Sketch Fridays #18 - Binder Clip Doodles. Click for larger version.

Sketch Fridays #18 – Binder Clip Doodles. Click for larger version.

For two years, I worked at the Art Institute of California – Sacramento, teaching academic writing to future chefs, game designers, graphic artists, and film directors. Though I am no longer employed by that institution, I hold my work there as a proud achievement both personally and vocationally.

Ai (as it is colloquially known) was my first job after earning my Master’s degree, secured only because of my own desperate ambition and, I guess, pedagogical confidence. After a few months of unemployment and light research that found they did offer writing courses, I walked into the building with my CV and a few of my published Eben07 comics in a folder. I hunted down the director of general education, a good man named Doug Herndon, and nigh commanded him to hire me. They weren’t soliciting for instructors, but he took my folder and our awkwardly bold interaction away into a meeting that I hoped was mildly ruined because he had just met a very confident dude who came out of nowhere. Ultimately, he called me five months later with the offer of a Summer class.

Working there seemed to be the perfect blending of my aptitudes––teaching, writing, and art––and it was. Without any pretension or facetiousness, I felt like I was teaching to “my people”––people who were trying a different route, who had ideas that were, sometimes, bigger than their talent but were trying anyway (talent can always catch up). Being among those students hit my nostalgia in a way I forgot I had access to. The devotion to simple passion and creativity for the sake of creating, of being motivated by the power of art rather than satisfaction of final products reminded me––in both positive and negative connotations––of my teens when I was, probably, at my most creatively active (though not productive) albeit lost and misguided. But my creative fire at that time was hot and tall, a beacon that signaled out into the dark ocean of adulthood.

Despite that synchronicity––and to the surprise of many friends and family––I viewed my capacity in that building only as a Composition instructor and didn’t incorporate my own experience or successes as a comicker or any of my art into my pedagogy. I didn’t use my comics as examples or use comics as classroom aids. For four hours once a week, I thought of myself only as a writing teacher and nothing more despite a clear fundamental connection with this student body. This was mostly due to my training, but I did engage the students with the fact that, yes, I am an English teacher teaching a subject you have hated since you were in elementary school, but I was also a big nerd.

At my main (and currently, only) employer, I don’t rely on my nerdiness to relate to students. I keep those worlds wholly severed. I find that I am the same way socially; I never mixed friend groups or even my hobbies. When I’m in a guitar mood, I play guitar; when in the groove to write, I write. Rarely has one hobby bridged into creative inspiration of another.

I enjoy the compartmentalization; I find it comforting and organized, which is in stark contrast to my brain’s percolating stew as it noncommittally brings new creative ideas to the surface in no particular pattern and anchoring them feels like a puppy trying to catch bubbles.

However, the thin walls between my endeavors allow for occasional bleed-through, yielding surprising results.

When my students submit papers, they do so in packets. Sometimes, these packets can be thick. I ask them to secure them not in a folder (as that can be quite bulky), nor stapled (I like to take the packets apart), but with a binder clip––the greatest gift to humanity. The extent of my cartooning in a classroom is to accurately recreate a binder clip on the chalkboard to illustrate the type of fastener I prefer.

I have drawn many binder clips since 2011, but it ratcheted up a notch this last week as my students workshopped their papers and I irresponsibly doodled at the desk in the front of the classroom for one of my sections.

Every now and then, my interests overlap despite my best efforts to keep things codified and neatly organized. Even if I scoff at the idea of letting my disparate talents mingle, the results are often pleasing and worth the few minutes of anxiety. Hence, a binder clip jumps away from an off-camera explosion, coming soon to a theater near you.