If you’re not a student at one of the two universities where MacArthur Fellow (read: certified genius) Lynda Barry teaches cartooning, but you want to learn from her inspiring and accessible techniques, you’re in luck. Making Comics, the follow-up to her 2014 bestselling Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor, is out this month from Drawn & Quarterly.
“I knew I couldn’t teach the kind of cartooning that people call ‘professional’ but I wondered if I could teach what I knew about the power of comics as a way of seeing and being in the world and transmitting our experience of it,” Barry writes in this beautifully bound illustrated volume of classroom notes, how-tos, practical lessons, pedagogical rationales, and abundant examples from her students and her own pen.
Making Comics takes the form of a hand-lettered and –drawn composition notebook, the type Barry assigns her students to use in her actual class. Barry pairs a spirit of wise and open encouragement — that we already know how to draw since we were doing that before we could write, we’ve just forgotten or convinced ourselves otherwise — with a demand for rigor, especially in creating a physically and mentally present, analog environment.
Barry’s delightful style may be inimitable, but the underlying thesis of Making Comics is that anyone can discover their own cartooning genius, if they are willing to put in the work. Give yourself the gift of time and quiet. Draw yourself as Batman in three minutes without stopping. Let your hand respond to the question, “And then what happened?” Repeat until all frames are done. Show up on time, and do it again. — E.K.