Oh, how lucky was I to be selected as one of 16 particpants to participate in Lynda Barry’s Masterclass put on by the Vancouver Wrier’s Festival! This was definitely a creative experience. I knew some what what to expect as I had read the New York Times article, so when she came in singing I wasn’t surprised. She is quirky, daring and she curses, but I always love a woman who uses all the words in the English language, especially shithead and balls. She didn’t take long to captivate all 16 of the participants, and we were laughing and having a good time.
What is an image? This is the question that Lynda Barry has been questioning and reflecting on her whole creative life. Everything stems from images and the visual, and she walked us through some examples about how we as human beings place meaning in images. She talked about right brain, left brain theories and studies and talked about how art is needed as a way to reflect back to us some part of our human experience.
The writing exercises were intense because there was no time for re-reading or reflection. You battled two pages: one where you were writing, and the other you were drawing a spiral, an act that she said cuts out the commentary. She starts with a prompt, and then we were to write the first 10 images that came to mind based on that prompt. The image that seems the most vivid is the one you would choose to elaborate on. Then, we would flip the page over and draw a big X to denote that this was our note taking page and she would ask some very simple questions to clarify our image in mind: what is to the left of you or where is the light coming from? In one instance, I was writing about a self-portrait I drew in kindergarten and the last question, where is the light coming from, and this lef me to visualize and I could suddenly remember how much natural light did come through those windows, and how there were book shelves below them, and what was on the bookshelves. In my mind, I was brought so much closer to the image. Then we worked from images as prompts to create fictional stories, rather than stories based on our lives.
Readers volunteered to read and we were not supposed to look at them. We continued our spirals while we listened. She would notice someone with their hand up and walk towards them, saying “5, 4, 3, 2, and 1-go!” The person would read, while she crouched at their table and listened. When they finished, she would say ‘Good, good, good you badasses!” There was no room for self-doubt, for re-reading our passages, everything was based on creative instinct, and I got a lot out of this workshop because of this aspect.
You can read her book What It Is if you would like to read more about what she does.