Text Art

From Monasteries to Gotham City

In the 12th and 13th Century A.D., in European monasteries, monks painted deep into the night, perfecting their illuminated manuscripts. They made illustrated letters to bring their words to life. Their incredible detail and care gave importance to their stories.
Artists play with font to achieve different meanings and effects. For example, the artist Roy Lichtenstein frequently referenced comic books, and played with font in his “Whaam!” paintings to create impact. Robert Rauschenberg collaged letters from Newspapers to address societal concerns. Contemporary artist Edgar Heap of Birds drew breezy letters in his series “Moving with the Storm”, to illustrate the sensation of swaying in the wind.

Students can begin to think about font as a playful and expressive medium.

School/Class context: 2nd and 3rd graders at X have been working with drawing for the past few weeks. In the previous assignment, they made a piece that required hiding secrets in drawing. Now they are making a drawing from an existing shape (a word).
Big Question: How does drawing affect a word?


  • What is the difference between writing and drawing?
  • Can a word be a drawing?Learning Objectives:· Students will understand the concept of drawing as a means of enhancing a word.
    · Students will be introduced to the idea of text art by looking at a range of artworks, from medieval illuminated manuscripts, to the works of Roy Lichtenstein and Edgar Heap of Birds.

· Students will reinforce the technique of drawing with pencil, outlining with marker and painting with watercolor.

Resources and Materials:

· Images of illuminated manuscripts, artwork by Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Edgar Heap of Birds and Ted Naifeh

Mixed Media paper
Black markers
Colored pencils



  • Students will gather in front of the smart-­‐board for a brief presentation.
  • Students will look at a slide show. The presentation will show a range of examples of text as art.Students will be prompted to offer reasons why drawing a word contributes to the meaning of the word. At the end of the slide show, students are challenged to imagine adjectives that describe their day. 10 adjectives will be written down, and there will be a quick demonstration of how to transform one of them into a drawing. Students can then chose one to turn into a drawing of their own. If they have a strong proposal for using another word, they may turn that word into a drawing.
  • Students get to work.
  • If they don’t finish, perhaps they can continue their work next session. If they do, we can conclude by viewing everyones work at the end of the class.
Time Allowance: 3 class sessions
Assessment of Student work:

· Students will be evaluated based on participation during the slide show (expectation of respectful behavior).

  • Students should show attentiveness during the demonstration.
  • Students should follow the procedure for creating their word drawing successfully.
  • Students should demonstrate creativity and craftsmanship, and be able to articulate intentions behind the decisions they make in their piece.

Assessment of Teaching:

  • Was the big idea/question relevant and compelling to the students? If not, how would I modify or change it?
    • Did the sequence of learning activities and assignments flow smoothly and integrate the learning objectives? Do I have further ideas about how these learning objectives can be achieved?
    • Were the resource materials provided sufficient and effective? Did these materials inspire students and their work process?

Art Standards:

Standard 2: Knowing and Using Arts Materials and Resources

Students will be knowledgeable about and make use of the materials and resources available for participation in the arts in various roles.

Standard 3: Responding to and Analyzing Works of Art

Students will respond critically to a variety of works in the arts, connecting the individual work to other works and to other aspects of human endeavor and thought.