Tag: altered book

Distance Learning – Visual Journals

A visual journal page of a sign that says "don't stop art."

I recently got word from my school that we wouldn’t be back before April 13th. I have doubts that we will even return the 14th, but only time will tell. This means no students, no hands on learning, no art show, so many other cancellations of events and what we all consider the norm, gone.

Just two weeks ago I walked the line between is this really serious? and will we actually have school cancellations due to an illness? It only took until the end of that week to realize the severity of the situation we are in. I immediately began planning how I could continue to push art into the lives of my students during this, because at a time like this an outlet for our feelings is as important as hand washing (although wash your hands FIRST then start the creative outlet for your mental health).

What is most important to me is that we don’t stop art. That my students continue to flex their creative muscles in this time of isolation. So what do I do? What do educators do? How do we continue to provide for our students without having a face to face with them? These questions are what pushed me into the next phase of dealing with COVID-19, I was long out of denial, it was time to take action.

Luckily, I have a project that fits well into distance learning, visual journals. Before my students left I had them take their visual journals home. If you have not started this project, all your students need is a used hardback book that they (and their family members) no longer want. If paperback is all they have, use it! If a sketchbook or notebook is all they have, give it a go! If they have no bound book option, use a piece of paper. That most important part is getting started and making something.

MY DISTANCE LEARNING PLAN

For the next two weeks I have a solid distance learning plan that focuses on visual journals. Luckily, if we continue to teach and learn from home, this project can be extended. You can find all my resources, including a presentation, handouts, and more, on my TPT here for free. I also have many how to worksheets on visual journaling you can check out here. You can also continue reading below for the general outline of my plan.

TOPIC: VISUAL JOURNALS & COVID-19

For the first week of distance learning my students are focusing on what this current crisis looks like, by reading information on reputable websites such as the CDC. They then reflect on how this crisis is impacting them, their friends and family. Next, they begin planning out a spread (two facing pages) in their visual journal that sums up their coronavirus experience in one image.

My school is using technology already put in place to support us through distance learning. All assignments are posted to our class Blackbaud page. Completed assignments can be uploaded through the same system. This organizes who submitted which assignment when, without me doing the heavy lifting. In addition, we are using Microsoft Teams as a discussion board and file holder to organize all our documents into one place and as a secondary option for students to access what they need for their assignment.

If you don’t have technology in place to support you, it will take extra work, but it can be done. Google classroom is free and an amazing way to connect with your students in one place. E-mail is another option to at least get assignment sheets and information into your student’s hands (or inbox). They can e-mail you pictures of their visual journal pages that you post to a Flickr or similar page where students can check out each other’s work and comment on them. If you haven’t started a class Instagram yet, now is the time! This could be your online gallery of work and community space. Worse case scenario, you could mail packets out, although not ideal, it is an option if it’s feasible for you (heaven knows we need to be taken care of too. Make sure you take care of you!)

At the end of the first week my students only have to submit their reflection sheet and start brainstorming designs for their visual journal spread. I want us all to take baby steps at the beginning so we don’t burn out by the end. I am taking the less is more approach, while still giving my students the opportunity to express themselves.

At the end of the second week they will submit a photograph of their completed visual journal page to me. My students will be graded on all submitted work, not every school is, but grades are great motivation to work, so I am thankful for that.

VISUAL JOURNAL SUPPLIES & HOW TO

To complete this project students can use materials typically found at home to create beautiful works of art. Included in my free packet is a list of supplies they can creatively use they may not think of as art supplies. Below is a basic list to get you started:

  • Used hardback book
  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Sharpies
  • Tape
  • Paperclips
  • A computer to find images and a printer to print images
  • Foil
  • Paper bags
  • Wrapping paper

Because my students are already a couple of months into our visual journal project, we work on them every Friday at school, they have already been introduced to collaging, mixed media, and examples of visual journals and techniques. If you are starting from scratch, send them here to read through how tos or have them Google visual journal or altered books for ideas. Send the visual journal presentation in my free pack. Have the students take the reigns in their art making and find inspiration on their own. The internet provides almost limitless access to tutorials, information, and tips, encourage them to use it.

