Barry, Lynda. Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor. (2)

Barry, Lynda. Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor. Montreal, Drawn & Quarterly, 2015.

Keywords: creativity, teaching, drawing, writing, image, attention, brain, state of mind


  • [Ivan Brunetti] there are things all of us can draw in a way that is recognizable … All of these things show up without effort–they are already in us (104).
  • the side effects are profound once we abandon a certain activity like drawing because we are bad at it. A certain state of mind (what McGilchrist might call “attention”) is also lost. A certain capacity of the mind is shuttered and for most people, it stays that way for life (115).
  • “Every year, when you are a child, you become a different person … For a long time, the past drops away from you easily and, it would seem, automatically, properly. Its scenes don’t vanish so much as become irrelevant. And then there’s a switchback, what’s been all over and done with sprouting up fresh, wanting attention, even wanting you to do something about it, though it’s plain there is not on this earth a thing to be done” [Alice Munro] (123).
  • When drawing simple shapes, the eye tends to track where the pen touches the drawing surface. The eyes may alternately lead or follow the pen (126).
  • rushing … They’ll get nothing from the work without the state of mind that comes with it. It’s a thing Dan Choan calls “dreaming awake” … Rushing it is missing it (128).
  • Both writing and drawing lean on a certain kind of picturing … it’s a kind of picturing that is formed by our own activity … the trick is just that: let it move your hand (137).
  • What is the difference between awareness and attention? (143)
  • Expectation: I want them to be really good right away and this stops the natural pace of discovery and replaces it with an objective. This can’t be helped (145).
  • Our policy: “Therefore as a stranger give it welcome” [Hamlet, Act 1, Scene V] (147).
  • “The most fundamental difference between hemispheres lies in the type of attention they give the world” McGilchrist (154).
  • for some reason writers and visual artist think they have to be inspired before they make something, not suspecting the physical act of writing or drawing is what brings that inspiration about. Worrying about its worth and value to others before it exists can keep us immobilized forever (163).
  • Not liking or disliking, but learning to pay patient attention to things as they are. liking/disliking = blinders … it’s about following something small carefully and sincerely (168).
  • “We meet our destiny on the road we take to avoid it.” -Jung (170)
  • “Art brings into being a truth about the world that was not there before.” And “Creativity depends on the union of things that are also maintained separately–the precise function of the corpus callosum.”-McGilchrist (170)
  • “The arts, I believe, have a pivotal role in putting us in touch with the transcendent, with whatever it is that is beyond us. They are core to a civilization, measures of our health, and should be treated as such … ” -Ian McGilchrist (171)
  • “Devils come to earth briefly transformed to stop you from being artistic. And they have a magic question. The magic question is: ‘WHAT FOR?’ – but art is not FOR anything. Art is the ultimate goal. It saves our souls …” Young-Ha Kim (171)
  • Jenny Browne: “Tension created in doing something you’re not supposed to do–what might happen?” “When you’re uncomfortable, that’s where the energy is.” (178)
  • “The unknown element in the lives of other people is like that of nature, which each fresh scientific discovery merely reduces but does not abolish” Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time (181)
  • Nothing is far away, everything is near: the universe and the painting on the wall. -Chandidas (189)
  • The nature of note-taking by hand. Thinking of one’s compbook as a place. The practice of developing a place not a thing (194).
  • Milner: “Instead of trying to force myself into doing what I imagined I ought to be doing, I began to inquire into what I was doing” (194)


  • “Phantoms in the Brain” [documentary feat. V.S. Ramachandran]
  • Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, Ivan Brunetti
  • “The Fourth State of Matter,” Amy Jo Beard
  • Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
  • Jenny Browne
  • Young-Ha Kim
  • Ian McGilchrist
  • Carl Jung


  • Why couldn’t I have been in Madison for this?? For her??
  • How can this second (more drawing/art-focused) half be modified to suit the needs of composition? Sensing so many ‘almosts’ here!

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