Comic book creation requires a host of skills beyond simply the ability to draw.
Comic book artists are writers. They’re architects, fashion designers, acting coaches.
Most of all, they’re storytellers.
“You have to come up with ideas. You have to implement them in your stories,” says Bob Pendarvis, who teaches a summer comic book workshop to local students. “None of the backgrounds draw themselves. You better know how to draw buildings, better know what a car looks like, better be able to design clothes, better be able to draw people.”
The world of comic books opens doors that help many students tap into their own creativity. Students who participate in Pendarvis’ classes are sometimes inspired by manga, Japanese comics or graphic novels, and anime, hand-drawn Japanese animation. Some just like to draw. Others enjoy the inclusivity and open mindedness that exists in these classes.
During a July session of the week-long workshop, a group of students sat elbow to elbow at several tables in a Glynn Visual Arts classroom. They talked as they sketched, and the topics of conversation were as varied as the illustrations coming to life on their notebook pages.
“I’m just really into art, and I like creating things and just being able to express myself,” says Haley Bellisle, as she continued to pencil in details for her story about a kidnapped mermaid, octopus villain, and sidekick savior.
“I get inspiration from little things like other comics and what I’m into,” says Bellisle, a rising eighth grader. “I want to do marine biology when I’m older.”
During the camp, the students create their own comic book characters, develop a story line, and draw comics. Pendarvis compiles their stories and drawings into a book at the end of camp and makes it available on Amazon.
Comic books engage young storytellers and offer them an outlet through which to let their ideas flow. Pendarvis’ class has little structure. Instead, the focus is on creating, at one’s own pace and without following any specific set of rules.
“Most of these kids here are already pretty fully formed cartoonists,” he says.
Pendarvis previously taught art classes at elementary schools as well as at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he helped create the college’s first sequential art department.
He’s now working on a graphic novel series that emphasizes the importance of art education.
“Art should be the most important program in your school, not the least,” he says.
Art education, he says, should be seen as equally important as reading and writing in the school curriculum.
“If you have learned how to read and write, you’ve already learned how to draw, because you have to be able to draw to reproduce letters and put them in the right arrangements to create words and sentences,” Pendarvis says. “Art is looking at you and seeing oval shapes and circles, and a line here and a triangle there, putting them in the right order, to communicate it’s a face.”
Learning how to create art means learning how to communicate effectively, Pendarvis says. Art education teaches students how to analyze the world around them.
And student artwork should be much more than something to hang in a school hallway, he says.
“Express yourself. Teach them how to tell a story. How to apply all the aspects of sequential art on various projects,” Pendarvis says. “And you’re making them also be better students in school.”
There’s no one way to make art, he says. The goal of an art class is to teach students how to think and how to explore their own ideas.
“I try to get them to not wait for me to tell them how to do it,” he says. “I’m just going to hopefully give you the tools to figure it out yourself.”
Pendarvis also plans to offer comics classes this October at Glynn Visual Arts. The program will be open to storytellers of all ages.
“This is a class where the goal is not just to fool around, but let’s learn the nuts and bolts of how to make comics,” he says. “You’ll be expected to do the homework.”
Those interested in the course can learn more at glynnvisualarts.com.