New works

I’ve been hard at work the past few weeks finishing off some of my works-in-progress and adding more to the list. I’ve updated my online portfolio–take a look, and if you see something you want, drop me a line!


Muggs, in her sixteenth year, passed away unexpectedly but peacefully with assistance of the vet on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

Born May 25, 2004 to a distinguished line of barn cats, Muggs is predeceased by her mother, Little Chubs, and two litter mates. Very early in her life, Muggs left rural farm life with her human to preside over a series of city apartments.

Muggs took the provision for and protection of her human very seriously, spending countless hours of the day and night watching for potential threats from errant birds and squirrels. She was highly trained in culinary arts, examining nearly every molecule of food consumed by her human for fifteen years. Her own refined palate was partial to delicacies including butter, Cheese Whiz, cereal milk, and tuna fish water.

True to her distinguished breeding, Muggs was a consummate hunter known for spending countless hours outside on her rope stalking bugs and microscopic prey. Despite her best efforts, which included bringing three live mice to her human in the course of one night (c. 2006), Muggs was unable to train her human in the finer points of hunting and this family trait dies with her.

In her free time, Muggs enjoyed gardening and communing with nature. She was particularly skilled in pruning grasses and houseplants, birdwatching, and hiding under bushes.

Among her lesser known talents was her skill as a visual artist, creating innovative masterpieces in acrylic, oil and digital media using her paws and fur on a variety of surfaces. She also experimented with textile arts and left her own mark on homemade baking from time to time.

Often misunderstood as aloof, high strung and anxious, Muggs was very affectionate with her human on her own terms. She was particularly concerned with her human’s rest and relaxation and dedicated endless hours to sitting on top of her human and human’s work. She was learned in both Greek and Latin, having spent hours with those texts. In her downtime, she relaxed with TV shows such as Bondi Vet and Great British Baking Show.

Muggs is very sadly missed and fondly remembered by her human, who extends a special thank you to the team at Garden City Cat Hospital for their excellent care and kindness during a very difficult process. Private internment at the farm. In lieu of flowers, she has requested that all humans give their kitties extra snuggles and treats in her memory.

Inside Out and Outside In: Public Scholarship in Classics

img_7499CAC/SCEC 2019 
McMaster University 
9 May 2019

Panelists: Amy Pistone, Darrin Sunstrum, Jeff Wright, Victoria Austen-Perry
Chair: Katherine Blouin
Organizers: Aven McMaster, Katherine Blouin, Alison Innes

When we talk about public outreach or public engagement with Classics, we tend to think of scholars communicating their research and ideas beyond the confines of the classroom or scholarly community. But there has always been a thriving community of non-traditional scholars who are interested in the Classical world and whose engagement with ancient history, literature, and culture can often reach a much wider audience than many scholars’ public outreach efforts. This panel will follow up on the 2018 CAC panel “Public Facing Scholarship in Canada” to continue the conversation about the place of public scholarship and the ways that members of the CAC can support it. The panel will highlight some of the people doing Classics outreach from positions other than tenure-track faculty, in particular how they take advantage of the possibilities offered by digital media, and will draw attention to ways that we can involve non-academics as contributors as well as audience and address the problem of gate-keeping within our discipline.

The Changing Face of Public Scholarship

Amy Pistone
Twitter: @apistone

For many academics, ‘public scholarship’ brings to mind things like Op-Eds in major newspapers, lectures for non-specialists, podcasts, or maybe even participation in a documentary. These forms of public engagement can often seem daunting or, at the very least, time consuming. Many academics are interested in engaging with a broader audience outside the academy, but do not feel like they have the ability to engage in a large-scale project.

This paper will look at a range of different ‘low stakes’ forms of public engagement that scholars at any stage of their career can use to connect with the broad classics community online. Digital tools offer simple ways to share our passion and expertise with a vibrant community ranging from high school students to non-traditional scholars to general enthusiasts of the ancient world. I will speak to my own personal use of blogging and social media (Twitter in particular) to make my scholarship more public-facing.

Finally, as a junior faculty member who does not have a permanent position, I will speak in particular to how the changing job market and the precarity of many young scholars has actually increased our public engagement, as we are rethinking what an academic career will look like and finding new models for how to be a classicist. I will also talk about how — paradoxically — decreased job prospects have actually empowered many young scholars to do more daring and controversial work in the public sphere, and highlight some of the most exciting examples of this work being done in the US, Canada, and the UK.

Podcasting and the Power of Conversation

Darrin Sunstrum
Twitter: @darrinsunstrum / @mythtakepodcast
Podcast: MythTake

Podcasting provides a creative space to engage with the field of Classics from outside traditional academic spaces. The open access nature of podcasting extends teaching beyond the classroom and provides a friendly, accessible introduction to the Classics for the public. At the same time, podcasting allows us to expand the discussion of ideas beyond what is given in a course syllabus.

