monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

4 minutes reading time (708 words)

Selfies With Words

It was pouring rain in Montreal today, making it the perfect day for my Selfie Poetry workshop at the Dorval Library. The workshop was moved from the library to the community centre next door, where every Sunday from 1:30 to 4:30 PM Dorval residents (and others too) can take drop by to take part in what's called an art hive. There are art hives all over Montreal, and they allow people to come and do art -- supplies are provided, and there are also artist supervisors on hand to give advice and encouragement. Dorval's art hive is run by Wendy Bayer and Laurence Laplante.

I have to give reference librarian Gail Warren credit for coming up with the idea of a selfie poetry workshop. We were tossing around ideas last year when Gail suggested this one -- so we decided I'd show participants how to make a selfie using words!

I think there were ten of us around the table today (I was too happy to count!) and judging from the laughter, it seems we all had a lot of fun. I did a super quick talk about writing, and then we started to discuss self-portraits. Artists (and many of today's participants are already artists themselves) say that the self-portrait genre affords the most freedom because the artist is his or her own model.

We had 90 minutes together, so we started with a warm-up exercise in which participants made a list of words that start with n. I said the words could be in any language. Diane came up with 24 words, including her favourite New Zealand! (the exclamation mark was included in what Diane wrote). Diane told us she recently spent a whole month in New Zealand. No wonder it was on her list. I had the word "nombril," which is French for bellybutton. When I told the group, Karine called out, "Oh je ne l'avais pas" -- meaning she wished she had the word nombril on her own list. This comment proved the point I wanted to make -- that words are FUN and WORTH GETTING EXCITED ABOUT.

After that, we moved onto our selfies. First, we used our cellphones to take pictures of ourselves, then we made simple sketches based on those photos -- and then we began to add words. Lots and lots of words! We were all astonished at how much Sarah-Alexia's word portrait looked like her! Nadine (who happens to be my boyrfriend's daughter and who came along for fun, but also because she loves art and is an excellent artist... shhh, don't tell her I said that!) included punctuation in her self-portait. Also, Nadine linked all her words so that the effect was somehow a little like knitting. Very cool! Diane added antennae to her portrait -- how creative is that?!! Diane explained that, "I added my own lines." Everyone teased me that I had a favourite (a chou-chou in French) -- Karine, who did an amazing self-portrait and who was filling her background with words. It's clear that Karine has a strong background in art -- she is studying visual arts at UQAM. But I'm the kind of teacher who likes to have lots and lots of favourites. Nikki Squiggly (her artist's name) likes to include snails in her artwork. Nikki told us why: "The snail is like me wanting to go quickly. But I'm slow and that's who I am." And another participant Martha McLean -- who did a beautifully detailed self-portrait on a smaller scale than the others had been my typing teacher in high school!! Finally, a shout-out to Kate -- we loved the mouth you created using words. And thanks also for being good company for sitting-next-to!

Be sure to check out today's pic! In it, you'll see most of the workshop participants and our selfie creations. And if you weren't there, try the exercise out for yourselves. Let me know what you discover along the way!

Thanks to Gail Warren for dreaming up the workshop, to librarian Maude for bringing Nadine and me over to the art hive, to Wendy and Laurence for hosting the hive, and especially to all the participants for making a rainy day feel positively SUNNY!





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Tuesday, 16 July 2024

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