly All the Time"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey

    "Slightly All the Time"

    Stilkey's sculpture overtakes the room at a 2008 exhibition in California.

  • 8 of 12"Song of the River"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey

    "Song of the River"

    Too Far to Walk by John Hersey and Night Without Stars by Winston Graham help create the canvas for this painting.

  • 9 of 12"The Chandelier"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey

    "The Chandelier"

    Titles used in this piece include A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt and The Utmost Island by Henry Myers.

  • 10 of 12"The Long Way Home"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey

    "The Long Way Home"

    Stilkey often selects books based on the color and texture of their covers.

  • 11 of 12"The Piano Has Been Drinking"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey

    "The Piano Has Been Drinking"

    Roughly five thousand books were used to create this piece and its companion, Reminiscent.

  • 12 of 12"Time and Time Again"
    Credit: Mike Stilkey

    "Time and Time Again"

    Capping this sculpture is the novel The Methuselah Enzyme, Fred Mustard Stewart's novel of eternal youth-seeking, with Decade by Stephen Longstreet and Proud Destiny by Lion Feuchtwanger also integrated.

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