What’s the best way to describe colours? How do colours get their names? The above example is from Abraham Werner’s 1821 “Nomenclature of Colours”.

I first developed and ran the workshop “Writing about Audiovisual and Ephemeral Objects” for graduate students at Northwestern University in 2012. The workshop focused on strategies that scholars can use in note-taking, describing, and writing about objects that are often inaccessible after one viewing. We also looked at different ways of making ephemeral objects come alive in the mind of the reader, who may never get a chance to see them at all. This workshop was part of my fellowship at the Graduate Writing Place. The workshop included participants from Performance Studies, Anthropology, Art Theory & Practice, Religious Studies, and even Biology (among others), so we got some really great cross-disciplinary tips. One of the many strategies I discussed was the importance of building your own personal dictionary (or archive) of terms and descriptions that are relevant to your area of study. For me, keeping an expanding dictionary of different terms that can be used to describe movement has been particularly helpful in writing about film and animation. Actively working on expanding my kinetic vocabulary even made me more attentive to different qualities, textures, and rhythms of motion. I’ve since given numerous versions of this workshop in different contexts, as well as integrated some of these skills into required undergraduate courses for art and design students.