Thursday, January 26, 2023

Figure Drawing for Cartoonists: Improv Comics


My perennial favorite challenge in Figure Drawing for Cartoonists is when we have a model improvise a narrative from pose to pose while we improvise comic panels. 

It's one thing to draw figures effectively. It's quite another to draw them effectively on comic pages, composed in relation to the graphic elements, staged in appropriate camera angles, and finished in ink. Do all that on the fly, improvising dialog off the top of your head, allowed five minutes per panel, and I can't think of many challenges that are more fun.

Here are some recent examples of mine: 

More examples are here and here and here

It’s so great having models to study from. In this class, we tackle each topic from reference and imagination one week and from the model the next. It’s the best way to learn. 

Classes are slated to start February 1. Let’s draw figures!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Do Not Break the Chain!

In the Comics Inventions course, I’m thinking of reforging this Chain Cartoon from the 1990s.

Back when I was directing the group-strip, Hector, I received a chain letter in the mail. In the course of urging me to send 10 copies to friends, the letter said the most amazing thing: “This letter will bring you luck. This works even if you aren’t superstitious.” That got me. in the spirit that anything could be made into a comic/comics can be made from anything, I took up the gauntlet. Here are highlights: 

The comics medium is itself an unbroken chain of innovations, ideas, and unique voices. Let’s pay it forward. Comics Inventions starts January 31. Join us and/or add your panel to the comments section below (proportional to 3" wide by 2.5" high). 
Do not break the chain.

UPDATE:  I received this wonderful new panel by Jim Siergey.

And here's another by Daan Heemskerk

And another by Rich Arnold.

And here's one by Gary Martin:

Now it's your turn!

Contributors: Babushka, Nick Bertozzi, Kevin Diaz Bryan, Tony Consiglio, Clark Dissmeyer, Patricia Dubrava, Matt Feazell, D.S. Fields, Richard Florence, Brad Foster, Craig Gassen, Scott Johnson, Tim Kelly, Jim Lemons, Monobrain, T. Motley, Michael O’Keefe, John Peters, John Pham, Dennis Pimple, Jason Powers, Mark Putt, Alex Robinson, Joe Shuster (apologies), Jim Siergey, Andre Slob, Brendan Smith, Melissa Stander, Brad Thomason, Maximum Traffic, J.B. Winter, Stan Yan, Pieter Zandvliet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Student Spotlight: Francis Wang


We begin the Figure Drawing for Cartoonists course with the study of skeletons and clothing, and how we move. 

Francis Wang is an outstanding student I had the pleasure of working with this past fall in the Figure Drawing for Cartoonists course. Francis brought a surprising level of skill and originality to all the challenges.

One of the assignments I call Disfigure Drawing, sketching individual body parts in space and connecting them in surprising ways.

We spend some time studying photos of animals fighting, tuning in to their flexible shapes in action.

Soon, we’re applying our skills to character design

The final project is a page of comics narrative.

Francis also attended my recent Daredoodles workshop and brought the house down with her dramatic take on the Crisscross challenge.

Spring courses are enrolling now. Figures runs on Wednesdays in Manhattan. We’ll have a model every second week. Comics Inventions runs Tuesdays via Zoom. We’ll play with daredoodles, crisscross comics, and many other creative games. Cartooning Basics meets in Manhattan on Thursdays and online Fridays. Let’s draw!

Monday, September 5, 2022

A game of 5-card Nancy from Y2K Denver

At the start of the millennium, I hosted comic jam sessions at my friend’s comic book store. Among the activities we offered was the game 5-card Nancy, the rules of which can still be found at

The guiding idea is explained by montage theory: if you juxtapose 2 movie shots or comic panels, the reader/viewer naturally presumes a narrative to connect them. This involves the audience in the creation of the story. Putting comic panels on index cards is a great way to play around with narrative possibilities.

For whatever reason, back then it was difficult getting ahold of suitable Ernie Bushmiller Nancy strips to work from. We ended up making a deck from Ivan Brunetti’s Nancy tryout strips that were published in an issue of the zine Rocktober (breaking one of McCloud's cardinal rules).

An important innovation we discovered as we played McCloud’s game is that once a strip concludes, the players should confer to agree on a title. It pulls the whole together.

I sent Mr.Brunetti a copy of the printed comic that included our use (abuse?) of his work. He was characteristically gracious. I recall him responding that his favorite was “the castrator’s apprentice.”

The ways comic panels change meaning in different contexts is something we’ll explore from multiple angles in my upcoming online course, Comics Inventions, enrolling now.