This is a provisional syllabus for my UVM summer course  Comix Workshop – 60511 – ARTS 095 – Z2

ARTS 095 Cartooning Workshop

Instructor: (Anne) Glynnis Fawkes

Williams 305

July 14-August 8, 2014

MTWTh 9-12:45


Course Description

Cartooning workshop is an intensive exploration of the many aspects of composing, drawing, inking, editing, and publishing cartoons, comics, and graphic narrative.   Experience in drawing is not necessary—this course emphasizes visual clarity and “writing with pictures” as a creative mean self-expression.   We begin with single-panel gag-cartoons (New Yorker style) and build to three- or four-panel strips, single tabloid pages, to multi-page story.   In-class exercises and homework focus on the building blocks of comics: drawing, composition, layout, design, narrative structure, inking, and lettering skills, including basic instruction in perspective and figure drawing.  We will explore a variety of media that can be used to create comics.  For the final project students will create their own published mini-comic from thumbnail sketches through scanning, Photoshop editing (with an in-class tutorial), layout, and printing.   Discussion and analysis of past and current comic artists and genres (including web comics) and on-going critiques of student work will provide insight and inspiration.  This course loosely follows School of Visual Arts instructors Abel and Madden’s Drawing Words and Writing Pictures as well as the curriculum at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT.


Grading            Attendance 25%

In-Class Exercises and Homework 50%

Comic Book Report: 5%

Final Project mini-comic: 20%

Attendance required at every class meeting. Missing three classes will result in lowered letter grade.  Homework will be due for critique at the start of each class.   Late work will loose points for each day late.

Headphones are not allowed in class.  Cell phones must be off.



UVM bookstore will stock most of these things, but also

Black Horse Fine Art Supply (

277 Pine Street, 1B (just North of Curtis Lumber’s parking lot) 860-4972

Boutilliers (194 College St, Burlington, 864-5475),

Artists’ Mediums (300 Cornerstone Dr, Williston, 879-236),


For drawing: 9” x 12” sketch pad with removable sheets

office paper

pack of white index cards

11” x 14” smooth surface plate Bristol

Pencils—2B & HB or

Mechanical pencils— 0.5 or 0.7 with lots of 2B leads

Erasers: white and/or kneaded and a click eraser ‘pen’

For Inking: Speedball (Hunt) Sketching Pen Set with nibs and holder

pigment drawing pens: Micron, Sakura, Faber-Castel or Uniball in three sizes (for                                                 example 05, 02, 08). No Sharpies.

brush pen (optional)

Round watercolor brush size 0, 2 or 4 (sable or ‘sabelette’ are the best)                                                 recommended:  Windsor and Newton series 11 and 7

India ink: Permanent, waterproof:  Holbein, Windsor & Newton, Dr Ph Martin’s,

Koh-I-Noor, Higgins

white gouache or acrylic (small tube) (you may want to share) OR Graphix white,                         also called Deleter brand “White 2” (may be ordered on line                                       

Small cheap brush for white

Drafting tools: 18” clear plastic grid-style ruler with an inking bevel

18 or 24” T-square

Ames Lettering Guide

Tracing vellum

Drafting tape, X-acto knife, scissors

Money for printing—budget up to $20

A bag or portfolio to carry your Bristol pad

Required Books                        Abel, Jessica and Madden, Matt, Drawing Words & Writing                                                                         Pictures

McCloud, Scott, Understanding Comics

Speigleman, Art, Maus I & II

Mamet, David, On Directing Film

Emberly, Ed, Make A World

Other Books:  Dooley, M. and Heller, S., eds., The Education of a Comics Artist

Brunetti, Ivan, Cartooning Philosophy and Practice, Yale, 2011

Champman, Robyn, Drawing Comics, 2012


Available on course reserve at the library



Day 1:  Building Blocks/Iconic Representation

Discussion: Comics skills

In-class Exercise: Brunetti’s timed doodles

In-class Exercise: Comics style continuum from realistic to iconic.

10 cats


* Design two characters that could be featured in an upcoming comic book. These characters should be more or less rendered “realistically.”

* Each character should be shown in side view, front view, and rear view.

* The two characters should be drawn in proportion to one another.

* Include four face shots: happy, angry, surprised, and bashful/shy.

* Repeat above but redesign your characters in a highly iconic style.