My own podcast provides a space to engage the public in a transdisciplinary conversation about Greek Mythology, connecting it to larger themes in culture and society. By blending scholarly literary analysis with discussion of contemporary issues, our conversational podcast invites listeners to engage with Classics. Equally it provides an important space for us to practice scholarship outside the traditional university framework and to contribute to the development of our field. By mediating the space between traditional academics and the public, podcasting is a fertile creative space for academics, independent scholars, and the public to come together.

On Being a 21st Century Homeric Bard

Jeff Wright
Twitter: @trojanwarpod
Podcast: Trojan War Podcast, Odyssey: The Podcast

I spent the first 20 years of my professional life as a high school Humanities teacher. I loved serving as my students’ “point of first contact” with the amazing worlds of philosophy, literature, and history. Ten year ago, I decided to narrow my focus, to Greek Mythology and Homeric epic. I left the traditional classroom, and set out as a travelling Demodocus. For the next 7 years I performed Greek Epic – in bars, clubs and cruise ships; at the National Arts Centre and at Oxford University – but mostly in high school auditoriums. During those “live performance years” I developed an understanding of how contemporary audiences respond (or, frequently, fail to respond) to Homeric epic. I discovered the recurring “stumbling blocks” to contemporary audience’s understanding; and I learned the places where Homer continues to provoke delight, laughter, and tears.

In 2016 I launched Trojan War: The Podcast: an experiment in translating my live show to the medium of podcasting. The podcast consists of 20 hour-long episodes, each offering 45 minutes of serialized story, and 15 minutes of informal “teaching” on all things epic. My experiment succeeded. To date, the podcast has been downloaded 500K times, by listeners in 156 nations. A lot of diverse listeners, it turns out, are eager to dive into Greek Epic, if you package the content in a way they can access. Odyssey: The Podcast is due for release in 2019.

I suspect that in the years to come, podcasts will more and more become the “point of first contact” for students encountering the world of Greek Mythology and Homeric Epic. This paper will describe my experiences transmitting Classical content and scholarship to audiences outside of the university classroom, and share what I have learned about the value of such work for spreading a love of the ancient world and an understanding of its myth and literature. Our disciplines should talk; we share a common goal.

#WCCWiki – Using Wikipedia for Public Engagement and Mobilising Change

Victoria Austen-Perry
Twitter: @vicky_austen

As the fifth most visited website in the world, with more than 5 million articles in English and 30 million registered users, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is arguably one of the most, if not themost, influential source of information available to us all. However, as with any community-based and collaborative project, Wikipedia is not devoid of prejudice – it is, as Victoria Leonard (2018) states, a ‘mirror that reflects society’s biases and prejudices back at us’. The facts and figures provided in articles do not just reflect what people know, but also reveal how they think about it, and what they think is important, and this is all too evident in the gender bias on display across the platform. Out of the 1.5m biographies on Wikipedia, only c.17% focus on women; and only 20% of those female profiles feature images. When it comes to classics specifically, an estimate in 2016 found that only 7% of biographies of classicists featured women – even when prominent women (such as Mirriam Griffin) were mentioned, it was merely in relation to their husbands. This disparity speaks to a general marginalisation and omission of women in academia, but it can also be linked to the fact that at least 85% of Wikipedia editors are men.

What can we do, then, to rectify such stark gender imbalances? The online activism of the Women’s Classical Committee UK (#WCCWiki), begun in 2017, has already made huge strides in combating these issues, not only by training new female editors, but also by hosting monthly online ‘editathons’ to create new or improve already-existing female classicist biographies. Since its inception, the project has already doubled the representation of female classical scholars on Wikipedia. In this paper, I will explore the role of Wikipedia in mobilising change through the lens of the #WCCWiki project; and provide a short lesson in how to become a Wikipedia editor yourself.

Times Higher Education
The Guardian

Visualizing Mythology: Using Universal Design for Learning to Teach Greek Mythology 

Sketch note of Homeric Hymn to Demeter. CC-BY Alison Innes @InnesAlison

The Classical Association of Canada/Société Canadienne des Études Classiques
McMaster University
7 May 2019

Lianne Fisher, Centre for Pedagogical Innovation, Brock University
Twitter: @liannefisher

Alison Innes, Brock University
Twitter: @innesalison

The relationship between learning, note taking and class preparation is not always articulated, or explicitly taught to students. These skills can be challenging to teach along with course content in introductory classes. Our recent redesign of a first-year mythology course sought to introduce students to a variety of note taking skills, while practicing close reading and textual analysis.

