Article Type Making Art Together Making Art Together Categories Bookmaking Collage Drawing

Portrait Books

Meg Nicoll
This winter in the Art Studio we explored materials and ideas related to the exhibition The Undefeated: An Exhibition of Original Paintings by Kadir Nelson. Inspired by Kadir Nelson’s portraiture of African American activists, artists, athletes, musicians, and writers, we invited guests to reflect on the people important to them and create a portrait in book form. It was interesting to see how guests responded to the prompt and materials when designing their book. 
Baskets filled with art materials: colorful papers, glue sticks, scissors, and drawing tools.
We provided both drawing and collage materials for this project: colored pencils, pens, scissors, glue and collage papers. We invited guests to use words and/or images in their accordion book.
An accordion fold book unfolded to show four pages with collage, drawings, and words.
The accordion book form is one that we return to again and again, it is an easy way to turn a sheet of paper into a book. We used 18 x 24” white construction paper and cut the paper into long 18 x 6” strips and then folded to make an 8 page accordion (4 pages on each side). We find this book form a wonderful platform for creative book design. You can use one or both sides of the pages, choose to have the book unfold vertically or horizontally, decide to add covers or not, and even incorporate 3-D elements such as pop-ups!
Several brightly colored papers, some with cut out shapes such as circles and a rectangle.
Pre-cut book covers made from cardboard and painted papers were available on the tables for guests to attach to their books if they wanted. Cut-outs of various shapes offered lots of possibilities for interesting cover designs. Here’s a very small sample of some of the artwork created during this project. 
Many books featured words and images about families, and expressions of love for family members.
We saw books that shared stories about heroes and people who do important work making the world a better place.
Some accordion fold books showed things that bring people joy. Pets were a reoccurring theme, as well as books that shared hobbies and work that people enjoy doing.
In order to share guests’ artwork, we created an installation where they could add their accordion fold book if they wished. We have tried lots of different ways to install books in a display, this time we made pockets out of construction paper stapled to the bulletin board for the books to slide into. 

After the display was taken down to make room for the next project, we re-created the bulletin board pockets by sewing paper into larger accordion fold books. These larger books are now on our project archive shelf in the Art Studio and hold the portrait books created by guests. It is wonderful to be able to look back and reflect on all of the people, ideas, and experiences that guests were inspired include in their artwork. 


Meg smiling in the Art Studio.

Meg Nicoll

Art Educator at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art from 2016 to 2023, Meg enjoys working with artists, educators, and people of all ages to create opportunities for art-making.
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