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When I was five years old, I would run home from kindergarten, change into my tutu and leotard, and "make art." I delighted in manipulating color and line and texture and all the things we're taught to bend to our will as artists. Over the years, I lost touch with that free spirited tutu girl. I had teachers who scolded me for coloring the clouds red and the trees blue. I was told I didn't have an artistic bone in my body, and I believed it.

I thought, then, that artists had some mystical knowledge that none of the rest of us could access; that it was some gift from a secret muse. I thought that I hadn't been given the secret password and that I would never be allowed into the club. It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I learned otherwise.

That year, a friend asked me to take an art class with her. I refused and she begged and I finally relented. I knew--knew--that I would be a failure, but she promised me I wouldn't be and that we would have great fun. And we did. I had an amazing teacher and a wonderful friend who reminded me how to play. I owe a lot to the two of them.

Like many kids finishing high school, I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I still don't. I'd taken seemingly endless amounts of History and Writing and Math and Science. All of it was interesting to me, but I didn't feel a calling to anything. I took a year off after graduation, thinking I'd figure it out, but I didn't. I enrolled in college and went to freshman orientation, still not knowing. It wasn't until I was sitting in my freshman advisor's office and he asked me what I enjoyed doing that it hit me--I want to be an artist. There, I'd said it outloud and I couldn't take it back.

And so, I studied Art.

My major area of study was painting and drawing, but I'm also a collage and assemblage artist. There is quite a bit of overlap between the disciplines. When does a drawing become a painting? When you add elements to that painting, when does it turn from a collage to an assemblage? I'm not sure there are any pat answers to those questions (if there are, I've not found them). Because of that, you'll see that some of my works could easily fit into multiple categories.

I'm also interested in books and book arts. I learned to read at a young age and have always been surrounded by books. I love everything about them from the contents to the structure, so bringing books into my artwork was part of a natural progression.

When I was in school, I made what are now called altered books. An altered book is any book that has been changed and manipulated into a piece of art. The most well known altered book is probably Tom Phillips' A Humument. He was by no means the first, though. People have been altering books since books were invented. Think of those college text books along whose margins you scrawled notes, or the favorite childhood book whose pages you tore or colored on. Most of us have altered a book at one time or another.

From altered books, it was a logical step to making my own books. I have no illusions of being a great bookbinder, but I enjoy the craft of it and revel in the beauty of the finished products. Whether they are journals made out of recycled materials or artists' books, I find creating them satisfying.

My artistic interests are varied, but one thing that holds them together is a love of color. Color is everything to me. I've always known I loved color--even as a small child--but for many years I didn't realize just how important it was to my work. It wasn't until, when trying to explain my work to someone and she exclaimed, "You paint color!" that I was finally able to define the thread that binds everything together.

Please have a seat in the comfy chair and make yourself at home.

Copyright � 2007 Shelly Couvrette