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The Newtown Middle School supported students’ artistic development with a special Day of Art on February 16. The in-school field trip provided an illustration workshop with cartoonist and comic book creator Matt Ryan of Free Lunch Comics for 44 students in seventh and eighth grade in the school’s cafeteria.
Mr Ryan taught the students a variety of lessons on how to craft comic book elements, demonstrating by drawing different cartoons on an easel’s large sketchpad. He showed how to transform a simple stick figure into a fully developed character and explained the value of implementing facial features and gestures.
If the artist builds the character’s body gesture first, he said, it will prevent the art from “falling off the page” and not having enough room for the full design.
Mr Ryan also engaged with the audience and asked for crowd participation to help define features of popular comic characters, like Batman and the Joker, then demonstrate them.
An important tip he emphasized, too, was that “mistakes are good” and are part of every artist’s method for developing a final product.
The process of making art is not about being perfect, he assured, it is about being able to identify a problem in the design and know why they dislike it in order to fix it.
“Let the artwork come out of you and be patient,” Mr Ryan said.
The workshop with Mr Ryan was sponsored by the NMS PTA through the NMS PTA Grant.
For the second portion of the NMS’s Day of Art, 24 students in the seventh grade art enrichment class were given the opportunity to exclusively work on honing their comic book skills the remainder of the school day.
They received more insight from art teachers Leigh Anne Coles and Kristen Ladue, as well as from reading and language arts coordinator Nadia Papalia.
Ms Papalia went over the concept of storylines and how they can be broken down into five steps: setting, motive, conflict, climax, and resolution.
Afterward, students were able to begin working independently or with a partner to design a one-page comic with six panels.
Art enrichment students Eva Barricelli and Allie Kost partnered up for their comic and were eager to begin their design that was originally being titled The Sneaky Samurai Take On The World.
At a table across the room, Melissa Schnee worked independently on her comic that she explained was a play on words from the saying “Do or don’t; there is no try,” while Melissa Tagliarini started by creating her comic’s setting to take place on a rainy day in New York City in the year 2070.
Students participating in the Day of Art gained insight and inspiration for their work by referencing from the large assortment of comics donated to the school from Cave Comics in Newtown.
The comics the students create, Ms Coles said, will be submitted to the school’s award-winning literary magazine, Opus Optima, which is entirely written and illustrated by the students.