Archive for the 'College' Category

From Pictographs to Pixels

Photo by Bryan Rierson Photography and Brian Allen

Finally, my two primary interests united! Artsy inky stuff + cultural studies = my dreamy future. And last night I got a good dose of both when I attended a talk by Brian Allen called “From Homer to BFF: about how we express ourselves.” The event is part of a series hosted by hosted by CU Libraries Scriptalab and the Colorado Book Arts League, which resulted in a diverse audience: from hip graphic design students and aging papermakers and letterpress printers.

I was familiar with most of the cultural aspects of the presentation (Socrates’ anxieties about changing from an oral culture to a print culture, for example), but I really enjoyed Allen’s take on it. He talked about letterpress printing as a profession where men are allowed to be creative and artistic in a socially acceptable way. (Gender commentary gets you brownie points in my book.)

And he focused on the ways that printers and calligraphers have responded to a digital age– which is just a smaller version of how every oppressed group (whether racial, cultural, or professional) has developed strategies and adaptations for survival. See Gloria Anzaldua for further reading.

I also appreciated that Brian wasn’t totally against digital technology, given that so many craftsmen and women are. What is important, he concluded, is that we help digital technology to make good choices. And that we engage our own hands in the 3D world at the same time.

Still, while I was musing how to incorporate this into my professional future, I had to concede that is harder for women to get into this profession. Women are more commonly book artists and calligraphers, but printing is still a boy’s game. Ah, well. Yet another thing to add to my Badass Professions for Women list (which, so far, includes glassblowing, pen turning, and being a pilot).

Advertisements

A College Career in Journals

My senior year of high school, I carried a moleskine notebook with me at all times. I was slowly (and painfully) detaching myself from high school, and I didn’t speak much that year– everything went into the book. It was sort of a compulsion, really: I had this tiny, meticulous handwriting, and I wrote in complete, cohesive sentences, often in essay-style. I copied down every quote that was meaningful to me, every conversation I overheard, nearly every unique thought that passed through my mind. And I neatly pasted in every receipt, ticket stub, every scrap of paper that I came across. My doodles were always photo-realistic, never imaginative. Looking back on it now, I see that year as a process of collecting the disparate scraps of myself before leaving for college.

So then, the turning point: I went to see a film with my dad, and my bag was stolen from under my seat. With my journal in it.

…and I learned the very important lesson, that you should always keep yourself whole enough to survive a stolen book.

Catharsis

I think my mistake was trying to make it honest and beautiful at the same time. I remember writing down horribly secret things that I had never spoken or written before: mortified, and brutally protective of the book afterwards. That honesty was necessary, but I had to set a lot of very restrictive boundaries for writing at the time: I only wrote in pencil, because I didn’t want to see any crossed-out mistakes. I would erase and re-erase until I had accurately articulated the feeling, event or thought that I wanted to convey. If I forgot to paste a ticket stub in, I felt furious– like something was missing and the book was incomplete. And I never allowed myself to go back and read my earlier writing.

After that book was stolen, I didn’t journal for my entire first year at college. It was too painful, and I was exhausted. I didn’t have the energy to put my life together so compactly again.

As it turns out, that painful transition was a Seriously Great Thing. For the first time in my life, I really embraced the place that I was in (which is to say, college). I explored it. I introduced myself to people, I put myself out there, I took risks. I cut my hair off. I got straight A’s, fell in love, twice, and began to see myself better, and more clearly. Basically, I put my energy into my life instead.

Back to the Book

But let’s face it, I’m a creative writing major: I need some paper in my life. I transferred schools, feeling infinitely grateful to my first college and peaceful about leaving it. This time, when I returned to the habit of writing things down, I began using a pen. Which meant I crossed things out, a lot, and my handwriting was larger and looser. I also discovered how inferior moleskine paper is.

And this time, I tried to be okay with leaving things out. I sought a balance between living my life, and distilling it onto paper. I reconnected with the art of writing itself, received my first fountain pen from my dad, and began to think more critically about the environmental impact of being a writer…

I can’t say that my three years of living at Kenyon were more meaningful than my first year at Hollins. But I can say that (slowly and consciously) I began to integrate writing into my life in a healthy way– a way that I could see playing into my future and my profession.

And shucks, it does feel nice to look at that stack of notebooks and know that my tumultuous, rewarding college career is messily contained within it.

An Assorted (Yet Cohesive!) Paper Review

In this post, I outlined my initial impressions of four different Clairefontaine papers, which I received generously from Exaclair and bound into a short-term, multi-purpose book (what some people call a “journal”). I used this book during the last weeks of classes, as well as through the madness of Senior Week, and Graduation itself.

And it felt good (really good) to put this book aside after graduation– to start brand new, on a blank page. (What a handy metaphor, no?)

