Tuesday, May 24, 2011

See You in the Funny Pages: Summer Idea for Cartooning Kids

The school year is coming to an end, and so are our weekly art classes. Parents are asking for ideas to keep kids creating and growing their art skills over the summer. There are lots of classes and camps (including some of my own) available. However a week long class is not enough for some kids - you know the ones - the kids who wants to draw all the time. These are the kids who would rather hold a crayon than a ball, rather draw than read (or sleep).

When I see kids like this, kids bubbling with creative energy, I try to give them ideas for things to do to build their skills. This term I have been inspired by the joy, energy and creativity my students are bringing to cartooning, so to keep these kids involved and growing artistically over the summer, I will share an idea I learned from one of own art teachers.

This man, whose ability to draw figures is simply awesome, surprised all the students in the studio by announcing that he learned to draw by copying comic books! It surely worked for him, and it is working for me, as I now find myself copying comic pages to understand what the artist is doing. I am often surprised at how easy it is, once I understand the basic shapes and style.

So, parents, to encourage creative cartooning, provide your kids with drawing inspiration, and build thinking skills at the same time, give your kids the Sunday comics, or a favorite comic book, some paper, pencils, sharpies, color pens and crayons, and invite them to learn how to draw a favorite comics character. Look at the comics together. Which do you like? Which looks too hard to draw? Which looks easy?

Once you have chosen a character or strip to try, talk to your kids about what they see. Ask about the shapes, (what shape is Charlie Brown's head?) How does the artist ensure that we always recognize Charlie Brown? This video is a great way to help kids understand how to show a character from different angles. Are some things always the same? What changes?

How does the artist show emotions? We've talked about this a lot in our classes this term, so your kids will have ideas on the subject. Encourage them to tell you how we know that characters are happy, sad, scared, etc. (Hint: check the eyebrows for clues.)

Of course a key element of a cartoon is the scene. What do we see in the backgrounds to let us know where this is taking place? How does the artist show motion? How does motion combine with background elements to help tell the story?

In my classes I am always delighted to see kids adding their own touches to the drawings we do, and cracking up as they work. They know what they think is funny, and are completely able to express their humor by adding words and/or pictures. Of course the laughter of their table-mates is a definite clue that they are on the right track.

So, one more thing - whether your kids are drawing cartoons of their own, or analyzing the work in the comics pages, ask WHAT MAKES THIS FUNNY? Their answers may surprise (and amuse) you.

Parents, please share your kids work. You can post them directly to this blog, or contact me for information on how to get show their work on this blog.