Most kids enjoy comics or their upscale cousins, graphic novels. Of those who enjoy them, many will decide they want to create them. Does your son draw aliens and superheroes in his spare time? Does your daughter block out stories in panels? He or she might appreciate a little direction and a few pointers in how this medium actually works. Today, a recent how-to and a classic art manual to encourage the young graphic artist:
There’s a lot more to creating comics than drawing ability. The “secrets” aren’t that secret, but some (like Take one moment at a time and Go beyond the normal) need some explaining. That’s what the author does, combining exposition, examples, and suggestions for practice. Each chapter explores one of the ten points and then provides several exercises for the aspiring graphic artist to pursue on his own. This is not a drawing manual; it assumes the reader can already draw well enough to play around with the exercises. Encountering this book before a kid feels fairly comfortable with his drawing skills may frustrate more than encourage.
It’s more about how to tell a story through pictures, with a lot of relevance for story writers as well. How to get ideas and develop them, how to show personality traits, how to brainstorm, as well as useful terms and tools and techniques of the trade—all will give the budding artist plenty to think about.
Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art, by Scott McCloud. HarperCollins, 1993, 215 pages. Age/interest level: 14-up.
According to the author/artist, Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art was the first book to explore comics as an art form. Scott McCloud’s is the second–a classic at twenty years of age. It’s much more than a how-to book; he delves into the science and philosophy of comics and their defining characteristic, which is time. McCloud uses the distinctives of the medium itself to explore the medium—that is, panels, dialogue boxes, and lots and lots of pictures. Art + Sequence receives plenty of ink, but also the mechanics of iconography, sense perception, the influences of fine art, the relationship between words and pictures, the uses of color, and the six steps to becoming a comic-book artist (of course it’s art!). His thoughts about icons and symbols and how the mind perceives them is especially interesting.
McCloud takes a materialist view of humanity and the art humans produce, with little or no spiritual dimension and occasional nods to unguided evolution (e.g., The natural world creates great beauty every day, yet the only rules of composition it follows are those of function and chance). That, plus the challenging concepts and the occasional references to sex, drinking, and drug use (none of them graphic) make this more appropriate for teens. But if you have a young artist who is serious about pursuing this medium, Understanding Comics might well be indispensable.
Emily has some interesting thoughts about the graphic medium here, particularly how it relates to boys. Be sure to check out our interviews with two Christian masters in the world of graphic storytelling: Sergio Cariello and Doug TenNapel. Also, our intern interview with Art Ayliss, founder and CEO of Kingstone Media Group, the leader in Christian comics publishing.