Halloween

It’s Halloween and it’s still one of my favorite times of year. When I wake up on that day, a myriad of words and images fill my mind and take me to recalling my childhood and the childhoods of my children and grandchildren. This evening, my grandchildren and their friends will take to the streets in costumes and go home with candy and other treats, just as their parents and grandparents did when they were young.

Halloween has been an event for families and communities all my life. When I was a country boy, hayrides, corn mazes, carving pumpkins, and bobbing for apples happened days before Halloween, leading up to the event that took us to town with excitement in our hearts. I don’t remember a time when kids in costumes didn’t fill the streets of my hometown for tricks and treats.

For me, Halloween is the closing of autumn. The season came with the usual sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of summer’s end, when the days shortened and whispered to me the approach of winter. Yet, I bathed in sunlight and the gold, brown, and red when the first leaf of autumn turned color (here in the north) and grew to a crescendo when Halloween finally arrived.

So, I arose this morning and peeked out my window, because Halloween comes with surprises. Will it be sunny, rainy, or snowing when the carved pumpkins are alit with candles one last time and the little trick-or-treaters ring our doorbells tonight?

We shall see. Meanwhile, have a safe and happy Halloween everyone.

Image courtesy scholastic.com.

A Louie and Bruce Christmas Surprise [comic strip]

While going through more boxes in storage, I found this Louie & Bruce comic strip among my papers from teaching cartooning to kids years ago … I think it was 1988.

I know … I thought I had finished writing about my old strip, but chance and fate had other plans.

With Christmas five days away, this strip fits with the season.

This comic strip is unique because I’m not the sole author. While teaching, I had my students help write the strip by first calling out ideas and then dialogue. This way, they saw the strip grow from beginning to end.

I’m not sure why we chose Christmas and Santa for a theme during a summer class, but the theme was fun to work with and caused a lot of laughter and excitement in the classroom … especially the idea of Louie sitting on Santa’s lap as if he were still a little boy.

Merry Christmas everybody, and Happy Holidays.

Teaching Art Is FUN

Not long after I stopped drawing my Louie and Bruce comic strip, I began teaching art courses to adults and children. One of the youth courses was Drawing Cartoons, so I used my strips as teaching aids during the 6-class course. About halfway through the course, we discussed anthropomorphism—giving human characteristics to animals or inanimate objects. From that, we created the character, Frank The Dog.

From Frank The Dog came Fred The Dancing Dog and his all-girl entourage. This lesson introduced drawing action and showing movement in the cartoon.

I enjoy teaching children because their ideas are fresh and inventive. This in turn sparks new ideas in my mind. Teaching art to children is an adventure to an end I never envision when I create my lesson plans. And bottom line: children are funny. They make drawing cartoons, which is already fun to do, a delight to do.

When I teach my classes, I have subjects on slips of paper that students choose from a hat. The subjects range from short and tall, narrow and wide, round and square, to various emotions and animals. A random drawing of “short, wide, round, silly, pig” resulted in the pig illustration above. The subject of crazy resulted in the cat illustration next to it. And from a random suggestion, the cat became a slob as I taught them how to refine their drawings.

Teaching at school may be what teachers do for work, but artists teaching children (and adults) at workshops can be a wonderful experience for those of us who can draw it (or paint it) as well as teach it to others. And with a classroom full of different personalities, there’s never a dull moment. Every day is a new adventure. You never know how the adventure is going to end, but it’s fun to find out.