Watch Cartoonist Lynda Barry’s Two-Hour Drawing Workshop

We know you’re Zoomed out, but might you make an excep­tion for the pre-record­ed draw­ing and writ­ing ses­sion above with leg­endary car­toon­ist and illus­tra­tor Lyn­da Bar­ry?

Under the aus­pices of Graph­ic Med­i­cine’s par­tic­i­pa­to­ry online series, Draw­ing Togeth­er, the noto­ri­ous­ly play­ful Bar­ry led par­tic­i­pants through a series of exer­cis­es from her book, Mak­ing Comics, and seemed gen­uine­ly pleased to be back in teach­ing mode. (All of her in-per­son class­es at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin have been can­celled until fur­ther notice due to the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, as has her usu­al sum­mer stint at the Omega Insti­tute.)

Bar­ry endeav­ored to loosen her stu­dents up right away, bran­dish­ing toys and danc­ing to an amaz­ing playlist in a friend’s bor­rowed attic, con­fid­ing that the wifi sit­u­a­tion here was far supe­ri­or to that in her old farm­house.

Teacher divid­ed the large group in half by birth­days, as a way to orga­nize view­ing each other’s work after each timed exer­cise.

This couldn’t quite repli­cate the expe­ri­ence of the live class­room, where stu­dents have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to han­dle each other’s work, and more time to take it in, but still fun to see the incred­i­ble diversity—and in the case of closed-eye exercises—thrilling sim­i­lar­i­ties on dis­play.

Barry’s delight extend­ed beyond the con­fines of the page, imi­tat­ing the way some stu­dents beam like sway­ing sun­flow­ers through­out the 60-sec­ond closed eye ses­sions, while oth­ers knit their brows, low­er their chins and pow­er through.

A series of self-por­traits fol­lowed, with prompts designed to tap into the sort of imag­i­na­tive pow­ers that fre­quent­ly seep away in adolescence—draw your­self as an ani­mal, an astro­naut, a mem­ber of a march­ing band, any fruit that’s not a banana…

Longer exer­cis­es involved turn­ing ran­dom squig­gles into mon­sters, with an extra minute grant­ed after the timer went off to add what­ev­er miss­ing things the artist felt each draw­ing need­ed, then choos­ing one of those mon­sters to star in a fam­i­ly album of sorts.

Bar­ry, who has, over the course of her career, filled a num­ber of pan­els with hilar­i­ous­ly out-of-touch teach­ers mak­ing life a hell for child char­ac­ters, is audi­bly appre­cia­tive of her stu­dents’ efforts, fre­quent­ly con­grat­u­lat­ing them for bring­ing some­thing into the world that didn’t exist a few min­utes pri­or:

This is the thing about comics! They come intact, they come all togeth­er and the most impor­tant thing you need to do is just make time to draw them, the unin­ter­rupt­ed time, even if it’s just 2 min­utes.


The final exer­cise of the day drew on some of the writ­ing tech­niques Bar­ry fea­tured in Syl­labus, with par­tic­i­pants, quick­ly jot­ting down mem­o­ries after a prompt, then choos­ing one  to explore more deeply, with spe­cial atten­tion devot­ed to sen­so­ry recall.

To play along from home after the fact, you’ll need a cou­ple of hours, ten or so sheets of paper, a pen­cil or pen (Bar­ry favors black felt tips), and your “orig­i­nal dig­i­tal devices” (hint: they’re attached to the ends of your arms).

Find infor­ma­tion on how to par­tic­i­pate in upcom­ing free Draw­ing Togeth­er ses­sions here.

All draw­ings used with the per­mis­sion of par­tic­i­pant Ayun Hal­l­i­day.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

Lyn­da Barry’s Illus­trat­ed Syl­labus & Home­work Assign­ments from Her New UW-Madi­son Course, “Mak­ing Comics”

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She most recent­ly appeared as a French Cana­di­an bear who trav­els to New York City in search of food and mean­ing in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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