Visualizing Memories: A Graphic Memoir Primer 6-Week Zoom Workshop, Starts Tuesday, February 13th, 2024
Begins Tuesday, February 13th, 2024
Class will meet weekly via Zoom on Tuesdays, 6:00PM CST - 8:00PM CST.
Any questions about this class? Use the Chat Button (lower left) to talk with us.
Taught by Robert James Russell, author of the forthcoming graphic memoir Hard Body: A Personal History of My Form on Display (Simon & Schuster, 2025). He is also the author of the novellas Mesilla and Sea of Trees. He is the founding editor of the literary journal Cheap Pop. His illustrations and writing have appeared in print and online at NPR, The Rumpus, The Florida Review, The Offing, Shenandoah, Gulf Coast, New South, and Passages North, among others.
Learn more about Rob in our Meet the Teaching Artist series.
Discover the transformative power of graphic memoirs as we explore personal narratives through the fusion of words and art. This class will help students discover how comics provide a unique avenue to delve deeper into our past, offering a profound means of reflection and investigation that traditional writing often can't match. This is a class for any level: those just exploring the art form, those with ideas already percolating, or experienced artists interested in leveling up their storytelling. Any drawing level or style is welcome.
The goal of this class is to understand how collaborative memoir and graphic work can push students who may not even consider themselves to be artists to explore and be vulnerable in a wholly new way. After all, there is no “right” way to draw; it is a form of limitless possibilities and styles. Together, we’ll look at a wide selection of graphic memoirs to draw inspiration from—work by Kristen Radtke, Adrian Tomine, A.J. Dungo, Alison Bechdel, Marjane Satrapi, Mira Jacob, Gene Luen Yang, Ebony Flowers, and others.
Graphic memoirs provide a unique avenue for self-expression and reflection, offering a means to dive deeper into personal narratives than traditional writing alone. In this course, we'll not only study the art of graphic memoirs but actively work towards creating our own short comics through exercises and prompts, giving ample time to draw and share while we discuss the following topics:
Exploration of Avatars: How do we cut through the quagmire of our memories to tell a coherent story? How do we decide to feature ourselves on the page—are we human? Animal? What avatar do we choose, and how does it help tell our history?
Reflection and Investigation of the Genre: We’ll discover how graphic memoirs provide unique opportunities for introspection compared to traditional memoirs, enabling students to revisit and reinterpret the past in new and profound ways. The distance we get using art—as opposed to just text—allows a certain amount of liberation on the page. We’ll also discuss the genre and the differences between it and creative nonfiction, diary comics, and other graphic essays.
Script Writing: What does a script for a comic look like? How does the script compare to traditional writing? What is the language of comics—how do we consider panels, what we show versus don’t show? What is important to know before we begin? We’ll also discuss comic pitches for larger projects, the market for graphic projects, and how to get published.
Comic Creation: Comic layouts and languages: How do we read and design our comics to maximize emotional impact? Students will also be expected to create short comics by the end of class, showcasing all that we’ve learned.
In addition to short comics, we will be looking at examples from the following provided by the instructor:
- The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine
- Fun Home by Allison Bechdel
- Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers
- Good Talk by Mira Jacob
- In Waves by A.J. Dungo
- Ducks by Kate Beaton
- Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
- Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim
- And others!
- A better understanding of the strengths of the graphic memoir genre and how this differs from traditional memoir writing. Students will likewise learn how to write their own graphic memoir comics (short form done together with conversations about longer-form works).
- Students will complete a short-form graphic memoir comic by the end of class and receive constructive feedback from the instructor and their peers, including deep conversations about how we draw ourselves as characters in our own work.
- Students will learn about publishing graphic memoir work in both literary magazines (online and print) as well as crafting pitches and outlines for longer-form work.
- Finally, they will have the chance to explore a new way of storytelling in a safe and supportive environment, ideally giving them the confidence to continue creating once the course ends.
"Rob is super knowledgeable about graphic memoirs, novels, and short-form comics and how to craft them ourselves, but he also is really encouraging and truly believes that ANYONE can make comics. My own comics have improved hugely with his classes." —Katie Nieland
“Rob is the real deal—clear, supportive, knowledgeable and inspiring. Because of Rob’s fantastic instruction and generous teaching I now feel permission to make comics about myself. If not for him, I don’t think I would’ve ever continued along this path. I highly recommend him to anyone and everybody who wants to dive into the world of comics and graphic work.” —Alice Kaltman
“Robert James Russell’s Diary Comics class was a pivotal experience for my art. As a prose writer without any comic-making experience, the course motivated me to break the habits I’d gotten into in my writing. Rob selected inspiring exemplars and assigned thought-provoking prompts that helped me access material that held so much potential for my writing. Before this class I felt artistically stuck. Rob’s diary comics course invited playful introspection that tapped into my most difficult experiences in a way that allowed me to safely express them through my art. There’s something about the form of comics that makes one’s traumas easier to access, to depict. After this course, I was able to push through my writer's block to write about topics I hadn’t been able to write about before. Rob’s encouraging style of teaching helped build a community among my classmates, a place where collaboration and experimentation was celebrated. A place of artistic safety.” —Shannon Mcleod
"Rob's class provided a welcoming and supportive environment to grow in my skills and confidence as a comic creator. Rob's knowledge and enthusiasm for the art form is evident. I highly recommend taking any of his classes or workshops!" —Emily Case-Buskirk
ONLINE COURSE STRUCTURE:
- Instructor: Robert James Russell
- Class starts Tuesday, February 13th, 2024
- Class will meet weekly via Zoom on Tuesdays, 6:00PM CST - 8:00PM CST.
Contact us HERE if you have any questions about this class.
Instructor Robert James Russell is the author of the forthcoming graphic memoir Hard Body: A Personal History of My Form on Display (Simon & Schuster, 2025). He is also the author of the novellas MESILLA and SEA OF TREES, as well as the chapbook DON’T ASK ME TO SPELL IT OUT. He is the founding editor of the literary journal CHEAP POP. His illustrations and writing have appeared in print and online at NPR, The Rumpus, The Offing, Shenandoah, Gulf Coast, New South, and Passages North, among others. A native of Michigan, Robert lives and works in Lincoln, Nebraska. You can find his art and writing HERE.