“My personal definition of the book is quite broad, with boundaries that are in constant flux. At the core of my interpretation is the act of reading, and the element of time that is essential to this act.”
Glimpse, Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum, 2011
S: You’re a sort of master builder when it comes to book forms. My favorites are your books that involve moving parts. These seem at once game-like (Cat's Cradle, The Guide to Higher Learning, Personal Paradigms) and machine-like (Full-Circle, True to Life). When I consider the mechanics behind multimedia work, Glimpse seems a great example of how a structure moves to physically describe the process of what some call essay or memoir writing--how real life events become narrative visual form. I wonder if the machine-like qualities of your work are intended to draw attention to the process of combination, especially by placing it in the hands of the viewer. Why do you think your books so often, and in so many ways, ask viewers to handle and actively experience them?
J: What I am trying to do in my work is give the reader a physical experience of reading/viewing. The activity of reading a typical (non-artist's book) book is basically a visual one for most people: You take in the content with your eye. This is especially true with e-books, but is also somewhat true even with paper books. The object itself is perceived mainly as a carrier for content (This is of course not the case for people in the book arts and graphic design who tend to be much more aware of how the type, images, paper and binding are all affecting the reading experience). My interest in approaching the book as a medium for art is to get people to interact with the physicality of the book, and to experience the activity of reading haptically. The book form can be so much more than a carrier for content: The book as object can be a significant contributor of the content along with text and image. I have never really considered the "machine" aspect of my work, but it's an interesting idea that I will give more thought to.
S: Cool. I like thinking of the "book as object" as a sort of third element in the experience as well. In regards to games, chance seems a force considered in both the text and forms of your work. I wonder sometimes at the presence of chance in work that combines two media--when and how do pairings happen? Can you talk a bit about how, or if chance plays a role in your own process, and if pairings of text and image seem to happen on their own or "by chance" for you.
A Guide to Higher Learning, Julie Chen, 2009
J: Funny you should ask this question as chance is something that I have not considered with much in my work, until now. My latest book, Family Tree, consists for 16 wooden cubes with text and image on all 6 sides. One of the reasons I chose this form was to take maximum advantage of the idea of random access of content. There are actually 2.8 trillion permutations possible with 16 cubes. I haven't, of course, tried even a fraction of that number, although I designed the piece to allow for a very wide range of possible meaningful permutations to occur. It all depends on what any individual reader chooses to focus on. People will always search for meaning, so I have a feeling that even though chance can play a significant role in the reading/viewing process, people will tend to gravitate towards combinations of content that they find meaningful.
The other piece of mine that utilizes chance as a significant factor in the reading/viewing process is Personal Paradigms. Because this piece was designed as a game, chance allows the reader/ participant to enter into a content-making space with some of the decisions pre-made for them. This shortens the process, and also allows the participant to (hopefully) feel freer to make meaningful combinations of ideas that were selected randomly since they do not have to own all the decisions, but instead have to make the best of what they randomly selected. Some limitations in the process of art making are almost always beneficial as being told you can make absolutely anything would paralyze most people, at least temporarily. In general, though, I orchestrate how text and image interact in my work very carefully. In order to give the reader a specific experience of content, I feel I have to control how content is revealed/delivered, except in instances such as with those examples described above, where chance is an intentional contributor to the reading process.
S: Content-making space. Yes. Which medium do you begin with to get to this point with a reader? Is text always present from the beginning? Or do visuals ever come first?
J:The way in which a project begins varies a lot from piece to piece. Once I choose a subject, it can just as easily be structure or image that is the starting point rather than text, although I do have to say that the development of text usually starts fairly early in the process. Once I start working seriously on a piece, everything develops together. I might spend a few days working on the text, but then put that aside to work on image or structure. For me, the book usually develops in an integrated fashion. It's almost never a question of the piece being built around a single sacrosanct element such as the text. Rather, every element is up for adjustment in order to make the piece work.
In some instances, a breakthrough about book structure has caused both the written and visual content of a project to be radically adjusted. This was the case with Panorama, which started out to be a much smaller format book. It wasn't until the voice of the structure fully emerged that it turned out that the piece needed to be very large in order for it to really speak. This involved a lot of adjustments to both text and image after the printing had already begun.
