The Secret Language of Comics: Visual Thinking and Writing

Eye Drew A Diagram!

Introductory side note: I want to start this off by saying drawing this eye brought me right back to eighth grade. There was a phase in my life (yes I was one of those girls) where all I would do during class was sketch eyes. Slowly the subject matter changed to clothing…anyway, it felt familiar and silly and I wanted to share that.

On a more serious note, I thought an eye would encapsulate the most important thing I learned in this English class: I am a visual thinker and learner. I always knew I was good at memorizing visuals, but when we talked about the benefits of thinking visually as a part of the writing process, I wasn’t just skeptical, I brushed it right off thinking I knew that style of learning wasn’t for me. I was wrong. Drawing out my literacy narrative was immensely helpful in refocusing the story on what was important in my journey as a reader and writer. I was unable to do that in my alphabetic version when I attempted to edit the paper before drawing the comic. I am not sure if others had the same eye-opening experience as me, but I hope they did because that “ah hah!” feeling of understanding my brain a little better was so satisfying everyone should get to feel that. In my sketch, I labelled the different parts of the eye pertaining to which learning outcome they agreed with the most. The most important part was the diagram itself being an eye because of the sheer impact that visual images, thinking, learning, and tools have had on my experience in this class.

Breaking News: I’m a Visual Thinker

The process of creating all three literacy narratives touched on all of the learning outcomes. I accessed the rhetorical composition learning outcome by writing visually and alphabetically. After each narrative was published, I had to think critically about how to improve and focus my story. My narrative is about recognizing writing as a process. By posting three different versions, each with reflections, the project has added six pages to my digital identity. The most meaningful learning outcome I met was in visual thinking. Thinking visually–somewhat ironically–completely changed how I view my writing and thinking process. After writing my first literacy narrative, I had some ideas for what needed improvement and tried to revise the essay before I would have to draw it in comic form. While editing it to shift the focus slightly from outside approval to asking for help, I got stuck and didn’t know what to do. This forced me to map out my comic in a set of bullet points based on what would be the most important aspects to visualize. In doing this, I realized I had missed two key elements that would eventually tie my new theme together. After completing the comic form of my literacy narrative, editing the alphabetic text was by far easier. I was skeptical that drawing out my narrative would have any noticeable impact on my story, but in fact, it was a tremendous help. Thinking visually is a new and helpful tool I can now rely on to focus my work when I get lost in the revision process.  

Seeing and Being Seen ft. Queen and Slim

Over the break, I saw the movie “Queen and Slim” with my family. I watched it after an emotional experience, and then the movie only heightened my emotional fragility. I was moved. Even though I have my critiques, I must say that the visuals were stunning. I chose this iconic image for a few reasons: the movie was on my mind, my friend has a jacket that has the same neckline, and all you have to do to recreate the photo is look at another person. I know that I am white and do not have a car to sit on or a small animal print dress, but I feel the most important part of this image is what Queen glancing at Slim, and Slim’s cool glance at the camera tells about their complex and sudden relationship. It was a lot harder to recreate than I thought it would be because I couldn’t look at my friend without laughing. It felt uncomfortable to study someone’s face when they aren’t looking at you, but know that you are looking at them. Recreating this image helped to reinforce the emotions prevalent in this scene.

Marlie’s Thoughts 2019-11-24 23:30:19

When we discussed this prompt in class, I had this experience the night before and knew I wanted to use it. I am in Meor, a club that had Jewish speakers come and speak about modern-day Judaism. During a few of the sessions I have wanted to ask this question about the acceptance of homosexuality, but only with this speaker did I feel comfortable enough to do so. She is a popular Orthodox speaker and dating coach and discussed her journey in becoming Orthodox after college and her dating life advice. She only spoke about the relationships between men and women, but she also mentioned that she minored in Women’s Gender Studies in college, so I thought this would be the best opportunity to ask about homosexuality. I wanted to draw the reader in with one of the funny things she said, like date foreign boys, and then have the comic take a turn towards serious content. I realized this discussion doesn’t have the most interesting visuals, but that gave me more opportunity to focus on drawing something other than stick figures. 

