For this project I chose to illustrate pastries and cupcakes as a way to visualize our four major projects from this semester. I used pen and watercolor to do this, and showed each pastry as a deconstructed version of itself so that I could label each aspect of it in order to show something about the assignment.

For the Literacy Narrative I chose to show a deconstructed cupcake. The intention was for the cake to symbolize the traditional essay that wrote, and to show that it served as the “base” for the comic (which, in my diagram, was symbolized by frosting). The free writing assignment that we began with, was shown as sprinkles in my drawing. The structural element of learning to create a site page and post this narrative was shown as the cupcake wrapper, because it is the thing that held the project together and allowed us to present our work in a way that was accessible.

Tracing Maus was a cupcake with filling, because it was the first project that made us identify and explain patterns in reading. The filling in the cupcake is representative of the meaning within the repeated images or modes of expression that we chose to analyze.

Comparing Palestine and Pyongyang was a sandwich cupcake to show the construction of the parallel argument that we utilized in comparing these two texts.

Finally, Mapping Spinning was a cinnamon roll. I wanted to show that the meat of this assignment was the counting and analysis, and that the final product (the charts and visualization) was the secondary part of the process. I did this by indicating that the roll itself was the counting and analysis and by showing the data visualization as the “icing on top”. assemblies

Mapping Spinning Reflection

The assignment to Map Spinning by Tillie Walden presented a unique challenge, because it felt like working with quantitative data about something that was inherently more creative and that did not lend itself to being quantified. Originally I wanted to do something with this idea. I tried to find an aspect to track throughout the entire book, but as I counted pages I realized that it showcased the progress of the character better to compare the data I collected by showcasing a few chapters from the beginning and the ending.

I ended up choosing to track the way that Tillie’s wears her hair in the first, second, ninth and tenth chapters. I chose to track this for a few reasons. Firstly, it is an indirect way to track the amount of time that Tillie spends on the ice; most often her hair is up when she skates and down when she is at school or at home. The moments where this convention in the book are broken are important in that they allow the readers to see a very quiet kind of rebellion from Tillie. As a character, Tillie is very quiet and has a lot of difficulty asserting herself verbally. So the moments where she refuses to put her hair up (in the first few pages, and on page 322) are more significant than they might be in another author’s story.

Secondly, I think that the scenes where Tillie and Lindsay are getting ready together, doing each other’s hair are arguably some of the most genuine and intimate moments in the girls’ friendship. And the act of preparing for tournaments and practices are where we get to see these girls interact.

I chose to represent two chapters from the beginning and end of the book to showcase growth in Tillie’s character. I represented these in four pie charts, one for each chapter. I added categories into the last two to differentiate between her hair in the present moment and her hair in flashbacks to earlier moments in her childhood. My graphs made visible what I had initially thought, which is that as the book progresses Tillie wears her hair down more and more, which doesn’t go unnoticed by the other characters (see again, the scene on page 322). I think it is not insignificant that Tillie Walden chooses to begin and end with Tillie on the ice again, years after quitting, and refusing a younger girl who offers her a hair tie. This moment alone makes a compelling case for exactly why it is important to note Tillie’s choices about her hair within this book.

Data Visualization from Everyday Life

Research Question: Am I Just A Really Profane Cartoon Character?

Conclusion: I mean probably yes.

As I was thinking about what data in my life I could track my friend pointed out that there are jokes that I re-use so often that I could probably track them and end up with a pretty well populated data set. She was kidding, but I did it anyways.

Screenshot (4).pngJust saying the word “ma’am” in response to anything that aggravates me, might not be a joke exactly. But it makes me laugh and I say it lot so I included it. Alongside that are the phrases “nut” and “that’s what my lower back tattoo says” (as I’m trying to explain these jokes I realize that my sense of humor might be a little off-the-wall) Sometimes I respond to things that people say with “that’s what my lower back tattoo says.” ie: My friend was talking about something and said the phrase “You don’t have to be perfect” and my response was “that’s what my lower back tattoo says”.  “Nut” is just an oddly sexual and super inappropriate way to respond to anything that I think is cool. Another friend of mine told me that she was going to a lecture about traditional African art and the movie Black Panther and my response was “nut, dude”.

What I saw in this visualization wasn’t really what I expected to see. I was kind of hoping patterns would emerge based on which phrase I used more on each day and it would be like a general picture of my mood on each of these days. Mostly what I realized was that there was a pretty sharp decrease in the frequency of all three phrases on days that I was especially down or stressed. These days I noticed that I spoke less in general and made fewer jokes. I hadn’t realized that I tended to be quieter when I was in these moods, so that was interesting to see visualized.

