speaking, listening

A tremendous part of the job description for any instructor entails effective verbal communication. I like to think I’ve got that covered: I’m a fairly animated speaker with facial expressions and body language, so I tend to supplement verbal communication with visual emphatics and humor to amplify whatever’s under discussion or presentation.

Even as an experienced speaker, it’s still uncomfortable to hear/see a recording of myself speaking. (Apparently most people can’t stand to hear themselves speak, so I take some consolation in that.) After a couple of recent audio interviews given, as well as listening to a ton of verbally-driven audio, I’ve been thinking more about this format. As a visual learner with some mild auditory processing issues, I’m also interested in what drives the reception of verbal rather than visual information.

I’ve been holed up in my studio for extended periods lately, in work mode for a solo show I have coming up this summer in Manila. Some artists love these broad stretches of solitude and lose themselves in it, entering an enviable state of flow. Me? I brood, fidget and fret.

Studio time is often long-form, semi-tedious, technical work that requires little mental focus. Because of this, I tend to get bored and agitated, lacking either the discipline or disposition to drift to that happy artist place that is rumored to exist. The art itself is rarely the source of the agitation– mostly, it’s the perpetual hamster wheel of low-level day-to-day preoccupations: conflict with a friend, students not doing well, family drama, and nonspecific equal-opportunity brooding.


A solution that I’ve learned works well for me is to anchor myself to audio with content, rather than mood: movies or TV shows with great dialogue, audio books, lectures, radio programs, podcasts, language lessons. Great music still works too, but tends to be a bad choice if I’m already moody, or in worry-mode.

The more I listen, though, the more aware it makes me of what makes for truly satisfying audio content. When I was invited to be interviewed for 2 different podcasts in April, I got an awkward refresher on the nature of both speaking and listening. While I certainly can’t say that I’ve contributed anything of usefulness to the world of good audio content in these podcasts, I can say that it’s fun to horse around with friends in an invisible world that no one else can see.

The first interview was conducted by the great Tessa Hulls, artist, writer, cartoonist and adventuress, for The Project Room Seattle. It was conducted in my kitchen over beer and coconut water, and is notable for the fact that Tessa and I were both medicated at the time, thus enhancing our erratic verbal meanderings.


Tessa and I had only met once about 2 years ago, at T-Dock in Seattle’s Lake Washington. Our mutual friend Catherine Uehara had taken me out there for a little sun and swim, and we ran into some friends of hers there. Tessa and I formed one of those immediate “ah–you’re a weirdo asian-american restless-artist comics-nerd lady-traveler-type too” bonds that doesn’t require a huge amount of maintenance or explanation. She and I formed a particularly unique bond over portable toilets, as restless lady artists are wont to do.

The second interview was a conversation with Maysoun Wazwaz and Kate Rhoades of Congratulations Pine Tree, the Bay Area’s Number One Art and Culture Podcast, which I totally agree is true, although I’ve not really listened to any others in this category. I’ve known and adored Maysoun for probably 10 years, through Southern Exposure, the broader Bay Area art community, and various fun get-togethers. Kate’s a relative newcomer to the Bay Area, but we also clicked immediately in the “weirdo lady artist comics nerd” mutual fangirl way, as well.

This interview was conducted in my grubby studio, which, through the magic of audio, is transformed into a palatial Rococo suite (see: Piazza). Neither beer nor coconut water nor medication were involved. I am slightly more coherent, but also more obnoxious, as Maysoun and Kate can dish out some A-level sass, and I hate to be left out of the fun.


For those of you who’ve never heard my voice, prepare yourself for the horror/pleasure. For those of you who haven’t heard my voice in a while, welcome back to its oddball timbre! And regardless of whether you listen to the episodes I’m on, please enjoy both of these podcast series, as I’ve found that they’re both keeping me great company and great spirits in the studio.