NaNo – Reflections on Cartooning & Learning

I created a total of 34 cartoons for November 2022 and wrote increasingly long pep talks to accompany the cartoons for the NaNo forums and various social media. It was my first time tackling a cartoon project and comics and cartoons continue to fascinate me.

Four Panel Cartoon – Reflections on my NaNo Cartoon Project

I learned so much from doing the daily comic. It was my first time creating a comic series / set of cartoons. I had originally planned it out as a more traditional “story” within each day, and very quickly found that instead, I was drawn to a single image of a concept per day. I then found I wanted to say more and started adding longer and longer pep talks to accompany the cartoon itself. When I showed the images to my partner, their response was: oh, that illustrates this! (concepts from our IT work). The illustrations themselves could work for multiple contexts and I do love that. It was in the interaction between text and image that meaning is created (for me).

My visual language is not the strongest yet. I can draw realistically in graphite pencil or ink, and I can sketchnote quickly using stick figures. The cartoonification is still a high learning curve as it’s a different skill set (though I borrowed heavily from my sketchnote experience).

For a true graphic novel/comic there are so many other considerations regarding illustration style, layout, sizing, colouring and shading, etc. In discussing our projects on the NaNo forums, the concept of having a script that a writer writes and an illustrator then illustrates came up. This makes so much sense in a collaboration & professionalization sense. For me, as I’m doing both writing & drawing (hobby projects and focus on FUN and learning), and as I’m still learning: the concept of drawing from a script was a revelation that I hadn’t thought about yet.

I like studying cartoons and graphic novels. I loved learning as a kid how Idéfix was introduced in Asterix and Obelix in a non-verbal way. I love the dialogue in Art Spiegelman’s Maus between image and text, especially where they contradict each other. His visual language is intriguing and has an impact. The children’s books I am now reading to my tiny human are full of little illustration jokes and goofs – no words required.

In my cartoons, I had such a blast adding those little narrative details like hiding my logo, adding plotbunnies, raptors and so much more & I loved hearing people spot them.

I find that I struggle so much in my illustration (and sketchnotes too) to leave empty space. There is such value in leaving spaces – emptiness to give meaning to everything around it. Creating a highlight and focus. Negative space is such a vital concept in drawing, and I just keep adding more and more and more and creating busyness instead. :slight_smile:

The daily posting took effort even when all the prep work was done for a day, but it also created great momentum and anticipation from readers. The encouragement and joy of my readers has been marvelous and I continue to welcome responses now that the challenge has finished. I even heard this week that my work encouraged someone to start drawing their comics as they had been too hesitant regarding their drawing skills before. Graphical novels and comics have their own unique challenges when it comes to storytelling and I’m looking for the community in which those conversations happen.

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