Trust the Process: A Reflection

My Literacy Narrative Comic naturally met the learning outcomes for this class. My narrative itself was about the writing process and the guidelines for the project allowed me to explore visual thinking and my digital identity. The least familiar aspect of this assignment was its medium. Though some assignments in high school required the use of drawings and pictures, none specifically required the description of an original narrative through comics. My comic narrative is about my discovery of the true messiness of the writing process and the benefit of asking for help. My first written narrative was about feeling gratified through teacher recognition. The process of writing the first draft and refocusing my story for the comic version after getting help is a direct example of the writing process that I discover in my comic. I was struggling to edit my written draft until I needed to focus on which elements I should portray in my comics. Once I had to visualize specific moments to draw, I was able to come up with a clearer story that responded to my professor’s original notes. 

I only had so much time to draw–an activity I enjoy– and so I decided to use stick figures, though I must admit my artistic ego took a hit. By saving time with stick figures, I was able to allot time towards experimenting with different framing ideas, something that my peers noticed and enjoyed. My comic as a whole is a diverse mixture of panel structures, wordy briefs, and out-of-the-box frames. Within each frame I mostly switched between focusing on either my face to show my emotions, or the back of my head to show what I was looking at. I made all of these decisions with the reader in mind because I felt that the mixture would allow for a captivating flow.  

Having my peers view a draft of my comic was both beneficial to my work and the class dynamic. It was nice to see everyone working together and accepting suggestions. Most of the comments on my peer editing form were about the transition between my second and third page. Some of the frames in the second page were cramped and then the theme of larger ideas on the third page was too abrupt a change from the small technical ideas in the second page. This was the major change I made in my final comic. Instead of only three pages, I know have four. I shifted some of the frames from the second page onto the third to give greater emphasis to each visual idea. My most creative edit was in the transition between the original frames from the second and third frames. I decided to use the drawing of my diary writing in the first page to foreshadow my use of diary writing in later panels to smooth transitions. Now, the “Personal Timeline” and “perfect essay formula” that were once out of place had a home within the writings of my diary. 

11 Hours of Sleep is not Productive

I struggled to determine what and how I would measure this Sunday sketch. After a long process of internal debate, I realized I am most curious about how productive I am day to day, and whether my level of productivity is dependent on how much sleep I get or the time of day. Especially with Spring semester course signup around the corner, it is beneficial to at what time of day I am most productive. What I valued most while collecting data was waking up and counting how many hours of sleep I had gotten. It was nice to have a concrete understanding of how many hours I am getting on average. I also must admit that occasionally the prospect of having to input data on how productive I had been made me want to be a little more productive in times when I typically lack motivation.

My data collection, via notes on my iPhone, is relatively inconclusive. During the past two weeks when the data collection occurred, I was in very different places. I averaged the data between the two weeks, but in reality, I was much happier and energized in the first week and quite sick and fatigued in the second week (hence the 11 hours of sleep!). I also must admit that my definition of productivity was more of a feeling of general accomplishment than a concrete measurement based on hours of work or numbers of assignments completed. I decided to base it on a feeling because that is what I believe affects me more, how I feel about what I have done, not what I have or haven’t done. As I continued to input numbers as the days went by, I began to create something of a base sense of productivity to base my measurements off of.

Once I had all of my data, my next biggest challenge was to show my findings in a simple format. Since I have not been feeling well, I have to be realistic about my ability to focus and must play to my strengths. I am good with pen and paper and unfamiliar with web design, so I decided to stick to my notebook. I have always found bar graphs to be clear and concise and I separated my data into three parts for easy comparision. I found that I am typically more productive in the hours between noon-midnight. I also discovered that I get a similar amount of sleep each night, and when I get much more sleep than normal (11 hours), I am less productive. I wish I could continue this study throughout the year and incorporate more elements such as exercise. I feel that most of my data is relatively similar and heavily relys on my class schedule and health and therefore is not the best indicator of what truly effects my level of productivity.

