Monday, June 14, 2010

Cartooning class #1

A few weeks from now, I'm going to be teaching a comics class in my home town of Iola, KS. I was excited initially, but soon excitement gave way to a little bit (JUST a little bit) of apprehension as the time to do the class drew nearer. It's not that I'm not confident in what I'm doing as a cartoonist. It's the teaching part. I've taught drawing and painting classes in the past with considerable success, but not cartooning. Not yet.

At first I thought that I should follow classes that other people had taught. What book did I need to find that could be "the text". Surely there has to be some outline out there that tells me more or less what a class like this should look like.

I don't know if it's laziness or gut instinct, but I've determined that what I'll do is outline my own process and see how that works. I'm going to attempt to go step by step through the development of a comic strip the way that I figured out how to do it and divulge whatever helpful information I can to maybe help make the trek through the wilderness a little less lonely. And if all you might get out of this would be to know not to wipe your butt with the plant that's got the three leaves on it, then I've at least saved you from a really annoying and potentially embarrassing rash.

Without further ado, let's start where I think we should start:

1. Get prepared to capture your ideas.
You're going to create an entire universe out of nothing. God needed a place to put his universe-- we call it the universe. You will likely need something to put your universe into as well. Given our limitations as humans, I would suggest using something smaller than the universe with which to receive and organize your geniusness. I use a sketchbook. I also have a sophisticated application on my telephone and computer that I use to capture and organize dang near every stray thought that I have--including ideas for cartoons.

You can use anything, really. Some people are "back of the napkin" folk. I can appreciate that, though I'm not one of them. I happen to mind the way the napkin makes the ink bleed and easily tears. I also have little faith in myself to remember to remove the napkin from my pocket before the pants enter the laundry. If you get into the romance and spontaneity of writing your brilliant ideas down on receipts and business cards and matchbook covers, then you're going to need a folder and/or filing system. You've got to have access to these awesome ideas after you give them form. You can use whatever system you want, but you need to be sure that once you've gotten your idea down on paper that it's safe and that you've written down enough of the idea that you'll be able to understand it when you see it the next time.

I would suggest something that you can hold in one hand. That way you have everything you need right there to develop your ideas. If you're like me and just want to be told what to get so your mind can concentrate on actually creating things rather than deciding what tools to use, get a sketchbook/journal with no lines. Moleskines are expensive, but I have to admit they're handy. Size doesn't matter too much. Not too big that you can't carry it around easily, but you want to make sure it's not too small too. I did the too small thing for a while. I ended up with crappy small ideas that didn't go anywhere, and then I lost it. Small things are easier to lose than big things.

Also, you'll need something to write with. So get a pencil. And a pencil sharpener unless you're the mechanical pencil type--which is fine. I don't have any problem with people using mechanical pencils. I just don't because after 4th grade, I didn't like buying the little leads for them. Wooden pencils are everywhere. I haven't bought a wood pencil for myself in years. Get the ones with the erasers on the end-- one less thing to remember when you're going out the door.

I need to add a note on pencil sharpeners. You might have to buy one. I would recommend a little one that's easy to put in your pocket (I used a razorblade that I taped inside my sketchbook for a long time, and I'd sharpen my pencils carpenter-style). The point is you need your own sharpener. The one in the closet at your mom and dad's house doesn't count.

Anyway, let's summarize: You need a good place to capture and develop your ideas, so get a sketchbook and start a collection of pencils. Don't forget the sharpener. Very important to have your own sharpener.

Alright, that's the end of lesson #1. Go get that crap and come back for the next lesson.


Charles Eubanks said...

Oh awesome sauce! Big fan, been following your work awhile now. Hopefully you'll post more lessons here to save me from having to relocate to KS. Got my pencil, sharpener, eraser, and sketchbook, and eager for #2. Speaking of which, thanks for the tip about the plant with three leaves.

stephen said...

No problem about the three leaf advice. I've had enough run ins with that stuff that I try to spread the word wherever it's remotely appropriate.

Thanks for following my stuff. That's awesome. I really appreciate your letting me know.