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My Grad-School Experience: The Sequential Image

Oh boy, I’ve had a lot to stew over this month. When I first created an Instagram account, the platform was a fun place to upload drawings and see what my friends were up to. You could generally count on your followers seeing whatever you posted, and the algorithm was straightforward. With the release of Meta AI, and the Tick-Tockification of nearly every social media app (not to mention the complete lack of respect for privacy and ownership), I’ve felt exasperated from my reliance on the internet for my business.

Fortunately this isn’t an angry rant (I'll save that for next month). I need time to settle into a nuanced opinion before I release it into the world.

This month’s post is a continuation of my experience in the Children’s Book Illustration MA at the Cambridge School of Art. If you haven’t read “My Grad-School Experience: Part 1,” I suggest doing so before continuing.

The Sequential Image

After the stress of “Observation and Experiment,” my classmates and I were ready to shift our focus. Our precious sunshine was waning by the day, and increasingly frozen fingers made drawing in the park almost impossible.

While “Observation and Experiment” was about learning to see like an artist, “The Sequential Image” was about learning to tell a good visual story. We began the module by examining different types of sequences, discussing how every part of a children’s book contributes to an emotional whole. 

I especially enjoyed the workshops during “The Sequential Image.” A few that stand out were:

  1. Making a comic from start to finish in one day. Sometimes all you need is six hours of furious thumb-nailing to create an interesting story.

  2. “The Color Workshop.” I left this class utterly inspired by the life and individuality of colors. Every hue conveys emotion and makes a unique contribution to your story. “The Color Workshop” forever impacted my work.

  3. The infamous “Dot Sequence Day,” where we had to create an emotional story using only dot stickers.

I also read snippets from lots of art-making books. A few that helped me were:

  1. Scott McCloud’s Making Comics– a comic book that teaches you how to make comic books. It’s an especially good resource for learning how to convey the passage of time. 

  2. 99 Ways to Tell a Story, by Matt Madden. In it, Matt tells the same one-page comic ninety-nine different ways. Right when you think he’s out of ideas, he proves there’s yet another creative way to tell a story. Highly recommend.

The Module Project

The last couple weeks of “Observation and Experiment,” I spent countless hours drawing outside a nearby pub. Occasionally a black and white cat would slink towards me, kneading its head against my shins while I worked. As time progressed, I realized the cat was a regular at this pub and probably considered it his kingdom. I started wondering how the cat came to live there, and thus began my module project: “Pub Cat.”

“The Sequential Image Brief” was to create a story sequence, but with a catch: the story had to be wordless. Though daunting at first, the constraints of a wordless story elevated my artwork, and improved my visual storytelling.

Originally I planned to create a zine, but as I worked, the story begged for 12 full-page spreads. After the color workshop, I opted for a limited color palette, using a couple markers and colored pencils. The hues did an excellent job conveying the frigidness of the British night juxtaposed against the warmth of the pub’s cozy interior.

I don’t have a lot to say regarding the creation of the final art. It was a straightforward process, and I loved every second. As I worked, I tried to think tonally rather than in line. The final product was a moody, nighttime story about a cold, lonely cat and a sympathetic pub owner.

Though my memories of “The Sequential Image” are fuzzy, I remember enjoying it a lot more than “Observation and Experiment,” and feeling good about my final story.

Thanks for reading!

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