Sunday Sketches roundup

Quick in class writing

Choose the single most important panel from today’s chapter of Maus. Then write a brief paragraph about that panel:

  • In about one sentence describe the panel (size, shape, what’s in it, etc)
  • Very, very briefly describe what’s happening in the panel and how it fits into the narrative of the chapter.
  • Then write a few sentences in which you explain what about this panel makes it so important for you.

Week ahead: 4

2/4 Sketch 2: Visual Note Taking
4 2/6 Maus 1, chapters 1 & 2

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics, ch 2 (library reserves link)

2/8 Maus 1, chapter 3

Understanding Rhetoric, issue 2 “Strategic Reading”

2/11 Sketch 3: Sunday Sketches

As I said at the end of class on Thursday, Maus is about the Holocaust and so you should be prepared for the book to address difficult, painful subjects. One of the topics we’ll certainly discuss about the book is how Spiegelman handles such emotionally charged subjects and events.

Pay careful attention to the structure of these two chapters. How does Spiegelman indicate the different timeframes included in the narrative? How is the narrative framed? Who are the major characters and how does he distinguish between them, both visually and in the text? How would you classify the genre of the book? Where does Spiegelman’s text fall on McCloud’s Picture Plane triangle?

After you’ve finished reading the first two chapters of Maus, but before class on Tuesday, please watch this very short video by Nerdwriter in which he analyzes one of the first pages from Maus:

Nerdwriter’s video essay is really interesting in a number of ways — and it also touches on the sort of analysis I’ll be asking you to carry out for your major project on Maus, so you should definitely watch it carefully and we’ll be talking about it in class.

Note: I’ve added a follow button, like those that automatically show up on your WordPress sites. If you’re here on the posts page, you should have a “Follow” displayed in your browser (for me, it’s on the bottom-right of the screen, but YMMV). If you want to get email updates any time a post is published, click on it and enter your email address there, then confirm the subscription when you receive the email. Fair warning, since there are 20 of us publishing to the site now, you’ll get a lot of number of email updates, but you’ll know any time a new post goes up.

Peer response

  1. What do you take away as the controlling idea of the essay?
  2. What’s the most interesting point the student makes?
  3. What’s one thing that you really wish you had heard more about or a question you had as you read that wasn’t answered?
  4. What is one thing about your peer’s essay which is similar to the one you wrote? How so?

Sketch 8: Combophoto

Due: 4/1

Tag: sk8

Stephen Mcmennamy is an Atlanta artist and Creative Director at BBDO. He first came to my attention when I saw his series of “combophotos” that splice together two different images to form a surreal new creation.

Here are a few examples from him:


milk + rope

turf + cake

squash + paint

Take a few moments to look through the images he’s posted on his site linked above or on his Tumblr or his Instagram. Then create your own square combophoto and publish it to your site. You can take your own photos, but probably you’ll want to use images you find on Flickr — make sure you give credit to the originals that you modify to create your combophoto.

The level of technical aptitude for this assignment is actually relatively small, just simple cropping and resizing. The greater part of the challenge is finding images that you can work with. That said, note that Mcmennamy comes up with ideas and then specifically stages photos to combine, and he seems to often spend significant amounts of time shooting and selecting his images. You won’t have lots of time or expensive photo equipment to work with, so I don’t necessarily expect your final images to be as polished and perfectly aligned as his are. More important is for you to be playful and come up with images that combine to create something funny or witty or striking.

To edit the two photos together, you can use whatever photo editing software you’d like. Pixlr is a good free web app, as is PicMonkey. Adobe Photoshop is also available for you to use on the computers in the Media Library on the 4th floor of the Woodruff Library.

Once you have your image, publish it in a post on your class site. Write a paragraph about how you went about choosing the two images you combined and why. What challenges did you face as you created your combophoto? What do you think your final image conveys?

Sketch 4: Human Document

Screenshot of Google image search results for "tom phillips human document"

Due: 2/18

Tag: sk4

The British artist Tom Phillips is probably best known for a project that he began in 1966 and which he has continued ever since–he set himself the challenge to buy the first book he could find at a secondhand bookstore for threepence and to alter every page using drawing, painting, collage, and cut-up techniques to create an entirely new version.

First page of the 1970 edition of Humument.

First page of the 1970 edition of Humument.

