Book It: GIGANTIC Collaborative Portrait

Matt Milkowski
with students at Kenwood Academy, Chicago

Students each contribute a small portion to create one giant, photorealistic painting, on recycled textbook supports.

Materials: gridded source image divided into sections for each student, utility knife or scissors, pencils, 144 outdated textbooks* from around the school, gesso, acrylic paint, brushes,

• Teacher finds a black and white source image with a wide range of values and high contrast (Portraits work well).
• Before class, digitally (superimpose a “no fill” table) or manually draw (measure with ruler) a grid of rectangles (proportional to textbook size) over source image, creating enough squares for every student in one class or several classes.
• Label the back of each square section with a corresponding letter for row, number for column (top left square is A1, below B1, to the right, A2, B2 etc...).
• Cut the image into rectangles along the grid lines
• Give students tiny photo rectangles at random and one text book. Have students label inside of front cover with corresponding letter/number the same orientation as their small photo square to aid in reassembling. “Up” arrows helpful.
• Gesso textbooks
• Students paint an enlarged version of their small photo rectangle on their textbook using a gray scale of acrylic values, focusing only on matching proportion and areas of value. Teacher demonstrates blending, soft vs. hard edges, and proper proportion of value “shapes” in a scale shift.
• Reassemble the books indoors or outdoors where students can view artwork from above. *One might also cut off book covers and mount on a wall.

Lesson Expansion:
• Students each research an individual from a particular portrait theme. (African American heroes, scientists, community members, etc...), and vote on ONE subject for painting
• Create 2 drawn squares from each photo square. Assemble one artwork properly, and one in a mismatched order to create an unusual or abstract image.
• Create a giant grid drawing outside using sidewalk squares as a grid! See below.