Friday, December 27, 2013

Gig Roundup: Comics in the Classroom (+ Auditorium and Bazaar)

Image: David Fields

Here's a veritable smörgåsbord of year-end events: and just so you know, I really do still get that look on my face upon opening a book by Sendak. Snapshot was from giving the first of two presentations to English classes as a Visiting Artist gig at Ryan Junior High. We did an in-class exercise in creating 8-panel minicomics, during which I gave a brief slide-show covering sequential art, followed by a little show & tell from my portfolio of some original art. Lastly I wrapped up the hour-long session with a quick inking demo of a sample panel.
(More after the jump)

Image: David Fields

It's funny how it almost get predictable that after a heavy round of gigs like these, including the crush of seasonal appearances peddling wares at various places, plus juggling freelance clients, and especially amidst the usual classroom lectures for my own classes, how quick I burn out and swear off ever doing anything at all in public again. But without fail I look over pictures like these and in retrospect it really reaffirms a feeling for basic connection and spreading knowledge and information about what I love to do. Always makes me think of never having any such connections, community or encouragement with comics when I was a kid, or for much of my life for that matter. When you see someone sync up with their own imagination, engage and explore - that's the magic, that's where it happens and that's what it's all about.

Sometimes it's hard to tell who has more fun at these gigs, them or me: this girl’s comic made me laugh out loud… she probably didn’t know how well her strip summed up my life: “awesome” + “ahh!” Special thanks again to Dave for the gracious invite and especially for such a great writeup (excerpted below):

Image: David Fields

Lesson Four: Guest Cartooning Workshop and Lecture (by David Fields)

Time: 60 minutes

Materials: Data projector, laptop (for Internet access), mini-comic instructions, blank 8½” x 11” copy paper, pencils.

Objectives: After instruction and activity, students will be able to produce an 8-panel folded ‘mini-comic’.

Focus Statement: Today we have a guest speaker that I’ve told several of you about already. His name is Jamie Smith, and you may have seen several of his cartoons in the newspaper. He teaches at the University, and he has been drawing comics in Fairbanks for over 20 years. Jamie knows a lot more about himself than I do, so, everybody please welcome Jamie to our class.

Instruction/Activity – Minicomic (15-20 minutes): The teacher distributes a one-
page illustrated instruction sheet (provided by the guest lecturer) with a blank 8½” x 11” sheet of copy paper to each student. The guest lecturer guides the students through the steps to create a foldable 8-panel ‘minicomic’ by modeling the activity. As students begin creating their own comics, the guest speaker begins to give hints and examples drawn from the data projector to demonstrate how sequence works between panels in a comic and how to determine the beginning and end of a visual story. Students begin working on their minicomics while Jamie begins his lecture on technique and craft.

Instruction/Lecture (15-20 minutes): As students work on their minicomics, Jamie shows several examples on the data projector of how cartoons are produced, beginning with penciling, then shading (of which he demonstrates several exemplars of both his and others’ work). Jamie also uses the chalkboard to demonstrate how subtle effects can be used to indicate emotion by drawing several sets of eyes. Inking and coloring and final computer finishing of cartoons are discussed by showing examples of Jamie’s work in several stages of completion.

Demonstration (15-20 minutes): Students (in groups of 6-7) gather around a table where Jamie has staged hard copies of his sketchbooks and some of his art supplies. He demonstrates the penciling and inking process for students.

Closing (3-5 minutes): Students give a round of applause to the guest speaker and (if finished) turn in their minicomics to the teacher.

Assessment: Students will be assessed formatively for the lesson based upon listening and participation.

Reflection: "That’s what I call preparation. Jamie has this lesson right in his back pocket, and it takes almost nothing to set up. It’s obvious he’s done this (many) times before. I’m jealous of such talent. I’ve tried for years to develop my ability to draw with remarkably ineffective results. It would be refreshing to break up a literature class with caricatures of literary figures. Lucky!
I wasn’t sure at first of Jamie’s method of lecturing while students worked on their mini-comics, but it was remarkably effective. Students who had already finished the folding and numbering of their comics either began to draw their stories or to focus on Jamie’s presentation. In any case, it seemed that most students were multitasking between the two. Huh! That is going in my back pocket.
Jamie’s personality is well-suited to the classroom. He’s easygoing, answers questions fluidly and effectively, and stays on topic, even though he allows natural diversions and questions from students to alter the discussion. His examples of his own work and of other cartoonists serve to illuminate his discussions effectively.
One of his examples, unbeknownst to Jamie, was drawn by a Ryan student (one of my 8th) in one of Jamie’s semi-annual cartoon workshops. The students were pretty interested in that. Jamie was using the multi-panel comic to show an example of how a cartoon could ‘work’ or be funny even if the art wasn’t complex (the example was all stick figures).
Students remained very engaged in the lesson and were more polite than usual. Jamie’s demonstrations of penciling and inking, as well as his sketchbooks were of high interest to all students, and students who were still working on their mini-comics kept on task, racing to finish before the end of class. It’s always fun to have a guest speaker (for teachers and students alike), but it’s a real and rare treat to have one so gifted and poised give a guest lecture."

(Actually most faces really do look blurry like this for the first class of the morning)

Then it was on to yet another invitation to crash a classroom, this time at the neighboring Lathrop High School, for one of Robin Feinman's studio art classes (stay 'tooned for a more detailed post about the caricature exercise here in a week or so). Thanks to Rose and Robin for their gracious invitation!

Yet another fantasic time was had at a table at the local, independent bookseller, Gulliver's Books. The "Thooper Tholstith Thighning Thale" went over great with tons of friends, fans and folks dropping by to watch work-in-progress, score some last-minute Xmas stuff or hang out and listen to me test market material for an upcoming book of bad riddles. Special thanks go out to owners Christy and Bryan, and the always excellent staff for their support and help.

Image: Mariska Wright

I was one of the artists selected to participate in a first-time weekend-long bazaar at the Morris Thompson Center, and it was pretty decent turnout given it opened for a few hours on a 1st Friday so lotsa people were already out & about. The second day, a five-hour stint, also attracted a good crowd throughout the day. Love connecting and reconnecting with friends, fans and folks - plus this was a great time to meet so many new people from all over the place that were visiting or had recently moved to the Interior. It really makes my day to have someone mention a favorite panel from long ago, and the simple pleasure of sharing a laugh... that's what it's all about. Especially sweet was participating in the education of a young girl whose mom had to explain a pun on a swear word, that was special.

Image: Macy Possenti

Got set up on-site the next morning a couple hours early, wound up giving a demo on inking + process for the staff on hand, and continued drawing throughout the rest of the day (not any different really from a normal weekend day). Was really fun to entrance some random folks who don't get to ever see someone actually creating right in front of them, and it's especially awesome whenever kids would cluster around to watch.

Image: Diane R. Hunt

Also notable was the speaking engagement for the Arctic Audubon Society which happened at the Noel Wien Public Library's auditorium. back on the 2nd of December. Accompanied by The Significant Otter who felt sorry for me thinking that there would be half a dozen folks in attendance - turned out to be a full house of 75-100 people!

Image: Diane R. Hunt

I showed 140 images in about 45-minutes, basically doing a stand-up routine for a sit-down comic, meaning a rambling narration to accompany the pictures. Got some laughs and some people shared some cool stories afterwards. Special thanks to Melissa for the invite, and here's a bonus short of the "where do you get ideas" segment:

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