Thursday, January 15, 2015

From the Art Docent: Line as a Visual Element

Hey kids! Are you excited for today's art class?
(Yeah! Insert excited chattering and clapping.)

We're going to learn about line!
(Insert the chirp-chirping of crickets.)

I could tell the first grade class I taught today didn't think line was all that exciting. At first, I followed my lesson script with enthusiasm and fun facts like:
A line is a path between two points! Wait, it get's better...
A line can express a feeling. I know, fascinating, right? Like a horizontal line can be sleepy, a line full of angles can be angry or energizing, a thick line can feel heavy, a lightly drawn line can seem like it's floating.
A line can connect and create a shape, it can communicate by forming into letters or scrawling like cursive.
A line can--

--well, it can decorate...

I tossed the notes aside and jumped in with the fun stuff. I passed out watercolor paper, paints, brushes, water, and a black crayon. I had them sign their names first, earning a nod of approval from the teacher, and settled in with drawing lines on the paper with our black crayon.

Put your crayon on the paper and see where your line goes, I encouraged them.  I told them to draw squiggly lines, straight lines, circles, shapes, angles, dotted lines.

Hey kids! Draw whatever you feel!
(Huh? Is that it?)

Hey kids! Let's paint the white space in between!
(Yeah! Color! Insert applause and cheer.)

Some were done the second their paper hit their desks, and some consternated over each detail for the full hour. It takes all kinds of artists, and even though the enthusiasm I was looking for seemed a little mellow in the beginning, most of the kids were exited to show me their work and proud of their "line" journey.
Today's Drying Rack

Bianca's Sea Monster

Ruby's Hannah Playing in Heaven

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Just, That, Really?

One of my critique partners mentioned that I use the word 'just' too many times. So I did a scan on my 71,500 word manuscript and had to raise my brows. I had no idea! I used the word 'just' 268 times. Good grief! 

I did a control F and reviewed each instance and whittled all the 'justs' down to 152 occurrences.

I found this article on other words to be wary of: and discovered that I abuse the word 'that', too!

With over 600 cases of ‘that’ in my manuscript, I started down the long slog of reviewing each instance. After the first 100 or so, I questioned whether my usage was so awful. Some 'thats' flowed naturally and sounded good to me when I read it out loud. So, I did a little search and found an article by Grammar Girl that made sense:

So, I’ve decided to stop stressing. Each 'that' is worth reviewing, some need to be changed into stronger sentences, some are part of my voice and style and some work grammatically. To eliminate and avoid words doesn't make sense, but to evaluate them? Definitely! This was a good lesson for me, because now those two words stand out every time I use them. 

Along this same grain, is punctuation. Apparently, I abuse the ellipses and the m-dash, too.