How to take Lynda Barry’s class online

I just discovered Lynda Barry on Friday, 20 April 2018. I very first heard about her book Syllabus on Creative Bug, at some point this past week – but only started investigating her work on Friday. I feel like marking the day is significant because I don’t think I’ll be the same after this.

That night, I ran a drawing workshop at the North Down museum, and asked participants to imagine Bangor in the future, inspired by a project Lynda Barry did. It was a blast. I loved having that hook to draw people in. I spent Saturday listening to her, and reading anything I could get my eyeballs on. And I started drawing. I’m waiting patiently for her book Syllabus to arrive. Meanwhile, I discovered she has shared so much online.

Lynda Barry posts all of her classroom homework and assignments right on Tumblr as The Near-sighted Monkey. A few months ago Lynda Barry posted “For a good time, visit our website’s archive of over 5,000 posts.” She recommends you search for “Homework” and “assignment.” Open Culture collected links and notes from Lynda Barry’s course here.

I don’t want to take away the thrill of combing through her back catalog, but I want to share what I found here to inspire you.

Learn about Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry is an artist and a scientist investigating the links between doodling, memory, creativity, and just being human. This is serious stuff, as much as it’s silly and fun. I feel so vindicated reading her explain that doodling helps you focus, helps you remember things. I want to take this to my 4th grade teacher who confiscated my notebooks and BANNED me from doodling!

Listen to her voice, and you’ll hear it in her writing after that. So good.


Buy her books! Buy her stuff!

I don’t like to link to Amazon, but I can’t find a list from her own site for affiliate links. So, I am linking direct to the publisher here.

Lynda Barry sells her work on Etsy as packed including original drawings and copies of her work.

Discover Lynda Barry’s assignments

It seems if you follow along from the start of a year you could do all the assignments each week. Or dip in and out.

The assignments are very specific. Creativity thrives in boundaries. Her instructions take away the decision making, and I think in some ways they help people get started. Before they have even collected the quotes, they are cutting the cards and they have already “started”  the task.

Here’s an example. Quote Collection: Between now and next week, make a quote collection. Her assignment specifies that you cut index cards in half, you collect ten quotes. You identify the location and date on the back. Write each quote nearly in all capital letters on the centre of the car.

There are also assignments to watch and read, with inspirations from cartoons to funk music to split-brain studies.

I can see how she is helping the students build habits for getting started and staying focused. The writing and drawing assignments are often timed. Which is also good to do when you can’t START. She is adamant: use your phone on airplane mode! Here’s an example: Blow your mind with your mind, by drawing faces. These tactics, like working on “airplane mode” and using timers are the kinds of techniques I’ve learned to get focused and working.

She has many assignments related to Ivan Brunetti’s book, Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, which is a textbook for the class. Here’s an example. Draw 9 castles. Fold a paper into 9 squares. Draw a castle in the first square in 3 mins, and then 2 mins, 1 mins, then 45 seconds, 30 seconds, 20, 10, then 5! Faster and faster! Going to put that on my wishlist.

Showing up and doing the work! This is another thing I love about her assignments. She references the discipline of showing up and doing the work. Students will lose credit for unexecused abscences, showing up late, or not bringing their materials. I love this quote from an NPR interview.

 The essential assignment: the four minute diary

I’m flat out this week away for work. So I’ve started with this assignment to keep a four minute diary.

Lynda is on YouTube as Aunti Skimpo. She recommends a daily activity of a “four minute diary” – 4 mins! I can do that! In 2 mins, you write down a list of what you remember about the day before or what happened. And in the next 2 mins, you write down a list of what you saw. This helps improve your memory, and it helps you notice what you notice.

I tried the Artists Way. I think I kept it up for 3 of the 6 weeks. But it was… painful and boring. Ugh. I constantly felt like I had nothing to say or worth writing about it. I have the cringe-worth pages still. Yeesh. This 4 mins diary seems much more do-able.

Gather your materials

She is very specific in what materials she recommends students use in the assignments.    Specific pens, specific crayons and markers. Though she does talk about using cheap “garbage” materials – which I can relate to so much. Takes some of the fear away!

Ooo. Just discovered you can embed Tumblr posts (see below). Anyway, if it doesn’t appear, follow the link for the supplies list. Seems to be posted a few times – it’s roughly the same each time.

I think some of the materials are cultural references, like the composition note books which you can’t get here easily in UK/Ireland. Well, you can but they cost a lot! I also don’t think I’ve ever seen a Papermare Flair pen, and I think importing the materials for the sake of specificity seems to go against the idea that these are easy every-day things to get . (24 pens for 30 quid?) I dunno! I will have a nosey if I can get to a stationary store this week.

