Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Weeks 5 and 6

I write this post on the eve before Week 7 as I watch the election results. I believe tomorrow's class will be kicked off with a lesson in caricature of either a losing or winning candidate.

The last two weeks have been devoted to brainstorming and planning out final comics. I lectured briefly at the beginning of each class about how to make a comic readable. I answered questions ranging from how to draw one-point perspective to how to spell "vacuum."

Most of my interaction with the students occurred when I sat with each table and discussed each student's work individually. Some ideas needed to be flat out vetoed: one girl wanted to draw a comic about a man and woman fighting over a piece of hair they find in the cushions of a couch. Even wackiness has to have some sort of logic that makes sense within its own realm. I didn't hesitate to reject an idea that the student couldn't defend with more than a shrug. I want them to get a sense of being able to let go of the "first thing that popped into their head" if it's not working or doesn't offer enough of a satisfying narrative. Again, I realize these expectations are high but as these last two weeks have progressed the students have been increasingly self-motivated and self-critical with the realization that I will not accept work that does not have a clear direction.

Week 5 I passed out a page demonstrating the range of characters from the picture plane (abstract shapes), reality (accurate and detailed characters), to meaning (language, symbols, and icons): http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~mfram/Media/0505-UC-triangle-all.jpg

Though the subtleties of the argument were a bit beyond what most of the students could understand, the students were able to see how much forgiveness cartooning allows for character design and that drawing a realistic looking character isn't always desired. Some of the students who worried that they couldn't draw well enough relaxed and accepted characters that fell closer to the meaning realm.

Week 6 I passed out a packet that included three pages from Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics on panel-to-panel transitions including moment-to-moment, action-to-action, and aspect-to-aspect among others: http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1246/865762550_ba835e9123_b.jpg

I want to make sure that the students don't assume that their readers can read minds and need to slow down their story-telling at times to show an event explicitly. In addition, I want them to think about what that "gutter" between two panels means. When I suggested it contained the space-time continuum their eyes widened but I took that as a sign of epiphany.

For tomorrow, I've recreated comic book page guidelines so that the students will have enough freedom to design their own panels but also insure a border and a standard for straightness. I also went down to Plaza Artist Supply to find better pens. The ones I chose are PlumeII in black with a paint-brush style tip on one side and a fine point on the other. The fine-point permanent markers the students had used for the trial comics were frankly awful, and I'm hoping the effect of the new pens will be much closer to real ink. Though I don't think anyone will finish penciling the two to three pages tomorrow, I do want to have them on hand.

Before inking I'd like to do an in-class critique of the pencils by table. I want the students to trade their pages and try to read the comics. This will help insure the students are accountable for clarity and an understandable narrative structure.

Looking ahead, I foresee the students completing the inking in Week 9. The art teacher has given me an entire wall in the hallway outside her office to display the students' work. Not only is this a great way to show off their efforts, it will able be good publicity for the program. I'd like the rest of the faculty to see how sophisticated and smart cartooning can be.

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