What I learned at the Cartoon Workshop:
This month's workshops have wrapped up and now its time to post some reflections. The students were great and work was inspiring. Some of them even chose to return for all the classes. The first weekend's sessions introduced basic cartooning and the second delt with comic strips, a more specialized subject that may be refined or reserved for elective projects or promoted to libraries or art schools in the future. The list below, derived from personal notes, will hopefully contain some useful tidbits for artists, teachers or anyone having to give a presentation or promote group participation and collaboration.
Have lots of worksheets on hand to guide along the script and avoid getting off track, out of sync with what needs to be learned. Mini-assignments help guide anarchistic minds that would otherwise disrupt the class with confusion. Giving everyone something to ponder provides nice quiet pauses for soaking in new ideas.
Find new ways and fun exercises to encourage participation and rewards for creative thinking and asking good questions. When interruptions and pointless questions do come up, take time to turn things around by asking them back in different ways, one-on-on. Use parables: "When you first learned to tie your shoes..." Identify and nurture the most important renaissance word: Attitude: "Your brilliant super-positive mental attitude is very important when you are learning a new skill in life, especially drawing in 3-D!" -Mark Kistler.
3: Visual stimuli vs visual distraction:
Have samples and reference nearby but choose what you let students see and avoid displaying too quickly. Keep some items out of sight until needed. "Can I see that Spiderman Comic?, Spongebob toy, etc."
Using video is fine but don't allow it to be the guide. Mute sound, narrate and follow your own script. Have it edited and timed. Do "shape search sketches" or pause and have a specific exercise for each point.
5. Breathers and Self Animation:
Sometimes you need to enforce breaks. "Stand up and stretch.." Consider a "walk and draw" or "cartoon scavenger hunt" exercise where everyone must get up and move around the room. (small notepad or sketchbook required) Demonstrate this early by walking around as everyone does shape warm ups.
Artistic concentration resists being broken but is easy to regain if planned and done correctly. Have a short exercise to get everyone back in gear and pumped. The brain-toss word exercise is a good example: students toss a beanbag to each other and speak out a random word when caught - each word is written in the worksheet for story inspiration.
Self satisfaction comes through attainable assignments. Get students to create their own reference (action page, model sheet, splash panel, mini comic) step-by-step, all the while making something they'll want to keep. Start small and they may work their way up to something really worthwhile.