One Frame Storytelling: The tortured non-artist effect

There was a thread on Twitter yesterday about art being a natural human capability rather than the arcane tool of a small group of creatives.

@callmeSheBear “I actually used to think that way-that creativity was something only “special” people had. I was wrong.”

@chesnut_rau “Through SL I have learned “creative” is not a closed door club. Some would like it to be exclusive, but it isn’t”

I agree with those sentiments. My official title at work is, “Geek Interpreter”. I help subject matter experts translate their complex ideas into clear stories that their less geeky (or differently geeky) colleagues can understand. We often end up delving into visual thinking and storytelling exercises.

Most of the people I work with initially cringe at the idea of picking up markers and sketching their ideas in front of a group. Somewhere between kindergarten and adulthood they got the message that they weren’t artists and should be embarrassed about their lack of drawing skill.

Fortunately, demonstrating my own stick figure level drawing ability eventually gives people the emotional permission to expose their own limited chops. Before long, they realize that it’s possible to communicate creatively and effectively through grade school level sketching skills. By the end of most sessions its hard to pry people away from the easel.

You may be thinking that what I’m describing is not art. Maybe that’s true. But the same psychological barriers that prevent people from expressing themselves in technical and business communication also stand in the way of personal artistic expression. That’s a damn shame. But there’s something we can do about it.

One Frame Storytelling is a good way to get started. Common examples are the meme and the one panel comic. I’ve been having a good time with visual tweets, which start with a text-based social network post and then add an image.

What they all have in common is the combination of one image and a short line of text. The image can be a snapshot, a screenshot from a virtual world a simple sketch or a detailed drawing. The text can be in a comic ballon, integrated into the image or just used as a title.

Whiskey Monday and I will soon be launching a site for people to share One Frame Stories. Although we’re still figuring out the details, the initial plan is to use a format like Crap Mariner’s 100 Word Stories Challenge. We’ll throw out a topic each week and then aggregate people’s contributions in a virtual art show. We may also extend the exhibit to galleries in one or more virtual worlds.

Look for more information over the next couple of weeks on Botgirl’s Identity Circus and Whiskey Shots, including the website url and a Flickr group.

A beautiful thought experiment.

9 thoughts on “One Frame Storytelling: The tortured non-artist effect

  1. Crap, Chestnut & Kristine: I’m thrilled that ya’ll are going to give it a try. I’m totally hooked on the format and there’s nothing an addict likes better than company. Oh. Maybe one thing. Anyway, I look forward to seeing everyone’s work.

    1. I’m looking for artists to torture. Just send me an email with Mapquest directions.


      PS: If you’re worried that I’d actually go around bludgeoning artists, consider the fact that I’m currently picking fiber drink powder clumps out of my hair. I have no idea how they got there.

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