As it turns out, my blank page was on the other side of the country. But now I’m here in Colorado, and yes, I promised fuller reviews. So here we go.

Digital Color Printing Paper

Pentel Pocket Pen and ink on DCP Paper

First, to clarify: this paper isn’t meant for traditional writing and media. It’s for machines, and I’m sure it works superbly that way. But I’m not interested in machines (except, maybe, Leo Marx’s). I wanted to test a loose-leaf Clairefontaine paper– one that could be used for bookbinding!

This has perhaps been one of the few drawbacks to Clairefontaine products– they’re more like, well, office supplies than art supplies. So I really appreciate trying out some loose-leaf paper, which can be used as a raw material for a variety of art projects. The DCP paper is also available in a variety of weights (90 to 350 gsm), which allows for even more customization.

The short version: Use your fountain pens, markers, brush pens, and crayons on this paper; leave the paint and wet media alone. Water-soluble pencils/crayons/pastels have the potential to work well (perhaps if they’re more oil-based) but don’t overdo the water. Stephanie at Biffybeans did a review of this paper, and had similar findings.

Also, this is the time to experiment with bright colors. So channel your inner pop artist.

However, for whatever reason, I found that I did less art on this kind of paper. When I did draw, I used my Pentel Pocket Pen, which left beautiful, clean, high-contrast lines. Writing (in ink) on this paper was pleasurable, but the paper was too glossy to use a pencil, and the thinness also encouraged more minimalist approach.

Stamped! Notice the wet spot to the left; that's bleed-through from the drawing posted above

Continue reading ‘An Assorted (Yet Cohesive!) Paper Review’

I Graduated! (From College!)

Damn Straight, Magna Cum Laude

I’m going through some Major Life Transitions (MLT’s!) right now, which may result in sparser posting. But who knows! It may also result in more frequent posting. If all goes as planned, I’ll be filled with all the creative energy of change, and I look forward to sharing the art and writing that emerges from that.

Reason #34 Why I’m Glad To Be An English Major

My last class of my college career was yesterday– “American Gothic,” an English course. We had just finished reading Beloved (which was my fourth time reading it overall, yikes). Our reading list had started in the 17th century so, three centuries later, we had a fairly good understanding of gothic novels in America. For our last class, my professor brought in the film version of Beloved, produced by and starring Oprah.

Now, critics generally agree that the film version of Beloved was a bit of a disaster– everything is sub-mediocre, from the screenplay to the acting to the cinematography. But what watching the film clips really made me think about was how glad I am that I’m an English major.

I’m not saying that good films can’t be made from good books– but I do think that there is inevitably something lost when you transfer a text into a visual medium. Especially with Toni Morrison, who rarely uses linear narrative and often fucks with basic elements like.. character identification, and, um, reality. So you can see how unwise it might be to try and make a film from her works.

But I was also disturbed by my professor’s ease with bringing in the film and showing only the most graphic clips. Her point was well-taken: that the film brushed over all the horrific memories in the novel and condenses them into one brief, confusing flashback. But I do take issue with her perpetuating that insensitivity by showing the most graphic parts of the film out of context. It was literally two minutes of watching dead babies and tortured slaves, without much discussion.

I think her assumption was that our generation has been desensitized to film violence, and therefore we can watch extremely violent scenes any time, any place.  Sure, piece of cake.

Except– this is exactly why I’m an English major, and not a film major. Because graphic violence in novels is different. It still forces you to visualize violence in intense detail (for example, from Beloved: “to feel the baby blood pump like oil in her hands; to hold her face so that her head would stay on; …to absorb, still, the death-spasms that shot through that adored body, plump and sweet with life…” hello?!).

But violence in literature also forces you to do more than “watch” violence; it also forces you to reflect on that violence. To think about the meaning of it. Violence in films, or on TV, requires no reflection– just absorption.

So, that’s the long story of how my last class of college was: a little frustrating, but also making me satisfied to have the degree that I do.

Exams and More on the Horizon

This week is my last week of college.

…which is scary.

And that’s the thesis of this post. There are so many things I need to sit down and work through (emotionally, financially) before graduating. All I know is that I’m moving to Boulder, Colorado in one month, and I need all the connections, help, and employment that I can get.

My final project for my figure drawing class is a seven-foot-tall portrait of myself. From head to toe. It has been incredibly time consuming, but also very meditative: I’ve spent hours with a bottle of white wine, just shading. I feel like it should be challenging me to do some self-reflection, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Soon.

ECO Buttons for Earth Day

I’m head of the environmental organization on my campus, and we’ve been selling buttons and giving them away as prizes for Week of Sustainability. In past years we’ve had pre-designed buttons, but this year I decided to do some artwork for them. Here are the results.


Art adventures, literary hangovers, rural politics and other songs worth sharing.

Flickr Photos

Recent Tweets