I often find myself being asked to explain some of the exercises I use in my Creating Comics workshops, but have never sat down and written a proper full description. So, I've decided that I'm going to do a series of posts that will go into detail on what exactly I do with these groups. As pretty much all the drawing I'm doing at the moment is for the DFC and it's subscribers, I can't fill this blog with that, so the next best thing is to do this. Also I'm hoping that it will help me clarify in my own head exactly what I am trying to teach and what the participants might be learning from each particular game or exercise. In turn, this will hopefully start to form a series of posts useful for others running or about to run comics-based workshops.
Let me get these books out of the way first, as they are all extremely brilliant and inspiring for anyone serious about producing comics. Saying that, they are all too advanced for kids and so I don't recommend them to just anyone.
Scott McCloud's Making Comics covers everything that a cartoonist might need to consider. It goes into substantial depth exploring what can be achieved by manipulation and control of words, panel and page composition, drawing styles and so on. Great book for enthusiastic artists of say 14 and above, but far to dense and daunting for anyone younger.
His Understanding Comics has become the key text for anyone studying how comics work, but does get a little theoretical and is by no means a practical 'how-to' guide.
Ivan Brunetti's Cartooning came as a free supplement to the wonderful Comic Art annual (no.9) produced by Buenaventura Press. Brunetti teaches comics at college level, and most of the exercises described in this pocket book are aimed accordingly. Saying that though, Exercise 1.2 (in which you must doodle from memory at least 25 comic or cartoon characters) is very similar to one of the first games I would do with a room of 10 year olds. Brunetti writes extremely intelligently about cartooning, approaching his artwork more as designing simpified universal diagrams than anything else. This is also something I touch on when teaching - keep it clarity and simplicity should be the main aims, whether writing speech bubbles, designing characters or composing a panel.
This is no instructional manual, but I'm including it anyway. Matt Madden redraws the same one-page story 99 times, using sci-fi, noir, minimalist, etc, as well as experimenting with different viewpoints, emphasis, framing, you get the idea. I've shown this book to teens and older workshop participants simply to demonstrate to limitless options available to the comic artist, and the overwhelming amout of decisions that need to be made when constructing even the shortest narrative.
I'm looking forward to his new book Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, written with Jessica Abel, which promises to be a more practical guide.
Next Post - first exercise - character brainstorm!