On Saturday I attended the panel being hosted by the Center for Cartoon Studies, which is an art school in White River Junction, Vermont, not much more than an hour away from my alma mater. Like last time the discussion was done mostly by Alec Longstreth, along with Josh Bayer from the Sequential Artists' Workshop. It was a pretty quick session meant to give you an overview of some very basic ideas about how to write comics. I think last years' session was good for establishing how to make a figure of a person and do basic shapes, while this one focused on more peripheral (but still important) ideas like making sure you set goals for yourself, how to play to your strengths, and some simple fixes to aggravating problems (like how to draw scrunched shirt fabric around an elbow). It's meant to be a quick workshop that spans only about 30 minutes, and Longstreth drives a lot of the panel with an energy which suggests to me that he goes to dialysis to refresh the Red Bull he replaced his blood with. He's a pretty cool guy in person, very nice. Didn't get to meet Bayer though. The panel did move very quickly, just like last year. It makes for a pretty amusing time, especially when Longstreth injects humor into his lecture.
They had this nifty piece of paper you could fold in order to make a comic strip but mine didn't want to do that so I treated it like a normal piece of paper and just scribbled a few random ideas on the panels. I like to pre-plan things, but just kind of winged it here, so this is what you get. Here's my two favorite sketches:
Can't show you the rest because they are so good your eyes would bleed.
But yeah, here's a few of the tips they had for us (and these all come from a paper handout we got):
- Regarding the elbows thing. Basically if you want to have fabric rumple around joints an easy way to make it look good is to draw an incomplete asterisk.
- As far as promoting your material goes, be willing to pass your work out for free at first. "Drug dealer style", in Longstreth's words. If people like it and you can produce enough, then start charging.
-If you're bad at something, try seeing how past cartoonists got good at the areas you suck at- if you can't draw a foot at all, look at who can and try to copy their technique.
- You might feel like you ought to use only certain tools, like, say, sticking only to thin dark pencils because your artsy-fartsy friend told you to. But really, if you do better and are more comfortable with a tablet and MS Paint, go for it. Don't limit yourself when there's so many effing tools out there to use, from quill pens to Google Glass. (Dear Google Glass: whenever you get around to using a retina tracker as a paintbrush pointer you can pay me ten trillion dollars for stealing my idea.)
- Clarity is more important than anything else. If you confuse your audience, find out what they're confused about and try to fix it. "Oh, you drew like 40 lines on that baby's face so he looked like an old man. But really he was just an angry baby." Ok, use a different facial expression instead of covering its face with lines, right? Same deal with perspective. Don't go crazy over it. If you can do an overhead shot, do that instead of trying to be all XYZ axis and make panoramas. Of course, getting better at those things is fine too.
Those are just a few of the points. It was a pretty informative session, mostly emphasizing techniques and advice for people who already have the basics down. Me, I just scribble occasionally. Someday I might buy a "how to draw" book but first I need to figure out what kind of materials I want to use. I'm split between using papyrus and the wall as my drawing surface. Any suggestions?
Header image from how to fold a minicomic instructions by Beth Hetland.