S: “The voice of the structure fully emerging” is a really wonderful description of this process. Can you talk a bit more about that moment? I’m curious about instances of emergence like this in which one or both media adjusts so the two can work better together. Does happen for you often at the end of a big project? What do you think brings emerging about?
J:Often when I begin a piece, I only have a vague or very simplistic idea of I where I'm going, but I've learned to trust the process. While moments of emergence sometimes seem to happen suddenly, like a seemingly random flash of inspiration, they really only happen as the result of allowing myself to think about a project over a period of time. I try not to place too much emphasis on the early stages of working on a piece with the goal of finding an answer or solving a problem, but rather of exploring whatever it is that is pushing me in the initial direction that I'm going in. I try to hold things as loosely as I can for as long as possible, and am still often surprised at the unexpected directions that projects sometimes go in. It's always less stressful if these moments happen on the front end of a project, but I've definitely had big changes in my thinking happen midway or even later in a project. There is usually a moment though, after which big changes are totally unfeasible, and once that point arrives, a lot of soul searching happens about whether or not the new thing is really vital to the project.
S:At the heart of this interview series is a search on my part for a language of craft that describes when and how art+text functions. Do you have terms for the ways words partner with visuals successfully in the book arts? I can see how some might describe this quality simply by naming the binding type or book form, but there seems something more to be said about how ideas are conveyed via a codex vs. a tunnel book, and that this is about more than the echoing of content and form.
J:I definitely think the way in which text and structure works together is more than just one echoing the other. I don't have any specific language to describe how text and structure work together but do think that it has something to do with the way we perceive objects. If the object in question is a traditional codex book, even the most informed of book art audiences is going to automatically go into "codex mode", meaning they have subconsciously prepared to read in ways in which a typical codex is usually read. When the book in question turns out to not follow known or expect rules, people will quickly adjust their expectations and respond to what is actually happening in the book vis a vis the text. But that initial assumption about the object is something that book artists who use the codex form simply have to be aware of and figure out how to subvert. With non-traditional book forms, the expectations are much less ingrained, although with informed book art audiences, there will certainly be some kind of preconceived expectation with known forms such as the tunnel book or flag book. But even so, our cultural expectations about what a codex "is" is so much more ingrained in our thinking that people are much more willing and able to have open minds when it comes to reading text in non-codex formats.
How Books Work, Julie Chen and Clifton Meador, 2011
S: There’s something really curious going on here in the way audiences learn to perceive and experience objects containing text that has to do with the lens of “book as object.” I once heard your work described as "sculptural vessels for the written word," which I liked, but I’ve been treading lightly lately in labeling which media carries the other when combination is involved, especially from calling forms "containers" because I like to think that the components carry equal weight, not one another. Do you ever think of your material/physical work as a vessel for its language? Do you have another means to describe the relationship?
J: I definitely do not consider the physical part of the work to be a container for the content part of the work. The physical object, including the structure, materials, and media is a full partner with text and image to create the meaning of the piece. They are separable on a technical level, of course, but take any one element away, and the whole thing loses its identity. I don't really have a single word to describe the relationship of text and image to the physical object, but this question makes me realize that I should come up with an articulate way to explain this.
Cat's Cradle, Julie Chen, 2013
S: I like the term “partner” here because of its nod to dance, and because it suggests something like a marriage (which seems an overused term in multimedia circles) that is based more on the work at hand rather than a pre-arranged agreement, but maybe it's my idea of marriage that's the problem there.
Among the makers I'm interviewing for this series, your work might push the idea of "text" the furthest. Many of your pieces reside in museums, as well as libraries, but are produced in often very limited editions. Where, in an ideal world, would an audience encounter your work? How much does the issue of audience come up for you? What about the argument about how few people encounter an artist's book in their lives? Are the book arts not a form dedicated to the masses?
