I’m always ready to talk to teachers and librarians, and love visiting schools and libraries (in person or virtually) to talk about my books and my work writing and drawing books, comics and graphic novels. My content and style work best with groups grade 3 and up, depending on which presentation I deliver.
I provide different talks for different age ranges, but all my programs generally center on the creative process, from idea generation and brainstorming to execution of those ideas in the writing and illustration phases. My current available presentations are as follows:
CREATIVE SUPER ZOO
for 3rd – 5th grades*
Using my ZOOPERHERO UNIVERSE books, I will talk about making books and graphic novels, and making up ideas, characters, and stories for those books. This talk covers:
1. How grade school influences found their way into my work, showing artwork going back to my youth, from elementary school through high school, and how all of those years of practice led to the creation of the ZOOPERHERO UNIVERSE characters and stories.
2. The process of character creation and design, making sure to explain that it can take lots of trial and error before “getting it right.”
3. Play as storytelling. Again drawing from my own childhood experiences with creating fictional characters, worlds, and stories through play, I’ll show how “play” is very much a part of writing fiction now, as an adult, with my books as examples.
4. The making process. How I write a book, make art choices, and how I create a comics page, from written descriptions to rough layouts, pencils, and inked art, including editorial/art changes as part of the process.
5. A drawing demonstration, either my simply drawing a character in front of the group (simpler for large auditoriums) or an interactive creative exercise in creating a superhero and supervillain using fruits and vegetables as suggested by the students (better in classroom-sized groups). This almost always ends the presentation with a “wow” moment.
* For 4th and 5th graders, I add an additional segment covering the distinct advantages to prose and comics storytelling and why and when I choose to use both for maximum effect.
ONCE UPON A SUPERHERO
for 4th – 8th grades*
Structured around my PIX graphic novels, this talk I discuss story generation and graphic novel creation (writing and illustrating). This presentation covers:
1. Idea generation from asking “what if?” questions in pursuit of stories to explore, using pages and scenes from PIX books to support the overall premise and offer an overview of the series.
2. The graphic novel creation process, step-by-step, from initial hand-written story notes and sketches to page creation – layouts, pencils, inks, coloring and lettering – with special attention given to making changes and revisions (as nothing’s perfect the first time out, right?)
3. Evolution and improvement of skills. Sharing artwork of mine going back as far as age 9 through my late teens, I show how practice and putting in the time and hours lead to improvement – a lesson useful to any endeavor even beyond making comics.
4. A drawing demonstration, either as simple as my doing a live drawing demo, some drawing challenges based on audience suggestion, or a more involved workshop involving group participation where I work with kids to “what if” a fairy tale into a superhero concept (scroll down for sample video below). Whatever it is, this is the show-stopper, as it plays like a magic trick.
* I’ve done versions of this talk for students as young as 4th grade and as old as seniors in high school. Ideally, given the audience for the PIX books, I recommend 4th through 8th, and I adjust what material gets more attention depending on the age of the audience.
For all my presentations, there will be time for Q&A. I know kids have questions, and I’m happy to take questions throughout the talk, if/when questions arise. I’ve found the drawing demo a great time to open up the floor for general questions as well.
DYNAMIC FIGURE DRAWING
AND COMICS STORYTELLING
for middle school – high school
Dealing much more specifically with the craft of sequential narrative storytelling, in this talk I speak to how body language visually communicates in comics – emotion, tension, comedy, dynamism – and how panel composition and page layouts affect the telling of a story, visually.
Citing Will Eisner’s COMICS & SEQUENTIAL ART and John Buscema’s work in HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY, and using examples from my own work, this presentation is entirely about cartooning and comics storytelling, and how important the visuals are to the narrative. (Scroll down to see a video snippet of this talk.)
There are a number of hands-on activities that can accompany this presentation, depending on the needs, from drawing exercises to page layout assignments. Actual drawing skills are NOT a necessity, as stick figures can tell a story as well, if not sometimes better, than a lush illustration.
A simple and straightforward chronicle of practice resulting in improvement.
In this case, it’s about drawing and making comics. Using examples from my own work over 30 years – from elementary school to my 40s – I will show key changes in my artwork, and point out the influences that led to those “leaps.”
The ultimate lesson, though, is perfection should not be the goal. Rather, improvement is a near guarantee of proper practice. This is a message that functions beyond drawing, applying to anything from athletics to music to cooking to reading, which I make sure to address directly.
Demos for this group vary depending on the age of the audience. For younger kids (K-2), it’s mostly showing how shapes act as the basis for drawings. For older kids, a demo might involve my re-drawing something from my childhood, to show in real time what years of practice can do.
Presentation elements can be adjusted for length or not included at all, depending on time limits, age range, your interests, or what best might apply and/or appeal to your students or patrons. I’m happy to discuss other possibilities with you.
In terms of materials I’d need, the basic best bet would be:
• a video/digital projector connected to a computer into which I can plug a flash drive…or a projector with an HMDI/VGA connection to which I can connect my tablet computer)
• an easel with a large pad of paper and some markers with which to draw (especially if you want a physical souvenir of the visit – alternately, I can draw on the aforementioned tablet)
• if a document camera is available, that’s often a great alternative to the easel/pad, and an excellent back-up option should there be an issue with the tablet connectivity.
• a microphone (depending on the size of the group and the acoustics in the presentation space)
• a solid internet connection and the ability to screen share
Here’s my ONCE UPON A SUPERHERO interactive demo with a group of 4th graders:
Here’s an excerpt from my DYNAMIC FIGURE DRAWING & COMICS STORYTELLING presentation at a high school:
My current in person rate is $600 for a day (3 presentations on average), and I can do a single presentation (~1 hour) for $250. These rates are for locations within 30 miles of my zip code (I am in Atlanta, GA 30319).
Outside of that distance, we can discuss travel costs accordingly.
My rate for virtual visits is $150 per presentation (~1 hour). The interactive/participation activities don’t work as well virtually, but I can still do a drawing demonstration.
I’d love for as many kids as possible to read my work, and I’m happy to assist with any arrangements for sales of books, before or after the presentation, including providing a pre-order form to distribute ahead of the appearance date. I can and will sign (and personalize) books, accordingly (or offer signed bookplates for virtual visits).
Contact me to discuss what you might have in mind and we can sort out what’s possible.