Lesson 1: With Our Hands

Material Exploration

Art 3; Kaitlynn Mockett


Stage 1

BIG IDEA: This lesson will serve as the introduction to the unit. Students will be experimenting with various materials to create a cover for their visual journal. This visual journal will be used throughout the remainder of the course as a mind drop – for sketching, homework/classwork assignments, concept and material exploration and whatever else the students see fit.

Established Goals (GPS):

Students will understand the deeper meanings of concept and how it can affect their works.
Students will understand the known uses of the materials they have been provided.
Students will understand the importance of sketching, planning and self-discovery through daily journaling.
Students will start to understand the connection between material and identity.

Possible Misunderstandings:
Students may struggle with connecting material exploration to ideas of intangible emotions.
Students may not plan their current artworks and may not understand the opportunity or importance of the visual journal
Students may not feel safe sharing private information in a book.

Essential Questions:
What does intangible mean?
What are the uses of a visual journal?
What is the importance of a visual journal to YOU?
In what ways can materials relay feelings or ideas?
How is concept related to our work and how do we talk about it?

Students will know:
Students will know the difference between tangible and intangible things.
Students will know how to create a book cover
Students will know the functions of a visual journal
Students will know how to prepare a work with gesso
Students will know how to do tape transference
Students will know how to embroider three basic stitches
Students will know the differences between several adhesives, including rubber cement, gesso, modpodge, and tape and which materials are appropriate for what projects.

Students will be able to:
Students will be able to connect visual journals to art history through the discussion of other artists that used sketchbooks to plan and express ideas.
Students will be able to discuss concepts and how they correlate to their works of art.
Students will be able to justify their material choices in the creation of their book covers.

Stage 2

Performance tasks:

  • Class discussion on tangible versus intangible: which do you prefer and why?
  • Creating a visual journal cover that reflects an intangible idea of their choosing.
  • In-process critique
  • Assemblage of journal cover onto visual journal taking craftsmanship, creativity and concept into account.

Other evidence:

  • Weather check –daily conversation at the beginning of class “if you were the weather today, what would you be?”
  • One on one conversation – discuss assignment, understandings, misunderstandings, conceptual successes or areas of improvement, offer other options or ideas for direction of the piece.

Adaptations for diverse learners:

  • For advanced students, require the students to include the inside covers of their visual journals as well as the first and last page, encouraging the ideas of “bookends” and how their intangible idea can encompass or envelop all of the work they will be creating throughout the semester.
  • For students with additional needs, provide different materials if necessary, or allow teaching aid to assist or guide student, but encourage student to do their own work. If needed, complete folds and assist in attaching the cover to the book.

Stage 3

Sequence of Instruction:

Day 1: Class Discussion

Can anyone help me define the word tangible?
In response, what does intangible mean?
Can you give me some examples of intangible things?
Do you consider identity intangible or tangible?

“Taking into consideration the definitions of intangible, you will be creating a cover for your visual journal based on an idea that usually cannot be physically touched, handled or manipulated.”

  • Day 1 will be a mostly experimental day. It will begin with the above discussion, the project will be discussed in light, and then students will be given an array of materials to “test” together to find a combination of two or more that deliver or communicate their intangible idea of choice.
  • We will briefly discuss the uses of visual journals and the many artists that use them (DaVinci, Munch, Bell). We will also discuss contemporary altered books, visual journals and the movements that have grown from them (post-secret, the sketchbook project)
  • I will supply supporting or guiding questions in the process of selecting their materials.

    “Think of the textures of the materials you are choosing. What do they say? Do they work well together? Are they conflicting? Be conscious of these questions when making your selection.”
    “Color is never something to overlook. Think of your intangible idea and how it makes you FEEL. Color is an incredible assistant in the delivery of feeling or emotions to an artwork and can influence how your viewers read or interpret your work.”
    “We know about balance and composition, but in this case, the viewer will be seeing different parts of this work of art at different times. Consider finding a way to connect the inside, front, spine, back and back inside cover in your design/compositional layout.”

Day 2: Beginning the cover

8:30-8:35 –
“weather check”
8:35-8:45 –
I have laid out several “grounds” for covers – ie, watercolor paper, cardstock, newsprint, craft paper/brown paper and fabric. I will also have samples ready to show how different materials take to different grounds. Students will be given a 6×6 square of each ground to experiment on with their two or more materials of choice from Day 1. We will have a brief discussion of what has been done to each sample and what materials typically work best on each.
8:45-9:10 –
Students will experiment on their sample grounds with their chosen materials. I will answer questions, ask questions and give assistance or mini demos when needed or asked.
9:10-9:55 –
“I know ask that you select your ground of choice so that we may do the measuring and folding for each visual journal before class is out today.” Each student will get out their visual journal (altered book) and we will take measurements: Height will need to be as accurate as possible, but length will measure the front cover, back cover and spine plus 2-4 additional inches per side, based on the wish of the student. I will do a quick check with each student to make sure they feel comfortable with their measurements, and then they will cut their ground. If grounds need to be sealed (fabric), we will seal them and place them on the drying rack to set. Those who do not have to seal may begin to work on their covers.
9:55-10:00 –
Students will be asked to place their covers either on the drying rack or in their storage cubby. Materials will be returned to their proper organization bin in the center table or on the shelves. Tables must be completely cleaned off before leaving class.

