Cockily Doodle: Do (if you need to).


Since my earliest days as a student, all the way from grade school through grad school, I have had certain teachers object violently to my habit of  ‘doodling’ when taking notes. I draw patterns, figures, isolate important facts in elaborate frames.  “You’re not paying attention,” these teachers would bellow, “You’re being disrespectful!”

My only defense has been to repeat a truth that I know absolutely, “It’s how I think!” It’s true; the more I draw, the more I retain.  Over the years, I came to two conclusions about these confrontations: 1. I simply process material differently. 2. The people who complain are thinking more about themselves than me; they cannot accept the fact that I know myself well enough to know that this works for me; nor can they accept someone whose mind does not function exactly the way they have decided it should (which, I suspect, is exactly the way their own thought processes work).

It’s a shame, of course, that the people who project such narrow outlooks are largely educators, but Paolo Freire identified the ‘banking concept’ of education almost forty years ago in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. To this day, I’ve met many, many educators who still constantly re-state some form of this: “Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor.”  “In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence.”

(I can’t count the times I’ve heard teachers say, condescendingly, “They don’t know how to …!” and, in each instance, I think, “Well? Aren’t you there to help them learn how to…?” )


Recently, the issue about my drawing has re-reared its head; I also draw in meetings, you see. In both instances, I simply asked if the person saw any impairment in how my work was done (there was none), and repeated yet again, “It’s how I think.” I didn’t particularly care for being treated like a student (though I’d never treat my own students that way) as opposed to a colleague who has received honors for my teaching, but I let it go. (Sigh). (It is, however, yet another clear indication of the status that these folks assign to me).

During my two year Excellence In Teaching Fellowship, I was introduced to Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences, which, for various concrete reasons (not the least of which are my experiences in my own classrooms) I heartily embrace.  When I take the tests, I consistently score highest in three areas: Visual / Spatial, Bodily / Kinesthetic and Linguistic; my scores are extremely high within all three, and they are all within two or three points of one another.  I suspected that the kinesthetic/visual orientation had something to do with my need to enhance language visually, but I never pursued the connection further. I guess I felt that these people were so biased that I would be wasting my time by trying to explain myself, or, if you will, by attempting to educate them.  The Banking System, after all, only works in one direction.

Then, I ran across these findings, recently published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, excerpted here:

“If someone is doing a boring task, like listening to a dull telephone conversation, they may start to daydream,” study researcher Professor Jackie Andrade, of the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth, said in a news release issued by the journal’s publisher. “Daydreaming distracts them from the task, resulting in poorer performance. A simple (secondary) task, like doodling, may be sufficient to stop daydreaming without affecting performance on the main task.”

“In everyday life, Andrade said, doodling “may be something we do because it helps to keep us on track with a boring task, rather than being an unnecessary distraction that we should try to resist doing.”

It’s an even simpler explanation than the visual/kinesthetic orientation, and it makes perfect sense to me.  So, to all my former teachers and currently offended colleagues: take note.  Of course, these findings do state that I found your classes and meetings to be boring; there’s nothing I can do to help that, except to continue to draw.  If you’re willing to think about it, my drawing is, in fact, a form of respect for your words.


There are two blogs today; there’s another below.

Eastern Summer


The Hudson, seen from the roof at Catwalk.

I’m going to have a fine summer.  From May 25 through July 4, I’ll be just a wee bit south of where I was in Catskill, NY, last June, at Women’s Studio Workshop. From July 15 through August 10, I’ll be at I-Park, in Connecticut.

Yep, I-Park is the place I had a not-so-great experience with last year.  But, with simple graciousness, they contacted me a few weeks ago, said that they had had to leave a few artists ‘on a sour note’ last year, that they had re-vamped their application process, and  invited me to reapply, with the application fee waived, for this summer.  I did, this year’s jury accepted me, and my residency is now “100%, written-in-stone, totally confirmed.”

I am so very happy this happened, not only because of the residency (though I am quite pleased about that; the place really appealed to me when I was searching for the best-for-me new residency experiences last year).  What I appreciate more than anything, though, is the very cordial and honest admission of a mistake, and the highly civilized attempt to make concrete amends, which I admired (and would have written about) even if I hadn’t been accepted.