J: I have been asked this question many times before, and I would like to answer with a question: Why is a limited edition perceived as being inaccessible when there are a number of copies available for viewing (as opposed to other types of art such as painting and sculpture where there is only one)? In the case of many of my editions, such as Panorama, there are 100 copies in the world, many of which reside in libraries. All it takes is for someone to go one of those libraries (in some cases, there is a need to make an appointment) and the book will be placed in their hands. Unlike unique works of art that are only accessible when they are displayed in exhibitions, the limited edition artist's book actually is quite accessible. Interested parties in most regions of the US could see one of my books without too much difficulty by going to the special collections section of the nearest university library. Even if a person happened to know that an institution owned a painting, sculpture, or even a print, it is very unlikely that they would be able to access those works when the pieces were not on display.
In regard to the second part of your question about books being a form dedicated to the masses, I agree with the premise, but make the distinction between books and artists' books. I think book artists are like other type of artists: we make work for an audience and want our work to be viewed and/or experienced. Do most artists make work that is dedicated to be experienced by the masses? I think the answer is no. Should books in their general form (as opposed to their artistic form) be available to the masses? Of course. Do some book artists have the intention of creating artists' books with the intention of disseminating them to the masses? Certainly. Is that my intention as an artist? Not really. While I do want my work to be experienced by as many people as possible, it is intended to be an intimate experience between the reader and the book. The technical complexity of what I am doing, and my belief that the materials, media and structure of the piece all contribute significantly to the experience of the reader, along with the content, means that my production is generally necessarily limited to relatively small editions. But I do feel that they are very accessible by art standards.
View, Julie Chen, 2007
S: That’s well said, and raises some important distinctions. Your first question addresses how the book arts span two mainstream medias that place perhaps incompatible expectations on the form. This makes me think: Is this because the process of making an artist's book is more book-like, and the reproducing and accessing is more art-like? Or is it still somewhere between—that a piece of book art is more accessible than a painting but less than a novel and access will always be imperfect? Or perhaps the publication process for book arts is fitting after all, because it mimics the doubled-nature of book art even after the physical work is complete.
You situate yourself and your intentions more in in the camp of visual artists, and your work is certainly accessible by those standards. But as multimedia image+text work morphs further to include more text-heavy works, do you think the right place for the artist's book will always be in a special collection—somewhere between a museum gallery and the stacks of a library?—or might the ways we reproduce and access these works evolve with their mediums?
J:While I understand the impulse to want to move artists' books from the library to the gallery, I have conflicting feelings about this. While I do consider what I do to be visual art, I also firmly believe that my books have to be handled in order to be experienced fully. This makes the library model much more in keeping with the type of interaction that I am wanting my audience to be able to have with my books. There is a gallery in the Bay Area, Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley, that has an annual artist's book exhibition every Spring. Donna Seager, one of the owners of the gallery, has maintained a hands-on approach to these exhibitions, allowing viewers to handle the books with white gloves, creating a type of hybrid experience between a library and gallery such as you mention in your question. Unfortunately, the gallery has had to scale back on this approach due to wear and tear issues on the work in past exhibitions, although Donna will be happy to show anyone a book page by page if asked. The idea of a hybrid space in which artists' books are treated as art, but which also allows viewer/readers to interact with the works as in a library, is something to strive for.
S: True that. It seems our spaces of display are behind in the ways they prompt or dissuade interaction with the things displayed. Thanks, Julie.Julie Chen is an internationally renowned book artist and educator known for her work that combines text with three-dimensional, movable book structures, and fine letterpress printing. She has been producing limited-edition book works under the Flying Fish Press imprint for the past 25 years. Chen’s artists’ books can be found in many collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She teaches in the book art program at Mills College in Oakland, California, as well teaching workshops at institutions around the country. She lives and works in Berkeley, California. See more of Chen’s work here. All images courtesy of Flying Fish Press.
Sarah Minoris from the great state of Iowa. She is a PhD student in Creative Nonfiction at Ohio University, and holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Arizona. Her visual essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Word Riot, Conjunctions, Seneca Review, Black Warrior Review, South Loop Review, and PANK. More here, soon.
