Amid the Grids; Among these Gestures

Lots of people this week have taken up the call by graphic artist Nick Sousanis to create “Grids and Gestures” — a comic-creating visual activity in which you move beyond a literal interpretation of your day or moment or some period of time. Instead, you let your mind wander, drawing (without words, if possible) a visual representation (that’s the gesture) of the time period (that’s the grid).

Gridgestures4

I’ve done this once before with Nick, but doing a series of them over a few days has been interesting. Sort of like our Slice of Life writing activities, but with lines and circles and smudges instead of stories and vignettes. How would you “write” your day if you could not write, but only draw? How do you represent moments of joy? Frustration? Confusion? Boredom? Love? What does those ideas look like when you sketching at the edge of it all?

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My five Grids and Gestures used the same six-panel grid, and I used the Paper app for my drawing. So each has a similar feel to them (and exposes my limited artistic abilities). I tried to explored different topics, and used the title on each to indicate what I was thinking about.

It does occur to me that while I can “read” the gestures, others outside of my head (that would be you, dear reader) might wonder, what the heck is that? I wonder if how you read my grids is different than how I wrote my grids? Maybe that is the case with writing, too, at times.

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There was a community question in the Twitter hashtag about whether these Grids and Gestures are really comics, or something that comes before the comics. In other words, are they incomplete ideas, only part of the brainstorming process?

Nick suggests that this method of creating art with gestures is where much of his time is spent before moving into a larger project, and that it is an effective way to gather ideas and explore the flow of connected concepts. I suggested that the grids are comics in their own way, moving ideas through inferential design and using art to represent abstract ideas.

Maybe it doesn’t matter anyway. Art is what you make of it.

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If you are interested, explore the Twitter hashtag of #GridsGestures (actually, check out the link to photos only in the Twitter hashtag stream — that’s pretty cool) or check out Nick’s website and some of his amazing work.

Make your own. Share them out. Be creative. Every day.

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Peace (beyond the grids),
Kevin

 

Library of Congress Poetry: A Pair of Patient Pants

(I’m exploring poetry through images by tapping into the extensive collection of the Library of Congress on Flickr. There are some amazing images shared with the public and more coming every month or two, it seems. What can inspire you? Be sure to cite where you got the image from. Use Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution tool and your life is a breeze.)


flickr photo shared by The Library of Congress with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons)

I’m still here:
a pair of pants left behind
while y’all went swimmin’

I’m hangin’ on this here hook,
listenin’ for the splashin’
of the bodies in the brook

Ain’t I surprised
no one took me
with them shoes and socks and shirts
when you weren’t lookin’?

No more surprised
than your mammy no doubt was
when you arrived home,
nearly naked with no memories
of where yer pants could have gone

and me, just here waitin’ —
just watchin’ through the days
for someone to take notice:
I’m a pair of patient pants.

Process Note: I saw this image of clothes on a hook and laughed, imagining a group of kids gone swimming, leaving their clothes behind.

Peace (it’s patient),
Kevin

Library of Congress Poetry: Black Knight, Preaching

(I’m exploring poetry through images by tapping into the extensive collection of the Library of Congress on Flickr. There are some amazing images shared with the public and more coming every month or two, it seems. What can inspire you? Be sure to cite where you got the image from. Use Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution tool and your life is a breeze.)


flickr photo shared by The Library of Congress with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons)

The game is bigger
than us,
here on the grass
with me pretending to be black
and you, choosing white,

and somewhere in the distance
we can hear the dream
unfolding as thousands of people

listen intently to his voice,
echoing out into decades to come,
not even sure of the moment they are in

and you call out “check” as if to win
as I defend my position
with a black knight, preaching.

Process Note: There was something about this scene, of two young men playing a game of chess during the 1963 March on Washington that struck me as an intriguing. Of course, there is all sorts of symbolism here — the game, the colors of the pieces, etc. But it was the simple moment of two people engaged in an intellectual pursuit that caught my eye. I wanted to frame the poem beyond race, but I couldn’t.

