In my interactions with my imaginary sage and mentor, Halcolm (pronounced "How Come?"), I have observed many changes in his countenance. He is at times responsive, at times chagrined with his disciples, but always present and definitive.
One of my challenges to my Art 6 class is to create a cartoon character, and then draw that same character with many different facial expressions. Occasionally, I do one along with them of one of my characters. Some sprang instantly to mind, and then I went back through the comic strips he appeared in and made sketches of significant ones. It is interesting that there are some expressions your character would not have -- because it would be out of character!
I first experimented with this exercise using the book Cartooning the Head and Figure by Jack Hamm. It's a classic, a book I've returned to again and again since I bought it as a teenager. I've since created my own guide for students to refer to. I encourage them to look at the work of others to see how artists simplified, exaggerated, and used simple lines and symbols to represent a specific emotion. When we think of an emotion not shown on our guide, we ask a friend to pose for us.
Challenge: Try it! Create a character. Draw the same character 12-16 times. Try to keep the basic structure of the character the same, but with distinctly different emotions each time.
Today I received my copy of a book that features nine of my comic strips -- Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods (Patton, 2014). This is a project I'm proud to be a part of. The story of my involvement is interesting.
I was taking a course on Qualitative Research, and the earlier edition of this book was the textbook. I was in the middle of a doctoral program, and as soon as I began reading the book, I noticed there was something that made it much different than every other textbook I had ever read. Though it is full of important information about research methods, the author, Michael Q. Patton also gets points across by telling stories. The tales are often funny, and in the form of parables.
Imagine that! A teacher who teaches through stories and humor. After reading and writing pages and pages of dry, factual "scholarly" writing, this book was like an oasis in the desert.
One of my favorite features are the Parables of Halcolm (pronounced "How Come?"). Often when I read, I can visualize what it would look like as a comic strip. I couldn't resist quickly sketching it out, and turning it into a comic strip. I liked how it looked, and thought about sending it to the author. I couldn't find an email, so I Facebook-friended him, then sent a message. He liked it and asked to include it in the next edition of the text.
There's something that's positively 21st century about this story. Here I was taking a course, Facebook friends with the author of the course text, and contributing to the next edition of the text!
Eventually, I was asked to illustrate eight more of the parables. Each chapter concludes with a two or three page Halcolm parable, like a "meditation" on the theme of the preceding chapter.
Below is one of the Halcolm comic strips. A link to the rest of them are here.
"How do artistic ideas emerge?"
This is a drawing I did to illustrate the National Core Art Standard:
Demonstrate willlingness to experiment, innovate, and take risks to
pursue ideas, forms,and meanings that emerge in the process of
art-making or designing. (National Core Art Standard V:Cr2.1.8a).
I also created a worksheet for students to complete as they worked on this project. If you are curious to see it, here it is.
This Saturday I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop at the Mansfield University Summer Gateway retreat at the Thousand Hills Center. These are students who will be freshmen in the fall. The weekend was about literacy of all kinds. I presented a workshop on comics.
I started by asking them to write down the first ten words they thought of when I said "Comics". Like most people, they thought of words like: funny, short, superheroes, Stan Lee, and so on.
I had brought with me a big tub of comics of all kinds: comics diaries, journalism, graphic narratives, and so many different types. Then we had a discussion about the unexpected discoveries they made about the types of stories comics can tell.
No workshop like this is complete without giving it a try! Everybody tried their hand at making a one page comic strip. My challenge to them was to think of the last thing that happened to them that made them laugh. That is the punchline, now -- what do you have to show us so that we can "get" the joke. How many panels will you have to draw. Students of every conceivable major were there and they were very open-minded and a good sport about it. And, some of them were hi-larious!