One of the most frustrating things about comics is the incredible slowness with which they are produced, as compared to the swiftness with which they are read. So for quite a while, Matt and I have been admiring (and envious) of those who can draw comics quickly directly in ink, skipping the laborious penciling process, and in some cases even skipping thumbnailing!
This ambitious activity combines life drawing with cartooning by having students draw live models directly into narrative scenarios in sequeqnce on a single sheet of paper. A major goal is to see how the spontaneity and expressiveness of life drawing might be harnessed into the service of comics—comics teachers observe all the time students who don’t have the skills yet to draw from their head, or who are too caught up in a particular drawing style, yet when they draw a human figure from observation they can produce lovely, confident drawings.
A few weeks ago, I had my students draw comics. I paid special attention to the silence in the room. What I learned is that the silence is not just an aural quality, but a posture, and, perhaps an embodiment of cartooning, and one that offers particular advantages in the classroom.
Comics are a character-driven medium, so if a character looks and acts exactly the same as all the others—superheroes wearing spandex, alternative types exuding negativity—then something is gravely wrong. Wrong and boring. As someone else put it: “we need to do violence to the cliché, create havoc with the tried, the tired and tested”.
On my blog I just posted about a new comics-making constraint I invented for a recent workshop. The basic idea is that you need to make a comic that uses all the colors of the rainbow—but in black and white only! Read the post and see some examples here.
The “pictureless comic” activity, originally from Chapter 7 of DWWP, is one that we use constantly, in formal classes, in intensive workshops, and in casual talks and improvised situations. We once did it in a lecture hall at a comic convention with 200 people! It has so many advantages: at its core, it’s a study of how comics work, the elements of comics and how they work together to create meaning, even without pictorial images. It’s also a great way to learn layout and lettering skills, and to concentrate on those technical skills, again, without distraction. Finally, it’s an activity that anyone can do. Drawing skills are unnecessary (though a design sensibility is certainly a help!).
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