Reading: DWWP chapters 1 and 2

Understanding Comics, chapters 1 and 2

Look at the cartoons at or in a New Yorker             collection, Far Side, etc.

Wear or bring in shoes with laces


Day 2: Drawing & Design

In-class Exercise:  Create a one-page comic using no words that explains to a reader how to tie a shoelace.  Imagine this comic as instructions for an alien who speaks no earth language (but needs its laces tied!).

Every Picture Tells a Story: Single-panel Gag cartoons

Discussion: DWWP chapter 2

Activity:  Brunetti’s index card single images

Activity: “Think Before you Ink” game

Reading: Understanding Comics, chapter 3

DWWP chapter 3


Day 3:  Gag Cartoons (continued) and The Strip

Activity: Gag Cartoons and caption competition

In-class/Homework: draw at least 3 single-panel comics with 5 captions each

In-class Exercise:  Analyze a week’s worth of newspaper comics and answer questionnaire.  Using the answers to the questionnaire, create a comic strip in the same format about a first-quarter freshman. The strip should be stylistically identical to the one studied and in ink.

In-Class/Homework: Finish a newspaper comic strip, drawn at 200% print size.

Demo:  panel lay out, Ames lettering guide, drawing for reduction.  Bring T-squares and lettering guides!

Reading: Handout: “How to Read Nancy” available at   

Reading: DWWP chapter 4

Understanding Comics, chapter 4

*Bring the comics page from the newspaper


Day 4: Transitions

Critique: comic strip.

Discussion: 7 types of transitions in comics

(In-Class Exercise:  Comics jumble and/or Nancy Riff (page 66, Chapman))

In-Class Exercise:  Brunetti 3.1 (p 37) 12 index cards with different images to build a strip.

In-Class Exercise/Homework: Show the following sequence of events using only pictures:  A character is asleep. Something wakes him/her up. The character deals with it and then goes back to sleep. It could be anything (going to work, returning home from work, etc.) but something simple.

* Each image should be its own in a 3” x 5” panel on an index card.

* Finished artwork should be done with a fine point marker.

* Use only imagery from Ed Emberly’s Make a World.   This exercise is storytelling with very limited imagery.

*There can be no words, or fewer than 12 words per panel.

* Minimum six panels. No maximum.

Homework:  4-panel diary comics.  Inspired by James Kochalka (and many others), draw one sketchbook page per day every day.  These should be in a consistent format, and aim to describe events in the day: observations, anecdotes, annoyances, dreams, and anything that happens.  Keep this up for the rest of the course.

Reading: DWWP chapter 5 Penciling


Day 5:  Penciling Tortoise and Hare

Critique: Woke Up/Make A World Comic

In Class Exercise/Homework:  Make a penciled two-page pantomime Tortoise and Hare story. You may add any twists and change the setting of the story.

(Brunetti’s grid hierarchy)

Use a variety of panel sizes and shapes within the grid.  Use a 2:3 size ratio for the finished pencils.

In-Class activity and critique: Tortoise and Hare (thumbnails)

In Class:  Penciling Tortoise and Hare

The finished assignment is due next class.

Homework: DWWP page 58, Pencil one panel from Tortoise and Hare three different ways

Penciling handout

Reading: Understanding Comics, chapter 6

DWWP chapter 6, Getting on the Same Page

David Mamet, On Directing Film


Day 6:  Story Structure

Critique: Tortoise and Hare pencils and one panel 3 ways

Discussion: On Directing Film

In-Class Exercise/Homework:

Write a story about how you got to school today. It should be grounded in reality (you must be the “star”), but may include some imaginary elements. You will then produce two versions of the SAME story.

Version 1: In 9 panels (each on its own 6″ x 6″ square drawn on 8.5″ x 11″ copier paper OR index cards) tell the story purely visually, with no text or sound effects. In this version it might help to imagine that a companion who travels with you (or near you) for the entire journey holds the “camera.” Imagine this person is using a still camera, with limited ability to zoom or get too close to you; the camera work should be very limited.

Version 2: In 9 panels (in the same format as before) Taking EXACTLY THE SAME MOMENTS from version 1, tell the story this time with much more ambitious view points to ENHANCE the storytelling, to convey an overall idea, or create a certain ambience. But remember, you can’t change the actual events, only the way we view this action.  In addition, make use of the types of transition listed in Understanding Comics Chapter 3, pages 70-72.

