Reflecting on Grids and Gestures

Last week I wrote about Nick Sousanis’s call for an experimental week of comics-esque journaling, Grids & Gestures. Along with many folks on Twitter, I participated in this daily exercise of chronicling a day through a grid and a series of gestures, loosely defined, without trying to “draw” so much as interpret ideas and emotions. There are several reflection posts from the week: check out thoughts from Amy Burvall, Jenny Mackness, Mariana Funes, and Kevin Hodgson. I particularly relate to Yin Wah Kreher’s observation: #gridsgestures and Nick “provided an inclusive environment where those new to comics-making could experiment with our ideas in public without feeling judged for not conforming to some standard. Individual styles were embraced.” Many of the people experimenting on #gridsgestures over the course of the week used diverse mediums: I saw everything from animated gifs and Twitter visualizations to charcoal and watercolor. I ended up using the medium of convenience, a set of colored thin-tip pens. I highly recommend browsing the hashtag to see how many different ways a simple set of instructions can be interpreted and played with.

The act of confronting a white paper daily is an important part of any academic practice, whether the goal is to write words, draw ideas, draft blueprints, or even outline future coded systems. I’ve found that a modified version of Nick Sousanis’s Grids & Gestures activity is a useful way to spend time with the blank page in a way I don’t often prioritize in my daily life – I spend so much of my day on text that it’s a relief to break way and think in a visual order. The outcomes aren’t nearly as important as the process, which is exactly what I try to impart to my students whenever possible. I will definitely be experimenting with this in class next time I have the chance.

With summer almost upon us, committing to daily habits can be a good way to structure time and jumpstart ideas. I anticipate integrating a modified version of #gridsgestures into my workflow on a daily basis, and as I go forward I’m particularly thinking about the other things that can be represented in this manner: the flow of a paper or a book chapter, the frustration of a mental road block, the ideas from a novel or an academic text.

Do you have a favorite daily creative exercise? Share your ideas in the comments!

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