Comic Storytelling

Tufts & School of the Museum Of Fine Arts, Boston 2011

Recording the passage of time, the language of emotions and the texture of setting on a piece of paper has fundamental visual grammar elements that pervade any visual story. Comics are more than a string of panels.

Getting to draw comics is fun. Getting to study them and draw them in class is awesome! I’ve had the opportunity to take both a class on the visual language of comics and images at Tufts as well as a comic book art class at the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston. Each class approached comics from a different perspective, but both can be combined to create effective and visually stunning stories in a unique medium.

Below are art boards created in the comic book art class. Some of the assignments were scripted stories for which I had to decide how each shot was to look while meeting some specified requirements. Others, like the climbing story, required us to make all of the storytelling decisions. Towards the end of the class we learned inking on art boards. It’s bizzare “drawing” with a brush and ink.

The theories and rules outlined in the visual language class are widely applicable beyond comics, to instruction manuals or software icons. I think there is something really special and unique about communicating without words. So often we rely on face to face spoken language or written language to convey ideas. Each modality has its own strengths that facilitate the communication of certain ideas more effectively. As such, translating a story or idea into another modality, such as pictures, can make communication more clear or even reveal something new about the idea. This was one of the themes from the visual language course taught by Neil Cohn, a leading researcher on visual language and grammar. You can read more about his research as well as see his own comics at www.emaki.net.

Above are two wordless stories. The first is about a fall I took while climbing at Cannon Cliff, NH. The second was a class project with assigned plot with some panel requirements. Enjoy!

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