– Arrange the panels symmetrically in 3 rows of 3.

– Produce an elementary written plot and script first, then move to thumbnails.

– Especially with version 2, explore multiple camera positions at the thumbnail stage.

– Complete version 1 before you attempt version 2.

– Don’t worry about too much detail at this stage – just enough to tell the story.

Further Exercise: Once you’ve completed both versions, compare and contrast the effectiveness of the stories.  Now, take version 2 and ADD 3 more moments. These could be between existing panels, or at the beginning or end, consecutive or not. Essentially you’re “filling the gaps”.  Now you have a chance to tell the story injecting a different mood and/or atmosphere.  Next combine both versions into one big story. Use all the panels from version 1 and version 2. See how the “simple” and more ambitious shots work surprisingly well next to each other. Maybe a mixture of shot types is a good style of storytelling?

Finally, chose any number of panels to form your ideal version of the story, as few as you wish or all of them.

Story Structure handout


Day 7: Inking

Critique:  Story structure in Getting to School comic

Demo of various nibs, inks, and brushes.

(Activity:  Mark-making grid of 1” squares.)

In-class Exercise/homework: Make a copy a favorite “Master” drawing in ink

Photocopy these pages and reduce 65, 50, and 35%

Reading: Understanding Comics chapter 5

DWWP chapter 8 Inking the Deal and chapter 13 Black Gold

In-class drawing each other in ink using nib pens and brush.

Keep up you 4-panel sketchbook diary working directly in ink.   Draw interior and exterior spaces, characters, and details of daily life.

Reading:  Start Maus

Day 8:  Describing the Complex world

Monday:  Meet downtown.


–  Choose subjects that are of most interest to you, and which will be the easiest for you to study.

–  Make a minimum of 20 sketches.  Draw a variety of panel sizes in your sketchbook.  Sitting in one spot, fill as many panels as you can and then move on.  We have about 3 hours—that’s a sketch about every 10 minutes–pace yourself.

–  Gather as much information in the form of sketches as you can.

–  Include interior and exterior spaces (using perspective) and any details that interest you.

–  Draw people using the spaces (using gesture drawing).  Chose TWO characters to act in your comic.

–  Once you have begun this process, you may get an idea for an overall story.

–  This might mean you need to gather specific information for that story.

Homework: Keep drawing downtown, according to the ideas on DWWP page 186

Reading: DWWP chapter 12 Constructing a World



–  Using the observed drawing you produced in your sketchbook, create a 4 page comic (16-panel-grids or a panel composition of your own).  Take your two characters on an adventure in their environment.

–  As long as you base your project primarily on reference, you may introduce some elements from             imagination.

–  Finished Pencils due Day 10

Finished Comic in Ink due Day 11

Homework: Read Maus and complete a study guide based on the reading.

Reading: DWWP chapter 11.1: Setting the Stage

DWWP chapter 7, Lettering

Bring to class THREE examples of comics with lettering you admire.



Day 9:  Lettering, Maus

(Lettering a panel 3 ways)

In Class Exercise:  DWWP page 95: a comic with no pictures.

In-Class Activity: Watching and Discussion of the CD ROM The Complete Maus.

Reading: Understanding Comics chapter 7, p162

DWWP, Chapter 9, Structuring Story, p126

*Comic Book Reports


Day 10:

Critique:  Penciled Complex World.

Final Project: Non-Fiction Comic

Create a completed four to six-page comic that is lettered and inked.

The comic should be a nonfiction comic about the student and his or her relationship with comics.  Examples include: homage to a favorite character, homage to a specific style, essay/biography of a specific comics creator, comics journalism, your discovery of comics, how comics rock your world, etc.  Both Understanding Comics and Maus are examples of nonfiction comics.  Also Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Joe Sacco’s Palastine, Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi’s, Houdini, and many more.

Objectives:  Students take what they learned throughout the semester and use it to say something personal about their relationship with the medium of comics.

*Comic Book Reports


Day 11:

Critique:  Inked Complex World Comics.  Be prepared to make changes to your work after critique.

Individual critiques of Thumbnails for Non-Fiction Comic

In Class/Homework:  DWWP page 166:  Revise your Non-Fiction Comic Thumbs and             Start Penciling

Reading: DWWP chapter 11.2 Titles

*Comic Book Reports


Day 12:  Titles

Critique:  Non-fiction Comic pencils

*Comic Book Reports

In Class Exercise: DWWP page 165, Titles

Diary Comics Due!