What is a descriptive essay? A descriptive essay is a short paper which is all about describing or summarizing a topic. You don't need to collect responses from other people like you do when writing an argumentative essay. Based on my own experience, I can tell that expository essays barely occupy more than one page. They won't take a plenty of time. Still, if you have no desire to work on the stuff like that or you want to impress your essay reader even with such a simple assignment, contact academic writers for hire to have your vivid essay done in several hours.
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No details, no proofs, no special effort... It is the simplest academic homework essay. In general, students should illustrate a descriptive essay with words instead of using pictures. Describe whatever you see, feel, touch, taste, or hear about the target topic. Learn here how to write an A-level college essay.
A descriptive essay about a place, for instance, must provide author's impressions from attending a certain place in the world: from a small town to the biggest country. We explain how to write a descriptive essay based on its types.
How to Write a Descriptive Essay: Types to Consider
Study professional descriptive essay examples to understand each type listed below better. A descriptive essay can describe any of the following issues:
- Human essay. It is much harder to tell about a person. Overall, such task would mean telling about the appearance, actions, behaviors, mood, and qualities of the chosen individual.
- Place essay. The primary thing you should understand to find out how to write a descriptive essay about a place is the paper's focus. Focus on describing places with the most breathtaking sights; let your reader feel the might of such cities as New York or Rome in your description.
- Event essay. You can describe your last vacation, loud rock gig, summer music festival, graduation day, or Euro trip.
- Animal essay. Wild nature is full of wonders - choose the animal you like most of all or the one you can associate with yourself.
- Occupation essay. Writing about the job of your dream is good training before preparing an admissions essay or job resume.
- Behavior essay. If you want to describe the freaky behavior of your best friend to show how the same people act under different conditions, it's your chance!
We can explain just anything in details. The goal is to make it sound both artistically and officially.
Keep in mind you can count on help with writing a descriptive essay from academic experts who care about your performance.
100 Descriptive Essay Topics for Any Taste
We have selected 100 most outstanding descriptive essay topics most of the school and college tutors expect to see from each student. Mind that these are only the examples of the descriptive essay ideas; students can think of their own original topics by replacing some words with more suitable.
Despite there are many topics you might want to describe in detail, it is better to focus on a single person/place/event/object not to lose the point. Consider these 100 topics for your argumentative essay. A descriptive essay refers to showing than telling; deliver the main idea to your readers through drawing a picture of what you want to say.
Person/People Essay Ideas
- Make a detailed description of your mother (other relatives).
- Provide a vivid description of your role model. It could be your favorite actor, singer, movie director, fashion model, political figure, best friend, parents, etc.
- Why does Martin Luther King deserve respect?
- Describe a character from your favorite TV show (e.g. Buffy Summers, Piper Halliwell, Clark Kent, etc.)
- Choose a famous villain and reveal his personality.
- Describe specific traits you enjoy in one of your peers.
- List features of your boyfriend/girlfriend (fiancé/bride) which make this person so important in your life.
- Would you prefer Wonder Woman or Xena, Warrior Princess?
- Essay: Share a description of your most liked teacher.
- Why do you believe John Kennedy was a great political figure on the examples of his contribution to the US society?
- Explain why your favorite actress is better than the others.
- Why would a certain person behave in the way he/she does?
- Which psychological factors had the greatest impact on your own behavior?
- Describe a person whom you hate.
- Share description of your least favorite movie.
- Essay: Which horror film character has scared you to death?
- How would you act if you meet your favorite celebrity on the street one day?
- What traits belong to the term "best friend"?
- How would you define your potential enemies?
- Describe why you believe in a friendship between man and woman based on your own experience.
- Write who your favorite business manager is.
- Write how a perfect fashion model should look like today.
- Write why you think Abraham Lincoln deserves a special place in the history of the US.
- Essay: List specific features which make your mom stand out from the rest of the mothers.
- Why is your dad the kindest dad in the world?
Place/Location Descriptive Essay Examples
- Provide details on the house you're living in. Would you like to change something about it, move away to another location, or stay without fixing anything, and why?
- Where would you like to rest next winter and why?