As your students work on their spreads don’t be afraid to create your own. Video your process, share what your reaction to coronavirus is. Be vulnerable with your students because we are all vulnerable right now. Although my school has prohibited video conferencing of any kind with students, due to the inability to oversee actions and to be free of liability of any inappropriate or poor conduct, I can share videos of me working. Although we aren’t in the classroom together, I believe hearing my voice my instill a sense of regularity into this process.

As we navigate through this unprecedented time, if we continue to be out of school I plan to post a list of visual journal prompts students can select from and create visual journal pages about. I will check in with their progress at least once a week, and have new spreads due every two weeks.

Your distance learning may look completely different from mine, but I hope this at least provides ideas to get you started. It’s overwhelming to change everything we have been trained to do, but we can do it and we can do it together.

OTHER DISTANCE LEARNING IDEAS

If you teach elementary school, middle school, or photography classes I have been working overtime to get distance learning packs put together for you! Read below for more information.

My retired art teacher mom and I created a distance learning pack for K-5 with projects designed specifically with the abilities and needs of each individual grade level in mind. Each lesson pack includes presentations, assignment sheets to help the parents and students, and step by step instructions through demonstration videos and handouts.

I have adapted my traditional artist trading card project into a distance learning focused one that includes a mail trading session between students. I know students miss each other and writing letters, creating art, and keeping in touch with something they can physically touch can make a huge difference. Check this lesson out here.

My coworker and I have put together four photography focused distance learning packs for you. One is a free pack that includes prompts for students to explore while at home. Two lesson packs focus on setting up and taking pictures at home through constructed landscapes indoors and a social commentary on the COVID-19 crisis. The fourth lesson takes an art historical approach looking at photographs that have changed the world. These packs could cover your class for the rest of the semester if needed.

In addition, I have two art history lessons up on prehistoric art. One is designed for upper elementary and young middle schoolers, while the other is designed for late middle and high schoolers. Art history is just as important to art making and could be a good solution to art distance learning for you.

Check my distance learning category on TPT and follow me to stay up to date with new products I get posted!

Ya’ll I miss my classroom, my students, my routine. Before this all I wanted was one snow day, now I would give anything to be back in my room looking at my kiddo’s facing and talking about art, or whatever topic was important in the teenage world that day.

Good luck to you as you go through this journey. Please reach out with questions, comments, or concerns. Click my social media buttons in the right menu bar to keep in touch.

A week ago I was at the beach (practicing social distancing but in a much more beautiful place) and now am I here. I am here and I am going to do this and soon this will be behind us. Thanks for stopping by!

Check out my most recent visual journal post that explains how to create a tape transfer in a visual journal using packaging tape and printing pictures.

Visual Journal Page 53: Full Heart, Heartbroken

A visual journal page with a cut out and background created with Mod Podge transfers.

THE STORY

This visual journal page was created back in 2012 I was at a school I knew was a short term situation. After a single year I felt too exhausted to stick it out, but somehow I pushed through an additional two years. My 35 students per class, nonexistent art budget, low administrative support, and the requirements I had to meet outside of the classroom were becoming a daunting tower of reasons I needed to find a way out.

However, despite all the marks against my school and against my job, there was one thing that kept tugging at me to stay. My kiddos. At a school like this it’s more difficult to be recognized as an employee, but it’s easy to be recognized by those who matter most, the students.

I had student who were incredibly difficult. Those relationships wore on me as much as the other ticks against the job. But, the students I connected with went deeper than any student relationships I have made at my current job. These students needed me. They needed my insight, outlook, experience, art tips, and life tips. They came from a variety of backgrounds from low income to upper class, two parent to no parent homes. I had to balance a huge range of needs, it was challenging, but it fulfilled me.

My current job comes with a big pile of plush. I have a well padded art budget, small class sizes, administrative support, and very well behaved students. But I am not needed here. I could walk out of my classroom at any moment and these kids would have ten other teachers more capable and caring than me to take my place. When I walked out of my last job my students didn’t have that. They were left with teachers in the same situation as me: worn out, worn down. Or they were left with teachers only working for their paycheck, unable to be fired despite poor job performance, watching the clock until retirement. I was heartbroken because I felt like I was failing them.

