Before too much time passes, I wanted to share a little about the workshop I taught recently in Jackson, WY. It was awesome–a wonderful group of artists, a super fun project, and a great facility. I have to admit that the workshop was an experiment. I’d never taught one like it, and although it would seem like a LOT to accomplish in 4 1/2 short days, the students followed my lead and dove in head first…they sure had a lot of faith in me, and they did some beautiful, soulful work.
The workshop was entitled, “The Art of Personal Storytelling”. It was a book workshop where each student wrote and illustrated a story from their point of view. Yes, ‘first person’. Several things inspired me to do this class: my kid’s book about my lazy eye, the book my husband and I are writing about our travels in India, the creative non-fiction writing class I took last semester and of course all my teachers/mentors of past years, a couple of wonderful books: Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird; the medium of digital storytelling (years ago some friends I worked with at Hallmark participated in a DS workshop–I oohed and awed and got all inspired–and I still remember their stories!); and Brian Andreas, who I met 10+ years ago when he was a guest artist at Hallmark–he’s been so inspiring to me ever since then to record my own little stories, no matter how short or silly or odd they are. My thinking was to mix creative writing and image making–to encourage artists to write and writers to make images–all with the intention of recording their stories in a book form. And, somehow, it worked.
On Monday, I gave a slide show presentation of my book projects and short, 1-4 sentence stories with illustrations. I also showed examples of other artists who record their written voice in their art. We spent the majority of the day doing creative writing exercises. We read these out loud (it was up to the students to read or not, but everyone did) which was a huge part of that first day. This sharing added SO much inspiration and energy to the class and was a great part of the “teaching”. A few writing exercises the students loved most were:
1) Draw a map of your childhood neighborhood, writing down any memories that come up for you. This was awesome. The students (including myself) remembered things they hadn’t thought of in 20-40+ years.
2) Number the lines in your notebook 1-7. Write a story of a memory (that came up in the map exercise) in 7 short sentences, each sentence on its own line. I asked the students to read their stories out loud in reverse from 7 to 1. The stories came alive in a different way. An element of surprise happened when the story was flipped–they weren’t so predictable. It’s sort of like turning your painting upside down to look at the composition in a new way.
3) Clustering. This is a great brainstorming
exercise that my writing teacher Bonnie taught us. Write down your idea (one-two words) in the middle of your paper and draw a circle around it. Then draw lines out from the center and add new ideas inside circles, each new thought connected by a line to what initiated it. Write fast, let it flow stream of conscious. Don’t stop until all your ideas are exhausted. Clustering is great for brainstorming on illustration jobs, too. On the right a short one I did for a recent illustration.
On Tuesday, everyone shared their idea for their story. We did a group brainstorming to help grow the ideas and work them out. Tuesday thru Friday afternoon, the students worked on their stories/images. During that time, I mixed in a collage/mixed media demo (shown at the top of this post), a painting exercise, and a lettering demo which Jude, an amazing lettering artist from American Greetings, shared a lot of inspiring techniques and thoughts, like CAPITAL LETTERS MAKE A READER READ SLOWLY and many other fun bits of wisdom. (Jude, I’ll be anxiously waiting to take a lettering workshop from you!) I encouraged the students to simplify their stories to find the essence of what they were saying, emphasized composition and value in their images, and the importance of integrating their text into the images as both a design element and a voice, one that should speak with intention.
The week ended up flying by culminating on Friday afternoon with each student reading their story to the class. I have to say I was amazed with each of them. They were all so unique; each student took a completely different approach and all were successful. I think they were all pretty jazzed. To the left are a few of the students’ images–Lisa Walker, Molly Armour, Veronica Silberberg and Jude Angelo–some of my photos didn’t turn out…If any of you have good scans, please email them to me, and I’ll post them!
It was an invaluable experience. Plus, I had a ton of fun hiking, yoga-ing and visiting with my friend Lisa. (That’s me, Lisa and our friend Miga in the photo. We had a load of fun that night.)