Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Student Spotlight: Michaela Pohl


Michaela Pohl is a history professor from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, working on a graphic memoir. She amazed her classmates all summer in the Figure Drawing for Cartoonists course with her expressive, forceful, graphically bold drawing style.

Her graphic memoir, Accusation: A German Childhood, deals with rigid adoptive parents in 1970s Germany and their closeted Holocaust denial. In the summer course, Miki completed a chapter called The Hitler Box. Check out pages 1, 2, and 6:

The life of  a college professor is a busy one. Let's hope we can read her comic in print someday soon. 

Regarding the online figure course, Miki says, "The figure drawing class helped me design characters that are more memorable and easier to draw repeatedly, and to continue work from other classes and make my pages more visually impactful. Having classes that were online was extremely important to me during a challenging year and a half."

Fall classes start next week! Thinking In Ink on Tuesdays, Figure Drawing for Cartoonists on Wednesdays, Cartooning Basics on Thursdays, all online 6:30-9:30 pm EST. Join us!

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Hard Work of Making It Look Easy


Student Jen Robinson's self-referential high-contrast study for Thinking In Ink

"You make it look so easy," students often exclaim as I demonstrate some tweak to their work, a flipped curve or added stroke, that changes the whole look. I point out that there are jugglers who make what they do look easy, too.

Behind the tweaks lie governing principles one can learn. When a comic is illegible, confused, or dull, it usually turns out that the artist was lost in the weeds, distracted by some aspects of the problem to the exclusion of others.

Anybody can learn to make comics. You can probably teach most of it to yourself, as many do. But it's helpful to have a guide, someone to point your attention to problems you overlooked or weren't aware of.

Have a look at these examples of successful student work from my recent SVA online courses, Cartooning Basics, Thinking In Ink, and Figure Drawing for Cartoonists.

A hatching study of a plush goose doll by Jill Adams. Jill has many more ink studies on her Instagram.

Gestures, curve rhythms, and emanata enliven this Betty Boop study by Sharon Lee De La Cruz

Much of the classwork is drawn from life, such as Sharon's ink line and halftone sketch above. Check out her new graphic memoir.

The courses culminate in sequential stories, such as this beauty by Steven Wong.

Lou Venech completed his very first comic in Cartooning Basics, the story of his unruly kitten. Here's the cover, center spread, and back page. The course surveys the entire process, from concept and writing through the printed booklet.

To be continued? Let's make sure of it. The summer enrollment period will end soon. Spread the word please and come cartoon with us!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Beyond Basics

Cartooning Basics student work by Maisy Byerly


My online Cartooning Basics and Comic Inking courses are enrolling right now at SVA.

Though I teach the comic making process from the beginning and often work with absolute beginners, my courses are nonetheless college level. Many students come to the experience with significant talent. I'm able to help them marshall their skills and focus them on key problems such as joke writing, action staging, page and panel composition, and much more. Below are examples of outstanding students who brought their A game to recent courses and completed amazing projects.

Maisy Byerly zoomed in to Cartooning Basics from Bloomfield Indiana. Her first completed minicomic, Violet Goes Into Business, is clearly the work of a seasoned pro:

Here's her expressiveness exercise from earlier in the course:

Tom Hughes' strong cinematic sensibility helps put his adventures of Julius "Nervous" Rex over the top. Tom incorporated his compressed story exercise from early in the Basics course into his final book project.

Laura Brown completed the Cartooning Basics and then Figure Drawing for Cartoonists course while also pursuing the Graphic Narrative MFA. Sez Laura, "If I hadn’t taken your cartooning classes this year, I wouldn’t have been able to create my final project for the visual narrative semester (my digital short story). I’m not exaggerating. These past two semesters have been an incredibly rewarding experience for me: stimulating, challenging, illuminating and gratifying. Your insight, openness and generosity with feedback gave me so many ways to approach drawing, to make drawings better and to have fun in the process. Thank you!"

One of the course exercises is to imagine the characters in their environment.

Laura was already an accomplished writer. Here she weds her ear for dialog to visual storytelling techniques in a zoom sequence exercise: 

Here's a scene from Laura's first comic...

and here's a page from her master's thesis, The Avon Lady, a story told as an interactive website.  

This one leaves me beyond amazed, truly next-level. 
All three of these artists bear watching. 

When you look at a comic, you say to yourself, "that looks pretty fun" (IT IS), and you think, "I'll bet I could do that"... (YOU CAN) ..."and be pretty good at it." (YOU TOTALLY, TOTALLY WILL).


There are a lot more challenges and pitfalls than one can anticipate. I'll be happy to guide you. Thinking in Ink begins June 8 and Cartooning Basics begins June 10. The online format is working out really well and makes these classes available all over the world. As schools reopen, that may change. Sign up ASAP and tell your friends, please.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

From the Archive, Rikki Ducornet's "Brillig," 2008

When Rikki Ducornet does science fiction, it's like nothing else, lyrical, grotesque, surreal. I just ordered her new book, Trafik, and can't wait to see it.

When Rikki invited me to supply illustrations for her short story collection, The One Marvelous Thing, we appended some comic adaptations from her earlier collection, The Butcher's Tales, such as this one.

Here are some of the preliminary sketches: