Mentors: Robert T. Barrett and Mark Graham
Josh Talbot, Melissa Manwill, Nathan Cunliffe, Hana Lee, Chrisanne Hernandez, Jacob Meldrum, Alycia Garrett, Ashley Grace, Renee Bates, Melissa Crowton, Amanda Ho, and Liz Pulido
At the beginning of this ambitious project, 12 students set out to adapt 12 different classic literature stories into short graphic novels. The purpose was to compile them into one handy anthology serving as a transitional media between the picture book and short novel. We envisioned it as a stepping stone for the “reluctant reader” between the ages of 9 and 14 (the ages where students are most likely to lose interest or give up on improving their reading abilities). Although this project fell short of its initial goal of compiling a book, the students involved certainly gained invaluable experience in collaboration, design, storytelling, and self-discipline.
Those involved can attest to their increased awareness of the stylistic choices that aid in storytelling. For instance, they discovered that there are different types of design that appeal to different age groups and audiences. They also found the choice of pose, gesture, or facial expression can convey radically different moods and emotions, and must be chosen with care. Just as the style of the artwork appeals to different audiences, so does the way the script is written. It’s a delicate balance between words and image, and as some students discovered, it’s difficult to make a composition that allows both of them adequate breathing room. The students also realized the importance of a deliberate visual flow from panel to panel and even page to page. Most importantly though, they realized the importance of following the proper work flow on a project like this. They learned how to find good visual reference material for time period specific buildings, environment, and costume before they start any work. Next, they did exploratory test drawings and designs based off the research they had gathered. After several passes on their designs, they were ready to roughly lay out their pages, and then clean up the drawings. After completing color and value studies, they could jump into the finished work. Students who didn’t follow this pattern quickly realized how difficult it is work effectively if they skip any of these steps. One of the reasons this project has taken so long is that many students didn’t realize just how long it takes to pre-visualize and design before one can actually jump into the production phase. Most the students didn’t yet have the technical know-how or abilities to execute this large of a project when they set out, but they all can attest to how much they’ve learned and grown because of it.
I believe all the academic objectives laid out for this project have been met. Most the students have successfully maneuvered sequential narrative art for the first time, tackling various barriers in their own shortcomings as artists, improving their design abilities and their resolve to finish large, difficult projects on a tight, unforgiving student schedule. They learned how to collaborate with other students and how to take critiques, which was a good exercise in professionalism. Students were required to bring several of their pieces to a tight finish for a show: they had to learn how to prepare, print, and mount their pieces so that they could exhibit them in a clean, respectable way. They learned the importance of following a long-term schedule for a long-term project (and the consequences of not following that schedule). They also learned networking skills in promoting and advertising their show. The students feel they have increased their ability to work hard, effectively, and consistently, all of which are skills that will aid them in their future careers, no matter where they end up.
The only publication that this research project has culminated in thus far was a preview art show in December of 2014 in the Harold B. Lee Library. The exhibit showed whatever work the students had completed on their respective stories up to that point. All the students are in various stages of completion at this time, and a few of them still have hopes of printing individual zines (small magazine ranging in 12 to 32 pages) of their work, which they would like to share with the MEG office and faculty members as a thank you for the opportunity to work on this project.
As far as the mentoring environment goes, most the students could have taken greater advantage of the faculty resources available to them, but all of them have benefitted from the feedback given. The guidance and tips that were provided helped keep students on track for their individual goals, and also assisted them in design areas where they were struggling. Overall, I feel this project has offered a very lucky group of students an opportunity they never would have had in any individual class or work environment.
If this project could be started over again, I’m the sure the students would have picked a more manageable project, but in all its difficulty and vastness, they have certainly grown, and don’t regret the time they spent on it. I would like to express my own gratitude for the opportunity extended to the illustration program, and I have high hopes that future students will continue to take on ambitious projects that will help them grow as artists and students.
$10,410.55 wages for the 12 students working on the project
$571.22 printing and mounting costs for the art show
$56.79 printing costs for fliers and bookmarks for the art show
$11,038.56 Total funds spent
As mentioned earlier, we would like to make a special request to reserve the remaining funds on the project for a few of the students to print out zines of their work. If approved, we can get quotes from the BYU printing press on how much this would cost. It is anticipated that the few stories that are close to completion wouldn’t take more than a couple more months to be finished.