Reading: DWWP chapters 14 and 15, Comics in the Age of Mechanical Production

Homework:  Scan your work.  Scanners are available for student use in Bailey Howe.  FedEx/Kinkos on Main St has also has a larger than 8.5 x 11 format scanner.  Refer to DWWP chapter 14 page 212 for scanner settings.

Reading: Understanding Comics chapters 8 and 9


Day 13: Meet in Computer Lab

Critique: Titles

In-Class Demo: Photoshop

In-Class/Homework: Covers for your Minicomic

Due: Inked Non-fiction Comic.

Final Project: Make a Minicomic:

* Design a book of your previous assignments

* Include as many projects from class as you would like to make up a book of at least 8 pages including cover–12 or 16 pages are preferable.  Remember that page count must go in multiples of 4.

* Size, shape, and binding of your minicomic is up to you.

*Include your name, contact information and date.

* Make at least 3 copies—more if you would like to trade with classmates.

In-Class Demonstration:  Examples of formats and binding techniques of artists books, zines, and mini-comics.

*Comic Book Reports


Day 14: Meet in Computer Lab


Day 15: Minicomics Due

Carousel slide show

comics jam and party


Comic Book Reports:  See DWWP Appendix D, page 249.

*Present a comic or graphic novel to the class in terms of its compositional elements: analyze

* drawing and inking style (what tools did the artist use?  If it is in color, how was the color produced?)

*lay-out (are the panels in a grid or are they varied manga-style?  What types of transitions are most common?)

*use of text in how the story is told. (Is the comic hand-lettered or typeset?  Is the comic heavily dependent on the text or do the pictures carry the story?  Do the images repeat/illustrate the text, or is there tension between the two?)

*Include biographical information about the creator if possible, and talk about how the comic was made and where it was published.

*Keep plot summery to a minimum; start with a one-sentence summary.  Emphasize how the style of the comic conveys its content.

*Web comics are fine as long as you bring at least 5 printed-out pages or pages saved on laptop.   There is no reliable Wi-Fi in Williams Hall.

*There will be a sign-up sheet for time slots.  Check with me and with your colleagues to be sure your choice is original.

*Present for 10 minutes max.

*A written single-page report is due on your day of presentation.  Include at least one traced diagram and drawing.








Selected Books I Like

Choose from this list for comic book reports or find your own.

Able, Jessica, La Perdida, 2006

David B., Epileptic, 2005

Alison Bechdel, Are You My Mother, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, 2006, and Dykes to Watch out For

Gabrielle Bell, Cecil and Jordan in New York, Lucky

Best American Comics Series

Lynda Barry, Everything she’s done

Beaton, Kate, Never Learn Anything form History

Brunetti, Ivan, Cartooning

Kevin Cannon, Far Arden

Campan, Robyn, Drawing Comics

Roz Chast, The Party, After You Left

Daniel Clowes, Wilson, Ice Haven, Ghost World,

R. Crumb, Genesis, 2009

Vanessa Davis, Make Me a Woman, 2010

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen, 1987

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis 1-2, 2003, 2004

Will Eisner, Graphic Storytelling, 1996 and Contract With God

Dylan Horrocks, Hicksville

Kevin Huizenga, The Wild Kingdom and Curses, 2006

Hernandez, Gilbert, Chance in Hell, 2007.

Hernandez, Jaime, Locas

Tove Jansson, The Complete Moomin

Windsor McCay, Little Nemo in Slumberland

Rutu Modan, Exit Wounds, 2008.

Sacco, Joe, Safe Area Gorazde: the War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995, Palastine

Shanhower, Eric, Age of Bronze series

Stein, Leslie, Eye of the Majestic Creature, 2011

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis: the Story of Childhood, 2003

Posy Simmons, Tamara Drewe and Gemma Bovary

Johan Sfar, The Rabbi’s Cat, Little Vampire, The Little Prince

James Sturm, Market Day

Yoshihiro Tatsumu, A Drifting Life

Osamu Tezuka, Life of Buddha

Craig Thompson, Habibi, 2011 and Blankets, 2003

Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth

Gene Yang, American Born Chinese, 2007.