By incorporating the idea of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), we encouraged students to engage with various methods of organizing information including Cornell notes, annotating text, and sketchnoting. Over the course of the semester, students practiced visual note taking skills alongside traditional written responses in weekly assignments. Such assignments challenged students to translate their knowledge of a text into a non-textual format, challenging and deepening their learning experience. Visual note taking is a natural fit for the teaching of mythology, as myths were experienced in audio and visual formats in the ancient world, through storytelling, art, and theatre.

A key part of UDL is allowing students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning beyond the traditional essay format. Students were given the option to submit their final essay as a visual essay. We developed clear assessment guidelines to ensure such assignments were equally rigorous to written essays. A selection of these were digitized and displayed in the university library, allowing students to participate in the production and mobilization of scholarship. With the students’ permission we will share some of these educational artefacts in this session.

Key to the success of the course was supporting the Teaching Assistant team. Through a series of workshops, TAs had the opportunity to learn ways in which they could model information organization strategies in the classroom. This provided first-year graduate student TAs the opportunity to engage critically with pedagogy.


  • Dr. Anton Jansen, Instructor, Brock University Department of Classics
  • Darrin Sunstrum, Course Coordinator, Brock University Department of Classics
  • Giulia Forsythe, Associate Director, Brock University Centre for Pedagogical Innovation
  • Teaching Assistants and students of CLAS 1P95, Fall 2017

Download slideshow PDF

Alison’s Cornell Note Resources

Worksheet: Timeline

Worksheet: Comparison

Worksheet: Annotating Text

Visual Essay Assignment Instructions

Visual Essay Reflection

Getting organized, 2019 style

I like to be organized. I like my stuff to be organized, my desk to be organized (when I’m not actively in the midst of a project!) and my schedule to feel organized.

In fact, this Christmas I got a beautiful Ikea pegboard and accoutrements to organize my art supplies and I couldn’t be happier:

Paint brushes, coloured pens, a whole box of Blackwing pencils… I could sit and look at this for days!

However, I’m always on the quest for a better planner system. If you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably familiar with my Leuchtturm1917 notebook system– a sort of cross between bullet journalling (but not as pretty) and Raul Pacheco-Vega’s Everything Notebook. It’s worked really well for me for the past two years, but with four major jobs/projects on the go, it’s feeling a little too messy and higgledy these days.

This year, thanks to Instagram, I learned about the Pretty Pretty Planner (PPP), designed by @faustine2012 and available as a free PDF download on her blog. It’s beautiful! I like the colour scheme and the monthly calendars and the week at a glance.

Faustine uses the Levenger Circa system, which features a disc system with a special punch. You can rearrange the pages of your notebook to your heart’s content, adding and removing as you wish.

So I’m taking my favourite aspects of all these different ideas and trying to mash something together: grid layouts, page-a-day (with flexibility for more), customizable on-the-go, and different sections for different projects.

While the Circa system offers a plethora of beautiful covers and coloured discs, Staples offers a slightly cheaper option with their Arc system, which is available in stores in Canada. Faustine tells me the two systems are interchangable. So I’m going to go with the Arc for now and if I decide to stick with it, I’ll invest in a beautiful cover and rings from Levenger.

My new pages are designed to work in combination with the lovely calendar spreads from Faustine. I’ve used the Pretty Pretty Planner (PPP) colour scheme for my pages, so it should all work together.

Fingers crossed the system works– I’ll report back at the end of the semester.

Now, if I could just find the perfect handbag, I really would be organized!

In my usual spirit of sharing, I’m making my pages available for download as PDF files under CC-BY. They are intended for individual and/or educational use, with source attribution. They are not to be sold commercially. Follow the link above to download the original Pretty Pretty Planner.

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Download Page-a-Day addition to PPP. The file is designed to be printed double sided. There are eight colour options included. Pages are undated. Letter size, portrait orientation.

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Download To-Do addition to PPP. A single-sided to-do list. Letter size, portrait orientation.

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Download grid paper addition to PPP. Print double-sided or as two single sided. Letter size, portrait orientation. 



Why I paint

Summer is captured in the sweet taste and glow of a strawberry. (Strawberry. Oil on canvas. 6×6”. 2017.)


Painting has become a compulsion of sorts, in the very best sense of the word.

I spend hours each week thinking about my paintings–mentally working out compositions, values, colours; considering how I will mix my colours to get the hues and shades I want; even thinking about the gorgeous texture of the oil paint and how I’ll create the brush marks. By the time I get to in front of the easel on the weekend, I have spent hours painting in my head.

