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Photographed by Stephen Kent Johnson

Equal parts hostess gift, art book and DIY art project, John Derian’s new book Picture Book (Artisan) is a must-have for anyone who loves the collector’s signature mix of whimsical curiosities, beautiful objets and decoupage. The book is filled to the brim with illustrations, paintings and handwritten notes from his own collection of many years — from thousands of prints, he pulled 1,000, then whittled to 700, 400 and finally 300. And he’s encouraging readers to tear pages from the book and frame them. Here, Derian tells us what keeps him curious.

The most curious print, to me, in the book…
The séance, of course, seems the most mysterious — why is there a small boy at the table? Sometimes I think it’s me. I found this image at the Paris flea 20 years ago. The other one is the image of the two horses during a battle; why does one horse have human front feet?

My love of the curious, historical, artisanal stems from…
I have always been curious about life’s mysteries and about making things, which equals a love of things handmade and of antiquing. But I have no idea where it all comes from.

Why I wanted to do this book now…
After more than 30 years of being fascinated with paper, I thought it was time to do a book. I wanted to share my love of this imagery with people.

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