Peace (in pieces),
Kevin

 

Library of Congress Poetry: The Great Warrior Sees

(I’m exploring poetry through images by tapping into the extensive collection of theLibrary of Congress on Flickr. There are some amazing images shared with the public and more coming every month or two, it seems. What can inspire you? Be sure to cite where you got the image from. Use Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution tool and your life is a breeze.)


flickr photo shared by The Library of Congress with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons)

The Great Warrior
knows better
than to trust the One who seems
smaller than
the eye

The Great Warrior
sees beyond
the scale of days behind him,
falling into
days ahead

The Great Warrior
understands this,
fears this, too –this coming change
pushing into
his World

The Great Warrior
contemplates You –
consumes You in his mind —
swallows you
whole.

Blinks.

Process Note: This is an image of the eye of the American Indian leader, Geronimo, with the reflection of the photographer in Geronimo’s pupil. It’s an odd, evocative image, with deep (sad) symbolism, right? I had this idea of the shift of the world underway as the photo is being snapped. Even as the American tribes knew terrible change was afoot, they could do little to stop it.

Peace (to all),
Kevin

Library of Congress Poetry: This Won’t Hurt a Bit

(I’m exploring poetry through images by tapping into the extensive collection of theLibrary of Congress on Flickr. There are some amazing images shared with the public and more coming every month or two, it seems. What can inspire you? Be sure to cite where you got the image from. Use Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution tool and your life is a breeze.)


flickr photo shared by The Library of Congress with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons)

This will only take a moment
so sit quiet
and still
and let me rummage
through your head

This map of You
is defined not by
longitude and latitude,
nor by crude compass
but by the crevasses
of your cranium

Who you are becomes
what you may be so that
where you are going is
when things take shape although
why this is so,

I don’t rightly know.

Thanks for letting me look
at what you cannot see
yourself, but can only feel with
fingertips as you brush your hair
each morning.

The real You is hidden
from view, beyond the contours
of your face, your eyes,
your public mirror.

Close your eyes;
This will only take
a moment.

Process Note: The Library of Congress has this whole collection on Flickr of Mystery Photos (odd images) and it challenges visitors to make guesses. This one is a classic. The woman seems so happy! But look at that contraption being lowered on her head! Don’t worry. She is not getting electrocuted. It is a phrenology machine, apparently, and her life is about to be analyzed through the bumps on her scalp. Go figure.

Peace (it’s rather bumpy),
Kevin

Library of Congress Poetry: The Notes In the Air

(I’m exploring poetry through images by tapping into the extensive collection of the Library of Congress on Flickr. There are some amazing images shared with the public and more coming every month or two, it seems. What can inspire you? Be sure to cite where you got the image from. Use Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution tool and your life is a breeze.)


flickr photo shared by The Library of Congress with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons)

I glance your hand
on the edge
of my peripheral vision

A palm open with fingers outstretched,
as if to collect the gift of
the notes of my solo

But this muted melody is mine
and mine alone;
I’m not sharing

this song with you tonight.

Process Note: This image in the Jazz Collection struck me for the two things nearly outside of the frame. The hand coming in from the top left and the face of Cab Calloway in the lower edge. I ended up ignoring Calloway, and yet, look at this eyes watching Jonah Jones playing his trumpet. I was more intrigued by the hand. It is outstretched in joy? I suspect it must be one of those “Oh Glory, Give Us More” moments of a listener (white?) and yet I wanted Jones to remain inside his trumpet, ignoring the world. The world can wait. The notes are still in the air. They are his.

