On February 27, 2013, students in Lynda Barry’s “Unthinkable Mind” class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were given a piece of paper and a flair pen and asked to draw a picture that they couldn’t see. Professor Old Skull was the only one who could see the picture, and she described it line by line, asking them to draw along with the description. What happened? The picture Professor Old Skull was describing appears at the end of the video.
Dear Unthinkable Mind Class,
Here is a timing video to help with the non-photo blue part of your homework assignment. We’ll spend two minutes on each panel.
This video can help you get the first part of your four panel drawings done quickly. You’ll need your non-photo blue pencil, a piece of copier paper folded into quarters with the borders for each panel drawn in blue pencil, and the story you are illustrating.
You can read the story over before you start the video or if you’d rather, when I start to go into the relaxation part of this video, you can hit pause and read the story you’re illustrating and then hit play and continue.
Then use the inking process to help you listen with open awareness to whatever is going on around you.
Best to you,
Professor Old Skull
Now playing down the rickety old stairs in the Near-Sighted Monkey Lounge: what blackboard animation looked like in 1907.
Wait— is that a drawing of the klezmer band “Yid Vivcious” by Esther Pearl Watson?
Why, Yes it is.
Who is in the photo?
Mark Todd , Professor Lynda and Esther Pearl Watson . Not pictured, but should be, Professor Fred Stonehouse, who invited them to visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison where they gave a kick ass talk about their work.
All photos by Angela Richardson
Above, a segment from the “Off the Charts” —- a documentary about the song-poem industry —featuring Caglar Juan Singletary’s song, “Non-Violent Taekwando Troopers”- the official song of the “What It Is” class for the entire month of March.
Special to Lynda Barry’s “WHAT IT IS” class
Week in review and homework
Classes 11 and 12
Class # 11: Tuesday February 29, 2012
On Tuesday we looked at some of the posts on the class tumblr page and watched some of the videos made from the drawings.
We brought in our three pages of 16 panel drawings and put them up on the wall. One page was pictures of super-heroes, comic or cartoon characters drawn from memory. One page was drawings of ourselves doing four different things in four stages, and the third was of our mothers doing four different things in four stages.
We talked about drawing and inking the pages, and what was surprising and/or difficult about the assignment. Most of us forgot to limit ourselves time-wise while making the rough sketches in non-photo blue. There was no real time limit on the inking part of the assignment. We talked about ways this might have made the assignment more difficult.
We wrote two nine minute stories using the second person present tense and then we folded a piece of pale green paper into four panels. We drew four scenes from one of the stories we’d written together, limiting the rough sketching time to a minute per panel and the inking time to four minutes per panel. Professor Lynda gathered up the pictures. Will she return them? We can only hope she will.
Tuesday’s homework was to to continue the daily diary and writing exercises, finish inking the rest of the panels and bring in two photocopies of each page to Thursday’s class.
Class # 12 Thursday March 1, 2012
Professor Lynda started the class by showing short videos made from the drawings of some of the stories that were read aloud on Tuesday. We talked about how we were able to recognize which drawings belonged with which stories and how that was happening. We talked about why the drawings still work even if the person who drew them felt dissatisfied with the result. Professor Lynda gave a rather long talk about Michael Jordan, Bob Costas, basketball and what to do about a fiancé who complains that an engagement right with a small diamond makes her finger look fat and what these things have to do with the experience of being dissatisfied with our drawings.
We wrote two autobiographical 9 minute stories using the third person present tense, beginning each story with the geographical location, the year and the season.
Students received their portable watercolor sets and started messing around with them immediately by painting in some of the photocopied pages they brought in while watching watched a movie, “Off the Charts” , a documentary about the song-poem industry featuring Caglar Juan Singletary’s song,“Non-Violent Taekwando Troopers”
We ate candy sourced to Amish candy wranglers in Rock County, Wisconsin
Homework for Tuesday, March 6, 2012
1. Continue keeping daily diary and doing one 9 minute writing session each day. These exercises will begin with your/ your character’s name and will be written in the 3rd person present tense. Remember that you are observing your character in this scene. This means you can write about anything this character is doing or has done or may do but the one thing you can’t write about is what is going on internally for them— what they are thinking or feeling.
2. Type up all of the stories you’ve written thus far, being absolutely true to the handwritten version. You may add one or two sentences at the end only if you didn’t have time to finish the image during the first draft. No titles on the stories.
Instead, use “Chapter 1” or “Chapter 2” etc for each story.
Begin each story with the geographical location, the year and the season
For example: South Milwaukee, about 1996, early fall.
Use a photocopy of the cover of one of your notebooks as the cover sheet.
Set margins at 1.25 inches. Text: Double spaced. Font: Times New Roman, 12 point. Insert footer that has your card number [5 of Clubs] and page number at the lower left corner
3. Bring two complete copies of your stories to class on Tuesday, with the cover sheet, — single sided, please, using a black binder clip attached at the upper left had corner to keep pages together.
4. Cut apart your 16 panel photo copies. Mix them up and glue some of them into your composition notebooks, two or three images per row. See if you can get some of them to tell a story.
5. REMINDER: Thursday we’ll only have class until 6PM. At 7PM, Professor Lynda will giver her presentation on Matt Groening’s non-Simpson’s work at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art on State Street. It’s a ticketed event, and we only have a limited number of tickets. You’ll get your your tickets on Tuesday. Unless you have a class conflict, you are expected to attend. It won’t be a drag! It won’t be boring! You! Will! Dig! It!
Adapting an exercise from cartoonist and teacher, Ivan Brunetti, students in Lynda Barry’s “What It Is” class were asked to fold a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper into a grid of 16 panels. The assignment was to draw four subjects four times on each sheet in the style of Ivan Brunetti or in a style that showed up on its own. Subjects could include character types like nuns and astronauts, animals, objects, or anything else students wanted to draw four times. The four drawings could be in a row or scattered across the page. They could be drawn four times exactly the same way, or they could be four views of the subject, or they could be the subject doing four different things.
Students used non-photo blue pencil to sketch the image in first, spending less than a minute on each panel. Then they ‘inked’ the images in with a black Flair pen. They were asked to complete three of these sheets, resulting in 48 drawings for each student and 1,248 drawings for the class.
“What It Is” class textbook: Ivan Brunetti’s “Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice”
Photos by Bucca, 4 of Hearts
26 students + 26 boxes of crayons +100 pages to pick from plus ONE KICK ASS MOVIE — “Protagonist” by Jessica Yu = these coloring book pages from the first “What It Is” class.
The class is part of Lynda Barry’s spring semester Arts Institute Residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Open to both graduate and undergraduate students from all academic disciplines, the focus of this class will be the relationship between the hand, the brain, and spontaneous images, both written and visual. No artistic talent is required to be part of this class, but students should have an active interest in spontaneous memory and ideas, how pictures and stories work, how the brain works, and what the biological function of the thing we call ‘the arts’ may be.
Class time will be used for active studio work, creating projects entirely by hand, evenly divided between writing stories and making pictures. Students will be required to complete a handmade book by the end of the semester and to teach at least one off-campus writing or picture making workshop using the techniques developed in this class.