Yesterday evening I went along to ‘We need to talk about America’, a panel discussion event as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival 2010. It’s not every day you get to hear prominent authors voice ideas and experiences so openly and frankly about the state of that nation, and it was also a chance for me to try some sketchnoting.
May of the topics about America that came up were the sort that a lot dinner party conversations eventually get around to: the disparity between its ideological view of freedom and democracy against the reality of corporatised government and the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina victims; comparing the Bush and Obama administration; is Obama doing enough; and so on.
Diverse backgrounds, common issues
What saved it from being any other dinner party conversation, though, was some brilliant and insightful one-liners and the mix of backgrounds and latest literary efforts of the speakers. Lionel Shriver (author of So Much for That, about America’s health care system) is born-and-bred American yet no longer lives in America, nor identifies herself as American. Raj Patel (author of The Value of Nothing) is Pakistani/Iranian and a citizen of America. Together with Josh Neufeld (A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge), Michael Otterman (American Torture), Reza Aslan (No god but God) and Anne Summers, the same searing consensus on the same issues was articulated from such disparate backgrounds.
Fresh from watching Visual Note-taking 101 from SXSW 2010 over on Slideshare, and inspired by Matt Balara, I thought I’d try some sketchnoting about what I was hearing. I knew if I just wrote notes, I’d never read them again. But capturing what was discussed as simple pictures and typographical vignettes was not only fun, but made the key quotes and themes more memorable to me.
I’ve included a few below (click for a larger size), and they’re all at Flickr. I could get used to this sketchnoting thing.
Meeting Josh Neufeld
It has to be said that Josh Neufeld is kind of a big deal. He’s not only a brilliant artist and publishing award-winning graphic novels, but he has stepped up to publish a non-fiction work A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge following the experiences of several Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. Gutsy stuff.
I asked him about his process of drawing and illustration. I’m happy to say he’s definitely old skool, drawing manually (that’s, like, without a Wacom), scanning, then tidying up and adding colour in PhotoShop. Anyhoo, it was just inspiring talking to someone who draws so skillfully and compellingly as a full-time profession. Something I’d like to do one day.