I was listening to cartoonist Lynda Barry talk about a class she teaches at the University of Wisconsin. She described a creativity exercise she learned from Ivan Brunetti’s book Cartoon Philosophy and Practice.
Brunetti (and now Barry) has students draw a car for three minutes, then they draw another car for two minutes, then one minute, then 30 seconds, then 15 seconds. It turns out it’s a great tool for stimulating creativity—not too much different from some of the tricks I talked about here.
I wanted to see if this one worked with elementary school kids as well as college students.
“Hannah!” I hollered up the stairs. And before you can say “never experiment on your second grade children and their friends,” I gave Hannah and her friend Neela a pen and some paper. I didn’t explain the whole process, I just began by saying “I am going to give you three minutes to draw a car, any car. On your mark, get set, go.”
In the three minute exercise the girls were very careful, thoughtful and neat. In fact they were done in two and a half minutes. By the time they got to the 15 second car, there was chaos. If pens could produce smoke, there would have been a plume in the air.
As you may know from previous posts, I am not a fan of evaluating children’s artwork, but I did ask them: which is your favorite and why? They each independently walked me through their drawings and came up with the same conclusion: they didn’t like their 15 second drawings, but were most pleased with their one minute drawings, which gave them the time they needed to “go fast and not be bored.” Hannah was especially pleased that she thought to put in a driver, a number, a ladder and for reasons unclear to me, the name “Chef ting doodle.”
The school year is coming to a close so I can’t try this out in the Right Club, but I want to try this next year. As Hannah and Neela both said as soon as we were done: “Let’s do it again!”
Try it at home and let me know what happens.