Blank books by the illustration students at ISIA, the art school in Urbino

I was recently invited to teach a class to a group of illustration students at ISIA, an art school in Urbino, Italy. In a school, the students should be taught to live in harmony with the nature. Our life should be attached with the nature. It is the nature that gives that gives everything to us. It is from the nature that number of products for consumption and usage are being formulated. Browse around this site to get in touch with such natural products. Though the subject of the class was picture-book illustration, I gave the students a 45- minute exercise to create a book with neither words nor images- a blank book.

tagliaficoMy goal was to underline the importance of thinking of the whole book- format, paper, white space, and especially the underlying concept, in writing and illustrating a book for children, or for anyone, for that matter. Some of the books I showed the students as points of reference were featured in my recent post on illywords, This Page Is Intentionally Left Blank. Here are some of the results of the exercise.

Luca Tagliafico

When we talk about white books, the first thing that comes to mind is the famous terror of the blank page, a “disease” that afflicts writers and illustrators. I imagined some of the most famous writers of our time dealing with the first page of their manuscript, plagued by lack of inspiration and with the consequences that this entails: anger, frustration, nervousness. I thought of Hemingway, Bukowski, London, McCarthy, who, exasperated, rip out this first page, crumpling and crushing it beneath their shoes, cursing everything and everyone, etc etc. The pages that I’ve “collected”, have survived time and now they are ready for a museum collection: they represent the genesis of some of the greatest novels of the nineteenth and twentieth century! The Road, The Old Man and the Sea, Martin Eden … they were all born this way!

Letizia IannaconeLetizia Iannacone

My white book- 10 drawings that I might make tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow- is a small homage to all of the drawings never made, which, for mysterious reasons, we sometimes don’t manage to get down on paper. A small work about the white space left by an unresolved idea.

Silvia Robertelli

Creating a white book was very useful in understanding the importance of the physicality of the book, those elements that are neither textual nor illustrative. This aspect is often not sufficiently considered in either design or practice. We’re now all more aware of the many possibilities of white space and this will be very useful in every project. Metaphorically, this exercise has taught us to shift our focus, bringing into the foreground something we normally consider background. Initially, it was unsettling not to be able to resort to words and images as we normally do, but after a few minutes (the exercise had to be finished within 45 minutes!) we welcomed the challenge with enthusiasm, throwing ourselves into the enterprise: endowing the pages with significance (and even a story) with different page formats and types of paper, with different page treatments (cut, scratched, crumpled, torn) but with few marks and few words. The results were extremely diverse, surprising, and fun.

Silvia Robertelli

Olga Tranchini

When we were given the assignment to create a white book in 45 minutes, I tried to think of the various meanings of whiteness. Whiteas color (free association of ideas), white as void (absence, that which is missing). I looked immediately for ideas that dealt with sound or touch, to try to compensate for the absence of images, providing stimuli for the other senses. I therefore decided to make a little book that tells the story of a wave that flows back and forth. I decided to exploit the book as an object and the characteristics of the material of which it’s made, paper. Each page has a fold that represents the wave, which, as the pages are turned, moves towards the center of the book. The wave continues its way across the gutter to the other half of the book, and eventually leaves the book altogether.

Silvia VenturiArianna Zuppello

Not being able to fill the pages with either images or words, I thought about the form of the paper. I realized that a sheet of two-dimensional paper, through folding, could become three-dimensional, and therefore I came up with a mouth that sticks out of the page. For my second white book I worked with the word, “white” and I asked myself, “Can there be color in a white book?”. The answer is yes! Once holes are cut in all of the pages, the book assumes the colors of the world that surrounds it.

Silvia Venturi

Taking a cue from the particularly harsh climate in Italy during this May 2013, I took advantage of the white of the page and its verticality, created by the increasingly narrow folds, to convey the progressive lowering of the temperature. To make the piece more comprehensible, I put the temperature at the base of every page.

Daniele Castellano

In creating a white book the first problem I encountered was the paradox of making something that offered the option of not doing Daniele Castellanoanything. A little scared by the overly philosophical turn my thoughts were taking, I decided that the theme of the book might be death- the one circumstance where it’s impossible to do anything but “nothing”. The booklet of sixteen pages is totally blank, except for the cover where I drew my gravestone with that day’s date, May 29, 2013, and the title of the book, which is the following day’s date.

Bruno Zocca

Upon being asked to “create a white book in one hour”, a series of questions presented themselves: could I use color? Could the pages contain images? Would it be possible to insert text? In the minutes that followed, my brain was stuck by the desire to find a surprising idea at all costs. With only 10 minutes left, I decided to concentrate on the word “white”. I thought about how this word is usually used to indicate a color, but also to indicate absence. I therefore decided that the word “white” should mean absence, as in void. I took some sheets of paper, stapled them together, and on the cover wrote, with a white crayon, “Don’t Open the Book! In Any Case It Doesn’t Contain Anything.”