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Practice, December 17, 2017

One of the classes I teach, Studio, Art and Society, was designed specifically for non-art majors. The first three weeks of the course are spent making a hand-bound sketchbook, largely inspired by books I’ve made in the past thanks to Paulus Berensohn.  Throughout the semester, we fill the books with writings and drawings made at various museums and cultural institutions throughout the Berkshires.

Each individual class follows a distinct structure. We begin by making an attendance card drawing, then I read the poem of the day to which to students respond in their sketchbooks with text and images. After they share their reflections of the poem with a fellow classmate, we head out on our field trip armed with sketchbook/journal prompts to guide the days’ visit.

On the very first day, the poem of the day is by Wendell Berry, How to be a Poet (to remind myself). I use this poem to introduce students to some of the ways of creating a sacred space for ones creative practice, be it writing, drawing, collage, or otherwise. I love that Wendell Berry, Wendell Berry, author of over 40 books of poetry, fiction, and essays, wrote this poem, in his late 70s.

How to Be a Poet

(to remind myself)
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
Source: Poetry (Poetry)

Advent 12.17.17

Today’s Prompt:

Create a random background. Use a little bit of gesso to neutralize it, then use three elements to create a composition that moves the eye across the page.

Everyday through December 25th, I’ll be making a 5×5 inch collage, writing a short entry on this blog and sharing a prompt for those who might want to participate along with me. You can follow my progress by subscribing to this blog through the sidebar on the blog homepage, or by following me on Instagram.


  1. milkweedarts says:

    Dear Melanie, I’ve enjoyed all of your Advent posts, but this one especially filled me with gratitude. I knew I had been taught journal making with paste papers by one of Paulus B’s students (who adored him, and is in this film), but I had never seen this film or heard him articulate the fullness of the practice. It feels so complete for me now.
    Mont Vernon, NH

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