10 Minute Writing – 9/11/17

Colin McCalnick looked out his back window at the old chicken coop in his grandparent’s field. At least he thought it was a chicken coop. The truth was that he’d never asked them what the structure was. As a kid he was too busy watching Nickelodeon or getting scolded into doing the dishes to have any sit-down conversations with his grandparents. Pop-pop died when Colin was 13 and Nana died last year, right before Colin turned 25. It was only now, now that they were both gone, that he’d wished he’d made more time to talk to them. To ask them questions about the “maybe” chicken coop.

Now, he was sitting in the vacant house, looking out the window, and wondering what to do next. Two weeks ago he left his apartment with a few bags of his things. He wasn’t sure how to get the rest of his stuff, but figured it would be better to wait and check on that when things had calmed down a little.

“Colin, its fine for you to go to the farm, I just don’t know how healthy it will be for you to be out there all alone. Well, though, I guess if you can start cleaning the place up so we can get the lot onto the market you’d be helping us all out. Maybe you getting a divorce isn’t such a bad thing.”

His mother had a way of making every situation into a positive one, even if it stung a little. One of the things Colin loved about his mother was that she said whatever came to her mind. He liked that. It made him trust her. Even when she said shitty things, they were always the truth. She didn’t really know how to hold anything back.

When Colin was young, and the family would visit the farm, his mother would always clam up. She seemed to be afraid of her mother a bit. The car rides to the farm, all six hours of them, we so tense that silence sounded worse that the fighting…

Training Your Way Towards Your Goals

This was written as a response to one of my students in the “How To Make A Comic MOOC”  within our new “MakingComics.com” Slack online community.

The Question:

I know that the challenge is to write within 16 panels for the course assignment. I also know its good for me to write within that constraint. But, I have a much longer comic in mind. Why is it so hard to write within a 16 panel constraint? (paraphrased question).

My Answer:

Concision is key! I’m also a person who likes longer form better as well. However, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to hone in on that feeling of “done-ness”. Without crafting a feeling of completion you can run into the bigger roadblock in the creation process – not knowing how to finish. Small projects are really key.


Fine Art Mastery Is Irrelevant As An End Goal For The Average High School Student

Ok, so I do not want this to come off as argumentative, and if it does it has more to do with my own pain around the subjects you are raising and less to do with you personally. (I don’t actually even know you Rob, so it can’t be personal). I know where you’re coming from when and I have respect for your perspective.

Fundamentally, however, I have always rejected this western-civ-dominated view of art. I can appreciate the language & rhetoric created by generations of fine art scholars, though I honestly find it boring and irrelevant.

As a child I would go to museums and always wonder, “Why is this painting of a guy in a fancy coat called art and the tree outside my window isn’t?” (The reason why they are different has more to do with the role of “meaningfulness” and its relationship to art, but I will wait to get into that in another post). This feeling of fine arts dysphoria followed me all through adulthood. In 2002, the choice between going into a BFA vs. going into a B.S. in Graphic Design was no contest. I went with technology. My earliest resonance with art was with comic books and the emerging tech scene had more mysteries to me than the stuffy world of fine arts. In my teens I connected to the southern California graffiti/street art scene heavily. In the fine arts world these things are deemed “low art”.

This is why I reject the definition of art hierarchy as imposed on by the world of fine arts. Furthermore I reject the terminology in my own teaching. Generally speaking, the world of fine arts is fundamentally dictated by the people who have money and power. As I have just spent the last eight years working in a Title 1 school district on the border of Mexico, to an 80% hispanic population, I find little about the fine arts world that is relevant to a general population ninth grade arts student body.

What am I supposed to tell them? “One day you can become a starving artist like Van Gogh!”

No – I wouldn’t tell them that, because, generally speaking, the fine arts world is secluded only to the rich and white.

I do actually use the elements and principles of art to discuss visual art, as well as concepts relating to visual arts. But only when they go in tandem with what we are trying to achieve within the work that the students are doing.

In general I find that the language around art is only helpful if it is used to progress the conversation around practicing life with creativity. Generally speaking, if my teaching is not facilitating joy, awe, and wonder in relation to the word “art” than I am not doing my job as an educator. At the high school level, for the majority of students, the art class they took with me will probably be the last time they do art for the rest of their lives.Art education and art language shouldn’t be a hierarchal system designed to keep people from practicing art, it should be a language designed to heighten our enjoyment of life.

I subscribe the Peter London school of thinking about art. I also believe that art is everything, and comes the moment we first perform an abstraction of a concept during our living existence. It is the wonder of interpretation. It isn’t Michelangelo’s “David” (or, rather, it isn’t JUST “David”).

If I seem a little huff and puff about this language it is because I have been on the other end of the fine arts world my entire life. I like, and practice, comic making and street/public art. I have degrees in technology and in education. I have never been put through a fine arts degree practicum, and honestly, from what I have seen – I wouldn’t want to be. I have been judged by other art educators for the entirety of the near-decade I have been teaching because I wasn’t a “real artist” (this was said to me).

I was raised by an elementary art educator who has been practicing for 33 years. She was a teacher who believed that even I could be an artist, and I always was, and always will be – no matter what a degree says about me. My mother’s art education philosophy is more of what we need in the world. One of acceptance, joy, and enthusiasm.

We need to let down the gates of this language that dictates what is and isn’t so that we can let people into our world of lifelong practice in the arts. We need to let the people in.

Hopefully I helped clarify some of the language I was using with this response. Heck, I may have introduced you to a couple of new concepts as well. If you’d ever like to discuss emerging art forms & curriculum approaches, feel free to reach out.