Workshop 2014: Thinking about animals through comics

I conducted a workshop for the freshman students at the Pearl Academy of Design, in Noida, during their first week in design school. Here is a brief description of what we did and images of some of the work produced.

Day 1

After viewing children’s picture books, we discover how very simple stories can become ‘cutely’ suspenseful page turners, with the use of expressive images, thoughtfully placed type, and well paced narrative patterns.  A perfect example is Neil Gaiman’s story about Chu, a Panda with a big sneeze.

This is followed by a series of warm up drawing exercises. For the first exercise each of us gets an animal and an expression, and have 20 minutes to rack our brains and draw what we know. For another exercise we finger paint animals.

We finally make a children’s picture book, using Shelley Silverstein’s poem, ‘Nothing to do’ as a starting point. It is interesting to see the different visual representations for this poem.

Day 2

A day trip to the Zoo, yields many photographs and drawings of animals.

Day 3

Seeing the range of narrative possibilities allowed by non mainstream comics, we realize that stories can be just a slice of life, or a weird surreal dreamscape. The works of Lili Carre provide a perfect example. We also look at comics that break the frame, such as Bhimayana, in which Gond artists interpret the life of Dr. Ambedkar.

For the last exercise, we generate a long list of random words which are used to come up with whacky sentences. These form the titles to our visual story, which must be told in four frames. The results are surprising. I am impressed that the students have stepped out of the box to think ‘surreal’.

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