This week, RAW welcomes WCDR member Harrison Wheeler to the blog. On December 14th, Harrison will facilitate a writing exercise during the RoundTable meeting. Be sure to register soon! Now, please enjoy Part 1 of Harrison’s blog, and stay tuned for Part 2 next week.

Artists, like writers, are ‘reading’ the world all the time. Picturing potential scenes as we go about our lives. I’ve got my creative filter on every day. I see a guy at a bus stop having trouble lighting his cigarette. I squint and imagine him as a burnt out dragon. Could be a funny cartoon, I think. There’s a couple shopping for glasses at the mall that happen to have enormous noses. I squint and imagine them shopping for new noses. It’s not always harr whee 1funny stuff though, as designs also catch my eye easily. Here, a particular crack in the sidewalk. There, exotic henna tattoos. My smart phone is full of ideas on the fly.

My earliest memory is drawing. I’ve always self-identified as a cartoonist first, then a writer. Both writing and drawing are pure magic: strokes on a page to build ideas, tell stories, and light imaginations on fire? This will never cease to amaze me. And both can be read to inform the creation of either one. Let me break that down.

Reading Prose as a Person Who Draws

From personal experience, having a vivid mind’s eye is often as much a barrier to reading as it is inspirational. Why? Because all it takes is one word to set my own vision firing, and before I know it I’m itching for my sketchbook and pen. Reading can be overwhelming! I stop mid-sentence, stare into space, and then interpret passages in inspired doodles. Often I can’t get past a page! Here are things I sketched circa 1997 after inspired by just a few lines from ‘If On a Winter’s Night A Traveler’ by Italo Calvino.

harr whee 2harr whee 3

I sketched a lot as I read that book, inspired by the quote and by the title of the book itself. New lines spilled from my pen as scenes I never would have considered before emerged in my mind. A traveler. Who? The proposition of a traveler enticed me as well. How bold to title your book as a dependent clause! If not a traveler, then who? Or what? I drew warped homes in a blurry distance, crosshatched and smudged for extra inky effect. Slowly a face harr whee 4revealed itself on my page, a suggestion of a profile only, nondescript but rich with potential.

Because of my active imagination, I often read like one samples appetizers at a party. A nibble here. A taste there. My library is full of dog-eared novels, underlined throughout, and many with entire pages torn out of them, transplanted into a sketchbook in flash eureka moments. I know others do this too, whether you are an artist or not, and while it can be frustrating (I’ve ready two novels this year…this YEAR!), I like to see it as a powerful tool for creation.

Suggestion: Try doodling while you read. Just make lines like you used to when you were bored in geography class. Drawing like this loosens the mind unlike writing ~ you might find yourself thinking, reflecting differently on the ideas at hand. And don’t say you can’t draw. We all did it as kids… :-)


Next week: Pt. 2. Reading Pictures as a Person Who Writes.

Harrison Wheeler is a professional creative: an author, cartoonist, improviser and comedic speaker. Having housed his drawings and story ideas in sketchbooks throughout his teaching career and many life obstacles, Headshot2013 Harrison WheelerHarrison is excited to share his art, to finally pitch his exclamatory flag on his visionary moon. Visit his website.jesters-cover-ipad-320 Harrison wheeler


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