I’m just winding down an intense 5-day workshop at the University of Minnesota. A really committed (and cheerful) group of students meant it was huge fun, plus they’ve produced a mountain of new work in a very short time. But the intensity meant I didn’t have the time to blog as we went as I’d wanted to do.
But now that it’s over, here’s a quick wrap-up.
First of all, I based the class on the structure of my Wolfsonian (10 days) and Huntington Museum (3 days) classes, but of course split the difference in terms of time. Also, because this class is offered optionally for credit, there was a “pre-assignment” also, which was challenging. How do you ask students who may never have made comics to make comics before you teach them how? (I had them adapt a scene from Paul Auster’s City of Glass into thumbnails, then read the comic and compare…subject for another post.)
Highlights of the first couple of days:
I find this to be such a productive activity: it demonstrates all kinds of transitions and the meaning of closure, it teaches the nature of a “scene”, it shows the value and method of editing, it shows how narrative builds and changes, often gets at the narrative arc, at least obliquely, and, bonus, it’s funny and gets the class talking and participating.
This particular lottery turned out tighter and more logical than most. The lesson: making decisions based on the needs of the story rather than panel-to-panel laffs makes for stronger storytelling. There might have been funnier individual transitions to make, but the whole story now has a punchline it might not have achieved had we gone for the cheapo.
This is an activity where students do a tight thumbnail for a “daily strip.” It can be funny or not, as they please, but should use a kind of gag structure–set-up and punchline–ask a question and answer it surprisingly being the non-funny way of putting it). I haven’t had the opportunity to teach this particular assignment often, so it was great to get some practice. My take on it at the moment is that it’s in just the right place in DWWP, in chapter 3. Tech skills not necessary, and compositional challenges are relatively simplified because there’s just one tier. It’s tough, though, to be funny on demand in just one night. The critique on this was really great.
Check out the rest of Jamie Penny’s great class work, including the thumbnail version of this strip, on his site.
The Comic with no Pictures is another project I keep returning to. Not only does it lock those technical skills into place (of course you can do this without those tech skills, if you do only thumbs), but it really pushes students’ understanding of the syntax of comics, and is a great way to start looking at the compositional and clarity issues that come with a complex design like a comics page.
After this, we plunged into a one page comic of completely open assignment (although I encouraged using funny/not-funny gag structure). Now, this kind of perform-on-demand openness can be disastrous for some students, but this week it just worked. Take a look at some of what they came up with.