Category Archives: creativity

Phones and Lynda Barry

I found this special insight on technology this morning when reading about my favorite artist/author Lynda Barry. Technology always gives us things and also takes things away from us. As someone keenly interested in creativity, I have had hunches about this before but haven’t ever seen this precise observation on the impact of our use of mobile phones:

“The phone gives us a lot but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty and boredom. Those have always been where creative ideas come from.” - Lynda Barry

“The phone gives us a lot but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty and boredom. Those have always been where creative ideas come from.”

Anna and her daughter

Watercolor painting of two women standing in the road in front of trees

Getting into watercolor again. It is a tricky medium. Hard to control, it goes where it is not expected to and so forth. There are some technical things I would like to improve with this. One thing is the proportions of the two women are not quite right. Also, the girl on the left has a random dark mark on her chin I didn’t intend. There’s not much you can do about that after it has dried. I’m not really satisfied with the way that face turned out and prefer the one on the right better. I think the trees have too much going on and it is pretty muddy in the background. It might be better to use less paint and more suggestion there.

The picture is only 3.5″ square, so the area for the faces is pretty tiny to begin with. It is difficult to get any details that look good at that scale and with the brushes I have. My eyesight is getting pretty bad and I might need to invest in a magnifying glass if I keep working on things like this.

I would say my favorite things with this piece that turned out reasonably well are the women’s trousers, especially the darker one on the left. Also the woman’s hair on the right. It is a good first effort and I may try to re-do this scene at some point.

Cartooning Week 3

I’m falling behind on my cartooning efforts. I made these drawings for the first assignment in Week 3 of Brunetti’s cartooning book last weekend, but haven’t had a chance to reflect or write on them until this morning.

For Exercise 3.1 Brunetti says to draw 12 scenes on notecards with prompts he gives like “beginning of the world” “end of the world” “something that happened at lunchtime” “an image from a recent dream” “something that happened early this morning” “something happened right after that” and so on.

These are drawn on notecards in order to facilitate arranging the scenes into a four-panel sequence noting the type of narrative you prefer, what visual elements connect the scenes, breaks in the narrative, reordering the scenes and so forth. According to Brunetti, “the haiku-like rigidity of the four-panel structure allows us quite a flexible starting point.”

One of my favorite sequences was “something that happened early this morning.” We spent the night in a hotel for my daughter’s softball tournament. I woke up in a panic because she wasn’t in her bed. I found her sleeping on the floor. All the while, her mother was sound asleep, oblivious to my panic over our missing child.

I wasn’t really able to make a four-panel sequence using that, as I only drew three scenes of it. But I did rather like the nightmare sequence of the person falling, the D-Day invasion, the asteroid falling towards the earth and the person in bed sleeping. I think that one worked with the sleeping person either at the end or the beginning of the sequence.

I think the ideas are connected by being nightmarish scenes, then the relief that they are only dreams. When I compared my 11 cards (I didn’t get the 12th one made) with Brunetti’s example in the book, I noticed that each of his panels (except one with an animal character) featured a person in it, whereas mine did not always prominently feature a character.

The other thing I noticed is his style of drawing characters with simple geometric shapes and background elements gives a consistency of visual elements in every panel. I don’t really have anything like that. He draws a line for the ground in every single scene. Many of mine have straight line elements, but some do not. He also uses a circle in the background in most of his panels, either a light fixture, the sun, or stars and planets in the futuristic scenes. This gives his work a distinctive and recognizable quality to it. He’s found his visual “voice” whereas it seems I’m still searching for mine.

The Last Milkman Documentary

The Last Milkman is a video created by myself and Aaron Wertenberger for Twin Valley Television. It features Lawrence Schleuder, a resident of Concordia Kansas who delivered the milk to homes and businesses well beyond the traditional age for retirement.

Lawrence passed away in 2017. This is dedicated to his memory.

The Graphic Syllabus

For a while, I have been intrigued by the possibility of the graphic syllabus. I was particularly inspired by the work of Lynda Barry and her hand drawn syllabus book. I have seen some of these graphical syllabi floating around the web, and a few years ago I decided to give it a try with my Visual Literacy class. It only made sense that I would employ some of the concepts of visual communication in the syllabus for that course. Here is a copy of what that one looks like in infographic format:

Visual Literacy Graphic Syllabus

click to view Vis Lit Syllabus – Fall 2016

And below is another one I did for my Fall 2017 edition of an online course I taught in Digital Literacy. The theme for that online course was “Superheroes” so I had a lot of fun developing a syllabus in comic book format:

click to view Digital Literacy Syllabus – Fall 2017

Watercolor Paintings

My daughter Emily attended the funeral of a classmate’s dad this week. It was a sad day for everyone in our community. I came home early that day. I think making art is cathartic, so when she asked me if we could paint something, I agreed. I’ve had a bag of watercolor supplies tucked under my desk for more than a year, so we got them out.

What should we paint? She asked. After discussing some options, we settled on using a weird and silly photo we found on my iPad. It was a portrait of us both, digitally manipulated by some app to give us a surreal expression. Perfect! I thought. It’s distorted already, so it won’t matter if our proportions are incorrect.

This is what we came up with.

Like the Nicky Hokey Boys

Neki Hokey Boys

So THAT’s what she was saying! When I was a kid, sometimes my grandma would say my siblings and I were just like the Nicky-Hokey boys, and we never knew what she meant.

According to the Dick Tracy wiki, the father of the Neki Hokey boys

believed that a lack of discipline and traditional child-rearing would promote creativity and inventiveness in his sons, and they were given very little in the way of guidance and supervision. As a result, the boys were extremely rambunctious, disrespectful to authority, and difficult to control.

People who know me well would probably say this sounds about right.