Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ways of Drawing Walks in the Woods...and Terror

In the graphic memoir I'm working on, I have to draw myself and my dogs walking (or running, or standing frozen in shock) in the woods.  A lot.

So I've been looking at other comics artists who have drawn people moving through the woods, and copying them, learning from them.

I've already posted some of the work I did learning how to draw "Watterson trees" from Calvin and Hobbes strips.

Here's a sketch I did inspired by Jeff Lemire's work in Roughneck.  A wonderful book, by the way.  Full of astonishing visual complexity.

It's that interesting perspective, that sense of conveying a vast space but a narrow focus that I really admire and want to use.  The sort of tunnel vision of the terrified...

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Favorite Author's New Title: Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

If you asked me to name my favorite graphic novel, I'd have a hard time picking just one.

Fun Home?  Blankets?  Rosalie Lightning?  The Dark Knight Returns?  A Soldier's Heart?  Calling Dr. Laura?  and soooooooo many others...

But if you asked me about my favorite series, or the ones I wish I had written, or the most delightful, I'd name, without hesitation, the Lunchlady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.

There are a dozen of these terrific, funny, smart book in this series and I've read them all over and over.  I've copied the drawings to learn how he does simple yet impactful drawings.  I just love these things.

I've also loved the one volume of his Platypus Police Squad that I've been able to find in my library.  They are on my "to read list" for 2019.  Can't wait!

Anyhow, in 2018, Krosoczka came out with a more serious story, a graphic memoir about his family and growing up with some hard truths.

This book has been named a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

I finally ordered my copy and while I wait, I've checked out some reviews and interviews I thought I'd share.

NPR Interview here.

His blog post on the NBA celebrations here.

School Library Journal here.

If you haven't read any of  Krosoczka's work.... what are you waiting for!?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

St. Francis Statue and Thinking About DeCluttering

In my household, we have a lovely St. Francis carving.  I used it as inspiration for a sketch.

This got me thinking about something I read once (I forget where) about a great strategy for decluttering a house. 

It said something like:  if you have items you keep for sentimental value, but you don't really use them, consider sketching them. 

Why not write details about the item, even a story about it or the people and places associated with it.  What a great way to fill a page in your journal.

Then decide if you want to still keep the object, or if you can donate it to someone who will use it.

Sometimes, giving the items some moments of focused attention, and commemorating them with a sketch, is all it takes to feel like you can let them leave your home!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Loving Early Snowfalls

Inspired by an exercise provided by Jill Badonsky during a workshop at SketchKon 2018 (more on that in upcoming posts!), I drew this little comic.

Love this season of early snows!

This is a great way to make a journal entry of a delightful moment in the day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thinking about Dressing Up and Turkeys

Just a quick sketch for fun, this holiday week.

Drawn with my eyes closed, except for the eyes.  Watercolor added with my eyes open.

Confession:  that lovely turquoise feather and pink hat?  When my eyes were closed those lines were supposed to be her head.  They got disconnected from her body... but the rest held together pretty well.

So when I opened my eyes, I fussed a bit with how to save it.  So I created the feather, added her eyes, and splashed on the watercolor.

Great fun! 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Sketchnoting and Comics Workshop with Big Read Educators

About two weeks ago, I had the wonderful good fortune to do a short workshop with local educators who are participating in the NEA Big Read Lakeshore program. 

The Big Read program coordinates one community reading one book at the same time.  The Lakeshore program includes all kinds of amazing programs, classes, speakers, opportunities as we read Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven.

I got to think with the educators about how to incorporate comics and sketchnotes in classrooms at all levels.

We had a lot of fun thinking about how combining the verbal and the visual aids learning, thinking, and communication.  It helps students pay attention, synthesize material, consider what they value, and think about the relation of things as they design a page.

In a few days I'm doing a public workshop on making comics! Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Covers and Title are So Hard for Me

Having finished the zine I share in the last post, I realized I needed to make a cover.

Covers are always hard for me.

Mostly because they involve titles, which I have been lousy at my whole life.

And then there's the inside of the front, and the inside of the back, and then the need to do something clever with the outside back cover.

I so admire the artists I've watch confidently doodle these lovely, inviting designs, with enticing typography, lines that move from front to back, from outside to inside, wrapping the content of the book itself in a separate, artistic blanket.