Leaving that school meant I left a huge unknown. I didn’t know who would take my place, I didn’t know if they would have support. I felt like I was abandoning them, letting them down. I felt so much guilt that I couldn’t fess up to my job change until the last days of school, and I only informed those who I felt closest to.

I snuck out of that job with my tail between my legs, but the sense of relief I felt driving off campus the final day is indescribable. For the first time in three years I had hope, aspirations, and excitement for what would came at the end of summer.

a visual journal page made with collage and mod podge transfers.

“It breaks my heart to walk away… but I can’t wait to see what my future holds.”

This visual journal page was created in my last days at my first job. It was my way to process my emotions, to face the fact that yes I was sad and that was okay but I was also thrilled for what was next, which was also okay.

I have been at my current school, my second job in the adult world, for going on eight years. This job comes with its own set of challenges. I am tapped on the shoulder to take on tasks often, I wear ten different hats other than teacher on any given day, I have very high expectations from my students, parents, peers, and administration. I have never worked harder in my life in the last eight years. But the huge different is how I feel at the end of every day. I do not go home exhausted. I do not go home morally torn apart, emotionally worn down. I wake up every morning ready to go to work and start my day. I don’t dread Mondays, the end of breaks. I look forward to the start of every school year.

Moral of the story is that we have to show up for our students. I wish I was able to show up every day for my kiddos at my last job, but the job didn’t allow me to. Although I am far down the totem pole if you stack up the faculty at my current school, I am a better teacher to my students because I am taking care of me. You have to take care of you.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Mod Podge
  • Printed images
  • Paint brush
  • Book pages
  • Thin Sharpie

HOW TO

To create this visual journal page I primarily used printed images. I wanted the yin/yang of my emotions at the time to be the focus of the page. I looked online and found a range of skies, from dark to light, and printed them out. I also knew I wanted a silhouette representation of me on both sides of the story, preparing to leave and my new beginning. After finding these and printing them out, I began laying out the spread.

I ripped the printed sky into strips and positioned them on the page. After cutting out the silhouettes I played around with placement, but felt like the spread was lacking a focal point. After some brainstorming I decided to include a heart to add a pop of color, focal point, and provide another visual for the way I was feeling.

After finding a heart image and printing it I created a Mod Podge transfer on a separate sheet of paper that I had collaged ripped up book pages on. Mod Podge transfers create a semi-transparent image and they are much more interesting to look at if they have something behind in the image.

MOD PODGE TRANSFER HOW TO

  1. Paint a coat of Mod Podge onto your image and let it dry.
  2. Paint another coat of Mod Podge on your image and let it dry.
  3. Paint a third coat of Mod Podge on your image and while it’s wet place it face down onto the surface you are transferring it to.
  4. Let it dry.
  5. Once the Mod Podge is try, wet the back of the paper. Once the water soaks in, carefully rub the paper until it starts peeling off.
  6. Continue to rub the paper off until you can clearly see the image you transferred.
  7. Let the image dry and check to see if you need to re-wet and rub off paper in any other areas.
  8. REMINDER: You are creating a mirror image, any area with text will show up in reverse. To avoid that flip the image before you print.

I then printed a second heart image, in reverse, to create two sides of the heart. After finishing a Mod Podge transfer of the second heart I glued them to either side of a book page still attached to the binding of my book. I then cut the heart out, added pieces of book pages to create a space to write words, and wrote the words on top.

I loved the look of the Mod Podge transfer of the heart, so I decided to create Mod Podge transfers of the entire background. Once I finished with each strip of sky, I glued it down. I then added a ripped out encyclopedia page to the center of each page in my visual journal and layered another strip of sky on top.

Last but not least I added the silhouettes to each page.

CHALLENGE

Cut a shape out of a page still attached to your book binding to add an extra element to your visual journal spread. Try focusing on a moment when you felt pulled in different directions.

