by Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman
During a 10-week residency at Rancho Elementary School, third graders wrote and illustrated their own comic books. Students started by developing two characters and drawing them from different angles. What were the characters’ strengths and challenges? What did they like to eat? We talked a lot about how artists need to understand what makes their characters tick. The students used their characters to develop short stories, revising at least once (not popular, but an important step!) We explored how comic book artists have to decide what to draw as well as what not to draw, and how to show movement, emotion and action. They also learned the importance of making speech bubbles clear and legible. Students practiced drawing far away shots to set a scene, and closeups to show emotions. Along the way, there were a lot of good questions: How do you draw a donut sideways? How do you make characters look each other in the eye when they are talking? Why do cartoon characters only have four fingers?
Once the comic books were drawn, students used Micron pens to do the final inking – deciding which lines to keep and which ones to erase. The Micron pens were fun to use because students could experiment with using heavy lines for the foreground, and lighter lines for the background. For the final event, students went on a gallery walk, offering feedback to their classmates on post-it notes.