Me, not so much.

But I share here the cover I did come up with (because I was on a deadline and I needed something!).

Outside Front Cover

Inside Front Cover

Inside Back Cover
Outside Back Cover

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Go To Dinner, Get a Zine...

When I attended a low residency comics workshop earlier this month at SAW (the Sequential Artists Workshop in Gainesville, Florida), I got to go to dinner with Tom Hart, who runs SAW, my fellow comics memoirist, Jesse, and my spouse.

Shop talk ensued.   I told the others a story about something that had happened to me while researching my story.

At the end of the conversation, Tom said something to me like "THIS conversation, the way it just happened, should go in your comic."

I needed a topic for an 8-page mini-comic challenge that I and another artist had given to ourselves, so I grabbed at this.

For the next two days, I sketched, scripted, inked, colored, printed, folded, and stapled (all in between lectures and other workshop assignments).  I did all the work on my iPad Pro in Procreate.

The result held together very nicely, I think.

Not sure if it works entirely as a stand alone zine (since it offers no explanation of the blackout or of "finding the body"), but I really like it as a discreet episode!  It has potential to fit right into the longer work!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Seeing Your Thoughts in Your Surroundings

Earlier this month at the comics low residency workshop I took at SAW (the Sequential Artists Workshop in Gainesville, FL), one of the things I worked on was getting more visual metaphor into my memoir sketches.

Warning:  I'm working on a memoir that includes my finding a deceased person in the woods while walking my dogs one day. 

Anyhow, this sketch is one which resulted, and which I liked very much.  I think it will inspire some future work!

Loads of thought exists on the notion that we see in our environments that which we expect to see there.  How we, to an extent, create our own realities in this way.  If we are intent on all the evil that exists in our world for example, it can become all we can see.  We miss the good that also exists.

I know I'm guilty of this.  I"m not sure it's a good thing in real life.

But in art, I think using this to depict a character, that character's thoughts, that character's relationship with her reality, can really open up some interesting possibilities!  It's a little like finding shapes and objects in the clouds--only we also get to draw the clouds.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Sketchnotes as Speaker Notes

I've given loads of talks in my thirty years in higher education.  But only recently have I started to use sketchnotes as my speaker notes!  Doing so has changed not only how I prepare for my talks, but has given me a lot more freedom during my talks as well.

Here is an example of a sketchnote I used as part of a workshop I led earlier this week to a lively group of K-12 educators on using visual/verbal techniques (like sketchnotes and comics) in the classroom.

As a tool for notetaking, sketchnotes asks you to focus on the big picture.  This technique asks you to listen actively, to evaluate what you are hearing or reading as you encounter it.  After all, you can't sketchnote everything you hear!

So, when you sketchnote, you need to ask:  What seems most important to you?  How do the important pieces of information relate to each other?  What are the patterns in the information you hear?

This method helps learners really grasp the information more completely and clearly!  It is much more effective than a student simply struggling to write down everything they can from a speaker's talk or from a textbook chapter.

I'm discovering that creating sketchnotes to prepare to give a talk has all of the same benefits!  It helped me to sift through all of the information I had, identify what is most important, think about how it all fits together and relates to each other, and see if I could construct any patterns.

In creating sketchnotes for a talk, I find myself asking how I can speak in a way that would help my listeners make better, more clear sketchnotes of my talk!

And while I might have additional notes with me for quotations or dates or other specifics, I keep a one-page sketchnoted outline in front of me as I speak, to remind me of the big picture, and to help my learners see it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Low Residency Workshop at SAW

Last week I had the great good fortune to participate in a Low Residency Workshop at SAW--the Sequential Artists Workshop, in Gainesville, Florida.

Here, I sat around the table for a week with comics makers from Florida, Michigan, New York, New Orleans, Kuwait, Australia, North Carolina!  Everyone came with ideas.  Some came with projects in process.  We all brought the goodnesses of our creative spirits and wisdoms to share.

Here's a shot of me sharing the collage comic I'd just finished.  It involves Batman (which you might have guessed).

There is nothing more fun, I'm discovering, than a comics workshop.  Look at all the art on the table!!!  All the art supplies!  Look at all the comic books in the library behind us.

