Draw Your Day: Grids & Gestures

More and more, I’ve been using drawing as a way of bringing together workshop participants, capturing ideas, getting them out of people’s heads, and into the room. You don’t have to be the greatest artist in the world to make a useful or meaningful mark on the page, and those marks can sometimes reveal or provoke the most inspiring and unexpected thoughts.

Together, we’ve drawn “arrows of time” to capture challenges from the past and future; we’ve made simple collaborative comics to demonstrate how easy it can be to stitch people’s ideas together into a common narrative; and, most recently, we’ve experimented with comic book guru Nick Sousanis‘ activity, “Grids and Gestures“.

“Grids and Gestures” invites people to tell the story of their day by filling a sheet of paper with shapes which resemble the panels of a comic-book.

The shapes, arranged across the page, represent the sequence of events and experiences which someone faces over the course of their day. Each shape in the grid is then completed with a gestural line or shape to represent their physical or emotional activity during that portion of the day.

I was exploring ways to help staff in large, diverse, and disjointed organizations to connect with colleagues in other teams, who might be in other buildings or even other cities.

I asked participants to draw their day as a series of comic-book panels, and then to write one word in each panel. They then formed groups of three and shared their “comic book diary” of a day in their working lives.

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Some entries captured the way in which an orderly, well-intentioned to-do list gave way to impromptu conversations, sudden thoughts, and newly arising projects – with a need to ring-fence “sacred time” at one’s desk to ensure vital work got done.

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Another example emphasised the prevalence of email, punctuating the day, while project work had to be fit around other duties – and questions didn’t always connect straightforwardly with answers.

“Grids and Gestures” proved a useful, lively way for people to articulate the rhythm and content of their working day, and to explore the similarities and differences in experience across teams, divisions, and geographical locations of an organization. It isn’t about being the “best” artist, it’s about using pen and paper to express & share the experience of your working day.

If you’d like to try something similar with your colleagues:

  • Give everyone a piece of copy paper and a writing implement.
  • Ask them to break up the entire page into shapes, like the panels of a comic book. (Show examples if need be). Tell them the panels can be any shape or size. These panels should represent the things that you experience during your working day.
  • Invite participants to write one word in each panel.
  • Get them to share the story of their day with one or two other participants.

You can read more about Nick Sousanis’ original “Grids and Gestures” activity here.

El Eternauta: Library in the Sky

In 2007, the National Library of Argentina commemorated the renowned Argentine comics writer Héctor Gérman Oesterheld with a special exhibition of his work.

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The library brought Oesterheld’s most famous character, the time-travelling Eternauta, to life by commissioning a special chapter of the Eternauta comic featuring the library itself.

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Over at arts website the Cultural Gutter, you can read the story of how, while visiting Buenos Aires, I escaped into the Eternauta’s world…or he escaped into mine.

Losing control in digital space: Liberact 2016

Last month I spoke at the Liberact conference of digital interactive experiences.

My paper was ‘Play, Chance, and Comics: Losing Control In Digital Space’.

Annotated whiteboard at a Brisbane gym

We explored comics, creativity…and what digital designers could learn from the noticeboard at a gym.

You can see an annotated PDF download of my presentation here.

What are you playing at? Digital comics at the Writing Platform

Why would an Aussie library get its designers to build a drag and drop comics website?

Aren’t there already plenty of free comic makers online?

What are you even playing at?

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The Writing Platform, a joint venture by Bath Spa University in the UK and QUT in Australia, has my latest piece, on the new remixable comic maker from State Library of Queensland.

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Read more about the State Library’s Comic Maker at The Writing Platform.

Comic Makers at Brisbane Parking Day

Yesterday I took a team of staff from the State Library of Queensland to run a pop-up comic making stand in Brisbane’s West End.

Brisbane Parking Day - Comic Maker Stall

Drawing on previous experiences with comic book dice at Bermondsey Street Festival, we took over a car parking space to let Brisbane locals tell their own sidewalk stories using simple three-dimensional cartoons. Read more

Marvellous, Electrical: Hesam Fetrati

This week’s Marvellous, Electrical interviewee is Hesam Fetrati, an Iranian satirist based in Brisbane.

Read more

Thinking the future through toys

Evil begins when we begin to treat people as things.

– Terry Pratchett

I bought a toy at the weekend. It was a cheap little thing, an impulse buy in the supermarket queue. Although I’m a very geeky man, I don’t normally buy toys. I’m not a keep-it-mint-in-the-box sort of person; nor am I interested in filling my house with pop-culture statuettes.

Windblade toy on the planning wall at State Library of Queensland

Read more

A Speaky Week

On Tuesday, I’ll be over at the University of Southern Queensland, giving talks and workshops to staff and students across faculties. You can follow them online via this livestreaming link – the fun kicks off at 11am Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Then on Thursday I’m joining the Broadband for the Bush Conference on rural and regional access to digital technology and communications, running a presenterless workshop session on planning for the future. I’ll be drawing on science fiction, Afrofuturism, and comics alongside debates around copyright, government policy, and the presentation of financial data.

You can follow via the hashtag #BushBroadband on social media. I feel like non-Aussies are going to think that’s something far more salacious than it actually is…

Where Do You Find Yourself? Space, Play, and Duty in the Australian Digital Library

Are there still cultural backwaters in the digital age? Three months in to my year-long residency at the State Library of Queensland, I’ve written about Australian libraries, regional engagement, and digital literature for The Writing Platform.

I’m very interested in the vogue for locative literature, where texts are linked to physical spaces through digital or conventional media. But there are questions still to be asked: not just whether we add a virtual layer of story and literature to physical spaces, but who gets to create the content in that virtual layer.

Forest comic for Fun Palace

If writers are having a creative and critical conversation about the world, and in the locative age we are venturing outside of traditional venues, we still need to ask: who are “we” having those conversations with? And how could a simple online comic maker start expanding that circle of storytelling, literary production, and critical discussion?

You can read the full article, ‘Where Do You Find Yourself? Space, Play, and Duty in the Australian Digital Library’, at The Writing Platform.

Dulwich Picture Gallery – 3D biographical comics

You can now see video from last month’s event “Your Mind Is The Scene Of The Crime” at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.

Inspired by the work of M.C. Escher, the event saw teens exploring comics and biography through thirty boxes containing text and images from the life of a mysterious woman.

Teens discuss biographical comics at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Over the course of a two-hour session, participants transformed the thirty boxes into individual artworks which together formed a biographical installation: a three-dimensional comic book which used perspective and storytelling to respond to the facts and feelings of a stranger’s life.

Read more about Escher, Dulwich, and Your Mind Is The Scene Of The Crime here.