SchoolArts Magazine

AUG-SEP 2013

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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High School Studio Lesson WInnER! Keep Inspiration Alive Lesson Challenge Inspiration Lesson: "The Traveling Journal" by Nicole Brisco, October 2007. Transforming the Sketchbook Betsy DiJulio I was introduced to the concept of artist sketchbooks through Nicole Brisco's October 2007 SchoolArts lesson, "The Traveling Journal: A Different Kind of Sketchbook." A few years back, I invited her to my district to teach a workshop on engaging creativity through artist sketchbooks. The notion of a sketchbook as a place to express, explore, and experiment was a revelation to me because I had not come up through the ranks of art education preparation. I had switched careers from museum to education. Brisco's innovative approach to the artist sketchbook provides the context for the lesson that I adapted for my own classes. In the article, Brisco discusses the importance of providing teacher-established parameters to prevent her open-ended approach from lapsing into an "anything goes" assignment of dubious educational merit. Parameters In my lesson, I adopted the parameters Brisco mentions: drawing from life/observation in one's own style, considering the composition of each whole page, thinking creatively, and approaching each page as a "fine-art drawing." However, I formalized these parameters via a rubric checklist that could be cut apart and easily glued inside even the smallest book. A checklist of twenty items, each worth five points, under four headings— 34 August/September 2013 SchoolArts Guidelines, Core Technical Skills, Composition, and Creativity—was followed by a space for comments and a box for the score. Using Prepared Grounds I also adopted Brisco's emphasis on "prepared grounds"; that is, pages that students creatively alter before drawing or painting from observation on top. The prepared ground solves three issues in particular: (1) It removes the fear of the white page; (2) It answers the age-old question of "What do I do with the background?"; and (3) It provides students with visual information—or "surface events"—to which they can respond as they work on top and back-and-forth from positive to negative spaces. The Sketchbook Itself What I adapted in my lesson is the physical sketchbook itself, proving the familiar adage that "necessity is the mother of invention." For several years, our materials and supply budget allowed me to purchase small hardbound sketchbooks. This year, however, funds were inadequate and I was unable to purchase sketchbooks for my 120 students. A Ready-Made Solution After trying and failing to make sketchbooks, it suddenly occurred to me: Why couldn't I use children's books from the local thrift store? Practically speaking, they would be inexpensive (no more than a dollar each) and readily available with an almost unlimited supply. Students could choose a book that felt right—one that was a good size and shape for their hands. Plus, they could relate to their books on a personal level by choosing ones to which they had an attachment as a child or simply liked the look of. Best of all, the books came with ready-made prepared grounds. I was concerned that students might not appreciate the secondhand nature of the books, but the reverse proved true! As my student Sofia Ali said, "The thrift shop mini sketchbooks challenged me to go out of my way to transform a pedestrian book page into something I'd consider artful . . . it has been inspiring." Kathleen Jabs, the parent of Lydia, wrote me, "Lydia has been loving the book project you have them working on! I have to remind her to do other homework!" Students have embraced this approach with passion, eagerly pawing through the books to choose the "perfect" ones for them. They have immersed themselves in personaliz-

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