Interested in working in comics, but not sure how or where to start?  Check out SAW's online classes and resources.  Some are free.  Some are pay what you can.  Or consider the next in person weeklong workshop in March or May 2019. 

I'll post some shots of the work I created there when I get things scanned in properly.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Learning from Hatke

Now and then I sit and copy ideas from a graphic novel I admire.

And I really admire the work of Ben Hatke.  I recently read Mighty Jack and the Goblin King.    In the course of that story I noticed some images that could inspire some of my own drawings on the memoir I'm working on.

So I copied them, modifying them to look like me (and not so much like the character Jack). 

Continuing my work of copying and modifying... I used a car drawing from the book and transformed it to my station wagon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Crossed Legs are Hard

My nephew typing on his laptop while reclining on the couch.  Crossed legs are hard!!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sketching from TV

Sketching while watching Ellery Queen on TV with my nephew.

TV is a fun source for sketching because it moves so fast.  It helps me practice visual memory.  Very different than drawing from life, and I know that working with 3D subjects has been terrific for my improvement... but this is fun now and then.

I used a water soluble sign pen and some spit on my finger!

On this next page, I got out the water brush to activate the ink.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Nikolaas Napping

Here's my Dutch Shepherd, Nikolaas, napping.

Done with a water soluble pen, on multimedia paper, wet with a water brush.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Sketching in Church: The 150th Anniversary of Grace Episcopal Church

I really like to sketch in church.

I have permission from the priest, fyi, so no worries there.  And I always show my work to any parishoners who ask, so people know I'm not goofing off.  They know that, in fact, I'm probably paying better attention than many others.  My mind can't wander.  I'm capturing the service.

These pages capture my attendance on a Sunday which opened the year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Episcopal Church in Holland, Michigan.    Instead of using a "sketchnote" form, I used more of a "comics" form, with panels and speech bubbles and the like.

All of these were done live, during the events. 

I captured some of my favorite moments from the liturgy.

I captured some details from the reading of the gospel and the sermon.

And after the sermon concluded, some of the special announcements.  And communion.  All are actually really welcome here.

And today, after the service, we all went outside for the dedication and unveiling of a new historical marker commemorating the church in the State of Michigan.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

South Africa Sketchbook Part Fifteen

This is my final entry featuring pages from my sketchbook from my trip to South Africa with the Hope College Chapel Choir in May of 2018.  It was a great gift to me to be able to travel with a choir to this amazing country.

I'm sharing these pages to show yet another sort of thing I did in this sketchbook.  During the very long (30+hours) trip home, I captured details of the trip (making a super short connection in DC) along with things I remembered from the trip.  I drew  from memory.

By now I had gotten pretty good at the dimensions of a rhino's head, because I'd drawn and redrawn it many times. 

And while I'd never drawn our breakfasts during breakfasts because we were always in a rush, I had certainly admired the available food every morning for two weeks!  So I captured what I remembered being the most fun to experience.

You can see that I never got around to watercoloring these.   You know how it goes:  you return from a long vacation and suddenly there are a million things to do.

Someday I hope to do some paintings and other art using these sketches and my many photographs as inspiration.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

South Africa Sketchbook Part Fourteen

Here is another page from my sketchbook on which I recorded a story told to us by our Afrikaans guide.

It captured my imagination to think about how a society, so split by racial violence and injustice, could ever come together in peace.

And how something small, like traffic courtesy, played a big part in it!

This makes me think a lot about the state of things in the USA, with road rage, mass shootings, and our divides over racial and economic and political issues.

Maybe we just need to get out of each other's way now and then and think "I see you.  I honor you."

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

South Africa Sketchbook Part Thirteen

One of the most magical aspects of having a Zulu guide and a Zulu driver was their wonderful tradition of storytelling.  Some of the stories the shared were myths and folktales.  Others were explanations of how the people and animals in the nation actually live.

One evening we had some down time while the choir rehearsed, and I used that to do a rough sketch of a comic version of my favorite story of the day.   I'm including it not because it's beautiful or even coherent to anyone but me, but as an example of the sort of thing you can put in your sketchbook!  Because, remember, it's for you!  And there are lots of ways to use those pages to remember the different aspects of your life.

