Young Audiences and Arts Horizons, in addition to the seemingly endless things that come my way from word-of-mouth, kept me busy driving up and down New Jersey last year. Most recently I had the pleasure to be a fly-on-the-wall with an experienced teaching artist and William Paterson professor as they consulted at Union City Middle School on the subject of integrating the arts and traditional content. I witnessed some exciting things and even got to do a lesson teaching students how to draw in perspective as a way of re-enforcing geometry vocabulary. The week before I worked with a science class teaching them how to draw cumulus, cirrus and stratus clouds with white pastels on blue paper. As someone who has exclusively been teaching comics (often in a way that supports core language arts standards) the experience opened my eyes to myriad of possibilities.
I began teaching in 2005 with a workshop for sons and daughters of incarcerated adults. I've since taught comics, illustration and the cultural history of monsters in a variety of school environments and grade levels. I currently teach regularly at the Montclair Cooperative School and Montclair State University but am usually doing a workshop or two somewhere else as well.
A busy month. I’ll be at the following schools:
Paterson Public School #7- halfway through a 20 day residency.
Emerson Middle School in Union City- 5 day residency.
Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Trenton- 4 day residency.
Bloomfield High School
plus my History of Monsters class starts up at the Montclair Cooperative School and my regular gig at Montclair State. Better buy some more pencils!
I just started a couple of residencies in Northern New Jersey. I’m 2 days into a 5 day residency in at Gilmore School in Union City. I just introduced the students to complex facial emotions and they came up with some great work I’ll be posting later. Meanwhile, I had my first meeting with the hard-working and committed folks at an elementary school in Paterson. I’ll be working with five different groups of kids over 10 packed days, introducing them to how some of the language arts concepts like plot structure, character and setting translate into comics language. In the end, a core group of kids will produce their own comics that we’ll print and bind for family, friends, and prosperity. I’m looking forward to having a long residency where we can really dig into the work and have some creative things happen.
I guess a lot of folks in the education world are starting to see the advantages of using comics as an arts education strategy for combining creativity and literacy. A year ago I retooled my basics comics class to directly engage with grade appropriate language arts standards and that seems to be a factor in all the workshops I’ve got lined up in public schools for the winter and spring. That and the fact that kids love comics.
Built on an investigative project-based education model, this workshop teaches basic journalism techniques of research, interviews and reportorial narrative and applies them to producing non-fiction comics on a specific subject of academic interest. Students learn basics of sequential story-telling and comic construction. Examples of successful non-fiction comics are presented and analyzed for visual strategies.
(see Prison City Comix)
Basic tools of comics such as word balloons, panel composition, sequential transitions are presented. Examples from published works are presented and followed by exercises. Subject matter of exercises can be curriculum specific or purely fictional.
Production basics for creating stapled, self-published mini-comic including layout, pagination and assemblage. Photoshop and InDesign can be employed if available.
Place as Character
Using examples from author’s work as well as other established artists, this workshop illuminates the unique storytelling possibilities of landscape in graphic novels and how to achieve them.
Truth and Fiction, Center for Cartoon Studies, White River Junction, VT
Participants: College age students enrolled in 2 year program.
Consisted of power point presentation of career survey of illustration, “docu-comic” and graphic novel work followed by illumination of visual story-telling tools employed in sequential art. Discussed role of research in non-fiction work and issues unique to that genre. Provided editorial input on current class project and conducted portfolio reviews.
Art Talks to Power, Puffin Cultural Forum, Teaneck, NJ
Participants: Students from Teaneck Middle School
Conducted three hour workshop focused on creating “opinion editorial” illustration on the subject of global warming. Consisted of power point presentation illuminating the use of visual tools like symbols, transformation and scale followed by discussion of specific issue and strategies for representation. Students then each produced an illustration and discussed each other’s work in terms of clarity, effectiveness, artistic value and emotional impact.
March 07-May 07
Prison City Comix, The Center for Urban Pedagogy, Heritage High School, NY, NY
Participants: Senior English class.
Conducted a six-week investigative workshop focused on creating a 32 page non-fiction comic about the impact of the criminal justice system on the local community. Presented tools for non-fiction investigation including research, first person interviews and surveys that students then employed to gather content. Presented strategies for visual representation of complex issues and basics of sequential story telling. Arranged for guest speaker and class trip to Harlem Justice Center. Provided drawing instruction, editorial input and digital expertise for production of comic. Facilitated editorial session
for creation of comic cover.
Interrupted Life, Capacity Youth Art, Columbus, OH
Participants: High school students in community art program.
Conducted all day workshop designed to facilitate production of art installation addressing the incarceration of mothers. Presented working process for researching and creating non-fiction work engaged with social issues. Introduced visual strategies for presenting complex information and discussed the role of materials in installation art. Facilitated discussion of final concept for eventual installation included in traveling art show.