In stark contrast to other situations, such simply considerate behavior is utterly refreshing, and faith-renewing.  I-Park is living up to the good things I’d heard from other residents, and I heartily commend them for it.


(You get two blahgs today; another one follows this.  I had this one written and ready to publish, then I got swamped by work and knocked down by yet another respiratory bug…somewhere in there, I wrote the next one…)

Moments Sustain Weeks

A very small part of Sunday afternoon:




Only one day “off” for a weekend isn’t good, because it’s not “off”, it’s spent on concentrated prep, no downtime, save an hour in the woods with Paul and Lupe.  This semester continues more grueling than ever, ever, ever before.  On Friday, it will be one-third finished. And though it’s cold and snowy, the days are finally getting a wee bit longer, and in concert, my future is inching closer. It’s backbreaking, but the back of it all, including winter, is finally broken.

Boxes and Outside Them


Above is where (S)Edition got left at the beginning of an insanely busy week; 15 covers done, no binding yet, and a bit of a setback; I left some sheets for making stems sit too long, and found them moldy and stinky on Tuesday (sigh).  The week was so grueling in ways I won’t talk about that I came home as sore as if I’d been physically beaten with a lead pipe, and actually wept, twice, something that’s unbelievably out of character.

So, it’s odd and lovely to have a lift in mood* while in the midst of teaching two additional six hour class sessions this weekend.  I’m teaching a boxmaking class, a combination of two of the first classes I ever taught after leaving grad school, and something I only teach now every couple of years.  I’m not the type of teacher who considers an occasional return to the basics to be a form of backsliding; rather, it’s a renewal, refreshing.  This is not to say I wouldn’t rather be in my own studio, or lazing around the house (something that probably won’t occur till the next batch of winter holidays), but, if I must be working elsewhere, this is markedly different than the bludgeoning energy I experienced during the regular work week; it’s pleasurable.

Almost to reward my shift in outlook, I came home tonight to find that I’ve gotten my second summer residency; I’ll tell you where when I have the dates firmly set and confirmed; it’s a nice story. And I heard from a long-lost friend I’ve been missing. All good…it might even help me through tomorrow’s predicted snowstorm.

* Truthfully, though, my mood had nowhere to go but up.


(S)Editious Sundays (art brain noise)


I’m getting excited; I can finally see the end of (S)Edition, which has taken me waaaaay longer than I ever anticipated, most of that directly due to the extreme turmoil of 2008.  Today, I began finishing the covers, which will let me begin spending whatever small increments of time I can cull from my non-life binding the final copies…starting tomorrow!  The ‘stems’ will be the problem, as each one involves a several-hour time commitment; once I begin one of those, it’s got to be made non-stop, start to finish.  But, if I can work on the bindings a bit each day, I can spend my studio day and one day a weekend on those, crank out at least four a week…and finish, finish, finish this.

Of course, right when I hit this confident stride, this weekend brings my one-credit class; some of us who team-taught a course last semester were required to offer a short intensive class this semester. I’ll spend six hours teaching on Friday and again on Saturday, and another three wrapping the class up in early March.  But even so, I’ll be able to make visible progress, even if it’s just getting a pair of folios or two bound or shaped per day.

There’s no external deadline for (S)Edition; I can’t exhibit the edition as a whole till February 2010, since 24 copies will be out with The Leaf and The Page in two Illinois State Museums till then.  But I need them finished, to clear my consciousness for the next works: first, a book that’s been nagging to be made (and has a two-year exhibit waiting for it)…and then I’ll finally, finally move on to the new series that’s existed only as sketches and a partially-built piece since last summer, except in my active dreams.

I am searching for a 2010 venue for (S)Edition, and I would love to see it in an alternative to the gallery; I would love to see all 99 copies installed in a working library, for instance. Any ideas, anyone?  

And getting to the end of this long, long project has me thinking: Yeah, you can knock me down, you can kick the breath out of me while I’m down there, and you have, but…you…cannot…stop…me, not for long. 


