Lynda Barry, a cartoonist and author, visited John R. Emens Auditorium Nov. 10 to teach students how to think like children. Barry spoke about her creative process and the power of images. Sara Barker // DN
Lynda Barry talks creativity, images
A comical cartoonist is teaching Ball State students how to think like children.
Lynda Barry, a
“At the center of everything we call ‘the arts,’ and children call ‘play,’ is something which seems somehow alive. Alive in the way thinking is not, but experiencing is, made of both memory and imagination, this is the thing we mean by ‘an image,’” Barry said while reading from her book “What It Is.”
This idea of imagery was presented with quirk and humor by Barry, whose anecdotes ranged from memories of her Filipino family dancing in the kitchen to the story a boy told her on a plane about a chicken.
Barry talked about her work at the University of Wisconsin, which involved graduate students working with four-year-old “co-researchers” and trying to unlock how their young peers expressed themselves in images. Exercises with the four-year-olds included learning how to replicate a child’s handwriting and duplicating their artwork.
“I really liked seeing all the kids’ drawings. It was really interesting to see how their minds worked,”
Tim Berg, an Honors College professor, introduced Barry’s presentation. He thought the presentation went over well with the audience.
“I think people were blown away by it. She’s saying funny things, doing funny things, but they’re about deep, deep things about what it means to be human and how we should live and how we should relate to each other and she’s giving us some tools to really access that stuff and I think it’s fantastic,” Berg said. “You can tell, and I could see people leaning forward in their seat and really intent on what she was doing.”
Cecelia Westbrook, a junior creative writing and German major, agrees that a first impression would not accurately describe Barry or her work.
“She was wacky and just her comics, they seem so casual — she’s very casual — but they also have underlying, really deep tones to them,” Westbrook said. “So there’s a lot of deep things in here as well as in her comics.”
Junior animation major
“The whole thing she did with interacting with children kind of to open up your perspective on things and not be so critical of everything and not trying to be a perfectionist, I guess and embrace your inner child, basically,”
Berg also thinks students should have more opportunities to break out of concentration-specific courses.
“I think we need more interdisciplinary creativity and we need to see connections. We’re a little too fragmented — like every other university, we’re not special in this way,” Berg said. “But we have our little departments doing our little things and we need to mix it up a little bit. [Barry] has got some great techniques for mixing it up.”