Do you write one genre or dabble in a few different sections? Have you branched out into other writings, letting your brain play with form and function? Essays, articles, and poetry tend to top the usual list of suspects. But what about drawing comics? Have you ever considered doodling your writing ideas in the form of panels? Or does that sound completely bizarre and beyond the scope of your talents? If you haven’t given the thought at least SOME consideration, I’m here to tell you: You’re missing out. And probably hurting your creative process.
What Makes a Comic?
At its most basic, a comic is art that combines drawings and words (or not!) to convey a story. Sometimes it involves one panel, other times multiple. And when you combine a full set of comics into a series, you generally get a book. (Though plenty of people are happy to display their work online these days)
Comics cover the emotional range – despite the general consensus that they need to be funny. Artists use their illustrations to make people feel sad, thoughtful, angry, awed, or even gleefully in love. And they appeal to EVERYONE.
Art styles found in comics vary depending on the artist.
Manga is a recognized art from Japan divided by audience:
- Kodomomuke (youngsters)
- Shonen (tweens and teens – typically boys)
- Shojo (tweens and teens – typically girls)
- Seinen (adult males)
- Josei (adult females)
Whereas political cartoons tend to rely on caricatures and exaggeration. And, of course, everyone recognizes the minimalist style of comics printed in The New Yorker.
In other words, there’s no one way to create a comic. But they all involve images to help convey their messages. It’s what sets them apart from other styles of writing.
Writers and Drawing
Okay, I can hear the, “Yeah, but I can’t draw!” all the way from here.
Writers paint with words, not…well, paint.
Except there are plenty of insanely successful comics out there with art talents that anyone can aspire to:
Why do people love them so much? Because of the writing! Like writers, artists have individual “voices” – a way to stand out from other people. And even if they’re only working with a few panels on a page versus an entire book, they still manage to adhere to that manner of “speaking.”
It’s what keeps people coming back to see the new comic each week (or day, depending on their speed).
The words in each panel are what people connect with. And the process of writing those words is exactly the same as writing a story, article, or poem. Which means you’re already halfway to busting out your comics!
Once you have your words, you need drawings (that’s the defining element of a comic, after all). And now comes the moment of doubt.
The same thing that held me back for years.
Except it isn’t as hard as you’re thinking. Because – as brilliant comic artist Aubrey Hirsch points out so eloquently in her classes – anyone can draw! (No, seriously) Whether you grit your teeth and sit down with pencil and paper (or stylus and drawing pad), or decide to use the graphics already available online, you have the materials available to you to make comics.
Because nowhere does the definition of a comic say the drawings must be perfect or flawless.
All you need is a way for the objects depicted to be recognizable and support the message you’re attempting to convey.
And the more you work, the better you’ll get. (Kind of like writing – imagine that!)
Take a stroll through comics on your favorite social media site, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Just Swim Down
I signed up for Aubrey’s “Comics for People Who Can’t Draw” on Catapult (right before it closed down). As you know by now, I indulge in plenty of different reading types. But I’ve also entertained ideas for comics for a couple of years. My complete lack of any drawing skills held me back from acting on them. But Aubrey promised her class offered alternatives, and I was intrigued enough to give it a chance.
There were alternatives, but Aubrey also encouraged all of us to TRY drawing – regardless of how we felt about the results. And she offered so much encouragement and positive feedback, it was impossible to refuse.
Over six weeks, I found my sad stick people gaining shapes and dimensions. And I started getting excited about the ideas building in the back of my head.
When the class ended, I felt confident enough to start my own comic on Instagram: Just Swim Down. It gave me a place to practice my new skills (drawing and writing), as well as a way to keep myself on track with self-imposed deadlines.
And I’ve watched my art continue to evolve.
As for the writing? Condensing a “story” down to four panels has helped me in writing my flash fiction. Economy of words has become huge. And I’ve learned to refine my vocabulary to save space.
So, yeah, give a comic a try. Because you never know where it may lead or what skills you might find.
Or how much fun you could discover.