Monday, December 9, 2013

New Learning - Wonderlit Rocks!

Story Map
Well I'm about 6 weeks into retirement and pursuing some of the things my new "boss" encouraged me to pursue in order to create new foundations and directions (similar to what I did when I started my job as an instructional designer - learning is a great way to "resituate").

I'm about halfway through the Wonderlit course, and it is sooo much fun - multifaceted, and the learning is applicable to where the student has been, where the student is now, and where the student intends to go. It's very interesting from the instructional design point of view to experience how the course author pegged so many of the things that students are demanding these days, such as very personalized learning, total engagement, options (no single answer is the only right answer), applicability, depth, etc.

The image above is from an exercise that included a lot of thinking and application of course concepts; it is a drawing depicting the passage of the protagonist in a fairy tale of our choosing. I chose The Dragon Slayer from Fairy Tales of Russia, an old, old book that my parents used to read to me when I was very young. The illustrations in this story are so beautiful; they're what first sparked my love of art.

I love this image of Dobrynya fighting the twelve-tailed Dragon from the book Fairy Tales of Russia.
One of the course author, Michelle Tocher's beliefs is that fairy tales have much to teach us, and students often tend to focus on the ones that most directly reflect our life path or current circumstances when we begin to really study a storyline.

She teaches us about Joseph Campbell and his work with mythology and religion. Michelle herself has a strong background in the history of science and religion as well as journalism, communications, and storytelling (nice combination of skillsets!). In her course, we learn how to immerse ourselves in the story, really studying the story from many different viewpoints (including the characters themselves, whether human or inanimate, including magical forces), and we learn how to associate the archetypal lessons with some of life's real-life lessons and events.

My Story Map
When we apply the same storymapping technique to the events in our real world lives, it can be very interesting as well as confirming. My little map depicts the beginning of my real-life story at the point where I was a single mom with two beautiful children to raise on my own. I traveled from the mountains of Colorado to the town where my sister lived, where there happened to be a wonderful university, the largest employer of that little town. I worked there for 16 years while raising my kids, but at the point where they left home to go out into the world and spread their own wings, I filled the void left by their absence with art (of course). I happily worked on it many nights and most weekends into the wee hours, but after about three years of that schedule, I became very tired, and realized I had to choose between the day job and the artwork. It was a hard choice because I was very invested in both, but the art of my heart won.

Sometimes the universe has to kick us in the butt before we'll listen and my crisis point where I felt the kick was when I was in the kitchen talking with my husband one evening. I was in a place in our house that probably wouldn't pass code today (old house), where the basement door and the studio door and the door to the outside converge. It's a very small space. I was waving my arms about and my hand hit the little window on the outside door. To our surprise, the window broke into a thousand pieces, and that was the point of decision - we became silent, looking at the little pieces of glass on the floor and I suddenly woke up and realized I could no longer burn my candle at both ends. So I made the choice to take the leap into the art world, and what a gift that has been, though leaving my other world was very hard.

So my story map above shows me stepping off the "magic carpet" (which is the office floor at my university) and into the new and developing world.

Illustrating a message dream.
Another image I've done for this course is a depiction of a dream I had which represents a conversation I had with my husband about starting a new business. The image shows me holding a child (the child is "the new artistic endeavors/the business which is being "birthed" - in the dream it was a toddler because I had been working on it, but it was still very young). I'm standing next to my husband in the doorway of our home. The dining room represents the state of the "heart's dream," (to devote myself to art exclusively), and in the dream it was in a state of neglect (since I was more committed to the university job). So there are chairs turned over, spiderwebs, a little box of new tools that says "please open," and symbols representing the four elements - air (the window), earth (the plant), water (half-empty pitcher), and fire (unlit candle). The four elements are elements that must be present (and active) in order for the "thought" to become "reality"; for "matter to manifest." There is also the fifth element, spirit, which is represented in the union of the man and the woman (male = action plus female = intuition or receiving nature). When all these elements combine, the dream becomes reality.

So for this Wonderlit course, I've been doing the textual/thinking lesson work and supplementing it with some visual work, which is very fun. The next thing I get to draw is Destiny and her sister Fate. Can't wait to see how that one turns out. I will be painting these at some point. Right now am drawing them faster than I can keep up painting them, plus have several lovely commissioned bead orders for Christmas that I need to get done in the next few days.

Check back to see the painted versions and to meet Destiny and Fate : )

Along with the Wonderlit activities, I'm reading some really good books, which include Right Brain Business Plan, The Gift, and Make Art Make Money (a study of Jim Henson's philosophies) - really great stuff for creative people.

I think this learning will provide some direction for where my artwork goes. It also is helping to strengthen my writing for some other projects I've been working on (Tree Book, Tree Book, more info to come!!!!).

Thanks for checking in - hope your journeys are rewarding as well!



  1. Hello Jen,

    Great blog post, I am going to check out the WonderLit course, although I am currently writing a sci-fi short story, not fantasy novel or fairy tale... and my drawing skills are horrible :)

    One thing that I wanted to ask you... This book that you posted two pages from it here... Can you be so kind to make a high quality scan of it? I had a copy since I was a kid and lost it.

    Good luck and thanks!

  2. Hi,

    Thanks for your comment. I'm finding that the Wonderlit course improves my writing tremendously since it makes us look at many aspects from many viewpoints. Drawing skills are definitely not necessary to get a whole lot out of it : )

    Unfortunately I can't send you a scanned copy because that would be copyright infringement, but I can let you know that my sister and I split our original set of 11 books in the complete set when we grew to adulthood. Last year I wanted to replace the 7 books I was missing and I was able to do that successfully by searching on the Internet - from various sources. Here's the publication info: Fairy Tales of Russia, retold by Barbara Ker Wilson, Illustrated by Jacqueline Athram, Cassell & Company Ltd., London, 1959.

    Good luck in your search, I hope you'll be successful. I did a quick search today and found several others in the series that are currently available - you may need to search a few times til a copy of this one becomes available.


    1. Hi Jen,

      Thanks for the reply, I spend a whole day searching until I stumbled on this blog post...

      Isn't 50 years enough for something to be in the public domain?

      I did find copies being sold in eBay and other sites, unfortunately they don't ship to the country where I currently live in!

      Anyway, thanks for the reply. A list of the items in this series would be appreciated, I will try to collect them for my future kids :)

  3. Hi,

    I believe it's 70 or 75 years until a work goes into public domain, but only if the family or copyright holders of the work don't renew it. If they renew it then permission must be pursued. If it's a U. S. copyright holder you can check with the Library of Congress to see if it's been renewed or whether it's in the public domain - for public domain information check here

    In this series - Fairy Tales of Many Lands published by Cassell in London, there are 11 books:
    Fairy Tales of Russia
    Fairy Tales of Mexico
    Fairy Tales of France
    Fairy Tales of Greece
    Fairy Tales of India
    Fairy Tales of Ireland
    Fairy Tales of England
    Fairy Tales of Germany
    Fairy Tales of Denmark
    Fairy Tales of Persia
    Fairy Tales of China

    They are all very special! Good luck in your search!