VisLit#2: Triage at The Serpentine

Visually Literate #2: Writing and Drawing from Life.

Ray applies her nursing experience to Duane Hansen at the Serpentine

Ray applies her nursing experience to Duane Hansen at the Serpentine

Week 2- Ray applies triage and nail varnish

Triage (/ˈtriːɑːʒ/ or /triːˈɑːʒ/) is the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition. This rations patient treatment efficiently when resources are insufficient for all to be treated immediately. (Wikipedia)

It had never occurred to me how effective triage might be in creative writing until Ray used her nursing experience to make her three minute observation of character (“observation, not judgement: judgement comes after.”)

Mary scrutinisesRocio takes notes

Duane Hansen by Phyllis Lane

Duane Hansen at Serpentine

How can taking notes enhance your powers of observation for drawing, and how might sketching help you to write?

working in the pavilion

working at the serpentine

City Employment by Lydia Davis


All over the city there are old black women who have been employed to call up people at seven in the morning and ask in a muffled voice to speak to Lisa. This provides work for them that they can do at home. These women are part of a larger corps of city employees engaged to call wrong numbers. The highest earner of all is an Indian from India who is able to insist that he does not have the wrong number.

Others – mainly old people – have been employed to amuse us by wearing strange hats. They wear them as though they were not responsible for what went on above their eyebrows. Two hats bob along side by side – a homburg high up on an old man and a black veiled affair with cherries on a little woman – and under the hats the old people argue. Another old woman, bent and feeble, crosses the street slowly in front of our car, looking angry that she has been made to wear this large cone-shaped red hat that is pressing down so heavily on her forehead. Yet another old woman walks on a difficult sidewalk and is cautious about where she sets her feet. She is not wearing a hat, because she has lost her job.

People of all ages are hired by the city to act as lunatics so that the rest of us will feel sane. Some of the lunatics are beggars too, so that we can feel sane and rich at the same time. There are only a limited number of jobs available as lunatics. These jobs have all been filled. For years the lunatics were locked up together in mental hospitals on islands in New York Harbor. Then the city authorities released them in large numbers to form a reassuring presence on the streets.

Naturally some of the lunatics have no trouble holding down two jobs at once by wearing strange hats as they lope and shuffle along.


Use a print out of this story to create a blackout poem, taking any phrases, words, and remixing.

Select a figure and take detailed notes, looking closely – what can you tell about them? Their life, lifestyle, work? 10 mins

Swap notes with someone.

Use partner’s notes of their selected figure, and sketch, draw, photograph that figure (15mins)

Write a postcard from this figure – who to?


Take a selfie with your chosen figure. Add a caption.

Using the above template, and thinking about the Lydia Davis cut up, leave the Sackler Gallery, cross the Serpentine bridge and go to the Pavilion

Fnd a spot to observe people: seek out people at work, as well as those at leisure.

Make notes and sketches (trickier with actual living breathing people) imagine what their postcards would be.

Inside the second Serpentine Gallery, make a note of the titles of the paintings.

Use these titles as a springboard for either written or drawn sketches.

Credit: Marlena Woolford

Credit: Marlena Woolford

Serpentine Marlena gets under the skinMarlena finds common ground

credit: Marlena Woolford

credit: Marlena Woolford

credit: Marlena Woolford

credit: Marlena Woolford

Pavilionplaying at the serpentinepavilionMarlena's picture taken for a walk2

Marlena's picture taken for a walk5


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