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Cartoonists and Copywork

Ivan Brunetti offers up the cartoonist’s version of copywork in his masterclass book – Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice

Homework Assignment 8 reads:

To the absolute best of your ability, create an exact replica of your favorite page. Do not trace. Any deviation from the original should be unintentional on you part; ineptitude and sloppiness are charmless when deliberate.

Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, pg 60. Brunetti, Ivan

Brunetti then urges his students to pay close attention to each element of their comics page:

Pay close attention to what you are copying. Think about the artist’s decisions regarding page layout, panel compositions, design, characterization, dialogue, gesture, captions, balloons, word placement, sound effects, line, shape, texture, etc. Hopefully you will gain some appreciation of their working and thinking process… and the difficulty of creating a comics page.

Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, pg 60. Brunetti, Ivan

Brunetti practiced this version of copywork in his own career.

He took on the Nancy strip for a time. The pressure from the syndicate to copy Ernie Bushmiller‘s style precisely, further developed his cartooning technique.

I can tell exactly the time period in my work when I was doing these-the syndicate were such nitpickers about me copying Bushmiller’s style exactly that my approach to cartooning got much more precise as a result. I went from doing strips just to amuse myself, without a grand plan, to focusing on formal aspects of cartooning much more: where to place a word balloon, the composition of every panel, and the flow of panels.

In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists, pg 279. Hignite, Tom

Brunetti enjoyed the project while in the learning phase, but admitted it was an unpleasant way to work:

When you’re copying someone else’s style exactly, you can theorize about it, and actually break it down into a set of rules. So they way I was working by imitating him had almost nothing to do with the way he was working…I also realized that working this way was totally unpleasant, because there are very strict parameters you have to follow, rather than discovering the rules that work. The project was fun while I was discovering all of the rules; I would notice that he would never put certain kind of marks next to one another because they’d look wrong. I became very aware of every penstroke, where he used a ruler, where it was freehand. He had an intuitive sense of what looked good, so for me it was trying to codify this into a set of rules, which made me realize the importance of the consistency of your cartooning vocabulary.

In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists, pg 279. Hignite, Tom

Could Brunetti’s copywork exercise translate into other disciplines as well?

If you’re an aspiring graphic designer you could recreate your favorite logos, stroke by stroke, in illustrator?

Or if you’re a programmer, instead of cutting and pasting, you typed out lines of code, line by line, character by character?

With thought and imagination, copywork exercises can be applied to every discipline.

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday: Aaron Linton’s Found Object Comics



Aaron Linton? A mystery.

His website is simple. A two page nav – Images and Contact.

No “about me”. No “start here”.

I dig.

No Twitter. No Facebook. Not even instagram.

I dig even more.

Only a collection of stunning images assembled with mixed materials.

His art is like stop motion animation on pause.

Have a look: https://www.aaronlinton.com/

From: Comics: Easy as ABC! The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids

By: Ivan Brunetti

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday: Brian Roppel’s Force of Habit



Brian Roppel’s comics are action packed. His panels explode with movement.

Looking at his art brings back the same delight I got watching Nicktoons as a kid.

Based in Toronto, Brian works in multiple mediums – comics, illustration, and animation.

Check out his back catalog here.

From: Comics: Easy as ABC! The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids

By: Ivan Brunetti

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday: Mark Connery’s A Tragedy



Mark Connery‘s Rudy has a long history. Rudy’s been appearing in mini-comics since the early 90s.

Mark’s comics are punk. His distribution is punk. His publisher – 2dcloud is punk.

As this 2014 Comics Journal review by Robert Kirby describes:

Connery, a Torontonian, has been producing his minis and comics himself, distributing them through the mail or anonymously dropping copies at punk shows, libraries, and on public transit, leaving a portion of his readership up to the vagaries of fate. Very punk indeed.

From: Comics: Easy as ABC! The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids

By: Ivan Brunetti

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday: Stormy Weather



One of the best parts of doing Four Panel Friday each week is discovering new cartoonists.

Today, Erik Nebel steps to the drafting table. He’s currently at work “on a bunch of comics projects”.

What will he conjure up?

From: Comics: Easy as ABC! The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids

By: Ivan Brunetti

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday: The Magician


Magic Y’all

Davide Bart Salvemini is an Italian cartoonist based in Bologna. He describes his style as Psicheledelico.

The clouds shifting positions and changing shapes between panels helps indicate time passing.

With only four panels, each line needs to move the story forward.

From: Comics: Easy as ABC! The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids

By: Ivan Brunetti

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday (on Saturday): Little Buddies



Up this week is cartoonist Alex Schubert. Alex’s strips were regularly featured in Vice.

Here Alex demonstrates how simple shapes, spread across four panels, can tell a story.

From: Comics: Easy as ABC! The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids

By: Ivan Brunetti

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4Panel Friday amreading Art comics

Four Panel Friday: Turning the Lights Back On


More stumbling around

Mark Laliberte comes up with a bright idea. Perfect fodder for Four Panel Friday.

Read more 4 Panel delights at Mark’s site – The 4PANEL Project.

From: Comics: Easy as ABC! The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids

By: Ivan Brunetti

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amreading Art comics Drawings

Autumn through the eyes of Cartoonists


I’m on a quest to document Autumn.

These cartoonists helped me out:


This piece came from an Ivan Brunetti exercise in his book Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice.

Hey, a single leaf on a naked tree still counts as Autumn.


The late Richard Thompson is still underrated.

I must be reading the wrong articles because his name isn’t mentioned enough amongst the great cartoonists.

He also cleared up for us why they tie trees up…

From: Cul de Sac: This Exit


Only John Porcellino could’ve captured Thoreau at Walden properly in comic form.


What have these cartoonists taught us?

The place to enjoy Autumn is outside.

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Commonplace Book

On Index Cards – the Sharks of the Stationery World

A few thoughts on the enduring usefulness of index cards:

I fold an index card lengthwise in half, stick it in my back pocket along with a pen, and head out, knowing that if I have an idea, or see something lovely or strange enough worth remembering, I will be able to jot down a couple of words to remind me of it. Sometimes, if I overhear or think of an exact dialogue or a transition, I write it down verbatim. I stick the card in my backpocket. I might be walking along the salt marsh, or out at Phoenix Lake, or in the express line at Safeway, and suddenly I hear something wonderful that makes me want to smile or snap my fingers-as if it has just come back to me-and I take out my index card and scribble it down.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott, pg 134

Ivan Brunetti also incorporates index cards in many of his exercises from his book Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice. He suggests:

try orienting your index card horizontally instead of vertically. “Going wide” has two immediate benefits. First, it more closely approximates our eyes’ field of view and (perhaps not coincidentally) correlates with the proscenium’s composition space, seen not only in stage plays but also on film and computer screens. Second, it damningly highlights those unconsidered compositions that focus on the figure to the detriment of any surrounding environment. We’ve all seen examples: a character is cut off at the ankles and surrounded at the top, left, and right by an undeliberate emptiness, a vast halo of nothing, a rickety non-space, or what I call the Arch of Uninterestingness.

Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, Brunetti, Ivan, pg. 42

I’ve used many types of notebooks. Moleskines (anyone else think that’s a gross name?), Field Notes, Composition books, Evernote, but index cards are the sharks of the stationary world – they adapt better than any note taking invention.

Their size allows me to scratch out a poem or sketch on the run without elbowing fellow passengers on the subway.

They are easy to catalog and store.

And they make perfect bookmarks, especially for library books. You can take notes without marking up the book.

For a short history on index cards. Yes, if you’re that much of a geek, that you would be interested in such a topic, click here.