Blah Non Blahg


There’ve been no blogs ‘cuz there’s nothing to write. But, there’s a difference: unlike previous non-blogs last semester, where there was a lot happening that I was wrestling mightily with but couldn’t write about, now, there’s just nothing to write about.  I’m busy, phenomenally so, but school is school is school and goes something like this: e-mail, breakfast, e-mail, shower, e-mail, get dressed, pack up, commute, meeting, meeting, meeting, class, meeting, meeting, meeting, class prep, meeting, meeting, commute, e-mail, partially unpack, dinner, e-mail.  That doesn’t include the re-scheduling and the re-working of things that were finished but must now be altered, which amounts to oh, I’d say about a third to two-thirds of my efforts on any given day, so much so that that is now routine. Every Friday the entire day is taken up by work e-mail to wrap up the week and to get things moving for next week, and/or generating Written Things for work, but mostly e-mail, eight to ten hours of it. Yawn.

We’re sticking close to home because of the ongoing medical situation with our elder, so unless things come to the inbox or mailbox, it’s simply a dull time; all work and only private, quiet play.  When we go out to the burbs to the hospital or nursing home, we make a point of stopping somewhere nice for dinner on the way back.  Likewise, I’m keeping up with my day of artwork each week, and, so far, I’m successfully implementing other unremarkable but effective stress-relieving strategies as well.

I’m like all the plants busily but quietly working underground on the next fine season of growth. It’ll be spectacular when it gets here but there’s nothing to see right now. 


I Show…Don’t Know

How very odd.  I have work in what looks like a very nice show at the University of Central Florida.  It opened in January.  I got an e-mail today from someone I’d met briefly on a residency, who said he was pleased to see my work again, and he chided me a bit for not sending him an invitation.  But, I had absolutely no idea!

I googled it; I’m not included in the images on the show’s web page, but then I saw this image flash by from a Flickr photostream of the opening.

The curators have borrowed the large earlier work from the Jaffe collection in Florida, but it looks like there are two.  No idea where the second one came from, or even which piece it is; I can’t quite see it in any of the photos.  So, I can happily add the show to my exhibition list, but it does seem a wee bit strange not to have been notified in some way.

I do always tell my students that once your work leaves your studio, it’s out there forming relationships of its own; now I have an appropriate anecdote to illustrate that point.


This isn’t the piece in the show, but it’s one of three from that time period.

(Now, I’m off to enjoy a gorgeous sunny false spring: 51 degrees in Chicago today!  The Forest Preserve deer need me.)

Tundra Time


Yes, we are February all the way; Chicago is frozen tundra, ice solidly crusted over all the piled-up dirty grey snow, rutted frozen tire tracks to negotiate at each end of every block I walk on the way to the el, the parts of the streets where the people stopped clearing the sidewalks, and the snowplows didn’t reach; and cold, cold, cold.  My part of the planet is in total hibernation, and I feel for whoever owns this bike.  It’s locked in to the winter like the rest of us.

I’ve begun writing some tales from the past, and have quickly discovered that doing that involves Writing A Story, which is infinitely slower than shooting off my keyboard in a blog, writing my streams-of-alleged-consciousness from the now.  If I don’t get so impatient at my own pace that I lose interest, I’ll publish the first finished one, assuming that happens.  But, really, winter or not, to stay sane during all that’s going on, I need activities away from the keyboard.  This is especially true now that the semester’s in full, ludicrous swing and the daily amount of e-mail and other written work is stupendous.

And so,  I’ve actually been smart.  I got enough concentrated work done during break that I can and have been working on the final copies of SEdition in tiny increments every day.  Even if it’s just a half-hour; it’s a half-hour that’s productive and peaceful and mine.  And, after having my “studio day” eaten up last week, as it was all last semester, I am now determined that will not happen again. Studio day is now and forevermore sacrosanct, inviolable. I own it.  With that to center me, and the next one to look forward to, I can survive any amount of insanity, and believe me, insanity and frozen tundra is pretty much what’s out there right now.