My past attempts at writing comics or creating graphic narratives have fallen on a bad habit: I tend to wait until a fully formed idea arrives. I want to see the lead up and the punchline before taking to my inks and pens. This is an understandable preference for certainty, but the result of this is having very few strips or stories to speak of! My aspirations do not match my output.
I had recently heard of an exercise in Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice that’s designed to help build comic-writing fluency. I really enjoy Brunetti’s writing on comics; he emphasizes simple forms and shapes, and the first time I saw his work, I had an emotional response that made me nostalgic for all the picture books of childhood. His approach makes crafting comics feel democratic and doable. The challenge he assigns is as follows:
a) invent a character using basic shapes
b) draw them with an object and in a place, performing an action (4 panels)
c) demonstrate the motivation (2 panels) and consequences of the action (2 additional panels), creating a simple wordless narrative (the exact sketchbook exercise can be found here).
Feeling rusty, I decided to try a shortened version of the exercise. The visuals came together quickly. I started with a playful doodle of a juggler using a charcoal pencil. Then a basic set of images came, and I drew them out. The text suggested itself much later on, while editing the images.
The result: An important drawing and writing lesson that I needed to hear about staying open to change — specifically the changes that take place on the page. Strange, I feel like this strip is reflecting on itself, making me an eavesdropper into a third-person conversation. But let us talk about sentient strips another time! Here’s the comic:
Until next time, wishing you creative contentment and openness to the marvelous magic of the blank page!