What is in the Art Kit? Seems students buy some kind of art kit. And then assignments refer to watercolour kits and index cards. Maybe it’s in the Syllabus book? I will find out!

For now, for this week, I have plans to show up everyday, and do the work. I think the only habit I can rely on is that I drink coffee every morning. So I’m going to attach the 4 minute diary to that activity, and start from there.

Exquisite Bangor at the Arts Night at North Down Museum

On Friday night, I joined the Arts Night at the Museum at North Down Museum, and it was loads of fun! I took part as a member of Boom Studios, and it was a blast. Participants could go around the museum and join in arts activities at different stations.

My workshop was in a room full of historical costumes, maps, and weapons. People seemed to come in waves, it was quite busy at times. It was so great drawing in that setting. I wish I got photos of the works in progress!

I used format of The Exquisite Book as inspiration and Lynda Barry’s “future of education” project from the University of Wisconson.

As participants sat down, I asked them to think about those people and how they couldn’t possibly have imagined our world today. I asked them to imagine what Bangor would be like in the future. And then draw it!

There was no shortage of ideas!

The Exquisite Book is based on the Dada idea of ‘exquisite corpse.’ That method involves folding up a piece of paper, marking out edges of a neck or waist, and passing it among collaborators who each draw a section without seeing the other. Hilarity ensues when you see the mid-matched heads and bodies.

The Exquisite Book was done with 100 artists collaborating, and pages are attached to each other with lines at each edge connecting one very long image. It’s broken into sections.

The concept was simple to explain and I love the range of drawing styles the book demonstrates. Pro tip- Make sure you tape up any naughty pictures if you’re doing an all-ages workshop. Eek! I thankfully caught that before folks arrived!

I was situated at the entrance almost so lots of people stopped by. There was so much going on, from pottery, jewellery, painting, and felt-making. I noticed some parents trying to nudge their kids along to try more adventurous things. After all this was JUST drawing. But there’s something about it. When you see people drawing, you want to draw too. It was something easy and fun. I loved seeing adults giggle saying ‘I can’t draw’ and then they go do the most AMAZING drawings. I’m looking forward to assembling the book.

I was swamped at times, and I was dizzy listening to so many amazing stories what a brilliant place Bangor will be. That was so much fun, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

My next task is to get the pages tacked together, and I have to make a cover too. I’ll have the book available at Boom Studios. If you’d like to come see it, and come and draw, visit us at the Boom Community Art Club on Wednesday nights in Bangor!

Here’s an example from the book. Wow. OK. So this young boy explained that in the future, the world is remade everyday from this huge machine. It is attached to someone’s head, and each day the world is made up out of their imagination. As you can see here, there’s houses right side up and upside down. There’s tree people and unicorns. There’s houses floating in the sky, only held down by huge long chains to keep them from flying away!

I loved this Candy Land Bangor too. In the future, Bangor is entirely made of candy. Candy floss mountains, lollipop trees, a coca-cola river, with oreos floating in it. You can see people skipping on the Oreos. And then a looooong chocolate bar train track. The young girl said, if you go home and your parents have salad for dinner, you can say ‘no thanks’ and go eat anything outside!

Absolutely amazing 😀

If I wasn’t running a workshop, I would have attended on my own. That was a blast.



The Taste Gap – If you’re feeling stuck, watch this!

I love this video on Ira Glass’s Taste Gap so much. If you’re doing creative work, and you KNOW it sucks, watch it. Ira Glass explains that you know your work sucks because you have good taste! The only way out of it is through it. “The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work.” That means lots of work that, by all definitions, will absolutely suck.

So important to remind myself because I look at what I do, and it’s very far from where I want to be or what I imagined. Another great resource along this vein is Mighty Ugly. Incidentally, if you’re looking for an excuse to make and create – come along to Boom Community Art Club. Wednesday nights!

I thought Ira Glass’s video was lost forever. I had it bookmarked on YouTube, and when I looked it up, the original video was GONE. I was gutted, but thankfully it’s available as this beautiful video here!

Brainpickings posted a full transcript.

The Woollinn Workshops!

I’m excited about Woollinn Dublin!

After the success of YarnFolk Festival of Wool in August last year, it’s clear we need more woolly events on this island 🙂  Ironically, it will take me as long to get to Woollinn as it does to Edinburgh Yarn Fest (door to door) 😂 😂 😂 😭. This island is so poorly connected. I think if you’re coming from anywhere else the Woollinn location is great, right next to the airport.

So! I was dithering and dithering about which days I would go, what I would sign up to. I have finally registered, so go get yours! In addition to the workshops, I am very excited to see Kate Davies talk about her work and her new book: Handywoman.

Handy Woollinn Workshop Guide

I found it hard to understand the workshop schedule since it’s just a list.

