ARTS 622
Mixed Media and the Unique 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, such as "the tracing book," "the window book," and "the reincarnated or altered book," 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 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 artists' books to see how other artists have worked with books.

Recommended reading includes Keith A. Smith, Structure of the Visual Book; Joan Lyons, ed., Artist's Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook; Shereen LaPlantz, Cover to Cover; Joanna Drucker, The Century of Artist's Books; and Sue Doggett, Bookworks.

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 and analytically. I am happy to meet with you before or after 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 Davidson Art Center. Browse and allow yourself to be drawn in and then 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 their 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
June 27 Introductions, expectations, plan, materials
Collecting and gluing
Making a pamphlet
Folding signatures, materials for next class
June 29 Making a hardbound codex
Project: The Accordion book due in one week
Project: The Daily Book due last class
Materials for next class
July 4 July 4th no class
July 11 Visit to the Wesleyan Library Special Collections
Due: The accordion book
Stab stitch binding
Project: Trans/Trace book due in one week
Materials for next class
July 18 Textures: actual and visual
Project: Collaborative books due last class
Studio time
July 20 Due: Trans/trace book
TEXT-Methods and manipulations
Project: "Textbook" due Monday of week 5
Studio time
July 25 Project: The Altered or Reincarnated book due in one week
July 27 Final Project discussed due last class
Gather questions and requests for Suzi for 2nd visit to special collections
August 1 Due: The "Textbook" and the Altered book
Project: Options of doing a window, shaped or difficult book due in one week
Give Suzi requests and suggestions
August 3 Meet with Suzi in special collections
Studio time
August 8 Due: Window, shaped or difficult book
Studio time
August 10 Final class
Daily book, Collaborative books, and Final project
the class can decide as a group to use this as studio time and meet the following Monday as we missed a class on July 4th
Materials List
Materials for first class meeting:
Wet (water base) and dry drawing materials you currently have including, but not limited to: pencils, pens, drawing inks, watercolors, water soluble pencils and /or crayons, grease pencils, pastels (will need fixative).

Beginning of collage materials collection:
20 sheets of 8 1/2x 11office copy paper or 9x 12

drawing or sketch pad paper
Heavier paper, up to 140lb (250gm2), either one sheet
@ 22x 30or 2 sheets @ 11x 14
Utility knife and blades
Metal ruler 18
Embroidery floss- 2or 3 colors
White button thread
2 needles1) able to accommodate the floss comfortably
               2) able to accommodate the button thread

Scissors and/or utility knife
Cutting board
Metal ruler
Carpenter's Square
Button thread
Embroidery floss
Bone folder (optional)
Binder's clips
Old metal spoon
Glue - PVA or white glue
Wax paper
Scrap magazines
Palet - for glue and for paint
Cheap brushes
Watercolor brushes and/or acrylic brushes
Bamboo brushes (optional)

Western (watercolor, drawing, etc.)
Asian (Mulberry, Hosho, Kitikata, etc.)
Tracing or Denril
Found, scraps etc.

Book board
Book cloth
Watercolor set (Reeves or Marie's is fine)
OR acrylic paints
Water soluble crayons and/or pencils
Black India ink-colors (optional)
Acrylic inks
Powered charcoal and graphite (optional)
China Markers (grease pencils) and/or crayons

Other possibilities include:
Stamp pad and letter set
Any other possibilities may come up during the class

Sources for Materials and Tools
Jerry's Art-A-Rama
West Hartford, CT 860/232-0073

Providence, RI 401/331-3780
New Haven, CT 203/624-5000
111 4th Avenue, NY 212/777-5353
237 West 23rd Street, NY 212/675-8699

Pearl Paint
Canal and Mercer, NY 212/431-7932
23rd and 2nd Streets, NY 212/529-2179
Central Square, Cambridge, MA 617/547-6600

Mail Order Catalogues
Daniel Smith, 800/426-6740,
Book Makers International, 301/604-7787,

UConn Co-op
Storrs,  CT 860/486-3537

Dick Blick
Plainville, CT 860/747-5551
Newtown, CT 203/270-8396

New York Central Art Supply
4th and 11th Streets, NY 212/473-7705

Tales (bookbinding sullies)
West 20th Street and 5th, NY 212/219-0770

Various Ocean State Job Lots
Your local hardware store