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Please visit my main site: www.MarekBennett.com
...for recent updates & current work! ~ Marek ~

How Should I Teach?

Daniel F. sent some great “teaching comics” questions in an email:

Hi Marek!!!!

It’s Dan. I’m going to write you a letter, but I needed your
advice QUICK so i’m sending this e-mail!!

I started a cartooning class for homeschoolers, and i need some

1. How should I teach? Is there a certain way that kids like to learn? I have prepared a Lesson on Basic Shape Drawing, Perspective and Color.

2. How should I shape my class? Any suggestions?

3. I thought the pamphlet you sent me had great info.  Do you have any others? Could I buy a few? Is it all right to use them to teach my class .

Maybe sometime you can come in to my class, maybe?


— Dan F.

Well, Daniel, this is quite exciting — the fact that you’re starting your own class and asking these questions is a great sign. (We should note that Daniel is in fourth grade!) I’ll try to answer your questions with an example lesson from today’s Wednesday afternoon Comics Workshop at ArtWorks of Keene.

I make sure that my students always work with characters they’ve created — characters they care about. In the first few weeks of the workshop, we put lots of energy into creating our own groups of characters with distinct looks, traits, and relationships. Ever since then, in every exercise we do, we’ve each used our own “stable” of characters to make the work meaningful. (We’re also generating pages towards our final project, a mini-comic adventure story featuring one or more of our characters!)

Today, I proposed a two-page exercise. I introduced “Page A” as the “Dream Come True” page, which would show one of your characters achieving her or his ultimate, greatest hope or dream. It could be real or imagined, and how it fit into your storyline was up to you. We discussed ways to show emotion in comics (words, expressions, lines, etc.) and I asked each student to create a distinct “texture” to the piece, to help us understand the emotions involved in the scene.

Fifteen minutes passed in intense sketching and occaisional brainstorming.


Then, I introduced “Page B” as — you guessed it — that same character’s “Nightmare Come True” page, her or his worst fear come to life! (We were all really getting into it by then. At this point, even an observing teacher who’d started out saying, “No, I’ll just watch, I have no drawing talent…” was asking for pencil and paper and trying out her own ideas on paper.) I asked that the “Nightmare” page have a distinct texture or look from the “Dream Come True” page.

By the end of class, we all had two (or more) high-intensity pages that could form the highs and lows of our stories, OR serve as jumping-off points for larger mini-comics projects. We didn’t finish inking them yet, so we’ll share them and critique them in next week’s class.

What really struck me about the exercise was the energy it released. Our characters felt so real to us all, we couldn’t help but fall silent as we shaped their fates on our pages.

Also, even though I specifically said that THESE PAGES DO NOT HAVE TO GO ONE AFTER THE OTHER, and that they could appear ANYWHERE in the final project, most artists actually placed them one after the other! With our developing author-awareness, we all seemed to sense that the moment of greatest pleasure (“Dream Come True”) is only a heartbeat away from the moment of greatest disappointment (“Nightmare”), and that the juxtaposition of the two makes for some mighty storytelling!

071003-MattIde1-free.jpg 071003-MattIde2-argue.jpg

Does that answer any of your questions, Daniel? Teach about stuff that excites you, and you’ll share your excitement with your comrades. That’s what I’m trying to say!

I’d love to visit your class sometime, and you can tell me what pamphlets you need.

Keep us posted on your doings, and yes, please send your lesson plans! Share your work! And check out the National Association of Cartoon Art Educators (http://www.teachingcomics.org/), while you’re at it. They’ve posted some good comics curriculum that helped me a lot when I was planning my courses.

Today’s samples come from the pens of Caitlin (kissing dream) and Matt (escape from the book dream).


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