Posts Tagged ‘education’

“Obviously Talking to a Man”


Thursday, November 18, 2010

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As I once promised, my plan for today was to review the latest issue of Glamourpuss, but things got away from me, and it looks like I won’t be able to get to it until later. But some research I was doing for the post might do as a temporary substitute.

Here are two quotations from popular manuals on cartooning, released a half-century apart. They both give advice on how to draw women for comic books. Which quote is from which book?


Don’t emphasize muscles on a female! Toned and taut, to be sure, but keep the curves and the sensuality—and vive le difference!


The sexy female figure may be divided into four central parts. First comes the head and hair. A pretty face must be crowned with appropriate hair. … Women readers especially are critical of the way a cartoonist draws the hair on any female characters. Second comes the breasts. It is here that beginners and sometimes even professionals go off the beam by over-exaggeration. The width of a single pen or brush line can make the difference between a pleasing shape and a vulgar or crude lump of fat. Don’t lay sex on with a trowel. Be subtle about it. True, the breasts are drawn larger and a little higher than in real life, but how much larger and higher depends upon the over-all style of the individual cartoonist. Third are the hips. Exaggeration is needed here, too, but again one must not overdo it. Fourth and finally come the legs. The sexy gal must have long shapely legs. A short, dumpy figure has not much appeal and should be avoided.

One of the quotations is from the 1956 classic Famous Artists Cartoon Course (see illustration), and the other is from the just released Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics (I wish I had access to a scanner now, because, oh the illustration I could use from that book — check this post again tonight tomorrow for a late visual update.)


Teach House Styles


Thursday, November 5, 2009

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I studied cartooning at SVA and recently visited CCS, and so how to teach comics has been fluttering around in my mind for a while. What follows is a suggestion of how to run a Cartooning BFA or MFA course, just a potential direction that I think would be worth considering…

Instead of hiring teachers based on their achievements (and many of the current teachers are geniuses, no doubt about it), hire people who previously worked for many years in a now-defunct house style. Someone who drew Archie for years and is now selling their originals at Comic Con? Hire them. Did they draw Hanna-Barbera comics for years? Hire them. Did they ghost draw a daily comic? Hire them. Look for people who knew exactly how to execute a project on a regular basis and know, completely, the ins and outs of that particular assignment. They know everything about how that unique (now outdated) comic job should be done. They lived it.

The courses would be titled their house style—Archie, Hanna-Barbera—or I also think it’d be possible to get someone who has an expert knowledge of something like Little Lulu or Nancy or Astro Boy comics. There would be no courses devoted to “tools,” no penciling or inking classes. People can learn that elsewhere, like in their foundation year drawing classes. When that separation of responsibilities is brought into the cartooning class it’s usually based on an American production model that leads to people struggling with a tool for a whole year when they’re naturally suited to something else. The house style comic courses would require all of the students to draw everything with the same tools: whatever students write with naturally in non-art classes, probably just a ballpoint pen and paper. Everything tool-wise is nuts-and-bolts, no weird “try a Conté crayon” moments or “how to use a rapidograph” lessons. That’s for other classes.

The entire year-long class taught by these teachers would be based solely on teaching their house style. This would do a number of things:

The critiques would actually make sense. The teacher knows exactly how these stories are drawn, paced, structured, etc. Most of the cartooning class critiques I’ve been in are totally scattered, surreal happenings where the teachers are alternating between talking about character design, inking, storytelling, whatever. All of the students have different goals, and they’re often showing four pages of a long project out of context. Believe me: Usually nobody knows what the hell is going on. Everyone having the same goal (example: to tell an Archie story) would level the playing field. The teacher would know what they need to do to make it fit the assignment, how the characters behave, and the students would, over the school year, slowly hone in on the target, critique after critique.

Personal style and originality would be put on hold. In our current cult of originality, the pressure is to have a personal style as soon as possible, and the classroom environments often have this mentality as well. Everyone is freaking out: “What’s my style? What’s my thing?” It’s too much too fast. This race for originality has, over the years, spread from that future-goal timeline to just after college to (now) inside college itself. A safety zone no longer exists. For the most part, hardly anyone is hiring newbies fresh out of college to draw in a house style and then expect them to grow out of it. If these classes are explicitly devoted to learning a specific form, the anxiety for uniqueness would disappear and everyone would breathe out and look at their comics. The college would be the safety zone and after they graduate they’d start doing their own thing.

The more outdated and inapplicable the house style is, the better. They only have the understanding; they’re not being bred for a specific job that currently exists.

These would be year-long courses, so students would devote a substantial amount of time figuring out these comics. Most cartooning courses are extremely rushed-through. That’s understandable, since if you’re trying to teach a general Cartooning course, there’s probably a lot to cover! But these wouldn’t be general Cartooning courses- they’re very specific. And focusing on a specific world of comics for a whole year, I think, would offer more than week-long (one class) samplings of different worlds.

Finally, and maybe this goes without saying, I think there’s a lot to learn from digesting these house styles I’ve suggested. Regardless of what kind of comics you’d want to do later on, it’s probably going to involve some of the same elements that comprise these house styles.

This is all based on the assumption that the students are there (and pay to be there) to learn something, and the teachers exist (and are paid) to try to teach the students things. If they don’t believe that cartooning can be taught, then they aren’t involved in this exchange.

Students will probably hate this plan because they’ll want to work on their own comics. They’ll be pissed off for Sophomore Year, start to do their own thing through/inside a house style Junior Year, and then maybe Senior Year would be open. I donno. I’m still plotting this thing out…


COMICS CLASS 2: electric boogaloo


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

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Saturday July 18th and Sunday July 19th
two different classes – same lesson
both days
noon to six

Hey Everybody. I’m offering my Comics Class again. I’m doing TWO workshop classes in New York City at the infamous Westbeth artists’ co-op on Saturday July 18th and Sunday July 19th. Be there or be square. It’s gonna be an intense, small class of six people. Not for beginners. Come ready to draw.

The focus will be on the student’s contour line drawing and composition. This class will explore the process of improvisation within a rigorously structured page design. Meaning students will learn how to find a framework of harmonic points on the comics page. These points act like a “tuning fork” and provide page proportions which allow the drawings to unfold in sequence while firmly remaining “in key.”

Seriously. See, the problem I see with most comics is that often there is a real lack of a consistent narrative pace. Comics can be structured like songs and utilize tempo, rhythm, harmonies, and melodies to change the pace of a story. It’s this invisible structure that will be explored, diagrammed, and discussed.

And as for the drawing end of it, we will be drawing in a contour line style. No shading, just lines. Some color. Students will be making a manuscript, a “print dummy” of sorts for making their own 16 page zine. Each student will be “improvising” upon a pre-existing story structure designed by myself. Straight ahead, no-frills drawing and composition, transitions and sequencing will be the order of the day. I will be working with each student one on one to really explain how structure and improvisation can unlock one’s narrative vision.

Email me: capneasyATgmailDOTcom if you’re interested. It’s 40 bux. Noon to six with a lunch break. Space is limited to six people each day.

UPDATE 6/26: There’s one spot left for Saturday and 1 spot left for Sunday. Thanks.

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