POETRY INSPIRES COMIC STRIP ARTWORK FOR VISUAL STORYTELLING CLASS
Ms. Lydia Munnell's Intro to Visual Storytelling class has been exploring comic illustrations and communicating abstract concepts and emotions visually rather than entirely through language and explanation. Before diving into film, this course began with a unit solely focused on comics. For this particular assignment, Ms. Munnell asked students to choose a poem, ranging from traditional poetry to song lyrics and film quotes, to use as caption text throughout various panels of comic drawings. The overall goal of this assignment was for students to create a comic strip that makes the poem more visceral and easily understood. "The idea is that they shouldn't just illustrate the the basic lines of the poem, which would be considered a picture book. But rather, that comics and visual stories more broadly have the capacity, through symbols and iconography, to communicate a theme," says Ms. Munnell. "Students were pushed in order for their panels to somehow communicate the abstraction that the poem communicates, rather than just illustrating the images. This works to varying degrees, but the emphasis is always on choice of image and not the drawing ability."
Students' drawings and illustrations pushed their artistic skills to the max, helping them consider how to deliver ideas and expressions visually, which ties into an important skill in filmmaking. Despite the difficulty of this assignment and its time-consuming nature, students were able to take complex ideas and convert them into simple panels of artwork to tell a story. Joe Byrne '22 was inspired by Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" and created his comic (photographed right) from an uncommon perspective. "I love that in the final panel Joe depicts the man imagining the scenario later and that we can't quite see his facial expression. A lot of people misunderstand this poem. They read it as a celebratory poem about individualism and bravery, but when you actually read it, the roads are described as essentially equal and show shows that reflection," says Ms. Munnell. Emmett Blakely '21 found inspiration from an Internet poem that reads two ways: one way, the poem sounds as if the speaker is a pessimist, but the other way sounds like the speaker is optimistic. Emmett wanted to hide the latter meaning of the poem, but still keep it as part of the story, and took it upon himself to incorporate invisible ink into his comic strip (photographed left) so that the latter version of the poem could be read with a black light tool.
"Comics are trendy right now, but the truth is, sequential art is an old concept," says Ms. Munnell. "From Superman to friezes on Greek and Roman temples to drawings on cave walls, it's a valuable mode of thinking to be able to communicate difficult ideas visually. As we move into a world where more and more of our media is visual, we need to prepare students to both create and interpret complexity and subtext in visual terms."