Educational Strip

The brief for this exercise was to create an educational strip about puberty for use in schools. Before beginning to generate ideas, I looked at some comic strips to get an idea about layout, sequential imagery and typography. I looked at strips from Asterix, Hilda and Gamayun Tales. All three are similar in that they all use different sized frames according to the content. For example, in Asterix, a longer horizontal frame is used to show distance in a scene while a small square one is used to show the heads of two characters talking. Long vertical rectangles are used to depict things like waterfalls. In ‘King of Birds’ and Hilda, small frames show a character's head and thought or speech bubble while larger frames show multiple characters or action. Whatever the shape and size of the frames, they all fit into a large rectangle the size of the page. The typography in all is simple uppercase font with variation in size and bold used to create effect.

The aspect of puberty on which to focus the strip was open for my choice so my idea generation was initially focused on the actual changes puberty brings. The brief suggested using humour and visual metaphor so I watched the television show ‘Big Mouth’ which is a cartoon based around puberty. This gave me an idea of the sort of visual metaphor that could be used. One of the main characters has a puberty monster that is used to represent the reason for the changes puberty brings. I then thought more deeply around use of visual metaphor and added ideas to the brainstorm under the heading ‘What’s happening to me?’ and made a visual brainstorm of them.

The brief for the educational strip also asked for it to show children how to cope with the effects of puberty, so when thinking of the narrative for the strip I needed to include a ‘solution’ to the problem. To start the strip I wanted to show the character confused about what is happening to them and wanted to use visual metaphor to depict that. In the next frame I wanted to show what specific part of puberty was being focused on, again, using visual metaphor and humour. I thought it was important to depict the emotional side as well so I felt that the third frame needed to focus on embarrassment, loneliness etc with the final slide showing a potential solution. I chose an aspect of puberty for boys and girls and jotted down a potential storyline based on the criteria I’ve explained.

In the end I chose the boy character and started sketching him in different positions. I also sketched other characters that I wanted to include in the story, then made rough thumbnails to check whether the sequence of the narrative worked from one frame to another. I then refined the thumbnails before producing visuals for each frame and for the front cover which needed to depict the character. Although I found that comic strips use varied frame sizes and shapes in my research, this brief was for an educational strip and for a leaflet so I made the decision to keep each frame the same size. Each frame measures 15 x 15 cm.

The title of the education strip is ‘What’s happening to my body? It’s all going mad!’ so I wanted the character to appear to be asking this question.  From reference I drew him in a position that makes him look like he is asking a question and added signs above his head to further depict confusion.  

The first frame shows him looking fed up because everything feels like it’s going mad.  I included cogs and gears as visual metaphor to depict hormone change. This image also shows him with a few bristles of facial hair which links to the next frame in which he has suddenly sprouted a full moustache!  This is where I added the humour with the hairy caterpillar. The composition for this was fairly simple because I knew he needed to be facing front as if looking in a mirror.  

The composition for the third frame was more tricky and I tried out different ones while refining the thumbnails.  It needed to show the main character embarrassed trying to cover his moustache. I wanted the other characters to be staring at him, but not for the reason he thinks.  To include an element of the sexual changes that happen at puberty I depicted the taller boy and girl who are attracted to him. I also wanted to show that puberty affects everyone at a different rate so I wanted a younger looking child who is curious about the changes in the main character.  I think I was successful in showing that the girl is attracted to him but haven’t achieved what I wanted to with the male characters. If I was to do this again, I would use speech bubbles in this frame to show more clearly what the other characters were thinking of him.  

The final image depicts a solution which in this case is shaving and being supported by dad.  Again I wanted this to be in front of a mirror. I drew this from reference to ensure I got them engaging with each other and the mirror. 

The visuals are shown below.

I kept the final artwork simple in terms of colour, choosing to use only blues, greys and greens. Only the hormone liquid was a brighter colour in order to emphasise it and make it stand out. I mainly used watercolour, gouache and coloured pencil with a small amount of wax pastel. Watercolour worked well for the mirror, particularly in the second frame. I used opaque gouache laid on thickly to depict the shaving foam but while it does look like shaving foam, it looks a bit odd with the style of the rest of the illustration.

I think my depiction of the main character developed over the course of this exercise with the final one I created being the illustration for the front cover. I also think that in general my character illustration has developed since the character development exercise in Part 4 in terms of giving them more life. I will continue to sketch and draw from reference to continue this progress.

I chose to use uppercase typography as this was what I had seen in my research into comic strips. My usual handwriting in capitals is quite uniform so I went with that. At least I thought it was uniform until I had done it! I feel that the letters all look different to each other and actually think a digital font would be better for this brief. I didn’t see any hand lettering during my research. If I was to repeat this exercise I would use a digital font. I would also research leaflets and their different layouts because this may have given me scope for changing the size of the frames to add interest.