Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Books

Altered Books, Collaborative Journals and Other Adventures in Bookmaking by Holly Harrison

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

This About Says It All

"When every paper has been turned in and finals are over, all that’s left of a class is what you really learned. What I have left from Writing for Artists is a feeling that art can be personal and still express universal themes, revising your initial ideas can improve your final result, and (most importantly) that language has amazing creative potential."
--Robert Taylor, AVT 395 student

I think Robert's quote captures what I hope students get from AVT 395.

The Syllabus

AVT 395 Writing for Artists, Section 002/005, Fall 2005
Tuesday, 4:30 to 7:10 p.m.
Performing Arts Building, Room B204

Colleen Kearney Rich
Office Phone: 703-993-8805
Office: Mason Hall, call for location and an appointment (I will make myself available before class on Tuesday for those who only travel to campus a few days a week)
Class Web Site:
Class Blog:

Friday, September 30 is the last day to drop. You must be registered for the class in order to receive credit. The last day to add is Tuesday, September 13. There is no class October 11 because of the Columbus Day oddity.

There are four course books for this class. They are:
Johanna Drucker, The Century of Artists' Books
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (a graphic novel)
Holly Harrison, Altered Books, Collaborative Journals, and Other Adventures in Bookmaking
Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art (provided by instructor)
Strunk & White, Elements of Style

Additional readings will be available on the web site or provided in class.

Course Description
AVT 395 is a writing-intensive class that approaches writing from the perspective of the student visual artist. Its goal is to enable you to produce visual work informed by reading and research and to produce writing informed by your art practice. The class combines creative and critical approaches to learning. Throughout the semester you will make and write about a series of projects, each of which has related readings and research. All the projects and readings are designed to support your writing and research skills as well as give you the opportunity to put critical research to creative use. Each assignment builds on the previous one, and each includes a critical and a creative element.


AVT 395 demands a high degree of responsibility for your own learning and commitment toward your fellow students. Writing-intensive courses require at least 3,500 words (about 14-20 pages) of graded written work. This course fulfills that requirement through a series of assignments, which you are encouraged to edit and revise. The writing and creative assignments together form a portfolio of work that you will submit for final grading.

All written assignments must be typed, double-spaced, and on time. Late assignments will receive a lower grade. If you cannot submit on time, then please let me have your work in hard copy as soon as possible, with an explanation.

I require you to make at least one appointment with the Writing Center.

Assignments and Grading

Short Assignments: 50% (Combined)

Bio: This is the first small writing assignment due the second class. Be prepared to read your bio to the class. Due Sept. 6.

The Cut-Up: This is your first project. This is a one-page textual cut-up based on material we have read. We will look at it in class. It should be accompanied by a 500+ word description of your methods. Due Sept. 13.

FFTB Paper: This one-page paper is based on a writing exercise from the book What If? For this paper you will attend one event from Fall for the Book, Sept. 14-21. You are not to write a review of the event, but a description. In class we will analyze your word choice to ascertain things about the event. Due Sept. 27.

Visual/Textual Artist Presentation: You will give a short in-class presentation on a visual/textual artist. Laptop and Internet access will be available. On Sept. 27 and Oct. 4.

A Visual/Textual Page: Your second project is a one-page artwork exploring visual and textual meaning, accompanied by a 750-word discussion of methods. This paper will have a bibliography and use proper citation methods. Due Oct. 18.

Sequence: For the third project, you will produce a sequential art project and write a paper (1,000 words) discussing your methods, influences, and narrative approach. Due Nov. 1.

Narrative Analysis: For class discussion purposes. No paper accompanies this assignment. You are asked to bring a “book” to class and be prepared to discuss how the artist/writer moves the narrative and pacing along with words, images, and the physical design. Due Nov. 8.