- Share an example of a perfect summer location with your readers.
- Provide details on your favorite winter location.
- Some students want to describe the rooms they are living in on campus. Share ideas how the college/university community could unite to make this place better.
- Describe the top favorite place in your native country.
- Essay: How do you picture an ideal place to have a wedding ceremony?
- Write about the place where people can see the brightest stars in the sky.
- Think of the features of the perfect place to have the loudest rock gig ever!
- List the names of the countries you would like to visit.
- My hometown is in my heart and soul.
- Why has Melbourne the heart of Australia despite it is not even its capital city?
- Describe the loudest place you used to visit.
- Write about the place you think is the best in the whole world.
- Essay: Tell more about the place you're studying in.
- Describe the places you attended with your parents.
- Describe the most beautiful garden you have ever seen.
- Name the place you would choose for the summer festival.
- Write about 7 Wonders of the World.
- Write what you believe is the eighth Wonder of the World.
- Write how you feel when attending your childhood places.
- Essay: Write down why you prefer your native country over any other places in the world.
- Write how you can get to the certain destination.
- Describe a location for a perfect student party.
- Write about your favorite place which exists only in the fiction.
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Memory/Mind Essay Ideas
- Help your readers picture the best day of your life using vivid descriptions, different examples, original comparisons, and more attributes of the talented essay writer.
- What was the most special thing on your last trip to the sea?
- Do you remember the first birthday of your best friend?
- Create a map which would allow people to travel your mind to see a bit of your experience.
- Describe the introductory day in any of the existing educational institution - school, college, or university - using the entire spectrum of emotions.
- Essay: What would you call the ugliest experience in your life?
- Find proper words to describe the memories associated with the beloved person who used to die.
- List the things you like doing with your grandparents.
- Describe the event in your academic life which makes you proud enough to share it with the admissions officers later.
- Provide a description of the first time falling in love.
- Provide a description of the day in your life when something you like (e.g. hobby, art, music band, comic book, other objects) has almost changed your vision completely.
- Describe what you believe young children tend to memorize best of all.
- Essay: Help your readers understand how it feels like in the mountains.
- Do you like riding the bicycle?
- Describe the last time you were abroad.
- Share your feelings with the readers who wish to learn more about taking part in the exchange
- How did you feel during your English language exam?
- Which event from your life made you feel scared?
- Describe something that made you laugh to death.
- Offer details on your visit to London.
- Describe a silent place in the woods you love since your early ages.
- Write how you remember the first snow in your life.
- Write why it is important to keep a diary.
- Essay: Write down several things you remember from your tenth birthday.
- Write how it feels to attend the funeral based on your memory.
Object/Thing Descriptive Essay Topics
- Dedicate several powerful paragraphs to what you consider your family relict.
- Describe an object which you believe has once saved your life or prevented other adverse consequences for you or one of your close people.
- The Silk Road.
- Find appropriate words to describe something you wanted so bad you were ready to steal it due to the fact you did not have enough money to buy it.
- The most expensive painting ever sold.
- Pick one of the recent technological innovations. Make a description explaining why this particular thing plays in important role in the development of modern society.
- Essay: There is one more thing every writer should keep in mind to have a full vision of how to write a descriptive essay about yourself.
- Providing a description of distance and time from the physical aspect.
- Wonderful things every human should know from the Ancient World (choose Egypt, Greece, or Rome)
- How would you describe the icons in your home?
- The Empire State Building (or any other magnificent construction)
- Taj Mahal: historical value.
- Solar System and planets in it.
- The role of Bible in our life.
- Essay: A comfortable bed as a definition of good sleep.
- Can a dress make a man?
- Why do we love soft toys that much?
- Things to take with you on a sea trip.
- What can money change in the life of every person?
- The true value of vegetables in the markets.
- Essay: Write why your old Tamagotchi still matters to you.
- Write how your favorite video game has impacted you.
- Write down specific attributes which make your favorite doll special.
- Describe your living rooms in detail.
- Describe the neighboring house in detail.
Want to view several good descriptive essay examples from experts? We have attached the best samples to observe!
