Cartooning and Comic Book Art in the AP Art and Design Environment

An Entrance Into the World of Drawing

For young people interested in art, creation of humorous illustrations — cartooning — is an entrance into the world of drawing. This has been true for ages. Claude Monet drew humorous caricatures of local dignitaries. When he was 12, Pablo Picasso drew superheroes (Hercules). With the work of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, it's hard to argue against cartoons’ place in a fine-art context. Explain to your students that cartoonists practice ideation, drawing, and designing compositions to develop their forms.

Anime and Manga

We art teachers should not categorically reject student work that takes on the appearance of anime (or Japanimation, as it is sometimes called) or manga (Japanese illustrated novels with animated characters), especially due to lack of understanding or unfair bias. Certain characteristics of anime and manga may disturb our sensibilities as art teachers. These styles can appear unoriginal. The artwork looks as if it is copied from other artists' work. It seems formulaic. The same facial features, clothing, gestures, and compositions are repeated. It’s important to know that historical styles of anime and manga, as with many artistic traditions, are dominated by a few "masters." In the tradition of anime and manga, emulating the style of the master is the goal of the art student. However, it’s also important to know that contemporary artists reference anime and manga styles and concepts in the service of their own work. They don’t duplicate the imagery. AP students can do the same. They can use what they have learned about the anime/manga style to stimulate their own ideas and to create their own forms.

A Separate Skill?

Some people believe cartooning is a separate drawing skill, distinct from observational drawing. Others think that cartooning is too specialized, that the skills of the cartoonist don’t relate to "regular" art processes and forms. If a student is interested in cartooning, that student must be shown how to connect cartooning skills and processes with materials, processes, and other types of drawing. You can get students to develop drawing ideas and skills through cartooning, and vice versa. Discovering similarities and differences in cartooning and other drawing genres expands creative possibilities.

Cartooning Within the Portfolio

Cartooning can be included in the Range of Approaches section of the portfolio if a variety of technical and conceptual approaches is shown. A Sustained Investigation of cartoon images is also acceptable. The Readers who evaluate portfolios assess work based on how effectively it demonstrates each aspect of the scoring guidelines. For teachers, it’s key to make sure students evolve beyond using any superficial, formulaic drawing method. Encourage them to create dynamic compositions with personal imagery, style, and meaning.

Authored by

Peter Illig
Rangeview High School
Aurora, Colorado