It helped me to stay

I learnt about Lynda Barry recently via Austin Kleon. She’s an artist, graphic novelist, cartoonist amongst many other things. I was in a place where I’d really appreciate any prompts that will tease me out of my usual ways of seeing or processing or operating. I was yearning for a different kind of language, and what Barry was presenting resonated with me, as much as I cannot quite articulate what it is she offers me. I chased that thread down and was led to pick up What It Is, a book Austin Kleon had called the book equivalent of Lynda in the classroom: a magical, thrilling, and often overwhelming experience.”

And this book was such a delight! I wished I could have spent more time with it before the start-of-the-year-work picked up. I liked how the book was put together — it’s unlike anything I’ve encountered — coloured collages for the entire book (!!!), and I loved how she had woven stories, both personal and imaginary, together. The book itself presented as a bundle of prompts and activities for play and experimentation.

Here are some of my favourite pages and spreads:

I’ve been mulling over the idea of oblique strategies recently — how another medium can often be used/employed to help us sustain our relationship to something when a direct engagement feels too difficult — and these lines in the book really spoke to me:

Sometimes I drew with the radio on. It was a form of transportation. I did it because it helped me to stay by giving me somewhere else to go…Maybe this is why we draw shapes in the margins during meetings or on the backs of envelopes when we’re waiting on the phone. Drawing can help us stand to be there.

If you’re in some kind of funk and/or feel like you could use some kind of a pick me up, this is your book [:

January 26, 2024