Everyone Can Make a Book

Start with an idea and a piece of paper, and you have the beginning of a book. Fold the paper in half. Then draw or write or create secret code or mark with musical symbols. It’s your idea, so express it in your own unique way.

Interior of child's book showing a person and a house with a tall chimney

Colored paper adds pizzazz! Don’t forget that paper has two sides. Be sure to remember the name of the author and illustrator.

The cover of a child's book showing a handwritten name, Alex

Stories can be told in many ways, and the tale might change each time. Young children often like to make audio recordings of stories. Adults who want to help might also write down the words.

You’ll find a million ways to embellish and add to your books. Check back and we’ll look at a few of them here.

A child's book with a figure that has a pop up nose and long arms made from paper. The text says, "He help other."
A a child's book with a figure embellished with a pop up nose and paper hair, arms and legs. The text says, "I am rober forever."
The cover of a child's book decorated with a rectangle of corrugated paper. The text says, "the Book UV the."

Silly Drawings!

If viral news is getting to you, take a break from work, school or washing everything in sight. Try blind contour drawing! I guarantee that you’ll create something strange and probably funny. Here’s my sketch.

I’m right handed. I drew with my right hand but made the entire sketch without looking at my paper. You can do it, too. All you need is something to draw, a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. I used a pen.

Step one: Place the tip of your pen at a spot on the inside of your paper. Then look at what you want to draw – the subject.

Step two: Focus your eyes on a point at the edge of your subject. Now move your gaze ever so slowly along that edge. Move your pen at the same time, noting every dip and variation that you see before you. Look only at your subject. Do NOT look at your drawing.

Step three: Follow the contours, moving in and out, all the way around your subject. You may draw both inside and outside edges to make a complex network of lines. Remember, go slowly. Keep your pen on the paper, and do not look at your drawing!

Step four: When you have finished, look at your paper. What do you think? I love the surprise of seeing what I’ve drawn.

As you do more drawing, you might change your process. Allow yourself to look at your paper now and then. Focus on the contours of your subject, but from time to time check the location of your pen. If you need to, lift your pen and move it.

When talk of viruses or social isolation gets you down, have some fun. Contour drawing is easy. It’s guaranteed to be silly, and you can share the results online!

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This approach to drawing was made popular by Betty Edwards in her book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Copyright Liz Macklin 2020

Dream and Design!

Put on an architect’s hat. You might discover a place filled with patterns and colors.

A place for friends.

A place for a party — with pets.

Cartoon of dog drawn by student next to a photo of dog. Both are placed near a round table with paper "food."

A place for quiet thoughts.

Small figured drawn by student and placed in an "alcove" created by tiny boxes.

A place to dream.

The children at Carlin Springs Elementary School created these designs in after school art club. Materials included recycled boxes, plastic lids, ribbons, beads, pipe cleaners, colored papers, markers, stickers, tape, glue, paint, and photos.

Often we look at books from the public library for inspiration. For younger children, you might read Home by Carson Ellis or In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck. For older children, I bring out a book I bought many years ago, Houses by Piero Ventura.  We design by drawing, cutting, folding, and gluing until our homes are complete!

Student holding stickers and working with an assortment of materials on the table.

Painting the Rain Forest

If you were an animal in the rain forest, would you be a butterfly? A toucan? An iguana? A jaguar?

Rain Forest Backdrop
Rain Forest Backdrop by Carlin Springs students | tempera on muslin

In art club after school, Carlin Springs students painted a wild setting for the spring play. They discovered inspiring scenes of forest canopies in books from the Arlington County Library, including Little Kids First Big Book of the Rain Forest by Moira Rose Donohue, The Amazon by Tom Jackson and What’s Up in the Amazon Rain Forest by Ginjer L. Clarke.

Students wrote the script and acted as animals alarmed by changes in their habitat. Katie McCreary and Ashley Hammond of the Educational Theatre Company led the writers and directed the performance — all in the spirit of learning through the arts!

Winter Birds

North American Birds Drawn By Fifth Grade Student
North American Birds | By Fifth Grade Student

With sleet and snow blowing across Arlington streets, the birds have disappeared from sight.  Looking for inspiration, kids in art club discovered the Audubon Society’s North American field guide. Their imaginations took off with drawings of colorful owls, finches, hummingbirds, tanagers and flamingos.

Winter Birds Around My Home published by the Iowa State College Extension Service
Winter Birds Around My Home published by the Iowa State College Extension Service

In a box with books from my childhood, I found a paperback published in 1948 by the Iowa State College Extension Service. It includes information on 24 birds with drawings and instructions for coloring.  Never miss an opportunity to use your color pencils!