Altered Book Assignment: 30%
The Altered Book is an artists’ book that uses a found book as its source (A Humament by Tom Phillips is a good example, see This is a major assignment and has several parts: a one-page proposal, the book itself, a 1500-word paper on your book and the process of making it, a short artist’s statement to accompany the book, and finally a one-page review of a book made by another class member. For artists so inclined, an artist’s book may be substituted. Proposal Due Nov. 15. Altered Book, paper, and Artist’s Statement Due Nov. 29. Review Due Dec. 6.

Final Reflective Paper and Final Portfolio: 10%
A 1500-word reflective paper about your own learning will serve as the introduction to your portfolio and for which will receive a separate grade. The paper will be drafted and revised.
Your portfolio will be graded on visual organization and design. Due last class.

All your assignments--apart from your treated book--will be submitted for grading and feedback, and are then resubmitted at the end of the semester in a visual portfolio of your own design. The portfolio organization itself is graded.

Class Contribution: 10%

In evaluating your class contribution, I will be taking into consideration the following:
Attendance--more than two absences may affect your grade
Preparedness for, and participation in, class activities
Successful completion of all assigned projects
The ability to expand and develop your range of artistic and critical skills
Your commitment to working collaboratively with your fellow students

*Note: Grades will be lowered for work submitted late without sufficient documented reason. If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations with me, please let me know as soon as possible.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Writing for Artists, Week by Week

August 30
Go over syllabus and explain the assignments, Hand out Phoebes. For next week--Assigned Readings: Nothing New Under the Sun by Fadiman, Les Voleurs by Burroughs, bios in Phoebe, Writing Assignment: Bio (less than 100 words), will be read aloud in class.

September 6
Bio due. Will share bios in class and discuss what we look for in a bio. Discuss Burroughs, plagiarism, and cut ups. Sign up for textual artist presentations.
For next week—Assigned reading: How to Write a Dada Poem by Tzara; Assignment: Cut up and 500+-word paper explaining your methods.

September 13
Cut up and method paper due. In-class found poetry workshop. We will review the cut ups in class and discuss our methods. Please bring scissors, glue stick, and article to cut up. During an in-class workshop, we will take Burroughs’ chance method of cut up a step further to create found poetry.

September 20
Class will not meet this week. In place of class, you are expected to attend one event from Fall for the Book (FFTB) and write about it. For next week—Assigned reading: The Material Word by Drucker, The history of writing (hand out); Assignment: One page essay on FFTB.

September 27
FFTB paper due. We will read them in class and discuss. We will also discuss history of the written word and Drucker’s essay. Class presentations begin.

October 4
More visual artist presentations. In-class we will attempt to put the artists presented on a timeline and in categories (futurists, Dadaists, etc.) For two weeks—Assigned readings: Not Funnies by Charles McGrath, begin reading Persepolis by Satrapi; Assignment: Visual/textual page with 750-word paper.

October 11
No class (Columbus Day make up)

October 18
Visual/textual page and paper due. We will present pages and discuss in class. We will also begin discussion of graphic novels and narrative sequence. For next week--Assigned reading: Finish reading Persepolis by Satrapi

October 25
Discuss Persepolis and narrative sequence in class. For next week—Assignment: Sequence and paper due. Assigned readings: Chapters 8, 9 and 10 by Drucker and Book as Object by Smith

November 1
Sequence and paper due. We will present and discuss sequence projects in class and begin discussion on books. For next week—Assigned readings: Never do that to a Book by Fadiman; Assignment: Image/Narrative Analysis, bring “book” to class for discussion, no paper due.

November 8
Narrative analysis due. Discuss books and alter books. For next week—Assigned readings: Notes on a Humament by Phillips, writing assignment: proposal due

November 15
Proposal due. Discussion of the Humament and the final reflective paper. For next week—Assignment: Begin work on altered book.

November 22
Resume workshop. We will be having a guest speaker to discuss resume writing for artists. For next week—Assignment: Altered book, paper, and artist’s statement due.

November 29
Altered book, paper, and artist statement due. Discuss components of your portfolio and the final reflective paper.

December 6
Portfolio due.