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.