Skip to main content

Video from the Journal & Sketchbook class, Interlochen 2011

This is a short video of participants from the Journal & Sketechbook class at the June 2011 Interlochen Writers' Retreat. Every day, we used a variety of drawing and writing activities to explore how to visualise scene in a piece of writing, and then to carry over the visual discoveries into the writing. It's a 'generative' class, as opposed to the traditional 'hand out ten copies of your work and let the dogs rip it to shreds' approach of the traditional writing workshop. In other words, the idea is always to move at a certain point to your writing, whether that's fiction, memoir, personal essay, or other prose forms (not poetry).

In the video above, people are in the process of drawing three moments of scene from their writing, related in subject but with some time between them. They then go to the writing, read back from what they've written, and perhaps show some of their drawing. In this class at Interlochen, as in the other times we've taught Journal and Sketchbook, it is remarkable what people manage to see in their scene, and tell to the page, after they have tried drawing it for a while. It should go without saying that you don't need to make a polished representational drawing in order to do this: I coach people in basic drawing, shapes, gestures, and so on, but mainly I try and get them past the inhibitions, the barriers, and just to fill the page as much as they can. Whether that's with stick figures or perfectly rendered volumes is irrelevant. Everyone in this class certainly loosened up pretty quickly, and every one of the six people, without exceptions, produced what I would call beautiful drawings, and made huge strides in their writing.

Basically, you can't ask for more than that.

 Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader


Popular posts from this blog

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.

A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

I Did Nazi This Coming

Metropolitan Opera, New York: Parsifal Act III
Despite being a lifelong lover of and listener to opera, I've never had the ear for Wagner's music. I love hearing everything from Gluck up to John Adams, but skirted around or jumped over Wagner whenever the temptation presented itself.

I used the provocative 'N' word in the title of this post because one of the things that has always made me wary of the Bard of Bayreuth is the stain laid on it by its National Socialist admirers. That's not the only reason.

Reasons why I never liked Wagner:
The enormous length of his operas, often five hours plus. And my objection was not to the length per se, but to what it said about his musical language. For example, if like me you are steeped in Mozart's operative language, with its brilliance and variety and liveliness, Wagner's music can seem turgid and static by comparison.
The ridiculous medieval stories. Given the chance to watch Mozart or Puccini or Richard Strauss…