Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sketchnote of a Talk by the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

I feel so lucky to have been able to attend this talk and Q and Q session with the former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. A true change agent for the world. The first and still the only woman in the worldwide Anglican Communion to serve in such a role.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Comics Help Survivors Pull Together Fragmented Stories

In April and May of 2019,  I had the wonderful experience of delivering a two-part workshop on visual literacy and comics for the Traumatic Brain Injury Support Group of Holland Hospital in Holland, Michigan. 

Though everyone in the group is living with the results of a brain injury, we found that we were able to share and laugh about many common experiences and insights as we learned about visual literacy and simple storytelling in panels.

The first part of our work together looked at simple shapes and how placing them inside of panels in different arrangements communicated different ideas. We also looked at simple ways of depicting humans and faces.

In our second session, we looked at a basic six-panel story structure. Participants had time to share a story from their lives that they wanted others to know about. Drawing ability didn't matter... we used simple shapes if we wanted.

In a short twenty minutes, everyone generated a story idea, questions about how they could go forward with this practice, and ideas for how to draw complex things. Several folks shared their completed story, which ranged from depicting the events around their brain injuries to difficulties they experienced with friends new and old.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Comic to Help College Writers

A few years ago I produced this mini-comic to help college students write better papers.

I did it because I had not found a student in years who had read the nearly twenty page-long, single-spaced document the college provided to help them write better.

I thought maybe a comic, which distilled the important points and was maybe a little fun, would help more students.

Anyhow, this comic was quickly adopted by both the college's writing center and the advising staff, and is still in use today.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Comic About Cartoon School

In late 2017, I did a comic about my trip to and studies at The Center for Cartoon Studies for the blog of the English Department at the college where I worked (now retired!)  You'll see it ends with a little plug for a course I was preparing to teach.

I've searched, and it seems I did not put it up on this blog at the time!  And, as it was one of my first comics made entirely on the iPad, an early diary comic, and it commemorates an event I enjoyed very much, I'm doing a little throwback Tuesday and including it here!

I went back to CCS for a graphic novels class in 2018, and am looking forward to taking a course in the graphic memoir later this year!

What if All Our Stories Disappeared?

I ran across this fascinating article in Lit Hub, by Alexis Wright...
"Stories have a problem. Writers are not keeping up with what is happening in the world to help us understand what in hell is going on, but one of the major threats for writers and thinkers whose ideas and work disregard the barriers is censorship of the truth."
Paula Schmidt, from

"While thinking about this huge subject of silencing, the muting of voices, and bullying tactics used to oppress, humiliate, manipulate, create fear and exclude, I thought about how to tell this story about censorship in another way—by visualizing an extreme situation where the world was stopped from telling stories. "

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Recently I was able to create the visual script for the remaining 16 or so pages of the fifth chapter of my in-progress graphic memoir.  Thought I'd share a few images.
In this first one you can see the underlying grid I use on all my pages.  It has two layers.  One is the six-panel grid which is the basic design spine for my book.  Of course, I do not follow it on every page, but it is the rhythm that underlies it all.  The other layer you are seeing is grid that breaks the page up into 12 even sections horizontally and vertically, with gutters.  This helps me to divide the pages away from the six-panel grid in an even way (I can easily find halves, quarters, thirds, sixths...).  And it helps guide me in drawing straight lines.
Anyhow, you see me roughly placing the words, which have already been written and edited a bit in a Scrivener document which is words only.   Anything could change at this point, but what I'm aiming for is a sort of movement from the upper left down toward the right.
Next is a different page, but one step further along in the process.  I have drawn in what I think are likely to be the panels. In my book, the narrator's vioce is external to and above the panels (totally cribbed that from Fun Home).

This next one (also a different page) is almost done but not quite.   That middle block of words is being said by a friend to me in the past (roughly 2003 or so), and though she is pictured on the page, she is pictured in 1996, so I don't quite know how to "balloon" that dialogue, or where to point it.  She is depicted in 2003 on the previous page, so maybe it will read clearly, or maybe I can point a tail in that general direction but I'm not sure yet.  I will have to look at the spread to see.
Plus, this is the sort of page that makes my head spin with nerves and my heart jump with joy.  The images in the first and second and start of third tiers are from 1996.  The dialogue is from roughly 2003), and the very last panel is from 2005 or so.    THIS is why comics is, I think, such a miraculous form for memoir!!!!!  You can't do time like that in purely prose (of course, I'm not sure I can coherently do it in comics, but I think it can be done...)
I also like the verbal and visual rhythm of "no" on this page's draft.  :-)

And there you have it... a glimpse into my drafting process.  NONE of this is final art, of course.  I'm just getting the story together and practicing various visual styles as I go.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

"Eliza" by Tommi Parrish

I love the look of Tommi Parrish's work.

When you read the whole thing, watch the lawn mower.  What goes on outside this room... why is it included?  So much here!

I hope you'll enjoy "Eliza" which appeared in The Believer as much as I did.  So much to study!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

New MFA Preparing Author-Artists of Graphic Novels and More

An MFA program worth learning more about if you are interested in studying this sort of thing.

The website says: "This is a two-year residential program, launching in fall 2019. Graduates of the program will be prepared to work as author-artists of graphic novels and picture books, professors of illustration, critical writers on popular culture, and curatorial staff in museums, libraries, and auction houses."

Just thought I'd pass it along in case anyone was interested, as it sounds REALLY cool.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Another Example of iPad sketching from TV

In my last post I talked about how I'm taking photos of actors in motion and tracing them to learn more about head and face composition.

Plus, because I am doing it on my iPad in Procreate, I'm learning more about the tools there as well.

Here is another example, worked from an episode of Brokenwood.

This is a really fun process for messing around and helping me get a feel in my drawing hand for the distances and shapes of things.

Plus, it makes me feel like my TV watching time isn't a "waste" of time. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Sketching from TV to Practice Heads

I know that I have learned the most about drawing by practicing with live subjects out in public.  You have to be quick, you can't fuss, you observe and make a drawing and move on.  Hours and hundreds of sketches have helped boost my confidence and my skill.

But I still really suck at drawing heads and faces.

And I'm not even aspiring to make a head or face look like an actual someone.  I'm just trying to get basic proportions right inside of my own comic style.

I also know that tracing some of the comics artists I most admire has helped me learn new and exciting ways to draw things.

So I decided that tracing photos of heads/faces in action might help me.

I do this while watching TV, just to make it a bit more fun (and to get more value out of my TV-watching time).

I take a picture on my iPad of a favorite actor.

I load that photo into Procreate on a layer and then drop the opacity so it is barely visible.

Then, on a new layer, using whatever tool seems fun, I sketch the head, tracing the contours of the photo.

Then I play with shading to try to understand volume better.

Here are some examples from Wire in the Blood.

This is all just for practice, of course.  But I do find myself having aha! moments about shadows and structures, things I've read about and tried, but could never quite make work.