Friday, June 26, 2009

Collaborative Pages

One of the high points of this class is the collaborative exercise where up to four different students all contribute to a one-page piece: there's a script-writer, a penciler, an inker and a colorist (not to mention an omnipresent editor). At each particular stage the story evolves in response to new input, as each person puts their own respective takes on the material, refining elements so as to tell the story as clearly and simply as possible. Each stage is an opportunity to strengthen the narrative and use different tools and techniques to this end. Regardless of individual talents everyone leaves their creative fingerprints on the page to some degree, and usually some impressive results follow. The only consciously deliberate role I took other than overseeing any major changes to content is in pairing up the comparatively weaker drawers' pencils for the stronger students to ink and vice versa. This has a practical benefit in pointing up how teamwork can be used to compensate and accentuate relative strengths and weaknesses, and encourages folks who might not have quite the confidence in their own work to still have something of value to contribute.

And there are many instances where there are extremely talented individuals who choose not to write, or the reverse; maybe they can't draw so well etc. and so maybe partnerships are definitely would be an option. I know for myself I'm constantly inundated with folks that always tell me what would make a great cartoon, and even though personally I don't use 99% of them, it's still good to cultivate resources in one's own creative community. Hopefully this lesson plants a few seeds amongst the students in that they will always remember that there are many ways to go about doing comics.

The morphing of one's original vision into something completely different than what you had in mind is often too much for some artists to handle; it brings to mind the numerous special features on DVDs of the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at the major effects companies. There isn't really enough room on a design project for big egos, and being able to disassociate oneself from taking changes and/or criticism personally can be a valuable skill. The best example of such teamwork is the collaborative efforts easily seen upon opening any mass-market traditional comic book (DC/Marvel), the industry standard approach yields predictably commercial products. The flip side of that is the other extreme - one of the hallmarks of graphic novels is the unique and individual expression of one individual, that of the creator, who does it all. Now there were some interesting alterations and deviations made, but for the most part overall improvement seemed to be evident in all eight completed pages (aside from areas that could always use more work), and everyone had positive comments about the finished works.

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