Day 3: Work Day

8:30-8:35 –
“weather check”
8:35 – 8:45 –
Quick review over what we covered the day before for anyone who was absent or was not paying proper attention.
8:45-9:55 –
Students will continue to work on their visual journal covers. For those interested, I will perform two small demos – one on embroidery, another on resist paintings. These will be given for the students that are interested and I will not require all students to watch. These demos will take no longer than 20 minutes (together).
9:55 – 10:00-
Announcement that the next class period will hold an in-process critique. Clean up spaces, place works on drying rack or in storage space, return materials to their proper storage spaces either in the center of the room or on the shelves.

Day 4: In-Process Critique and Work Day

8:30-8:35 –
“weather check”
8:35-9:00 –
In-process critique. Students will lay their works out on their desk, as a class we will walk around, take a look at everyone’s progress and then regroup to discuss everyone’s work. Students should think of one positive comment and one positive suggestion they feel would make the work better. Alternative: Post-it Critique
9:00 – 9:15 –
Announce that the next class period will be the final work period and that covers should be ready to attach by the last portion of tomorrow’s class. Allow time for questions or discussion if students are interested. If not, continue to work day.
9:15-9:55 –
Work time.
9:55 – 10:00-
Put covers away, clean all materials and place them in proper storage area.

Day 5: Assembly

8:30-8:35 –
“weather check”
8:35 – 9:30 –
Allow students time to complete finishing touches on their covers. Remind them to crease the covers where they will be folded around the covers of their visual journals.
9:30 – 9:50-
Give demo for attaching cover to visual journal. Students will not be able to complete this process during this class period because the covers will need to be laminated in order to protect them and help them last a long period of time. Students will see the trimming of extra laminate, lining up the cover with the spine, recreating the creases where the covers will fold and the attachment of the cover to the spine with packing tape.
9:50-9:57 –
Brief intro of next lesson (maps) and tell students their covers will be attached at the beginning of class next period, and will be expected to complete their first “official” visual journal entry.

Wax Resist:

Samples of visual journal pages:

History blip on visual journals:

Altered Book definitions and terms:

Lisa Kokin

The Sketchbook Project:

Post-Secret and Frank Warren:
Exemplar artists:  Man Ray, Jasper Johns, Sandy Skoglund, Yayoi Kusama, KiKi Smith, David Gallagher, Petra Bornerm, Lisa Kokin

newsprint, 140 lb watercolor paper, wax resist, rubber cement, mod podge, gesso, watercolor paint, embroidery thread, yarn, needles, canvas, muslin, magazines/collage materials, acrylic paint, rulers/yard sticks, pencils, prismacolor pencils, wax crayons, cardstock, craft paper, newspaper, fabric, laminator, packing tape, plain journal or book of choice.


Visual journal – a “book” by technical terms that serves multiple uses: sketching, planning, brainstorming, art making, experimentation, emotional and mental translation and personal storytelling. It is normally associated with the art classroom. Another form of the visual journal is an altered book, in which an individual takes a pre-existing book and modifies it.

Mixed media – Mixed media, in visual art, refers to an artwork in the making of which more than one medium has been employed. There is an important distinction between “mixed-media” artworks and “multimedia art”. Mixed media tends to refer to a work of visual art that combines various traditionally distinct visual art media.

Tangible – perceptible by touch.

Intangible – unable to be touched or grasped; not having physical presence.

Collage – a work of art that is made by attaching pieces of different materials (such as paper, cloth, or wood) to a flat surface

Decoupage – (or découpage) is the art of decorating an object by gluing colored paper cutouts onto it in combination with special paint effects, gold leaf and so on.

Backstitch – a stitch sewn one stitch length backward on the front side and two stitch lengths forward on the reverse side to form a solid line of stitching on both sides.

Running stitch – The running stitch or straight stitch is the basic stitch in hand-sewing and embroidery, on which all other forms of sewing are based. The stitch is worked by passing the needle in and out of the fabric. Running stitches may be of varying length, but typically more thread is visible on the top of the sewing than on the underside.

Satin stitch – In sewing and embroidery, a satin stitch or damask stitch is a series of flat stitches that are used to completely cover a section of the background fabric.

Chain stitch – Chain stitch is a sewing and embroidery technique in which a series of looped stitches form a chain-like pattern.

Gesso – a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these. It is used in artwork as a preparation for any number of substrates such as wood panels, canvas and sculpture as a base for paint and other materials that are applied over it.

Resist paintings – a painting in which the lines are drawn in some form of resistant/nonabsorbent material (glue, rubber cement, wax). Then using watercolor, the color is placed. The resisted areas will remain the color of the material you are painting on (fabric, paper, wood).


It is important to keep track of materials and to keep them in good shape, therefore during this project, and every assignment in the art room, it is mandatory that students return all materials (they will be counted if necessary) and that all brushes are thoroughly cleaned, water cups are rinsed out and put away and that paper scraps are kept for later projects.

DAY 1: For this day in particular, it is important to wipe the rims of gesso containers clean and seal them completely, as well as completely cleaning gesso and paint out of the brushes.

DAY 2: Rinse brushes properly and thoroughly, rinse cups, and tell student they must ask permission to keep specific materials in their cubby (ie – a certain pen, a prismacolor of a particular color, etc.)


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