Common Structure: How to Write a Descriptive Essay
The structure of such essay depends on the topic. There is no need to follow strict chronology if you write about a person/object, but you should mind the order of events in the essay describing a place. Do not waste time on in-depth research or search for many sources - focus on writing about your feelings.
Work on the senses. To succeed, it is important to create 5 titled columns on a separate worksheet to list five human senses. Any good descriptive essay must cover each of the five senses, taste, sight, touch, smell and sound, to make the reader(s) feel the full spectrum of emotions associated with the chosen topic. It is obvious that some topics are better associated with certain feelings than others; focus on these feelings when describing the issue in detail.
Writing an outline. Create an outline to be your action plan during the entire writing process. No matter whether you're a high school student or the one studying in college, the teachers everywhere expect to see a 5-paragraph descriptive essay. Descriptive essays belong to the category of creative pieces. Use them to expand your imagination by lengthening the text. The standard outline covers five paragraphs: introduction, 3-5 body paragraphs, and conclusion. Descriptive essays do not have a reference page as the obligatory part. Add important sources if you're not reflecting personal experience.
Explore how a professional descriptive writing looks in several great descriptive essay examples!
Descriptive writing is not a piece of cake, but some expert recommendations help students to overcome different obstacles in their academic life:
"Most of my students wondered how to write a descriptive essay about a person, place, or object. The best topic is one that writer has a deep connection with. No matter whether you have a list of wonderful topics or the one your teacher expects to see: brainstorming is the key! I recommend this technique to every student. Once you master brainstorming, it would be easier for you to work in a team within any environment. I like original ideas such as Things to Do in Your City, The Funniest Memory, A Perfect Day with a Favorite Rock Star, Detailed Description of the Self-Invented Food, and more."
Lisa Head, Literature Professor at University College London (UCL)
DESCRIPTIVE ESSAY FORMULA
- Pre-writing stage. Do you have a clear image of the object you’re going to describe? Look at all sources you have on hands to define whether they provide all important information on the topic of your choice. Mind that having an experience in the discussed field would be a plus. Focus on your own senses, taste, smell, and other feelings while recalling your example, and then create an action plan for further writing.
- How to start a descriptive essay? Start writing with a powerful, eye-catching hook to grab the reader's attention: simile, metaphor, literary quote, famous people quotations, poetry lines, interesting facts, jokes, etc.
- Create a draft of your expository essay. You may put all words that come to your mind; you'll have a chance to make your ideas shorter later. It's not enough to tell - show the image of the object with the help of words only. The way you create a mental image for the reader defines your ability to make up a good descriptive essay. It is the quality of a skilled narrator as well.
- Adding details to your essay with the help of enriched English vocabulary and online dictionaries. Use your English language vocabulary to add all missing feelings like hearing to the descriptive essay last Play with adjectives and adverbs. Mind your language when writing a descriptive paper - it must be lyrical to deliver all your feelings in full. Involve many different adjectives.
- Take time to revise and edit the paper with the help of various free online grammar checking tools. Once you have described your vivid place, check the structure of your essay again to answer several critical questions: Can the sentences or paragraphs be arranged in a better way? Are any transition words missing? Put down all sources used to describe your topic; make sure the descriptive essay is following the tutor's instructions in full.
- Edit the descriptive essay. Try to avoid any grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes to show how great your knowledge of the language is.
After completing your final descriptive essay draft, it is better to keep in touch with some experts to have the assignment fully checked. You should evaluate your work critically. Proofread and edit the descriptive essay to eliminate or fix any mistakes. You may be interested in adding some details in case you require telling something more about your main object.
- What does a general revision process involve?
- Are there enough details to make it possible for your readers to obtain a full and vivid perception?
- Have you missed any small but significant descriptive details?
- Are there words that convey the emotion, feeling (touch, smell, etc.) or perspective?
- Does your essay possess any unnecessary details in your description which can be thrown away or replaced by the more meaningful information?
- Does each section of your essay focus on one aspect of your description?
- Are all paragraphs arranged in the most efficient way; are they properly connected with the help of corresponding transition words?
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