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Visual Arts Featured Projects:
Art of the Book


The Stroke Book Project
   by Peggy Dills Kelter, Visual Artist.

The Stroke Book is a wordless book that may be folded in many different ways, thereby telling many different stories. It is a wonderful and fun way to teach children about achieving flow in a book, and it also emphasizes the importance of the visual narrative.

Here's how to make a stroke book:

Give each child a large piece of drawing paper (at least 12"x18"; 18"x24" is great).

Set up some stations with black India ink or thinned black tempera, several different brushes (various shapes and sizes--Chinese and Japanese brushes are wonderful!) and a vessel for water. You may also offer other painting tools, such as feathers, sticks, etc. The object is to make many different kinds of strokes and marks, so the more tools, the better.

Encourage the children to make arbitrary lines on the paper, some vertical, some horizontal, some curved, some short, etc. Variety, variety, variety. Some of the lines should go off the page, so be sure to have some newspapers under the paper. No words or obvious figurative shapes or lines should be painted. Some lines should intersect. After papers are painted, leave them to dry.

When the papers are completely dry, the children will fold them into books. First fold the paper in half lengthwise (a hot dog is the way kids describe it!). The painted side should be the outside of the fold. Open the paper, and fold in half crosswise (a hamburger fold).

Fold the hamburger in half again crosswise (thereby making a hamburger a hot dog!) You should have a paper with eight sections. Unfold the paper until you're back to the original hamburger fold. Take a pair of scissors and cut along the lengthwise fold up to the first crosswise fold you see. Open the book. You should have a piece of paper with a slit running along the hot-dog fold. If the slit goes past the crosswise fold you cut too far. (Figure A)

Figure A
(Figure A)

Now for the magical, mystical transformation into a book. With the paper open, but still creased, pinch the center hamburger fold on each side of the hot-dog fold. Pull the paper apart so that the slit opens. Rotate the paper so that it becomes a three-dimensional cross shape. You now have the beginning of a book. (Figures B and C)

Figure B
(Figure B)
Figure C
(Figure C)
At this point, the student can decide which page will be first, which last simply by changing the way the book is folded. You'll discover that all those arbitrary lines miraculously start to tell a story. However, how the book is folded determines what kind of story it is (how does it start, where's the action, is there a climax, how does the story end). Within minutes, the children will start seeing wonderful, varied stories. Some will be fantastic, others quite rooted in reality. Have the students share their stories with the class. Videotape them if possible.


[<]Art of the Book Index


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