“I offer this book as a starting point for exploration” states cartoonist Robyn Chapman in the introduction to her new book Drawing Comics Lab. She offers 52 exercises ranging from basic drawing skills to panel layout, pacing, one-panel gags, characterization, storytelling, materials, techniques and publishing your work. Exercises are conducted by various artists including James Sturm, Jessica Abel, Matt Madden, Steve Bisette, Eddie Campbell and Tom Hart among others.
The “Storytelling” section for example is split into 12 exercises including ‘Drawing Without Stopping’ which aims at eliminating the self critical voice that leads to procrastination – and developing a child-like free flowing approach to creating a single page comic strip. “Show or Tell” is an exercise with the task of creating images that complement the text rather than merely repeating it. Another exercise “Talking Heads” asks the artist to incorporate the 180-degree rule often used in films where the camera sweeps a 180 degree arc but maintains a consistent point of view.
Robyn Chapman emphasises content over artistic accomplishment. “Comics that are made from a place of joy, inspiration, and truth will be far more interesting than comics that are drawn well.” Although the design of this 136 page book is deceptively simple there is plenty of useful information between the pages. This isn’t a how-to book filled with muscle bound action. Instead it concentrates on cartooning and sequential art. While the book is primarily aimed at beginners and aspiring newcomers to the profession it is also of interest for teachers and those willing to admit they might benefit from a refresher course.
The author: Robyn Chapman is assistant editor at Graphic Universe, the grphic novel imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. She also runs a mini-comics publishing house called Paper Rocket. In 2005 she became The Center for Cartoon Studies’ first fellow, and spent the next five years as their program coordinator and a faculty member. She has built and managed the curriculum for their successful Create Comics and Cartooning Studio workshops.
Drawing Comics Lab is published by Quarry Books, October 2012. Review copyright Paul Green 2012.