The process of physically painting then is a sort of meditative affair. I immerse myself in the experience–in the colours, the smell, the textures, the sounds, the feel. Yes, I really do love the smell of oil paints!


I have always been driven to create, for as long as I can remember. Painting, drawing, sewing, baking, photography, and even writing or music at times. I don’t know why or where the urge to create comes from, but I am sure it is somewhere deep inside.

Three paintings in my rabbit series, developed from some work I did in high school and first year uni. (Acrylic on canvas, 10×8”).


For a long time, I saw my inability to settle on one form or medium as a negative thing. That I was less serious a maker because I couldn’t dedicate myself to just one way of expression. Now, I realize that my diversity of expression is not a drawback, but a benefit. The various forms of expression enrich and complement each other.

When I design sewing projects, I am thinking about colour and texture and how to take an idea in my head to a 2D pattern to a 3D creation. I spend ages in the fabric store choosing fabric that contrasts or matches in colour, texture, and hand.

When I photograph things, I delight in details, in finding what I think is the essence of a place, an object, an experience. I am thinking about colour and texture and shadow and light. I am thinking about how I can (hopefully) make the viewer contemplate the small details of nature that are too easily overlooked. I am thinking about how I can capture the feel of a place in a single photo of a seemingly insignificant detail.

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It’s all about the little things.

All of these modes seem to come together in my painting. I am taking 3D compositions and presenting them on a 2D surface. I am thinking about form, colour, shadow, light, texture. As much as possible, I am using my own photographs and, hopefully, presenting everyday or insignificant items in a new way, in a way that forces the viewer to recognize their beauty.

My reference photo for my garlic painting. The beautiful hues of purple and the papery texture attracted me. I like the drama of drop-out black.

As a youngster I created a ‘studio’ space in my parent’s unfinished basement. It was my space to create, and gifts of art and craft supplies found their way there. Art class projects I couldn’t bear to part with wound up there–a plaster lion mask, an elephant head made from strips of cardboard, and my OAC final project on détruis and debris.

But painting really started for me, I think, in my last year of university in Toronto. In blissful ignorance of what I didn’t know, I took myself off to a Loomis & Tooles and stocked up on pots of Golden acrylic paint. I propped my canvas up against a bookshelf and painted away.

One of my very first ‘proper’ paintings, done from a photograph I took during my exchange year at Swansea. I even got it framed! (Acrylic on canvas, 11×9, 2002).

As life got busy, I drifted away from painting. But painting now has a hold of me again, and perhaps even stronger now.

My first painting class after about a decade of not painting. I see the imperfections, but oh, how I enjoyed painting that fluff! Painted from my own photo. Full fluffy heads of dandelion seed are kinda boring—decay is much more interesting! (Acrylic on canvas board, 2016).

In November 2016 I sat down in my first painting class (and my first art class since the late 90s). I went home from that first class with my arms just aching to continue painting. My teacher became my mentor, and convinced me to give oil painting a try. So, in the summer of 2017, I had my first lessons with oil–and loved it.

My first oil painting. I couldn’t get over how luscious oil painting is and how it glows on the canvas. After Citron de Nice by Julian Marrow-Smith. (Lemon. Oil on canvas board. 11×14” 2017)

That’s when the fruit started. The glow and texture of oil painting just cries out for painting fruit and vegetables! After my first oil painting–a lemon– I started a series of fruit portraits. I use that term deliberately: As with my macro photographs, I want to present the fruit in a way that will encourage the viewer to see its beauty. The luscious fruits and dramatic shadows of Dutch masters paintings inspire me to show the glowing summer sunshine captured in delicious fruits.

Adriaen van Utrecht (1599-1652) Fruit Still Life
Adriaen van Utrecht (1599-1652) Fruit Still Life.

Keep up to date with my artistic adventures by joining my on Facebook, Instagram, Vero, and, occasionally, Flickr.

A Note About Note Taking

Finally got around to replacing my Apple iPencil and what better way to try it out than creating a sketch note– about note taking? This is my attempt to show how visual note taking can be combined with the Cornell Note system.

To learn more about sketch notes, try Sketchnote Army by Mark Rohde, Mauro Toselli, Steve Silbert, and Bineabi Akah. They even do a podcast about sketchnotes!

Links to download the PDF version of this note and to a PDF version of the unlined template are below. As always, CC-BY, so enjoy, share, use, remix, pass it along!

And if you find it particularly useful, let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @InnesAlison– I would love to hear from you!


(And yes, note taking should be written as two words– that’s an error just to see who’s paying attention 😉 )

Download Tips for Effective Note Taking PDF (Jan. 2018)

Download Cornell Notes template (unlined) PDF