Using graphic narratives for self-study into the educational and creative implications of a personal sketching process

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Kaulbach, Kathy
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This design research examines my personal process of sketching and image-making as an aid to learning. The goal is to show—both within the process and the narrative that is created— how I used image-making as a learning tool during graduate school. The professional and academic world is demanding more of us all and topping that list of demands is innovation and creativity. At the same time, the educational system is being criticized for actually doing the opposite—killing creativity. Having been a recipient of killed creativity, the question “how does one find one’s creative self?”is of great importance to me, particularly since I am a creative professional. My entering graduate school was initiated by my search for the answer to this question. Upon entering graduate school, I came to believe that my training and experience as a graphic designer and illustrator positively influenced my approach to learning. I believed that my sketching process was the root of this influence. I began this thesis with the question “How does one find their creative self?” During my initial research I found that the dialectic process of sketching was playing an integral role in finding my creative voice and had become an important learning tool for me during graduate school. This realization therefore shifted my research towards a self-study of my personal use of sketching, looking at the questions: why do I sketch? what does it provide me? and how does it assist my creative thinking and problem solving? My background as a designer influenced my decision to use a design methodology which is an interdisciplinary paradigm that reflects elements of arts-informed, heuristic, phenomenology, and action research. The graphic narrative provides a medium that combines the power of both verbal and visual. The word/picture interdependent combination “where words and pictures go hand in hand ... convey an idea that neither could convey alone” (McCloud, 1993, p.155). My method for self-inquiry and dialogue was to create five graphic narratives, each about the creation of an image that I did during my time in graduate school or influenced my thinking during graduate school. Following each of these five stories is a “back story” which documents the process of creating the graphic narrative. I found that the process of sketching offered a number of benefits an expansion of my problem space, a place to think, expand my thoughts and find new ideas; a place to put my ideas and consider them as communication, to evaluate the message and contemplate the audience and their reactions to the message; a place to self-reflect where I could re-vision and reevaluate past memories; an aid for memory but more importantly a place to create memories; a place to create that provided intrinsic motivation and ultimately made me happy; a place where I could dress ideas in different clothes and look again with different eyes. Sketching was my tool for thinking and understanding but also enabled a place for me to be creative. I am not an anomaly, therefore the question that then follows is “how can others learn about and use this tool?”
arts-informed research , graphic narratives , Graphic Narratives , Sketching