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Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor


Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor

Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor back

Lynda Barry

Price: 
17.98

Page 45 Review by Stephen

"When I start feeling too concerned that all the words I write be very smart and about something worthwhile, I find my urge to write replaced with an urge to draw monkeys."

Me too.

From the Wise Woman of Comics who brought you the inspirational WHAT IT IS and PICTURE THIS about rekindling creativity (but who also brought you the horrific yet hilarious fictional FREDDY STORIES) comes a lined school jotter of further artistic endeavour.

It's a collection of notes, drawings and lessons Barry kept during her first three years teaching in Wisconsin-Madison University's Art Department. Collated non-chronologically, they are still reproduced exactly as they appear in those journals and bound into a round-cornered, card-stock journal giving the effect of a facsimile.

It's all about questions, exploring and demystifying art, how words and pictures are arrived at and what conditions best suit their construction, their… manifestation. The Image Lab, for example, is a shared space where individuals work on words and pictures in each other's company - like Dan Berry and his fellow creators during the 24-Hour Comics Marathon - with Lynda wishing to examine what happens in that environment and why.

Many prose authors notoriously seek sanctuary in seclusion, while many artists thrive on sharing studios. Discuss.

"What is the difference between awareness and attention?" That sort of thing. Where do cartoon characters come from? Also, how long do pictures take to make a drawing? The answers aren't as obvious as you might imagine.

As the title suggests there are plenty of tasks Barry set her students like sketching the same image within 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, 45 seconds, 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 15 seconds, then 10 seconds and finally 5. Keeping diaries she finds essential but not necessarily traditional ones, as you'll see. It's all about observing what's around you, and memory and recollection have always fascinated Barry (see WHAT IT IS and PICTURE THIS).

There are posters advertising her various classes to potential students emphasising that being able to draw is not a prerequisite for signing up but being willing to and desiring to are essential. There's an emphasis on the exploration of the mind and on completing handmade compositional notebooks by the end of the semester ("? of your grade").

Fascinatingly there's also a page in which she asks herself what qualities she seeks in a student (maximum twenty per class) and the questions she'll ask them in order to assess whether they're likely to benefit from the course and are therefore suitable. There are the questions you'd expect about academic history and indeed future plans, but also:

"What were some of the books you read as a kid?"
"What were some of the games you played?"
"Who was your favourite elementary school teacher? Why?"
"Who was your least favourite elementary school teacher? Why?"
"Was there an object of thing that disturbed you as a kid? Why?
"How do you feel about writing by hand?"

Well, I know how my colleagues feel about my writing by hand!!!

Oh, and then there are the dreaded grades but the homework looks enormous fun. I think I'll do some of it right now with a glass of white wine. I wish I could do that at school. I wish we were set this sort of homework!

Note to self, remember this:

"Everyone came to a realisation that their certainty was what was wrong."
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