Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spring Semester Show & Tells

"Is that a comic book? No! It's a graphic novel! Is that porn? No! It's adult entertainment!" - Robin Williams
pic by Tiffany Stappler

Now that's a dream class: everybody reading comics. Been a slew of opportunities as of late to preach the gospel of sequential art.

 Earlier in the semester hijacked a drawing class with what was at first supposed to be just the loaning of a bag of books culled from the groaning shelves of the collection at home. Which turned into a quick show and tell, which in turn morphed into hijacking the first half-hour of the drawing class.
Once again I am reminded of exactly how and why there's now an entirely separate class in Cartoon & Comic Art: basically I can't shut up about it. Talk about "mission creep" - when my own basic drawing classes became inordinately infected with teaching more & more about comics, it became time to invest in an entire studio class that incorporates all of the multitudinous genres and techniques in this uniquely expressive medium. Even if it's been established I can yak for several hours a day, five days a week (at least) for a couple months straight on comics, sessions like these never fail to prime the proverbial pump in anticipation of the summer class - there's always more stuff to learn about, experiment with and pass along. It's still amazing how many artists are unaware of the possibilities and potential worlds that have been opening up in alternative and independent comics: the stereotype of superheroes and Sunday funnies has long been overturned by a host of contemporary creators. Graphic novels have made strong and successful incursions into the realms of both literature and fine art with sophisticated content, mature themes and personal styles attracting ever-increasing and broad readerships. And then there's Batman, Iron Man, Hulk, Spiderman, X-Men etc. etc.
But back to the point: Hewitt's advanced class has been posting some outstanding and inspirational samples of their work and process over on their blog: it's always tremendously gratifying on both a personal and professional level to see other folks get turned on by the diverse range of individual styles that take advantage of this narrative artform.

 
pic by Rebecka Allysa

On that note, I also had a chance to present in Eileen Watabi's 200x "Interrelation of Art, Drama and Music" class. Hey - art, drama and music - now ain't that the story of my life. For the first time ever I showed three or four examples of student works from my past classes as a way to introduce basic art terminology and criteria - this provided a great springboard to discuss not only specific techniques and mediums but a way to show all the different elements of a successful piece of art. Basically it was a crash-course in beginning drawing with all the key points consolidated to (hopefully) illustrate a clear linear progression in skill acquisition and appreciation - approximately fifty images in half an hour. Previous to this it'd never occurred to me that I should in theory be able to just simply let the student's work carry the message, as in the results should speak for itself. This was followed up by 45-minutes on personal work: best-of cartoons, technical considerations and creative processes, also some insight on the commercial aspects of freelance design along with the usual funny business.
Word was I had a very informal and "real" delivery style - trying to pull off the second lecture of the morning in a row on three hours of sleep can do that for ya.


Another gig was for a different Beginning Drawing class: John Smelter is a graduate student doing a teaching internship this semester, and also has been successfully incorporating a project on image & text/narrative art into the semester's roster of assignments. Have to say though, absolutely nobody can even come close to comparing with the outstanding work my own class put out for their 3-page critique pages - look for some samples (and more shameless chest-thumping) to be posted here sooner than later.
Anyways, in retrospect, enough time has passed now that after tossing many, many pebbles in the pond, the steady ripple effect and rising level of interest has culminated in a healthy current of comic activity in this far-flung outpost on the funny frontier.

Teacher: Boys and girls, these two men are cartoonists. 
Student: What's a cartoonist? 
Teacher: Cartoonists are society's waste products. 
Another Student: I want to make a comic about how Jimmy is dumb. 
Tycho: A noble endeavor.
Gabe: (at the blackboard) "Now I'm going to show you how to draw a kitty." (thinking) "Don't draw a penis. Don't draw a penis. Don't draw a penis."
  — Penny Arcade

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