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Friday, January 13, 2012

Six Minutes is Great



Two classes of 8th-grade art students at St. Ann School in Cleveland Heights listened to me blather yesterday on the sketchbook ecstasy. Note to concerned parents: "Ecstasy" was not a word I literally used. (Secondary note: the names of the boys here are hidden by the wonders of Photoshop to protect their privacy.)

At the invitation of illustrator and educator Nancy Lick, I brought a big bagful of books and my best arguments for why striding boldly into the practice of keeping a sketchbook — especially a sketchbook journal — was worth their while. To their credit, they did not seem bored, and believe me when I tell you I've lectured to 8th graders before and had a different experience.

If there was a single point I hoped to make, it was that approaching any given page in one's sketchbook need not be a Big Stinking Deal, either in terms of time or in terms of complicated drawing. To bolster my argument, I offered two kinds of proof. The first was my own sketchbooks, which are hit-and-miss affairs, and whose pages I enjoy revisiting for any number of reasons, regardless of any inherent lack of fabulousness.

My second offering of proof was a demo: The six-minute illustrated interview, three of which you see here. The first, the girl on the left, was my home practice, to see whether 6 minutes proved to be a decent amount of time. (It did.) The boys were the ones I did in class, with big audiences each time.

The gimmick: Do a 3-minute sketch of the subject, paying attention and really looking but not getting too invested in capturing likeness, then follow it with 3 minutes of interviewing. Both boys wanted to talk sports, which was a bit of a challenge for me.

I loved that I had eager volunteers for demos in both the classes. I also appreciated the gameness with which the boys participated, patiently posing and cooperating with the interview.

The point of the demo: Six minutes is enough time, even for someone who's pretty slow, like me, to have a memorable experience and create a memorable little page or part of a page in one's sketchbook. Six minutes is enough time to start to get to know someone in the way you know him or her by drawing, and by asking questions that lead to deeper questions.

Six minutes is great. Imagine what you can do with ten ...

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