Do it for the Pic

Disclaimer: I would never just “do it for the pic”. My quadriptych process began with me thinking I would draw something, but when I sat down to draw, I had no idea what story to tell. Instead, I decided to once again refer to my camera roll to guide my storytelling. When I came across these photos of my best friend and me hiking during our Spring break lacrosse trip in Nevada, I knew I could make a joke out of the spooky hole in the ground. In the middle two panels, I wanted to do a spin-off of the motif in horror movies in which typically white people make the dumbest decisions and put themselves in imminent danger. In my last panel I changed the theme because even though I did hike underground in the volcanic tubes (which was an amazing experience), it would be too satisfying and underwhelming to show the reader what was inside the tube. The reader wants to know what is down there, lost cities, secret rivers, etc. when it is just tunnels and tunnels of rock formations to that are fun to wiggle through. I chose to go with the theme of my generation’s shallow social media lifestyle where we like to plan entire adventures just to post pictures and make it seem like our lives are cool. Normally, I forget to take pictures, but sometimes the lifestyle catches up to me and I just have to get that one perfect picture. 

This is different than a triptych because I had to create a more concrete storyline which in general made the entire process more difficult. My greatest struggle was putting all of the pictures in a four-square formation because I couldn’t figure out the column format the was recommended in the assignment post

The Backpack Diaries

  • Big green backpack. Pretty color and amazing pocket space. Gives me back pain :/
  • Grey planner for an organized queen. I think I check it once a week. Oops
  • Some random books that are normally in my bag (shout out hlth 100 and pace go freshman!). No notebooks in photo, but normally notebooks in bag. Big notetaker over here
  • Giant overpowering water bottle because hydrate or die-drate and save the environment
  • Shades to block out the blinding Atlanta sun, not the haters (too basic a reference)
  • Way more writing utensils than I need. Pencils for the base of my doodles, pens to bolden outline the doodles, and highlighters to really make the doodles pop. Pens can also be used for annotation purposes I guess, maybe some notetaking here and there
  • Now, the necessities: gum (I normally go for fruity gum), air pods, lip gloss and chapstick, my room key, and one representational tampon (there are more)… go women!
  • Missing: my laptop…she was charging, sorry. She is a pain anyway because she makes the bag super heavy so I guess this is her punishment, sitting in the corner alone. 

Standing alone, my backpack is not the most representational of myself, but compared to other backpacks, it probably becomes clearer who I am. Part of what is meaningful about what is in my backpack is what isn’t in my backpack. I do not carry chargers around because I do not like to use my phone enough to drain it regularly. I do not carry around binders because I prefer notebooks and folders. I don’t carry around a hairbrush because I only brush it in the shower so it doesn’t frizz. My essentials are all crowded on the left (except my water bottle because I thought it looked more balanced on the right). Chapstick, air pods, my room key, and the not-so-controversial but still uncomfortable tampon. At first, I wasn’t going to include the tampon because I felt embarrassed, but then I thought, realistically this is one of the most important things I carry around and therefore it deserves to be seen and normalized. This assignment was challenging because I felt the backdrop (my dorm room floor) was limiting and ruined the aesthetic of the photo. I hoped that the arrangement would pop a little bit more because I left space in between the objects similar to the gutters in comics, but the multi-hued rug slightly took away from that. Still, I feel that representing myself through a photo of my “stuff” is a legitimate form of writing. I felt more comfortable using my sassy personality when describing the contents of my bag because I felt the photo spoke for itself. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is exactly what this assignment is about.

Croc Cult in the Pyrenees

The unfamiliar term “triptych” in the title of the prompt made me expect a difficult Sunday sketch. The concept itself is familiar, but formalizing it turned everything on its head, so I relied heavily on A Softer World for reference. My first step was to choose a photo, and I had this one in mind from the start. I have always recognized it in three parts, the vast mountain range, my body, and our shelter for the night. This photo is very meaningful to me because it was taken during a life-changing immersive trip to Spain, and the photographer is now my closest friend. After 13 hours of hiking, I stood outside my group’s lodge for the night and couldn’t help but cry at the beautiful scenery. It was heartbreaking to me that the human population has and continues to threaten such beauty. I felt the power of Mother Nature as she welcomed me into her home. The lodge required everyone to wear pink crocs to keep the dirt outside and served the most satisfying salty soup I have ever consumed. Creating my triptych was an easy experience because I have so much I can tell about the original photo. I wanted the language to be emotional and confusing because that was my experience that night. I used Snapchat to create the text and Vsco to edit borders so the physical creation process was easy. Crafting this comic strip felt more personal than some of the writing I have done this year because the reader is allowed to take what I have written and shown to synthesize the meaning for themselves rather than having me guide them the whole way through with just my writing.