Lynda Barry’s New Book Offers a Master Class in Making Comics

In the same way you don’t have to like the way your liv­er looks for it to be able to func­tion, you don’t have to like the way your draw­ings look for them to start to work.  —Lyn­da Bar­ry

Want to feel more alive in the world?

Get back in touch with your inner four-year-old artist, using meth­ods put for­ward by artist, edu­ca­tor, and g*ddamn nation­al trea­sure Lyn­da Bar­ry.

Mak­ing Comics, the lat­est book from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin asso­ciate pro­fes­sor, MacArthur Genius, and Omega Insti­tute fac­ul­ty mem­ber, bypass­es stan­dard­ized pro­fes­sion­al skills such as ink­ing, sto­ry­board­ing, and let­ter­ing, in order to foment a deep­er emo­tion­al con­nec­tion between car­toon­ist and com­ic.

First things first, you can draw. Stop say­ing you can’t. You can.

Stop say­ing your draw­ings look like they were made by a four-year-old.

In Barry’s expe­ri­ence, the unfet­tered draw­ings of four-year-old artists are some­thing to aim for.

As author and comics his­to­ri­an Chris Gavaler notes in his Pop Mat­ters review:

Mak­ing Comics is a love let­ter to every child who ever picked up a cray­on and start­ed mak­ing marks with unself­con­scious inten­si­ty. Those chil­dren include her col­lege stu­dents. Like her read­ers, some arrive at class with artis­tic train­ing and some arrive with none at all. The lat­ter arrive hav­ing long for­got­ten the unin­hib­it­ed style of image-mak­ing they under­stood instinc­tive­ly as chil­dren. Find­ing each of those chil­dren is Bar­ry’s mis­sion, and she is very very good at it.

Bar­ry, who is child­less, is keen­ly attuned to the sort of play­ful assign­ments that hold imme­di­ate appeal for chil­dren of all ages.

And she doles out instruc­tions on a need to know basis, dis­arm­ing the self-doubt and excuse-mak­ing that plague adult stu­dents who are pre­sent­ed with the big pic­ture too ear­ly in the process.

In Mak­ing Comics, exer­cis­es include draw­ing with eyes closed, draw­ing with the non-dom­i­nant hand, two-hand­ed draw­ing, simul­ta­ne­ous part­ner draw­ing, Exquis­ite Corpse, and trans­form­ing scrib­bles and cof­fee stains by teas­ing out what­ev­er image they may sug­gest.

Bar­ry also con­veys pre­cise instruc­tions with regard to speed and mate­ri­als, know­ing that those can close as many win­dows as they open.

She’s bat­tling the sti­fling impulse toward per­fec­tion, the impos­si­ble stan­dards that cause so many to turn away from mak­ing pic­tures and sto­ries as they mature.

Don’t sweat it! More rock, less talk! Unleash the mon­sters of your id! Invite unfore­seen ghosts into the frame!

As Bar­ry says:

….there are two work­ing lan­guages in human life. One is sort of top of the mind, what we’re con­scious of. The oth­er is this uncon­scious stuff that we might not know about or have access to. The way we access it is usu­al­ly through this thing we call ‘the arts.’ Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that has got­ten removed from the reg­u­lar dai­ly expe­ri­ence of human life. What I’m try­ing to do is to show that there is a way that they can come togeth­er, and that you can make things in a way that makes you actu­al­ly feel alive and present.

Read an excerpt of Lyn­da Barry’s Mak­ing Comics. Or pur­chase your own copy of Mak­ing Comics here.

Video at the top of the page cour­tesy of Art Book Walk-throughs & Reviews.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Fol­low Car­toon­ist Lyn­da Barry’s 2017 “Mak­ing Comics” Class Online, Pre­sent­ed at UW-Wis­con­sin

Lyn­da Bar­ry on How the Smart­phone Is Endan­ger­ing Three Ingre­di­ents of Cre­ativ­i­ty: Lone­li­ness, Uncer­tain­ty & Bore­dom

Car­toon­ist Lyn­da Bar­ry Teach­es You How to Draw

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Decem­ber 9 when her month­ly book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain cel­e­brates Dennison’s Christ­mas Book (1921). Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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