Here’s a tryout for an activity we’re considering including in volume 2 of DWWP. It’s a warm-up exercise whose goal is to activate your drawing and storytelling muscles at the same time. I’m not entirely sure how well it works so I would appreciate and comments on what follows. Better yet, if anyone is inspired I would love to see a few more attempts at this exercise. I’ll make the instructions as clear as possible. The copy in bold is what I have written for the textbook draft.
Brush and india ink (or a brush pen)
penciling and inking tools
Draw a six-panel grid on your piece of paper (in this case I’m drawing in a small sketchbook about 5″ x 6″):
Rinse out your brush and let your marks dry.
Look at each panel and try to see shapes or parts of outlines in the marks you’ve made: the curve of a nose, for example, or the drape of a coat, a tree, whatever. Take a pencil (or inking tool) and add to the marks, drawing what you see in your mind’s eye. Do this for each panel.
You might notice that I decided panel 5 was too sparse so I made a few more brush strokes.
Now hold the page back and read the six panels in sequence. Is there a story implied there? Look for suggestions of a narrative thread and tease it out by adding to each panel: backgrounds, new figures, dialogue, sound effects. One of your marks may lead to the creation of a character who becomes your protagonist. In that case you may choose to re-draw him in other panels to give the story better continuity and flow.
The spot in the third panel and the general barren-ness suggested by the scant marks led to me sketching a figure standing alone in a sun-bleached desert. My earliest doodles (not recorded) had the mark in the last panel as a bushy eyebrow of a full-panel face (The influence of that brow can be seen in panel 2). After a while—and looking for some kind of narrative development—I realized that mark could also be a storm cloud, suggesting an opposition to the sun dominating the other panels. The squiggles I added to the fifth panel, a zig-zaggy sort of movement, then began to suggest a rain dance of some sort.
I started to ink in my outlines with a pen (Rapidograph, but it shouldn’t matter for this exercise) and to embellish with a brush pen. The backwards C shape in panel 4 eventually led me to give the character a mohawk.
This being a warm up exercise, I tried to do it as quickly as possible and as you can see noted below, I did all of this in about half an hour. I had a correction pen (a really neat one I got a Muji which I’m afraid they might not stock in NYC anymore) that I used for corrections but I tried not to be obsessive about it.