I had an amazing opportunity a few weeks back to teach a class at the Decatur Area Arts Council called “Drawing Daily Comics” for ages K – 12th. The above photo (taken by Mark Roberts) was featured in a piece appearing in the Herald & Review. I can’t tell you how happy I was reading what some of my young artists had to say about the class, and can genuinely say they inspired me just as much.
This story actually involves the boy pictured above (Noah). I had given the class some basic “rules” for building a daily comic strip, stressing that they could use just about anything in their lives to generate a story/gag. As an example of how easy it is to build a strip along those lines, I led the class through an exercise where we created three characters, the “world” they populated, and a gag based on Noah feeling “grr” over his parents scolding him (something I assured him “we have all felt grr about at some point or another”). I then turned things over to them to build their own strips. While I encouraged them to use their own characters, I told them they could use the characters we had just created as a group (an angry bunny, a goofy squirrel, and a hungry bear who was the bunny’s roommate).
Several chose to use the characters we had created and I was amazed at how much they fleshed out the characters. Noah called me over to show me an elaborate drawing of the squirrel’s home. “This is his hot tub, and this is his bathroom, and these are lights but they’re also acorns…” It was a squirrel’s version of a Beverly Hills mansion! Cut to another student, who had introduced a deer and a bird into the mix of characters. She produced two strips; in the first, a tree had fallen on the deer (a pretty funny gag, actually). After encouraging her to follow that storyline into another strip, she produced three additional panels that took the characters to the hospital. The doctor treating the deer? The squirrel.
“It all makes sense!” I exclaimed. “The squirrel has such a nice house because he’s a doctor!” These were two separate strips by kids sitting on opposite sides of the room and yet they succeeded in fully expanding this squirrel’s character and his world. It was awesome.
That’s what I love about the arts. When it comes to creativity, Age doesn’t enter the equation. I inspired those kids and they inspired me right back, and it didn’t matter there was a twenty or thirty year gap between us. Creativity is a battery I wish more people used. It is the ultimate Energizer!