Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Illustrated Story..."

A student's visual journal page

I had so much fun last weekend teaching "The Illustrated Story of My Life" to PSU students. We learned about visual journalists Frida Kahlo, Maude Tomlinson Berkeley, and Lynda Barry.

"Everyone" knows about Kahlo, but not all know that her personal diary has been published. She poured out her passions, despair, and secrets into this book that she lavishly illustrated with paintings, doodles, and symbols. It feels a bit strange to read a journal Kahlo wrote only for herself. The journal is inspiring to those who worry that their own journals aren't perfect. Kahlo was perfectly fine with crossing out words, putting down stream-of-consciousness rants, and making a general mess of her pages when she felt like it.

Images from Kahlo's journal

Maud Berkeley is not well known. I found out about this Victorian woman when I was googling for women's journals several years ago. Her journal was published in an adapted form by Flora Fraser. Maud was a high-spirited young woman living with two aged parents on the Isle of Wight off the coast of England. Maud's writing shows a delightful sense of the absurd and a wish to document her daily life. She took art lessons to improve her diary art. Her illustrations are full of movement and humor.

Maud Berkeley, far left, and two other members of "The Firm",
a group of twenty somethings who gathered for music
and high jinks

Maud and her friends are scolded by local matron, Mrs. Hatchet, aka
"The Enemy." Mrs. H. apparently felt the young people should be in church,
rather than enjoying themselves on the beach.

Maud's first attempt to use the new-fangled device
called a shower.

Lynda Barry is known to many as a talented and hilarious cartoonist. She has recently published a book in visual journal form all about creativity--what holds us back and how we can reclaim our right to write and make art. The book is called, What It Is. I can't recommend it too highly--it is wonderful. Some of the book takes a form of written and visual remembering of Barry's childhood. She vividly evokes the difficulties she faced and also shows the power of a child's creativity when used to survive.

Barry survives through cartooning

Students in the class did a written project and also a creative one. Each student came up with exciting journal pages. They were willing to experiment and take some risks in creating. To see more pictures of the class, visit my other blog, here.


Jessica - Domestic PDX said...

What a fun class! And I'm so intrigued by the historical journals you mentioned.

Jessica - Domestic PDX said...

P.S. I got the Maud Berkeley book from the library (inter library loan) and am soooo loving it!