Here's the story I was capturing (which I remember so clearly because I drew it).

This is a story about how the wildlife has adapted to life in the giant game reserves which I called "How Lions Use Tarmac to Catch Giraffes."

In the game reserves, the lions become very alert when a storm comes in because this means that they can hunt the giraffes. 

In normal weather, they can't capture giraffes generally, because the giraffes are too big and fast.

But when rain comes, the lions gather the pack and run to find a giraffe. 

Then, as the rain begins, they frighten the giraffe and shift themselves during the chase to drive the giraffe onto one of the hardtop roads of the preserve.

The rain makes these roads slick underneath the giraffe's hooves and the tall, leggy animals begin to slip and slide.  They lose their speed, and sometimes they completely fall to the ground.

This is the change for the lions to pounce and kill their prey.

I thought the lions' use of paved roads as a tool for hunting was pretty interesting!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

South Africa Sketchbook Part Twelve

On this trip, I did one thing in my sketchbook which I really never do:  I drew from photographs.

I did this because I wanted to include memories of the animals I had seen which were most impressive to me.  But I couldn't draw on a moving safari jeep!

I'm glad I included them in the sketchbook, because this is what I show to people when I talk about my trip, not my photographs!  And so these few drawings from photos give me a prompt to share about the cool animals we saw.

My favorite was the pack of wild dogs.  The guides were beside themselves.  Evidently, these are few and rarely seen and we got to see a large group of them.  And they moved slowly enough that we got some decent photos.

One of our other great experiences learning about this amazing nation was a trip to a hippo reserve... I had hoped to sketch on the slow-moving boat, but it was pouring rain!  So I sketched these impressions from photos later in the dry hotel room.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

South Africa Sketchbook Part Eleven

As we traveled, I made a few different kinds of sketches of animals.

This first is from the bus.  A quick scribble, really, to capture shapes of these amazing birds, many of which were sitting stop gravestones in this vast cemetary.

I have no idea what kinds of birds these were or why they chose this spot to congregate.  But the image struck me as one to be used in a book or story in the future!

In this next page, I drew basic shapes of animals from memory, in an attempt to illustrate what I had seen and learned while on safari during that day.   There was NO way to draw on a moving safari jeep!!

One place we stopped for lunch had a large yard (as big as many people's back yards at home in the U.S.) filled with guinea pigs and rabbits.  After I finished eating, I dashed out there to draw them from life.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

South Africa Sketchbook Part Ten

Here's an example of a page with a little bit of narrative.

What I like about this page is how the three pictures move inward in closeness.  A large landscape, a medium "shot" of the trio of singers, and some close-ups of masks for sale at the nearby open air market.

While the page doesn't identify all the pieces super clearly, I know exactly what they are.  And together, these three different images take me right back to the sights and sounds and human connections of that experience.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

South Africa Sketchbook Part Nine

During my travels to South Africa with the Hope College Chapel Choir in May 2018, we had the enormous privilege of visiting an AME church in Soweto.  The welcome we received there was so gracious and loving!

While the choir sang, I had the fun of drawing some of the congregation enjoying the experience.

The women were dressed beautifully.

People were so happy to have us visit; many recorded the songs on their phones.

This lady was terrific fun to watch.  It was clear she was "The Church Lady."  Unofficially, she ran the place.  You could tell.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

South Africa Sketchbook Part Eight

We visited Constitution Hill, the site of a former dreadful prison and of the current constitutional court.

The tour was grim and humbling.  I didn't sketch the cell blocks, the wires, the places of suffering and death.  I think I would sketch them if I had more time to be present with them.  But the tour moved pretty fast.

Then we ended by spending time in the court area, where justice is working much more effectively now.  It gives me hope for the world.

I'm including this next page as an example of something I did a few times in this sketchbook.  Because we were on a tour and I couldn't control the time I needed or wanted to sketch things, I would occasionally stick in an image from a guidebook of something I wanted to remember, and perhaps redraw later.  That's what I did here with the symbol of the constitutional court.

In this next page, I captured some of the amazing designs and colors used in the court room to create the sense of the room itself being a space under a tree.

I can't express how much this notion of justice, this honoring of traditional native practices, captivated me.   What would America be like if we did this?