Interested in learning more about visual journaling or introducing them in your classroom? Get everything you need to teach or learn about visual journals, plus a ton of printable resources (including my magazine fade and tape transfer handouts) here.

Want to see more examples of using Mod Podge transfers in visual journals? Check some out here, here, and here.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and visual journal page! Help me spread the word about what I do by sharing this post on your social media outlet of choice! Thanks for stopping by!

Visual Journal Page 41: Already on Edge

I was already on edge.

I had woken up early, showered, carefully selected my most professional outfit. I was driving on 285 en route to an interview.

It wasn’t just any interview. It was an interview at a well regarded private school that happened to be across the street from where my husband worked, we could carpool. I would have an actual budget to teach art. I would have small class sizes. I would work in a building dedicated to the fine arts. I could move on from my current job where I felt worn out, unappreciated, overworked, and like I was only a warm body available to proctor standardized test after standardized test.

A lot was weighing on this moment. I had to crush it. I couldn’t stay in my current job another year. Something needed to change.

All of these thoughts circled my head when suddenly taillights flashed ahead; the sound of crunching, and squealing tires followed. I glanced quickly to my right and miraculously in that split second the lane was open, I jumped over just in time. I had just missed being another car in a string of crushed metal.

A few seconds earlier or later and I could’ve been stuck on 285 while my interviewees awaited my arrival. I felt a wave of relief followed by the anxiety of almost being in an accident.

I was already on edge.

By the time I reached my interview my nerves had calmed, I had collected my thoughts, I was ready. I walked onto the school’s campus and was overwhelmed by how beautiful it was. I sat through five different interviews, and while intimidating, they were all so welcoming and nice. It felt like a place I could belong.

Seven years later that 285 corridor has become my commute. Hopefully I will continue to avoid accidents on my way to my beautiful campus and cushy private school job.

Supplies:

  • Visual journal,
  • Rubber cement or Mod Podge
  • Scissors
  • Watercolor
  • White paper
  • Book pages
  • Thin sharpie

How To:

To create this visual journal page I wanted to recreate the scene of the accident. As I drove past and glanced to my left I saw at least three cars had rear ended each other, but quite a few were stopped. I decided to stick with that number, after all odds are more pleasing in art.

I sketched out the crunched up cars on a separate sheet of paper and filled them in with watercolor. While the watercolor was still wet I blew it where the cars made contact to create a splatter effect. Once the first layer of watercolor dried, I add more detail and some shadows and highlights. I cut it out once it was dry.

Next, I cut out triangle shapes from two different colors of book pages. I wanted to create a graphic, loud symbol that would somewhat blend into the background. I glued the smaller triangles on top of the a larger triangles, then carefully placed them in the book. Once I was satisfied with their placement, emphasizing the cars hitting each other, I glued them down.

The watercolor cars were added next, then a few more book page triangles to the bottom. Last but not least I added the text using a thin sharpie.

Challenge:

Create a visual journal page about a stressful moment in your life. Incorporate cut up book pages somewhere in your image.

Check out more of my visual journal pages here. Interested in teaching visual journals? Check out my TPT lesson here.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! Help me spread the word about visual journals with others. Thanks for stopping by.

Visual Journal Page 12: Fall

Visual Journal Page 12-Fall

I love every season of the year, but my favorite has to be fall. I have made many past visual journal pages about fall. I can’t help but be inspired by the vibrant colors of the changing leaves, crisp smells, the cool twinge that appears in the air.

Nick and I are incredibly lucky to have a massive, old ginkgo tree in front of our house. Every fall it reminds me why I love the season so much. I watch as the fan shaped leaves transition from green to yellow. Sometimes it feels like it happens overnight. I wake up in the morning to a beaming, glowing tree, covered in golden yellow leaves.

This ginkgo tree has not only inspired my visual journal, but also my artwork. Every year I find myself in my front yard, crawling around on my hands and knees, collecting the best specimens of fall ginkgo leaves. I press them in my sketchbooks, allow them to dry, then layer them into my encaustic works of art. I love having this piece of the year captured forever, preserved between layers of paper and wax.

