Altered Books

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Art 2: Painting and Drawing have started their altered books.  It is a project I have been doing for 5 years and every year is a completely different experience.  Every year I don’t know what to expect.  Every year I say I am not going to do them again next year; and you know what, I don’t listen and I do them again.

Our school library removes books from its circulation every year and they are free for the taking.  So, in the spring time, I load up on books that I think will be good canvases for next year.  I pick the books carefully.  They are always hard covered.  I pick based on size, both width/height and thickness.  I look at titles that might be interesting to the kids.  For, when I choose books to alter for myself, these are the things I base my choice on.

I introduce the project by talking about how the books are being expelled and we are going to recycle and reuse these books.  I talk about how the book will provide many canvases in one place for the artist to work on one theme.  I tell them that many artists work around a single theme on several artworks and that this is good practice for that.  I also mention that it is good practice for those who will be going to AP Art and will have to come up with a concentration.

From there we talk about the book expectations and the prompts.  I expect each book to have a minimum of 6 pages.  I expect each book to have a cover and a table of contents (listing which prompts were used for which artworks.)  I expect the book to have a theme.  I expect each page to have originated from one of the prompts.  Other than that, there are no other “rules”.

I am sure what you are asking is what are these prompts?  Here is the list of prompts.  The prompts are a way to help the students get their juices flowing.  They are a starting point, or a jumping off point.  They are a beginning…but NOT an ending.  I stress this. They are to take a prompt and use it to help them create an artwork around their theme.  They can interpret the prompt any way they want.  There is not a right or wrong answer. (Unless they are wanting to use copyrighted or trademarked images of course.) Prompts include drip paint and make a print, layers, texture, sew page, and many others.  I ask students to use a prompt once and only once as their jumping off point.  I want them to explore different ways of making art…adding materials they may not have thought of or doing things they may have at one point shrugged off.  And again, I stress the prompts are starting points, not ending points.  And this year, I think they are really understanding that.

This year I decided to try something different.  After talking with several teachers about process over product, I decided to have that be the emphasis on this project. Normally I grade each page individually.  And normally, I hate that process.  I could not come up with a better way to grade the book though.  I even told the students that I would be grading the book that way on the first day of the project, a Monday.  On Tuesday I walked in and said I had changed my mind and we were going to concentrate on the process instead.  I said that I would rather them try 10 new things and work really hard and have their book fail, but having learned something over having a fabulous book where they learned nothing new, took no chances, and didn’t grow as an artist.  I told them on Fridays we would have a reflection on what they did that week and how they acted like artists and did what artists did.  They seemed to be okay with that.   You can read about what I set up in the second half of this post.

And, that Friday we had our first reflection.  I have yet to open the document with their responses. I am scared to see what they wrote.  I don’t know why.  I am excited, but nervous.

In any case, I have watched as half of one class is invested in this and becoming excited at the prospects of what they can make. And I have watched the many of my other class bring their book home with them and back the next day or stop in during morning tutorials to work on their book.  I love it that they are excited about it.  It is a great feeling when a student shyly comes to you and asks if it is okay if they do this or try this.  And then to see their face light up when I gladly say yes.

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3 responses »

  1. Pingback: Artistic Process Reflections | Art Class by Mrs. B

  2. Pingback: Altered Books Revisted | Art Class by Mrs. B

  3. Pingback: Shifting Focus | Art Class by Mrs. B

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