So I made this handy-dandy table if you were curious too. I don’t know if the schedule is subject to change, but is up to date as of 17 March 2018.  Continue reading

i’m sorry, i was doggie paddling

i’ve always sucked at swimming. i hate putting my head underwater. (yes, i still blame my well-meaning teenaged brothers and sisters who chucked me into the water when i was little. because that was the best way to learn to swim apparently.) having my head underwater just seems like drowning.

have you ever tried doggie paddling though? it’s basically how i swim. keeping my head up, treading water, not really getting anywhere fast.

it’s supposedly easy, but it takes an incredible amount of effort.

imagine people asking you to hold things while you’re doggie paddling. trying to talk while you’re doggie paddling. trying to even get anywhere. it’s exhausting.

you’re moving so much it’s like you must be getting somewhere. and you’re not.

a former boss was shocked to see me so overwhelmed and unable to keep up. i never said no. she didn’t recognise her positional power and she thought at some point i would just say “no” to her. she expected me to say no. i was fired. that sucked. turns out it is my pattern. i don’t say no. i have repeated the same pattern over and over and over. it’s been hard learning this. again. i haven’t been proud of my work for a long time.

starting things then dropping things. picking things up then losing them. reaching out then drawing back. i say yes and yes and yes. paddling and never getting anywhere.

i think i need to draw a line. and just get on with it.

i’ve been doggie paddling through life. and i want to apologise to anyone who needed me to do things for them. finally to say: i’m sorry, i was doggie paddling. 


Photo underwater by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

later in life, i learned how to float.

i realised (thanks to my stores of fat) i could float in salt water with little movement. this was the best thing that happened to me and my relationship with water. i remember floating in ocean hot springs on green island in taiwan with my friend S. calm warm salt water, light purple sky, reflecting in a smooth opal pool. we could stay afloat with just a flick of a finger or foot. i go back there in my mind when i’m overwhelmed.

late night and early morning is my favourite time to swim. the water is calm. mostly my version of swimming now is just floating when i can.

i’ve been trying to get there with how i live too. i said no a lot from 2016-2017. no to this. no to that. nope. nope. nope. cutting things out. not joining. not showing up. not doing. i unknit more than i knit. i threw out more than i made. floating not doggie paddling. learning to sit. meditating. sitting for 10 minutes is hard. though even when i suck at it, it works.

and then you’re floating. it’s much easier this way.

by learning to ease through – i survived this past winter without falling in a hole. i’m damned proud of that.

it’s one thing i did that is actually working out. i’m proud of learning to live with anxiety and depression. i’m ok with my little shadow. keeping it real for me. (i can’t understand people without shadows.)

now i want to say yes, and to thrive, and to move through space. to swim, finally.

not sure what this is going to look like.

“I learn by going where I have to go.” The Waking by Theodore Roethke.


ripples on the surface of the water

Shivering – photo by me



Tap when you knit? Use this cute finger protector.

I think Bernie (Bear in Sheep’s Clothing Yarn) isn’t the only knitter who taps when she knits. Once she showed me a welt in her index finger from where she taps on the needle as she knits. Like, a HOLE in the skin. She said she winces each time she taps, but can’t really knit any other way. I’ve heard other knitters get calluses, sores, and cuts.

When I was in Japan, I saw these rubber finger covers and thought they’d be perfect! And here’s Bernie delighted with her new finger protector.

How you can get one of these magical knitting finger protectors

I’m sure someone more clever could fashion a finger protector out of all sorts of things, or cut the top off of rubber finger thimbles. But if you want one of these from Japan, they are easy to get and might save you lots of pain, while still being stylish.

They are called メクリッコ, which sounds like mekurikko. (me-ku-riko). You can search for them on Amazon. I’ve looked around, and I think if you’re shopping from outside Japan, Amazon is handy because they handle the customs declaration for you.

If the Amazon site comes up in Japanese, make sure to switch out for English in the footer at the bottom.


Why so many kinds of finger covers in Japan?

I first found some kind of smelly rubber ones that covered the finger entirely. They were sold in the stationary section. The later, I found MUCH cuter ones which just wrapped around the finger pads, came in pastel colours, and had little bows on them! For example, メクリッコsweet.

As you can see on this ad, mostly they seem to be for managing flipping through A LOT of paper. And people love paper in Japan. They haven’t gone digital and they read many many more magazines and books than we do out here in the UK/Ireland. At least from what I can tell! My mind was boggled with all the beautiful magazines they have, and that seem to take up a much larger floor space in comparison.