Check out last year’s fall post here. Check out a few of my ginkgo inspired works of art here.

SUPPLIES:

  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Scissors
  • Watercolor pencils
  • Water
  • Paint brush
  • Pencil
  • Sharpie

HOW TO:

This visual journal page was fairly simple to make. I have to admit, it isn’t one of my favorites. I aimed for simple in order to put focus on the leaves, but I think I missed the mark in portraying the beauty of the leaves. Although it isn’t the page I am post proud of, I still wanted to share the image, story, and process. After all, both our failures and successes are all important steps in the learning and creating process.

I started by sketching out the ginkgo leaf shapes on watercolor paper. I wanted them to transition from large to small, to look almost like a single leaf floating in the wind, moving away from the viewer. Once I had the outline roughly (and lightly) drawn out, I began adding color with watercolor pencils. I wanted a sense of fluidity to the leaves, but I still wanted them to be defined. The watercolor pencil was a good solution, because it allowed me to emphasize certain areas, while allowing other areas to be loose.

After I marked out color, I went in with a wet paintbrush, painted over the colored edges, and moved the pigment toward the center of the leaves. I kept going back and forth between adding color with the pencil, and smoothing it out with the water. I did hit points here and there where I would have to be careful with the damp surface. The tip of the watercolor pencil would periodically want to melt into the water, and add a large, dark spot. It is always best to start light and build color to avoid this.

After getting a base of color, I allowed my leaves to dry. I added more detail, various shades of yellows and oranges with the pencils, and added more water. I kept the process going until I was satisfied. Once the leaves dried for the final time, I cut them out using scissors. I used rubber cement to glue them in the book.

Once I finished placing and gluing the leaves, I took a step back, and decided it still looked empty. To try to fill space I added “fall” with sharpie and a few watercolor pencil lines bled out underneath the text. I decided I was satisfied and stopped. Looking back, I still think the page looks incomplete. I haven’t yet decided how to improve it, and until I figure that out, it will stay as is.

CHALLENGE:

Create a visual journal page about your favorite season. Try out your own set of watercolor pencils in the page.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. Help me spread the word about visual journals by sharing with others, I couldn’t do it without you. Thanks for stopping by! Interested in teaching visual journals to your students? Check out my visual journal lesson plan here and bundle pack here.

Visual Journal Page 27: Discover Beauty in the Unexpected

Visual-Journal-Page-27-Beauty-in-Unexpected-Places

As an artist it is my job to create visual representations. Whether this means using paint, clay, collage, or photography, is realistic or abstract,  I am presenting an image to my viewer. As an artist it is my goal to bring light to my subject matter and in turn enlighten my viewer with my ideas and intent. What I love about art is the ability to turn the wheels in people’s brains, to watch their expression as they take in a piece, and hear what interpretation they have tacked onto my image. I do not believe a successful work of art requires immediate understanding. I also don’t believe a work of art can be created without intent. Even a Jackson Pollock splatter painting or a Mark Rothko color field has intent. They chose those colors, inspiration was evoked, ideas sprung to mind, movements were made, emotion was laid down, and with every choice they made intent was spilled onto their canvas. Intent can be an emotion, it can be nonrepresentational, it can even become the unknown.

I believe every work of art has a purpose, however intent is often what I struggle with. People ask questions, submit their interpretations, and wait for your explanation. An explanation is always required, I suppose it’s our basic human curiosity that demands the question why. I am guilty of it myself, I am always asking why, and yet I often cringe at the question. I have a difficult time defining my work. With every piece I start with a concept, an idea, and I explore it through my material. I put emotion into my work, I put meaning, and purpose. But when it comes time to explain I stutter, stumble, and BS my way through it.

Perhaps I find it difficult because I am not a deep, dark, brooding artist, struggling with depression, and my own creative genius. Part of me yearns for that torment, for just a taste. Perhaps my art would be easier to define if it had these attributes, if it came from inspiration I could easily pin point. However, I must remind myself if all artists pulled inspiration from the deep, gloomy, corners of their souls, all artwork would look similar, and a trip to the art museum would turn into a very depressing affair.

