Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Weeks 9 and 10

Penciled, partially inked, inked - whatever stage the students' comics were at - they went up in the hallway outside of the room. They filled the wall, surging from character sketches on the left into a swell of their final comics on the right. As I placed the pages on the black paper, classes in single file flowed past me. Those that contained my students snagged on the display and artwork was pointed out with pride. Curiously enough, the Obama caricatures grabbed the most attention, and the three students that had won for best all held their quill and ink sets proudly.

I'd brought in my own quills, brushes, and ink along with small sheets of bristol for the students to try. Some of them were quite deft at it and inked their final comics this way. No spills - just some light splattering - the kids loved working with the medium. I'd meant to work with the ink for only half the class, but even the third graders were filled with an intensity of concentration so I let them use most of both classes (one of the reasons some final comics went up as pencils). Only a few of the students had enough patience for the quill which has to be held in a particular way to allow the flow of ink.

After ten weeks of working with the students, I felt happy to have allowed them to work in a form that's, for the most part, disregarded in the regular classroom. Upon reflection, I find this odd, because of all twenty-seven students only one did not enjoy cartooning. Most loved it and telling stories through sequences of pictures and words seemed to come naturally. Due to the workshop nature of the class and my desire to never assign homework, I had to allow much of the time to the students' work, but had I more than 10 weeks, I would have liked to go into even greater depth of character design. Looking at other comics more than we did and also giving the kids lists of character traits to illustrate would have been ideal.

I hope someone to follow me will do this again. The students were disappointed cartooning might not be offered in up-coming semesters, and I think there is just so much age-appropriate material out there and valuable skills to be learned from comics. The inherent organization in sequential art provides a ready framework for the brainstorming, revision, and final editing that are so important to the creative process.

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