Peace (in jazz),
Kevin

 

 

Slice of Life: Art on a Large Scale

Polar Vortex Quidditch

On Thursday, we hold our annual (17th annual, apparently) Quidditch Tournament. The other day, all four sixth grade classes were hard at work on posters. There were kids and posters and paints everywhere in the cafeteria. It was pretty cool to see the floor turned into a colorful art gallery. We don’t do enough of those kind of large-scale art endeavors like we should. The banner posters (our team name is Polar Vortex) will hang up on the gym walls on behalf of each of the four teams that will play all day long before crowds of younger students and parents and others.

I gave my blue t-shirt to some students to paint for me (they are working on their own, too). They gave me a nickname and a number, and I am just about ready to coach, and have a blast.

Then, on Thursday night, after a full day of running and jumping and competing, the students get to team up and play against us teachers (our team name: Pink Fury). I’m tired just thinking about it.

🙂

Peace (in the art),
Kevin

 

Library of Congress Poetry: Prisoners of Frozen Time

(I’m exploring poetry through images by tapping into the extensive collection of the Library of Congress on Flickr. There are some amazing images shared with the public and more coming every month or two, it seems. What can inspire you? Be sure to cite where you got the image from. Use Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution tool and your life is a breeze.)


flickr photo shared by The Library of Congress with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons)

This waiting
is killing me.

Just knowing
something will happen,

And here we are,
prisoners of frozen time.

Process Notes: This image is from a collection of “stereo images” from the Civil War. I’m not sure exactly what that is but I think it is when you put the image into a pair of old-time 3d glasses, and the juxtaposition of both left and right gives you a 3d feel. I was struck by this picture — of the three Southern soldiers as prisoners, just waiting. And they will wait forever, frozen in this mirrored moment.

Peace (takes its toll)
Kevin

Grids and Gestures: A Comic Make

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Nick Sousanis, whose work as a graphic story/artist is always intriguing (see Unflattening) and interesting, is hosting an informal week of Grids and Gestures, his activity that invites you to make a conceptual comic built around time and design. Nick did a Make with Me hangout with CLMOOC this past summer, and we all did the activity. He also wrote a great piece for Digital Writing Month about the art of comics.

The image — done in the Paper app on my iPad — above is my first Grid and Gesture attempt for the week .. tracking my weekend day over time.

Here, Nick explains how Grids and Gestures works:

Give it a try this week. I’ll be doing mine, too, as I think about my days in terms of conceptual design. You don’t need to be an artist or a writer or a comic creator. That’s the beauty of Nick’s activity. Anyone can enter, at any level, and still come out with an understanding of the world.

Comics space time

Peace (inside and beyond the grids),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: Mouse Guard (The Black Axe)

Story and narrative are at the heart of the Mouse Guard graphic novels by David Peterson, and this prequel to the first two books is as powerful in that regard as the others. Mouse Guard: The Black Axe feels as if Peterson has created his own world and history, with fonts and maps and text bubbles and art design all contributing to the overall experience of the reader immersed in a world that seems real and alive.

It’s been some time since I read the first two Mouse Guard books, to be honest, but I was quickly drawn right into this story of a mouse sent on a mission to find the lost weapon of lore. The Black Axe, a weapon of lore, is bestowed to a hero of the mouse world, and less you think that the world of mice in Peterson’s imagination are small and fragile … think again. These mice are fierce and courageous and live in a dangerous world.

The artwork is spectacular here, right in tune with the writing. I had meant to only read the first section and found myself glued to the chair, reading the entire book in one long, enjoyable sitting. Here, in The Black Axe, the mouse hero Celanawe is sent on a quest by his only kin, an elderly mouse, and battles storms, ferrets, fisher cats and a fox. You will root for Celanawe, even as you mourn with him for the cost he pays, and you will sit in wonder of the fabric of this fictional world.

This graphic novel is suitable for middle school and high school students, but it may be a bit violent for some elementary school students. My youngest son is turned off by the different fonts and text bubbles, and the rich language, of Mouse Guard, for some reason. Those are among the things I like most about the series. Go figure.

Peace (for even the smallest of us all),
Kevin