The basics of drawing are the same regardless of what a student is drawing. Most artists can break a subject down into its most basic geometric parts. What sets cartooning apart is the ability of the artist to exaggerate the movements of the characters and to use “camera” angles to their best advantage to tell the story. Additionally, students will learn quite a bit about cartooning by studying source materials and drawing from life each day.
Select a good text to teach cartooning. Not only should you think about a text that provides the history of cartooning, but also one or two that offer practical instruction. You want to give your students visual aids to look at as you’re explaining concepts. Additionally, choose several comics that your students can read to study how cartoon characters move and how cartoon panels are drawn.
Require that your students keep a sketchbook. When you first begin teaching the class, explain to them that to improve their drawing skills, they should draw every day. Visual images that are appropriate for a sketchbook are warm-up sketches and scribbles, different types of contour drawing, character sketches done from life and rough ideas for comic strips.
Start each class by having your students do drawing warm-up exercises. These include doing random scribbling and contour-type drawings. While it’s possible to draw without warming up, it’s easier to get into the groove of drawing if you’ve warmed up first. It loosens up the muscles in the arms and hands and forces the students to begin directing their attention in a more focused way.
Introduce the students to the different tools they’ll be using to create their cartoons. In addition to pencils and paper, they’ll need pens and brushes, ink, erasers, a T-square, illustration paper and newsprint paper.
Teach students the elements and vocabulary terms of the comic page including lettering, gutter and pointers.
Give students good resource materials from which to draw. While your ultimate goal is to teach them to draw from life, it’s OK if they start the process by drawing from pictures and photographs. This teaches them many of the skills they need to know.
Encourage students to train their artist’s eye. They do this by learning to see the basic shapes of all objects--even the human body can be broken down this way. You can break most objects down to the basic geometric forms of circles, squares, cylinders and triangles.
Make students do assignments in which they break down the human body in stick figures. This is one of the most useful techniques for teaching how the body moves and how to get proportions right.
Offer students additional drawing techniques by encouraging them to try to re-create the lines outlining the object. This is where some of the drawing exercises will come in handy.
Explain perspective to students. This ability allows the artist to draw the tall buildings that Superman leaps over in a single bound.
Talk to students about exaggeration in cartooning. This is what makes a cartoon character come to life. Basically, it’s the larger-than-life physical movements that cartoons can do, but people can’t. However, they make sense in the cartoon world and convey the story in a physical way.
Make students do assignments that put all these techniques together.
- “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way”; Stan Lee and John Buscema; 1984
- “Digital Manga Techniques”; Hayden Scott-Baron; 2005
- “Sketchbook for the Artist”; Sarah Simblet; 2005
- Window to Art: Contour Drawing
- Cartoon Eye image by hellotim from Fotolia.com