A Comic: Building Up!
When I was a research intern at the University of Calgary, Canada, I got the chance to meet Nick, who gave a talk in our lab and a bit later started to teach a class about comics called Comics as a way of thinking at the university. I’ve always been a fan of comics, even though I’ve only known the classic French and Belgian comics that my dad showed me. I got the chance to attend Nick’s class with a few friends of mine and it turned out to be incredibly interesting and educational.
Nick introduced us to a lot of comics and related areas such as sketchnotes. Some comics that had a very lasting impression were obviously Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics but also The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and finally, the amazing Marbles by Ellen Forney, which evolved into one of my favourite books.
But besides reading comics, we also created our own. Even though some of us didn’t think about themselves as “drawers”, Nick kept repeating that we still can create beautiful pieces even if we can’t draw perfectly. I’ve always loved drawing and painting but I stopped doing it when I started my degree at university. Therefore, getting to draw again was actually quite refreshing.
One exercise that I have very fond memories of was Nick’s Collaborative Comics Challenge that consists of three people creating a one-page comic together. Imagine a class of 20 people. At first, everyone takes a blank page and draws a composition and panel layout. Then, all pages get swapped more or less randomly and everyone gets a different page with a panel layout that someone else drew. Now, everyone adds words, text boxes, captions, thought bubbles, etc. to their page. Then, the pages get swapped again and everyone receives a page with a layout and the words and the task of creating everything that goes on in the comic.
First, I’d like to show the two pieces for which I drew the panel layout (left) and for which I created the text (right). I like them both very much. For the left one, the drawing in the comic was done by Bon, who is not only my friend but also an amazing photographer and artist.
Bon also played a role in the next collaborative comic. He drew the panels, another student, Aqil, who also wrote a great comic about living with depression, created the words, and it was my, actually quite heavy, task to fill it in with drawings. After reading Aqil’s words, my first reaction was “Oof… How am I supposed to draw something that lives up to the words?”. But for some reason something came to my mind: the balloons from the movie Up (that I had not seen back then) and I started drawing.
The drawing emerged in about an hour, not more, but I’m still in love with the result and so was Nick. I remember him saying that it was one of the best one-page comics he’s ever seen, which blew my mind.
Years later, I scrolled down my twitter feed and suddenly saw my comic there that I hadn’t looked at in a while.
with regrets, I had to cancel my UK speaking trip next week. Hunkering down here. As I prepare to teach online, inviting all to join in a collaborative comics-making challenge next week #collabcomics #gridsgestures Details + new on teaching comics herehttps://t.co/LDk5giCrU7 pic.twitter.com/XJhOvA2TTA— Nick Sousanis (@Nsousanis) March 12, 2020
hey Tamara!! How are you! This was the greatest comic ever! I love it and share all the time! Hope this finds you well!!— Nick Sousanis (@Nsousanis) March 12, 2020
This little conversation created such a big smile on my face and it also made me remember that the comic’s class influenced me and taught me a lot. That’s also the reason why I decided to include it here, even though it is not necessarily a real big “project” of mine. It’s just something that I really enjoyed working on a lot and am proud of the outcome.