Practice your skills of thinking about time and space in comic form with a Grids and Gestures activity created by Nick Sousanis.

Nick Sousanis, who completed his PhD dissertation in comic book format, is an expert in the graphic storytelling style.

And before you recoil in “I can’t draw fear”, relax! You will not have to create any character figures- just patterns.

Nick’s description of the activity:

A while back, I made up this non-representational comics-making exercise I call Grids & Gestures for my class and soon started trying it in public talks. Over the last few years, I’ve found it to be a great way to get people with no prior drawing experience to very quickly start thinking about the spatial considerations comics makers attend to and at the same time, gets them to realize how much they know about drawing that they didn’t know they knew.

So here’s how to think about Grids & Gestures. Quickly, have a look at your ceiling tiles or other grid-ish things around you. If you then imagine putting these features to music, you might have regular long notes on the tiles, some shorter notes, and maybe rapid staccato beats on a ventilation grill. Ok, now come back to a comics page – and think about the idea that in comics, time is written in space. Comics are static – and it’s in the way we organize the space that we can convey movement and the passage of time. Unlike storyboards, to which comics are frequently compared, in comics we care not only about what goes on in the frame, but we care about the size of the panel, its shape, orientation, what it’s next to, what it’s not, and its overall location within the page composition. The way you orchestrate these elements on the page is significant to the meaning conveyed – there are some strong correspondences between comics and architecture in terms of thinking about the way the entire space operates together.

Having briefly thought about this, I want you to take a single sheet of paper (any size, shape will do) and drawing with a pencil or pen, carve it up in some grid-esque fashion that represents the shape of your day. It can be this day, a recent day, a memorable day, or a typical/amalgamation day. And then inhabit these spaces you’ve drawn on the page with lines, marks, or gestures that represent your activity or emotional state during those times represented. The emphasis here is to do your best to not draw things. (You can always do that later!) And also, you can leave space blank on your page – but that has to mean something. This isn’t writing where you can finish a final sentence mid-page. Every inch of the composition is important in comics – so be aware of that as well. Finally, when I do this in class or with groups, I give people about 5-10 minutes to do it, so they have to make decisions quickly. Try to give yourself a similar limit.

I’ve done this in classes as a diary exercise where participants do a new version over several different days, and that’s my thought for doing it here. Tag it #gridsgestures and feel free to ping me (@nsousanis) as well.

Learn more at http://spinweaveandcut.com/grids-and-gestures/

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