Earlier this month, I had the unique experience of being invited to teach students from the High School of Art and Design about the fundamentals of comic-making. It was a workshop held in conjunction with Will Eisner Week (http://www.willeisnerweek.com/) at the Society of Illustrators in New York.
I co-taught the workshop with
Sara Woolley and
N. Stephen Harris, two cartoonists whose works and careers are quite different from mine. We meant it this way, so that we could highlight our unique paths as ways for the students to eventually get their comics work published. Since the students were coming from a magnet art school, we knew they would already know how to draw technically and wanted to challenge them with the storytelling aspects of comics.
After brief introductions by Danny Fingeroth—who discussed Will Eisner’s biography, accomplishments, and how Eisner’s life culminated into a weeklong celebration of comics—and by each of us to give an idea of the kind of work we did, we dove into the hands-on part of the workshop. As a warm-up, we had the students work on comic jams. They split into pairs, made tiny, blank books out of single sheets of paper, and worked on comics together, one page at a time at two minutes per page before passing the book to their partner—sort of like a comics version of Exquisite Corpse. The resulting comics are almost invariably goofy and the students got a kick out of them. But the exercise also helps with drawing loosely and prioritizing the comics style of pacing more than the end product looking beautiful. As a bonus, they also now know how to make a very inexpensive mini-comic out of a single sheet of paper.
We then asked the students to design a character onto a model sheet we supplied and segued into creating a fully completed one-page comic with panel templates. We emphasized thinking of characters that weren’t too complicated. It’s easy to forget sometimes how comics require you to draw the same character over and over!
Watching the students work on their own projects and talking about them was the funnest part for me.
I loved hearing the stories they had in mind because they were always really ornate and involved (I definitely had to drop some gentle reminders that there’s only one page to work with!). It was clear the students were fans of comics and were excited to make work. We had this opportunity to talk more informally with the students as well, and some were very interested in the paths we had taken as artists. It was great to be able to discuss what steps they might take after high school. They also knew their drawing chops and I got to appreciate that!
We’re glad we were able to take the opportunity to impart any information that could help the students in their future art careers; I got to enjoy their energy and innovation.
Thank you, Margo! We are really proud of you!–Melanie