enjoy the satisfaction only a guillotine can provide


On a chilly Friday afternoon, Kaia and I made art cards as a Slow Learning project.

The intention: Take something precious, like a painting or a drawing you’ve made, and chop it to pieces.

Our process:

1. Create a painting on card stock. (Better yet, find a drawing or painting that you once thought was something special.)

2. Take the painting to my favorite art tool: the almighty guillotine-style paper cutter.  Turn the card image-side down (you want to be surprised later) and prepare to chop to a uniform dimension (I like trading card dimension, 2 1/2″ by 3 1/2″ because they fit so nicely in the little plastic sleeves you can buy at hobby stores)

3. Execute.

4. Try not to cut your fingers off. (The next step is much harder if you do.)

5. Turn the cards over and see the beauty that emerges.

I’m always taken by how clever the compositions of my new-found paintings are when I chop them up at random.

Kaia pointed out that the framing of the trees outside by the windows reminded him of the framing made by the paper cutter.

Framing, it seems, is everything.

What do we do with our cards now?  Read about my card obsession in an earlier post.

You have the right to practice

…and to practice without thinking.

From Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice:

The diligent student can read entire books on this subject if they wish (it never hurts), but the deepest realizations come to us from the daily practice of drawing.  It is the pencil that teaches best, and anyway, the trees of theory can obscure the forest of practice. I would go so far as to say that practice is philosophy, for practice itself encompasses philosophy, and philosophy without practice is shallow indeed.  A lengthy description of a glass of water is no substitute for the experience of drinking a glass of water; so it is with art.

From Erich Fromm:

It is essential… that discipline should not be practiced like a rule imposed on oneself from the outside, but that it becomes an expression of one’s own will; that it is felt as pleasant, and that one slowly accustoms oneself to a kind of behavior which one would eventually miss, if one stopped practicing it.

From Dexter Ico’s description of his workshop for performers and public speakers: Practice Makes Practice:

Most everyone can relate to stage fright, public speaking, and performance anxiety, and everyone knows that the only way to get over it is to go through it…you learn by doing, on stage, and from sharing your observations of each exercise you go through. Minimal time to think, maximum time on experiential exercise.

From Kathi Kizirnis of Practice Yoga:

If it makes you think you’re separate from, “other” or “not like” the rest of the world, it’s not yoga you’re practicing.

From Kazuo Ohno

Not thinking. Only Soul.




learning as water

Does learning flow?

Does learning follow a cycle? What contributes to our learning? How does our thinking get dammed up?  What is the source? How might we distill our learning? What bubbles up? What sinks in? How is learning like the the water cycle? How does learning transform us? How do we transform the way we learn? How is learning deep? How is learning shallow? (Is one good and the other bad?) What happens when we get our feet wet?  What’s the risk of diving in? Do you want to swim in the deep end? Are there floods and droughts of learning?  (Is one better for us that the other?)

Does learning come in tides, in waves? What kinds of monsters lurk in the depths of learning? How are communities of learning like tributaries of a river system? Do we sink or swim?

“Is he a dot or is he a speck?  When he’s underwater does he get wet?  Or does the water get him instead?”
from They Might Be Giants’ “Particle Man” Flood

a slow learner’s bill of rights (draft 1.0)

You have the right*

To learn

  1. To learn about how you learn
  2. To learn as slow and as fast as you choose
  3. To rearrange your room (house, garage, life) to make room for your learning
  4. To claim space, time, and money for your own learning
  5. To learn from people who fascinate you
  6. To learn beyond school
  7. To be challenged
  8. To learn from people who fascinate you
  9. To ask for and to receive help
  10. To learn in quiet and without interruption with serious intent
  11. To learn in noise and mess with playful possibility
  12. To make a mess and not have to clean up right away
  13. To learn what is valuable and to value your learning
  14. To choose your own team of teachers, coaches, mentors, advisors
  15. To work with people who find you and your visions fascinating
  16. To work with people who are fascinated by your brilliant visions and will hold you accountable to do what you said you would do
  17. To be witnessed
  18. To focus
  19. To make a difference
  20. To make media
  21. To invent media
  22. To study with your heroes
  23. To experiment
  24. To experience
  25. To test your limits
  26. To contribute
  27. To change the world
  28. To create your own curriculum and to stick with it
  29. To change your mind when it doesn’t work and start again
  30. To study in community both near and distant, familiar and exotic
  31. To savor the erotic nature of learning
  32. To learn from mistakes
  33. To join the community of practice of your choice
  34. To join the professional network of your choice as a contributor
  35. To make learning a priority in your life
  36. To pay your dues
  37. To incubate and hibernate
  38. To be in action and produce measurable concrete results
  39. To learn how to discern between the time for #38 and #39
  40. To work with people who have some distance and perspective and can help you with #40
  41. To dabble
  42. To dive in deep
  43. To cross disciplines
  44. To learn what no one can teach
  45. To learn so that you might teach others to learn
  46. To learn new ways of learning that work for you
  47. To practice

* I know this list is incomplete and much is redundant. Comment, and help make it more better.

Free information for slow learners: a few favorite sources

Open Culture Directory to everything on the web you want to learn. Just about everything. Links to tons of free media.

InFed Encyclopedia of learning in and (mostly) outside of classrooms.

Khanacadamy Didn’t quite understand 2nd Order Linear Homogeneous Differential Equations in math class? Still have a hard time understanding the relationship between bond prices and interest rates?  Let this hottie break it down for you. Simple lectures on thousands of complex topics.

Ubuweb A personal favorite. Seemingly infinite archive of online avant-garde media. I could spend the rest of my life looking at the weirdo artsy fartsy stuff posted here.

Archive.org Not only a huge resource of digital media, but here’s a place where you can upload your own works of genius.

Nina Paley If you ever feel a bit guilty about using and copying free media, check out Nina Paley’s brilliant work. And then buy one of her cool tshirts for my birthday. (I stole copied her her comic above.)