Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be talking about teaching with comics. The focus this week is on art and drawing. You can read the first post in this series here and the second (on humanities) here.

Comics are a great gateway to art and drawing. Comics range in style from stick figures to realism, but they all tell a story to the reader. Check out xkcdKing Cat, and Lackadaisy for a few examples on the web. Hopefully you’re convinced that you (and your students) don’t have to be “good” or “talented” at drawing to draw comics. Drawing is a skill that can be improved with practice — no inherent “drawing talent” required — and drawing comics can be a great incentive to practice.

Many comics use a cartoonish style of drawing, with exaggerated and simplified shapes. Learning to draw in a cartoonish style could be a good introduction for students intimidated by drawing.  With cartoons, there are many step-by-step instructions student can learn to follow and adapt to create their own drawings. (Try drawing cartoon characters, cute farm animals, or — my favorite — characters from Simon’s Cat. You can also find plenty of blank templates for full-page comics, which are basically grids.) 

For those who prefer to tackle drawing from the root, I highly recommend The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. Edwards begins with simple exercises that help you loosen your grip on how hard you think drawing might be and begin to focus on translating what you see into marks on paper. (You can find instructions for some of the exercises she recommends online, such as blind contour drawing. Check out About.com’s beginner drawing page.) Another great book for beginners is Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson. Both of these books have been around for a while and are easily available at many libraries and used book stores (as well as from online book sellers).

Comics can also be appreciated as an art form themselves — but I’ll leave that discussion to the experts. Scott McCloud has three comic books about comic books; start with Understanding Comics.

What are you favorite resources for teaching students to draw? Have you ever used comics in class? Let me know!

 

Comic “Alternate Universe” from xkcd by Randall Munroe. Used with permission.

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