On the crow, authors Thomas Scott and George Hendrickson wrote, “The ability of this crafty creature to perform such misdeeds as eating bird eggs, pulling corn and the like is due to its high degree of social cooperation. Although these birds are with us all year they are seen at their best in the large flocks which form in groves during the winter.” (page 20)

I hope your neighborhood is full of feathered neighbors. It’s not too late to put out birdseed. This handbook says cardinals prefer to feed off the ground and like seed plus a little fruit and insects.

Poems and Snow

Do poets wander alone “scribbling in notebooks, peering across moors, feeding ducks…?” In  “Mary Oliver and the Naturesque,”  Alice Gregory suggests that Oliver writes and invites us to ramble with her. As the poet says, “the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting.”

So … yesterday I wandered. After watching reports of far away blizzards, I followed sidewalks dusted with snow. It was my first time out taking photos, because last October I chipped a bone in my foot. Since I am just beginning to paint again, I’m posting this sketch.

Duck
Duck | watercolor | copyright Liz Macklin 2018

Gregory’s article appeared in Poetry magazine on February 16, 2011.

Watercolor Turnips

Watercolor paintings of turnips
Art by students at Carlin Springs Elementary School

A recipe for July watercolors:

  1. Step out to the backyard garden.
  2. Pick a few turnips and bring bring them to school.
  3. Take out the paints, brushes, paper and containers of water.
  4. Look at all the different greens and purples on the plants. See how the leaves curve in and out. Which part of the turnip grows underground? Why is the root purple?
  5. Paint!

Could your paintings also show the soil, the surrounding plants, and the animals that visit the garden?

For more ideas for school projects in the garden, check GreenSTEM Learning by Mary Van Dyke.

And if you’ll be in Arlington, Virginia, in October attend the 2017 Virginia Agriculture Summit.

Painting Creatures of the Reef

Photos of children painting and of the backdrop hung on stage
Painting a Backdrop Inspired by the Great Barrier Reef

No, say it isn’t so! The Great Barrier Reef is in trouble.

This year the kids at Carlin Springs Elementary School dove down under to visit the reef — all in their imagination. Inspired by their adventure, young actors created a play and young artists designed the backdrop. Together we admired a host of beautiful sea creatures, especially those in Here is the Coral Reef by Madeleine Dunphy and in Great Barrier Reef by David Doubilet. Ashley Hammond and Colleen Murphy of the Educational Theatre Company directed the performers, and Angel Lopez and I coached the artists.

Long live the reef!

Photo copyright Liz Macklin 2017

 

Antique Presses and Artists’ Books

Reviewing Presses
Frank Deichmeister admires the vintage presses at Tribune Showprint.

Last fall I zoomed to an era long before smart phones and social media with a visit to Tribune Showprint. It’s a workshop full of printing presses dating as far back as 1878. Known for years as the printer of the Benton County Tribune, the shop also made posters for store windows and outdoor advertising. As we admired the presses in operation, owner Kim Miller told the story of how she and her husband moved machines from Fowler, Indiana, to their current location in Muncie — all overnight to preserve the reputation as the oldest continuously operating print shop in the country.

2016_millerpress_posters
Kim Miller impresses Elaine Vidal with tales of the historic print shop.  Posters for recent events line the walls.

copy press
An antique press at the Book Arts Collaborative

At the studio of the Book Arts Collaborative next door, we admired books and letterpress cards designed by local artists and students from Ball State University.

I learned that before the invention of modern duplicating machines or carbon paper, clerks used special copy presses. The clerk placed an original document — with the ink still wet — against a sheet of thin onionskin paper. When pressed together, the papers printed a mirror image! The text on the copy could be read from the back when held up to the light from a window.

Student finishing hand sewn book
Student finishing hand sewn book

On returning home, I focused on ideas for design sessions with teens. I pulled out my copies of Creative Bookbinding by Pauline Johnson and Cover to Cover by Shereen LaPlantz and tested techniques for decorating papers and sewing hard covers. The students, under the direction of Erika Lucas, completed their projects in March. I stitched two books then and plan to sew again this week.

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On April 21 and 22, 2017, the Collaborative and Tribune Showprint will host Interrobang, a festival celebrating the craft and the art of the book.

Handsewn Books April 2017
Samples of hard cover books designed for lessons with teens | copyright Liz Macklin 2017