ARTS 622
Mixed Media and the Unique Artist's Book

Rhea Nowak         

Course Description

Working with mixed media, we will create unique artist’s books in which a series of visual and tactile expressions unfold. The book format offers the visual artist a sense of performance, in which the work of art is experienced over time.  It also offers the opportunity to create a complex work that is experienced through the intimacy of touch as well as sight.  We will begin with some basic book forms such as the simple codex, a stab stitch book and an accordion book and then combine and expand them using some of the possibilities that open up when various wet and dry drawing media and collage are layered and combined.  Working thorough a series of projects with specific parameters students will explore how the book can assist in the development of content and contribute to their art making process.  We will consider the compositional elements of a book including order, movement, rhythm and pacing, and the incorporation of text. And we will think out of the usual “book/box” and consider how the content and the structure of a book can expand and influence each other. And we will seriously play with our materials.  Both in progress group discussions and finished project critiques will be used to share technical, formal and contextual insights.  We will make a visit to a collection of artist’s books to see how other artists have worked with books.  

Recommended reading:
Structure of the Visual Book by Keith A. Smith
Artist’s Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook edited by Joan Lyons
Cover to Cover by Shereen LaPlantz
Other suggested reading is: The Century of Artist’s Books by Joanna Drucker, and Bookworks by Sue Doggett.


As this is a graduate course I expect you to be highly self-motivated.  This course is demanding in terms of projects to be completed.  I also expect you to be self-directed in terms of content initiation, though I am happy to give you support in how to develop an idea or theme.  Please bring all questions, as seemingly simple as they sometimes can feel, to class.  Questions can often open more doors than answers.  And be prepared to take risks and allow yourself to let go of any self-limitations you may unwittingly enforce- this is how we all grow as creative artists and human beings.


Visual art critiques are a forum for discussion and the exchange of ideas.  They give us the opportunity to clarify what is working and what can be improved upon technically, formally, and conceptually in a piece.  Crits allow you to hear what others are thinking and feeling in response to your work.  You will be expected to discuss your own and others work critically, analytically, and respectfully. I am happy to meet with you before class if you want to discuss your work further than what we cover in class.

Visual Research

Looking at art is inspiring, encouraging and challenging.  Please use the resource of the Art Library in the (pink) Davidson Art Center.  Browse and allow yourself to be drawn in and them follow up by finding out more about what it is that catches your interest.  Art is visual communication; allow it to reach you by actively seeking it out and being open to what it might say.


Evaluation will be based on a daily book, a collaborative book, and a final project as well as approximately 4 other projects. If a piece is turned in on time and completed to the best of your ability you are always welcome to redo or rework it if you are not satisfied with it or the grade. Student work is evaluated on an individual basis, taking into account the following:

            •           Effort-participation, involvement, and progress
            •           Skills-technique, execution and presentation
            •           Productivity-completion, thorough exploration of all assignments
            •           Creativity - inventiveness and originality

Grading Policy:

A         Excellent-The student has more than fulfilled the requirements of the course showing excellence in effort, skills and
conceptual understanding. They have moved well beyond their own expectations, and continually challenge themselves. 

B          Very Good- The student has moved beyond the basic requirements of the course. Work presented shows competence in effort, skills and conceptual understanding. The student has begun to challenge him or herself and move beyond their own expectations. 

C         Adequate- Course requirements are fulfilled adequately. Projects presented are beginning to show an understanding of the medium. 

D         Barely Passing- all requirements are not completed, or completed inadequately, a general disregard for the course and its participants is demonstrated. 

F          Failing-Totally inadequate work, attitude, attendance, and participation 

You are bound by the Wesleyan Honor code:

Tentative Course Outline
September 12

Introductions, expectations, plan, materials,
Collecting and gluing,
Making a pamphlet,
Folding signatures, materials for next class.

September 19

Making a hardbound codex
Accordion books
            Project: The Accordion book due in two weeks
            Project: The Daily Book due next to last class
Materials for next class

September 26

Visit to the Wesleyan Library Special Collections
Stab stitch binding
            Project: Trans/Trace book due in two weeks
            Materials for next class

October 3

Textures: actual and visual
            Due: the Accordion book
            Project: Collaborative books due last class
Studio time

October 10

Text- methods and manipulations
            Due: Trans/trace book
            Project: “Textbook” due week 6  (after break)
Studio time

October Break no class October 17th

October 24

Due: “Textbook”
Project: The Altered or Reincarnated book due in two weeks

Gather questions and requests for Suzi for 2nd visit to special collections
October 31

Meet with Suzy in Special Collections
Project: Final Project discussed due last class

November 7

Due: The Reincarnated book
Discussion: What assumptions are we making when we say “book”?
Are those assumptions necessary?
            Project: Options: Alternative materials or Difficult book due two weeks

November 14

Individual meetings about final projects
Studio time

November 21

Due: Alternative materials or Difficult book
            Studio time

November 28

Due: Daily book
            Studio time

December 5

Final class
Due: Daily book, and Final project

Tools and Materials

Pencils and Erasers
Scissors and /or utility knife
Cutting board
Metal ruler
Button thread
Embroidery floss
Bone folder (optional)
Binder’s clips
Glue- PVA or white glue
Wax paper
Scrap magazines for gluing on
Pallet- for glue and for paint
Cheap brushes
Watercolor brushes and/or acrylic brushes
Bamboo brushes (optional)
Other possibilities include: Stamp pad and letter set and/or Stencils 

MATERIALS (other possibilities may come up during the class)
Paper: Western (watercolor, drawing etc.)
Asian (Mulberry, Hosho, Kitikata etc.)
Tracing or Denril
Found, scraps etc.
Book board
Book cloth (optional)
Watercolor set (Reeves or Marie’s is fine) or acrylic paints
Water soluble crayons and /or pencils
Black India ink, colored acrylic inks (optional)
Powered charcoal and graphite (optional)
Gesso or white acrylic paint
China Markers (grease pencils) and/or Crayons