When I was a kid, my elementary school had an art teacher for the entire campus. Once a week, my classmates and I walked across the playground to Mrs. Fullmer’s room. Her studio smelled of water-based paint, paper, and Elmer’s glue. We watched as she demonstrated how to do the project, then while we created, she played a record – a story acted out for us, like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. This was not “staying between the lines” as mandated by the pack of eight crayons in the belly of my desk back in my home room. In Mrs. Fullmer’s class, we got messy with finger painting, oil pastel crayons, paper mache, popsicle sticks, and glitter. We folded, tore, brushed, dabbed, drew, wrapped, cut — so many verbs. We played.
At the end of last year, Lynda Barry‘s “Syllabus” seemed to be everywhere — popping up on my Facebook feed several times a week, suggested as craft book in two writing workshops, and several friends mentioned it. What appealed most to me was its immediacy and inclusiveness. On this journey, writers were going to draw (and write). Artists were going to write (and draw). If you were neither (yet), you would do both too. Everyone gets to eat candy. And we’re going to start now.
“Syllabus” is made much like the composition books I use for my daily writing. It feels familiar with a line of stitching in the middle, black tape on the spine, rounded corners, and every page is filled. Barry doesn’t tell me what to do, she shows me.
The Ivan Brunetti style figures helped me start drawing instantly and Barry helps her readers who might struggle with doing new things. Don’t judge. Keep going.
Doing these five minute daily exercises brings me the possibilities from Mrs. Fullmer’s art class. My notebook and index cards are places to get messy, use lots of art supplies, and observe. I’ve learned a lot about seeing and storytelling during my few weeks with “Syllabus.” I even started a teeny project on Instagram.
Who knows what Spring will bring?