The cutest finger protectors I found were advertised for ID protection. Very clever marketing! See, they proved in Jan 2017 that someone could theoretically nick your fingerprint from a photo taken nine foot away. And in Japan, it’s common to take a selfie with your friends posing making a peace sign! This puts anyone taking an innocuous selfie at risk. (Side note: I noticed Japanese folks I follow on Instagram generally much more protective of their online identity, and savvy in general. For example, they tend to blur or block faces in photos to protect them from facial recognition.)

So I think in this case, I saw some finger covers that were rebranded as “ID protectors” – which were basically the same exact product, for a new potential security-conscious market.

And next, I think they should rebrand them as KNITTING FINGER PROTECTORS! 😀


If all synesthesia is idiosyncratic, then why doesn’t anyone like 9?

Since I was very little, each letter has had such a distinct personality and relationship between its nearest letters. As soon as I knew letters, I knew who they were, just as if I’d met someone.

There’s handsome G, stuck between sweet, gentle F who he pines for, and on the other side: H who he’s committed to. Will they break off the engagement?? H treats G horribly! And always snickers behind his back in her bitchy clique with I and J. KL are such snobs anyway, they don’t even seem to notice. They’re older and really can’t be bothered with all that nonsense…. etc!

I don’t think I understood the complexities when I was that little. But the story became embellished as I learned more and got older. My understanding deepened but the situation was the same.

I’ve asked others if they had dramatic stories behind the arrangement of letters in the alphabet. When I kept on getting weird reactions, I stopped asking. I assumed I’d taught myself this little tale to remember the order of the letters.  26 letters. And a tale I’ve never forgotten.

Now I see that I wasn’t alone in assuming I’d “learned” it.

“I figured that numbers must have been taught that way to me at a time when I was so young that I could no longer remember the teaching of it.” – Do you have Synesthesia?

I didn’t recall meeting anyone who had a similar experience. Until today, my friend MizzAdamz said that letters and numbers had personalities, complex back stories.

She’s a synesthete, and she said one of the rarest with Ordinal Linguistic Personification Synesthesia.

Apparently, the reason I have no trouble remembering this convoluted 26 character story because I can perceive the relationships.

I am also a synesthete.

Synesthesia comes in various forms

It turns out if you’ve got one kind of synesthesia, you may have another kind.

I was sitting here researching and I’ve just yelped out loud. “NO WAY. WHAT?! Doesn’t EVERYONE feel a touch on their body when they see someone else being touched?”

Turns out not everyone does feel it. This is Mirror-Touch Synesthesia! “I can feel other people’s pain.” I can feel if someone across a room touches their cheek gently. I feel if someone gets punched in a movie. (Also, I wonder if it’s why I can’t cut meat. It feels like I’m cutting my own flesh. I get worried I’ll get confused and actually cut my own arm.)

Turns out I also have other types of synesthesia, and I may have others.

  • Colour to sound synesthesia 
    • I hear pure tones from colours. Moving and flashing images are very “loud.” Sounds are apparent when they “switch” – it’s like hitting a tuning fork. It fades.
    • For example, I use an app that darkens my screen as the night goes on. And the screen changes “tone.” If I ALT+tab to another app where f.lux is disabled, the screen goes brighter and bluer. And the pitch goes higher.
  • Spatial sequence synesthesia
    • I “see” time and numbers. This is also how I see temperatures and conversions.
    • Times and dates advance to my right, and recede to my left. Past is left. “Now” is centre, where I am. Years, months, days, hours, all ticking along bands around this drum. The furthest right and left are darkened, in shadow, because I can’t see around the disk.

I wonder if other people with spatial sequence synesthesia also get this sensation of everything “clicking” when it lines up together. It sounds unlikely.

Turns out these idiosyncratic traits mean no two synesthetes see the same colours.

That question intrigues me. For me, F is a shy and kind girl. She’d never stick up for herself. And then I came across an article on synesthesia which said “F is shy, hesitant, some would say spineless.”

Are there patterns?

Why is 9 such a jerk?

MizzAdams told me about the number characters which go into the hundreds and even thousands. As soon as you say a number, she intuitively knows it. She said “9” for example was a total bitch.

I came home and started reading about it. I saw a video which said “For Gayle, 9 is an elitist girl.” (TedEd video below) There seems to be a pattern of negative associations with 9. Emily, a 13 year old, wrote Me and My Synesthesia. 9 is an annoying boy.  Another blogger write “Nine looks down on everyone. He thinks they’re a pack of idiots, and treats them all with barely disguised contempt.” in Do you have synesthesia?

They must just be coincidences?

As described in the video below, the first shock for synesthetes is to discover no one else who perceives your sensations. Then there’s a shock when you find someone else that does. The final shock is when you learn that they do not have the same exact associations.

So I’m curious: Do you have it? You can take this quiz to find out.