The Written Image: Face to Face


Los Angeles artist Mike Stilkey ( began making art with vintage books, which he has been collecting for years, as an alternative to the traditional process of using a rather more pristine medium. “Drawing on new, white pieces of paper gave me anxiety,” he says, a sentiment that may resonate with some writers. So Stilkey began drawing on pages from salvaged books (his 2005 artist book, One Hundred Portraits, features drawings composed entirely on repurposed pages) and later moved on to creating larger-scale works painted on the spines of stacked hardcovers, such as the works

pictured above, The Chandelier (left) and Becoming Undone. This spring several of Stilkey’s book paintings will be on display in the exhibition Face to Face: The Changing Face of Portraiture at the William D. Cannon Art Gallery in Carlsbad, California. Stilkey, who is planning a six-foot-by-six-foot installation as well as a number of smaller works for the show, selects books based on their texture and color, and, occasionally, on titles that converse with the images he paints. In a style that recalls the harsh realism of Otto Dix and the intense self-portraits of Egon Schiele, Stilkey paints “a melancholic and, at times, whimsical cast of characters inhabiting ambiguous spaces and narratives of fantasy and fairy tales,” according to his artist’s statement. Face to Face, which includes works by fourteen other portrait artists, is on view until May 27. For information about the exhibition visit