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Learning from Students

In the Journal and Sketchbook class yesterday (which I am co-teaching with writer-wife Patty at Columbia College Chicago), I saw lots of good things, and some new things.

Bear in mind that this is primarily a creative writing class, with drawing activities used to heighten a writer's "seeing in the mind". In other words, most of the students are writers first, and drawers second (if they draw at all). I taped photocopies from some of the students' sketch-journals to the walls so we could talk about them, and it was interesting to see the different ways they are putting text and image together on the page:

Patty and I also ask the students to prepare a ten minute presentation on an artist-writer, or a writer-artist -- basically they can choose anyone for who uses text and image as a way to feed the process of their chief creative practice. The canonical examples for this class, then, are writers like ee cummings, Franz Kafka, or DH Lawrence, who did a lots of painting and drawing, or artists like Gauguin (who wrote a lot), or Frida Kahlo (whose Diary is filled with writing and painting). But these students came up with some really interesting choices that we had never seen before, including:

  • Courtney Love (!)
  • Ken Kesey
  • Tim Burton
  • Swoon (street artist)
  • David Shrigley (English cartoonist)

That's quite an impressive and unusual list. I will definitely post about their findings once the presentations are done (mid-April).

And at the end of the class, one of the students showed me a journal she had prepared over Christmas break, and therefore not as part of this class, but which is absolutely the sort of thing that would be a great final visual piece for the class. She spent a few weeks in San Francisco, and in addition to writing in the journal, she collaged maps, tickets, little bags containing samples of local sand and earth, pieces of grass, and   a shingle from the roof of the place she was staying:


  1. Always a lot of really great things happening in this class. Great discussions and great creativity from usually everyone.


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