I have pondered this question of purpose over the years. Writing about my journals has given me a space to explore this, to re-think the reason why I created in the first place. What I have discovered is that every part of me plays a role in my work. My curiosity, need to experiment, happy nature, impatience, and spots of melancholy all contribute to a finished work of art.

As an eternal optimist I have discovered I always strive to present something beautiful in my artwork. In my ladies in gowns body of work I took women, put them in ornate dresses, and set them in ugly or unusual situations. Broken glass, awkward body positions, and dark backgrounds surround these prime and proper ladies (lady painting:Alcoholic Haze). I put a spin on a rather grim situation, trapped in a cage, by including typically beautiful objects such as flowers and birds in my pieces Trapped and Caged. Discarded items such as forks, spoons, and door handles are re-purposed in my series of experimental mixed media. Although each piece is different, they all carry a common theme, I am in a constant battle to try to find the beautiful in the ugly.

Perhaps this visual journal page visually reflects my artist statement. This photograph of an abandoned garage. Graffiti covered the sides, it looked like a terrifying building to enter, a structure created with purpose, only to be deserted and left to rot. This was a building I often passed, but it wasn’t until a trek through the snow for a day of sledding that I truly recognized it’s beauty. The city was covered with a blanket of white. The pristine snow covered the details of every street, building, and house, except this one. This abandoned, barred up building came to life against the white. The yellow, green, and red popped and suddenly it felt inviting. The bright red door shone through the black grates, beckoning me in yet blocking my entrance. It was a moment I had to capture in a picture and transform into a work of art between the pages of my journal. This was a moment of intentional clarity, I had discovered the beauty in the unexpected.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Scissors
  • Rubber cement
  • Mod podge
  • Book pages
  • Packaging tape
  • Newspaper
  • Colored Pencil
  • Sharpie

HOW TO

To create this visual journal page I did a lot of layering. I layered a mod podge transfer of the photograph I took and tape transfers from a newspaper. I started with the mod podge transfer, and decided to transfer it onto extra pages I removed from my book, and glue it back into my book. Once I had my book page to transfer onto I printed my image on a laser printer and began painting Mod Podge on top. To create a Mod Podge transfer you must paint two layers of Mod Podge on the image, allowing it to try in between. After the second layer dries you paint a third layer, and place it face down the paper, and again allow it to dry. Once dry, you wet the back of the image and peel the paper off. The ink sticks to the layered mod podge, which sticks to the page. The end result is a semi transparent mirror image of the original photograph. To read more specifics about a Mod Podge transfer go here.

I typically do my Mod Podge transfers on a separate sheet of paper, then glue it into my book. I do this because sometime I have to re-do a transfer if something happens in the process, and you have to add water to the back, and I did’t want to end up with a wrinkly, warped page in my book. Once my transfer was complete I carefully ripped along the edge of the image, placed it in my book, and traced around the edge to create a guide for the background. I wanted to wait to glue down my transfer because I knew I was going to add a tape transfer to the background, it’s always better to work from the back forward, it will make it easier to layer.

For the background I did a very easy tape transfer using packaging tape and newspaper. All you do is cut off a piece of tape, lightly place it on top of newspaper, and rip it off. The ink from the newspaper easily transfers to the tape, and you end up with words stuck to a clear background. I did this with newspaper and slightly yellowed book pages to get a mix of gray and brown in my background. After I had my transfer complete all I did was stick it to the page. Because I drew an outline of where my Mod Podge transfer would be glued, I knew how far down to tape my transfers.

Once my background was complete I glued my Mod Podge transfer on top. Last but not least I wrote “Discover beauty in the unexpected” on a separate sheet of paper using sharpie. I then colored on top with a brown colored pencil to help it blend in with the brownish background. I ripped out the words and glued it down to finish the page.

CHALLENGE

Try out the new tape transfer technique! Grab packaging tape, a stack of newspapers, book pages, or both and get to work. Incorporate it into your next page!

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