“Drawing Stories” at the Lawrence Arts Center

I really enjoyed facilitating my class called Drawing Stories, an introduction to drawing comics, this past Fall at the Lawrence Arts Center. I say “facilitated” instead of “taught” because the real teachers of my class are the comic artists whose drawing exercises we use, artists who have written interesting and influential books on creating comics, among them Lynda Barry, Scott McCloud, Ivan Brunetti, and Jessica Abel and Matt Madden.

 

I squeeze a lot into the eight two-hour sessions, so much so that I will probably make this a twelve-week class in the future. In Drawing Stories, we learn by doing. We keep a sketchbook-journal with drawing exercises and experiments in it. Then we share our work and learn from each other, supporting each other as we go. And yet no one is ever required to share their work, because we all have different comfort levels with that.

 

 

 

In the first class, we experiment with doodling and drawing, playing around with different pens and pencils, and finding a simple visual vocabulary for communicating our first ideas. We draw stories without words at first, then bring words into the mix, considering the unique ways that words and pictures work together. By week four, we’re thinking about characters and how to draw them, how each character’s expressions, gestures, clothes, and environment reflect who they are and what they’re up to. In other sessions we focus on the varying grid formats available for a single page comic, how the eye flows from one panel to the next, and how one might visually  transition from scene to scene in a story. We practice techniques, too, such as penciling, inking, lettering, and making titles and word bubbles.

 

 

 

The most fun we have, though, are the times when we make collaborative comics — a “comic jam.” We use plain old copier paper for this, dividing each piece of paper into a grid of nine panels. Everyone has a grid-page in front of them with an attached “parameter,” a theme or principle that each artist must follow to guide the learning process as well as the form or content of each one-page comic. Each student draws the first panel on their comic-page and then hands it over to someone else in a willy-nilly fashion, until everyone has drawn at least one panel of each comic before we trade and draw some more, until all nine panels are filled. Some examples of the kinds of parameters we’ve used include: “no words,” “dialogue only,” “start at the end and draw the panel before the last one,” and “write a caption for the next panel.” But these are just a few examples, the possibilities are endless, and the laughs are, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Individual student comics are shared with permission from each student. Click on each to enlarge for better viewing. Artists are, from top to bottom: Michael Galvin, Grace Wise, Class Comic Jam, James Adaryukov, Casey Carlile, and Jill Rohde.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Drawing Practice” class at the Lawrence Arts Center

“Blind” contour drawing

I am excited to offer a class called “Drawing Practice” at the Lawrence Arts Center this Spring. It will meet once a week for 8 weeks on Wednesday evenings, March 18 – May 6, 6:30-8:30pm. Enrollment is now open.

This introductory drawing class will focus both on exercises to strengthen our ability to draw from observation, as well as additional exercises to strengthen our abilities to draw from memory and imagination. Each student will be provided a sketchbook of their own to use and to keep, and basic drawing tools will be provided to use during class.

Mapping darks and lights

We’ll draw from still life setups as we engage classic skill-building drawing exercises such as contour drawing, gesture drawing, continuous line drawing, sighting methods to help us to draw in proportion, and exercises that help us draw light and shadow, too. In addition, we’ll doodle a lot (and “noodle”), we’ll make loose and controlled drawings, we’ll enlarge, abstract, stretch, and distort our drawings, and we’ll draw at different rates of speed. We’ll practice drawing from memory in different ways, we’ll imagine monsters made from random marks, we’ll go on drawing scavenger hunts, and we’ll chronicle our day — just for fun — as a simple 4-panel cartoon.

Turning “doodles” into “monsters”

Our class will serve as a support group for drawing outside of class, too, and we’ll think about strategies to help us make time to draw at least a little bit each day — but we’ll never beat ourselves up if daily drawing isn’t something we can do — homework is always optional. Our goal in this class is to simply draw enough to forget whether or not our drawing is “good. Our goal is to practice as much as we can, and by doing so, to make drawing a pleasurable part of our everyday lives.

You can register for the class on-line or in person at 940 New Hampshire St., Lawrence, KS, phone 785.843.2787. Financial aid and senior discounts are available.

Take a class: “Imaginative Drawing” at the Lawrence Arts Center

class resource booksImaginative Drawing is a beginning-level drawing class. It is one of my favorite classes to teach, and I’ll teach it again this winter at the Lawrence Arts Center. This class begins on Wednesday, January 8, 2020, and meets each Wednesday evening for eight weeks, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

 

The class is based on drawing prompts and exercises that we do together each week in our own sketchbook-journals. By the end of the eight-week session, we’ll use what we’ve learned to create a  drawing-related work of art in any medium we choose, as a finished piece.

 

Doodle-creatures from random marksFor the first few weeks of class, we’ll explore drawing as making expressive marks on a page using all kinds of pens, pencils, and other mark-makers. We’ll make comic-style “timed” drawings as a way to doodle, and we’ll also doodle by building up a series of spontaneous lines that eventually turn into pictures and patterns. We’ll “noodle” our doodles, using a controlled hand to create a finished look by adding color, texture, and shading. We’ll make drawings that are based on observation, drawing the objects and people that we see, as we see them. We’ll consider how observational-drawing  informs imaginative-drawing, and vice-versa. Sometimes we’ll draw at drawing “stations” where we choose from a menu of exercise options, staying for as little or as long as we want to at a station. These sorts of exercises will focus on stretching, distorting, or abstracting images that we’ll draw using exaggeration in an imaginative drawingfrom observation. On a different station-day we’ll explore the use of “randomness” as the basis for making something new: random squiggles on a page, random cracks in the sidewalk, or random shapes of clouds can provide the building blocks for making faces, creatures, or monsters. Each week we learn something new about the creative process. Along the way we’ll ask the question, Where do creative ideas come from?  We’ll engage exercises that seem to get to the heart of creativity, bringing disparate ideas together in ways that are new. We’ll also learn about how to keep a sketchbook-journal, using artist Corita Kent’s focus on the journal as a “sense diary,” and cartoonist Lynda Barry’s “daily diary” formats to bring words and images together. Towards the end of the eight-week session, we’ll discuss composition, that is, how to arrange the elements in our drawings with attention to the drawing as a whole. We’ll then imagine a drawing that we would like to make, plan it, and make it.

 

eclipsedoodle002 copyA writer-friend who took Imaginative Drawing several  years ago recently said about this class  on Facebook: “Take this class! About two hours ago, I pulled out my sketchbook from the class. It is part brain health, part creativity, part stress relief.” And I would contend that the class is also a way for students to build confidence in their drawing abilities and to learn imaginative drawing skills to be used in art forms as different as comics and quilting.

 


I strive to create a warm atmosphere where students will feel encouraged and comfortable drawing in ways that are new. While I encourage students to share their work with others in class, because there is so much to learn from each other’s experiments, I also make it clear that no one is ever required to share; “passing” is always an option. And homework is optional, too.

 

Song in my HeartWinter classes begin during the first full week in January. Registration now for Winter session. Senior discounts and financial aid are available. Register either on-line or at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., Lawrence, KS,  phone 785.843.2787. To register for “Imaginative Drawing” on-line, visit http://enroll.lawrenceartscenter.org/browse-classes/event/2941?fbclid=IwAR1tS5t8oXpsnJfo_AlpjN-yTufrYNYN78CARP9OOr3taLmbexoLf96S9To.