Category Archives: Visual Thinking

Illustrating Buddha

Paper Buddha BW

I am teaching an 8 week general studies course this semester on the topics of presence and mindfulness.  I have already introduced these topics in class (we are in the second week), and I have talked to my students about the image of the Buddha and how it illustrates the three basic ingredients of meditation (body [bottom], mind [top], and breath [middle]).  I also emphasized that this image, though still, stands for an activity.  It illustrates the journey and practice of mindfulness, rather than a desired destination or ultimate state of being.  In other words, the image, whether it is a statue or painting or drawing, doesn’t represent an idol to worship or the result of meditation in Buddhism.  It represents the habitual practice of mindfulness, not only in seated meditation, but in every possible aspect of life.

I also asked students to draw with me a simple image of the Buddha in order to get a more personal sense of what this image represents.  I drew it on the whiteboard a couple of times, and then I asked them to draw it a couple of times themselves in their journals.

Buddha Sketch

My wife and I have also begun a meditation practice each morning after waking.  We have mats and pillows and a bench for me set up in our bedroom.  And after we get the dogs settled, we practice for about 10 or 15 minutes.  We are beginning practitioners and hope to build up to more time on the mat.

During my practice this morning, I was reflecting further on this image of Buddha in meditation and how I could help my students experience the patience, presence, and balance that it represents.  I first thought about bringing river stones of various sizes to class and giving each of my 20 students three relatively small stones (one large, one medium, and one small) to stack and balance so they could experience the patience and focus needed to stack and balance those stones.

But then, I thought about having to find 60 stones and carrying them to class for 20 students and the work that would entail.  Next, I thought about using a sheet of paper and making small balls of paper to serve the same purpose.  And here is how it worked out:

Making a Paper Buddha
So here’s what I learned about how to make a paper Buddha. Fold a sheet of paper in half three times to create eight total sections. Unfold and tear in the sheet half. Tear an eighth off one of these halves.  As a result, you have one piece with four eighths, one piece with three eighths, and one piece with one eighth.  Now make tight balls with each. Next, flatten the largest ball, and finally balance the other two on top, medium-sized ball in middle.

I’ll introduce this exercise in presence, patience, and balance to students next week.

And here is how it turned out.

Drawing Attention

Self-portraits on index cards from students on first-day of class yesterday in English 1301: Freshman Composition:

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And from English 2307: Introduction to Literature and Creative Writing:

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I distribute index cards at the beginning of each class and ask students to write their names and the date on one side and draw an image on the other.  These cards have two purposes.  I use them to track attendance, and I use the drawing exercise to help them dispel distractions and begin to focus on the work of the class to come.

As for the images, I ask them to draw all sorts of things, some related to the work of the class or what they did over the weekend or something related to their major or the weather.  What they draw is ultimately not as important as the act of drawing and the focusing of their attention.

At the end of the course, I return all of the index cards from the semester to the students as one way for them to review their journey through the class.

The Chorus in a Drunken Boat

I’m happy to say that my comic poem “The Chorus” has been published in Drunken Boat 24.

This was a poem that I wrote for my wife and then converted into a comic using Powerpoint to create the panels, text, and simple images, most prominently a small white circle that repeats throughout.  Here are the first two panels.

Sample The Chorus Comic

Thanks to Nick at Drunken Boat for accepting my comic poem.

My other comic poems have been co-created with my daughter Myra, including an alternating comic composition here, an exposition of our collaborations here, a published comic in Ink Brick 3# here and another in Ink Brick #5 here.  Our comic “Blue” is also to be included in the “Language Meets Art” exhibition at LUHCA December 2, 2016 through January 28, 2017.

Myra and I also collaborated on an academic article “Drawing is Learning” in comic format in the Journal for the Assembly of Expanded Perspectives on Learning here.

Drawing to Learn Comics

Here is a slideshow of comics from my upper division Reading Graphic Novels class. (See slideshow toggle at top right of flickr screen.)   Here’s a sample image:

Midterm Comic Sample copy

The midterm assignment asked students to draw the life of comic or cartoon artist in at least 12 panels and 3 colors. Out of the 20 students in the class, no one chose the same artist. That’s kind of a miracle.

“Four Hands” Opens at Angelo State

Opening this week and running through March 11 in the Carr EFA Building will be an exhibition titled “Four Hands” that displays collaborative work from the last three years by my daughter Myra Musgrove and me.  Myra is an artist and illustrator living in Brooklyn, NY, and she will be in San Angelo this week to visit a number of art classes and then attend the gallery reception and talk Thursday, February 25 at 3:30 in Gallery 193.

Artist Statement Small

Artist Statement for Four Hands

This exhibition includes a large scale comic of my poem “My Song,” illustrations and poems from my recent poetry collection Local Bird from Lamar University Press, a co-authored academic article in comic format, and three other large scale digital prints of co-created comics.  In addition, QR codes are on each gallery image label that provide links to further description of each image on display.

Books on pedestal

INK BRICK, Local Bird, and JAEPL

Much of this collaborative work previously appeared in print.  The 24 panel comic “My Song” appeared in a four-page spread in InkBrick.

My Song Internal

My Song in InkBrick

My Song Hanging

My Song on Canvas

The poems and illustrations appeared in Local Bird.

Here and Now Section Page

Framed Local Bird

8 poems and illustrations from Local Bird

And the 12 page comic article “Drawing is Learning” originally appeared in the Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning.

Page 1 Drawing is Learning

Framed JAEPL

12 page article from JAEPL “Drawing is Learning”

I’d like to thank Dr. Randy Hall in Visual and Performing Arts who curated and supported this exhibition from the beginning.  And Dr. Chris Stewart, Chair of VPA, who has been very helpful throughout as we printed and framed the pieces to be included.

framed pages from journal article

Images from Drawing is Learning after matting and framing

I’ve also included the poster for the exhibition below.  This poster was designed by Dr. Ben Sum also from VPA at Angelo State.  Their added collaborative efforts have helped make this exhibition a reality.

4 hands 11x17

I want to especially thank my wife Marie-Clare for her inspiration.

Matted comics

Collaborative comics on canvas

Over all this project reflects my interest in collaborative work inside and outside the university community.  I hope to be working soon with colleagues in the art program on developing a comic studies minor program.  I am currently co-editing an anthology of poetry and fiction on the topic of Texas weather with a colleague in my own department.  And I hope to create other collaborations with colleagues at Angelo State on an Angelo State Arts and Humanities Festival as both a recruitment event and the promotion of Angelo Stage as a cultural center for this region of the state.

Matted bios from journal article

Bio page from JAEPL matted and ready for frame