He found W.H. Mallock’s A Human Document and combined the words in the title to create A Humument. Phillips not only created new art works from each of the 367 pages but has now completed five different editions of this altered book.

You can view pretty much the complete series of pages on Tom Phillips site here. You can choose pages, view the original and then view different versions of that page.

For this week’s assignment, I want you to create your own visual poem-thing. You can find your own page to alter if you’d like, but I’ll bring in an old used book that you can take pages from too. Think of it as sort of a collaboration between yourself and the book’s original author or think of it as a game where you get to create new text but within the strict confines of the text available on the page.

Obviously, Tom Phillips has been doing this for almost 50 years and I’m not expecting you to produce work that is as polished or complex as his–nor that is necessarily as visually compelling. And it will probably feel very strange to you as you begin, but just let yourself be playful and experiment with your task. You do not need to be a professional artist to make these pages, but you probably do need to be able to relax your desire to be in control of what you produce and you probably need to turn off the self-critical voice that will tell you that you’re doing it wrong.

Alter your page using whatever methods or tools you prefer, then scan the page in color at a high resolution as a JPG or PNG file and load it to your site. You might include in your post the text of your altered page.

Sketch Assignments

mage search for "christoph niemann sunday sketches"


Avatar (due: 1/28, tag: sk1)


Visual Note Taking (due: 2/4, tag: sk2)


Sunday Sketches (due: 2/11, tag: sk3)


Human Document (due: 2/18, tag: sk4)


Triptych (due: 2/25, tag: sk5)


What’s in your bag? (due: 3/4, tag: sk6)


Tell a True Story (due: 3/25, tag: sk7)


Combophoto (due: 4/1, tag: sk8)


Recreate a movie scene (due: 4/8, tag: sk9)



Make a gif/cinemagraph (due: 4/22, tag: sk11)


Assemblies (due: 4/29, tag: sk11)

Sketch 3: Sunday Sketches

mage search for "christoph niemann sunday sketches"

Due: 2/11
Tag: sk3
Christoph Niemann is an illustrator, artist, and author whose work regularly appears in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and elsewhere. He’s got a mixed media series that he calls “Sunday Sketches,” in which he takes some object from his surroundings and creates a sketch on the page around it. Some of the best such works he's included in his book entitled Sunday Sketching.

Some examples from Niemann's Tumblr:

You can see that each of these pieces is an actual three-dimensional tangible object placed into a drawing on paper to transform that object into something new. Niemann then photographs the resulting sketch to create a two-dimensional artifact.

For your third sketch assignment, I want you to create your own Sunday sketch in a similar style.

  • Take a picture of your sketch and publish it as a post.
  • Give your post a funny or witty title.
  • Write a paragraph or two in which you explain the process whereby you came up with the idea for your Sunday sketch and the choices you made in realizing that idea as an actual sketch.
  • Include a link back to this prompt and tag it “sk3.”

Week Ahead: 3

1/28 Sketch 1: Avatar
3 1/30 Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics, ch 1 (library reserves link)
2/1 Understanding Rhetoric, issue 1 “Why Rhetoric?” Literacy Narrative
2/4 Sketch 2: Visual Note Taking

By sometime Sunday night, create your square avatar image for sketch 1, insert it into a post and publish it. If you’d given me the URL for your course site with a comment here as of Saturday morning, then your site is currently set to syndicate here (which means that within a few minutes after you publish your post, it should automagically republish there). As y’all publish your avatars, I’ll update the list of student sites.

You should also begin working on your literacy narratives, which should be published before we meet as a class on Thursday (there will be opportunities for revision).

Come to class on Tuesday having read the first chapter of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. There are now a number of scholars, critics, and writers doing work on comics, but for a long time it was just McCloud creating books like this one. We’ll spend some time in class debating McCloud’s definitions. Also on Tuesday, we’ll discuss the literacy narratives a bit and, now that syndication is working, we’ll go over how pages and posts work and how syndication functions for you to “turn in” your projects. And we’ll spend a few minutes on Creative Commons licensing.

On Thursday, we’ll spend a lot of class working with the literacy narratives you will have published by then. We’ll also discuss “Why Rhetoric?” and, if there’s time, take a look at a couple of brief examples of graphic novel memoirs in advance of starting Maus.

Then over the weekend, you’ll transform one set of notes from one of your classes this week into visual notes for your second sketch assignment.

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