Pyongyang and Palestine: Vignettes in Graphic Novels

Vignettes are a series of a small moments and stories that are used to construct a larger narrative. In the two graphic novels that we have read most recently, we see vignettes used to construct a kind of story that is different from our previous readings.  For example, our earlier reading of Maus, which centers around a personal history. The use of vignette as opposed to a strict linear narrative is a particularly strong one given the subject matter of these two graphic novels. Pyongyang centers around an illustrator’s experience in North Korea, Palestine around a journalist in Jerusalem, Palestine. Both accounts center less around the personal story of their respective narrators and more so on the illustration of the setting. We are not given the story of one single person, though we follow the narrators throughout both graphic novels, but the story of a place and the many, often opposing people and viewpoints within the place.

The settings in these books are each in some way shrouded in mystery for many Americans. In the case of Palestine many Americans receive very limited and often biased information about the conflict and history of Palestine’s occupation. We see this in the beginning of Palestine where Sacco describes reading the story of an old Jewish man who was killed on a cruise boat by a group who claimed to have done this in the name of Palestinian liberation. Sacco describes reading the account of the man killed, and of thinking that this man sounded as though he could have been Sacco’s neighbor. The details included in this news story were what made Sacco empathize with one side and demonize the other.


This one moment alone makes a strong case for the use of vignettes as a medium to make a case or an argument. Very early on Sacco makes the point that “Americans want human interest stories”. He is essentially positing that it is harder as readers to care about dying Palestinians when we are rarely given names, much less stories, as opposed to this news story about the man on the cruise, whose name and story we are told. We are additionally told how he likes his cornflakes, and several other details that make him into a unique, specific human being in our minds. Vignettes are a way to illustrate moments in great detail, and very early on it is established in Sacco’s narrative that details are what make us care about a story or about an outcome. Delisle uses this kind of intense detail throughout Pyongyang as well. There are detailed scenes of the mundane everyday activities of the narrator, down to him noticing a blemish and picking at his skin as he writes. This kind of minutia serve to build up the character and the mood through tiny moments and actions.


However, Sacco uses detail to make us care about the history and present tragedy of Palestine. He gives us many very detailed accounts to show not only human interest, but also the multifaceted nature of the conflict. The use of vignettes to showcase something or to illuminate a story that is not already well known is what makes these two books stand apart from Maus. The story of the holocaust is one with which most people in America are familiar, and as such we can trace a single person’s story through the backdrop of a history with which we are already familiar. This one story stands against an already well-known setting and time, whereas in the case of Palestine or Pyongyang even the basic facts of the setting are unknown to many. To illustrate the setting of these pieces we are given many smaller stories that gradually illuminate the place, the time, the mood and the history of a people that are in some ways isolated from our view.

This gradual enlightening, rather than straightforward telling-of-the-facts serves to give us a more naturalistic way to present a situation. Not only in sense we see our view of these places shift gradually with the narrator’s own view, but in the sense that most situations are not built from one person’s perspective. Following one narrative through a situation is a dangerous route to take if you do not go in with incomplete context.

Recreate a Movie Scene

For this Assignment I wanted to take the least flattering photo of myself that was physically possible and put it on the internet. Because that’s always fun.

I wanted to recreate a scene from early film history, so I asked a friend to help me smash an oatmeal cream pie from the vending machines in my dorm into my right eye so that I could recreate the image of the grimacing moon from Le Voyage Dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon).  

Literacy Narrative Comic Final Draft

In the process of finalizing my literacy narrative comic I tried to use as much color as possible. I didn’t want to leave white space unless I absolutely had to do so. Because most of my backgrounds were somewhat minimalist, and because I generally like the way that that looks in my art, I decided to fill in with color instead of setting and objects. I identify periods of my life in colors, and so I decided that drawing these kinds of aura/ color-halos around my characters felt like the most emotionally truthful I could be about my own experiences.

Much of my initial draft stayed the same, because I felt like I had spent a good chunk of time on the initial draft, but the process of adding color and inking in lines still ended up adding something substantial to the story, I think. The last panel in this narrative is one of my favorites and I am glad I got to end with it.

Full Final Draft in PDF Format

Colin Combs Sketch

I chose to sketch a picture that was titled “Xanthe smoking with her cow Wally”. I liked this picture because it seems very simple, but it also sets up an image that is at once child-like and adult. The image of a teenager smoking a cigarette while playing dress up looks so perfectly caught in the head space between childhood and adulthood. It’s sort of the perfect image of adolescence, caught between wanting to be an adult and wanting to be a child and being self aware enough to want to document it.

Sunday Sketch: True Story

True Story

So… I had an uneventful spring break. Which meant that my content for this post was limited to me making fun of myself and my study habits. So this comic is based on the entirely true fact that I tend to browse foreign real estate and listen to bad music when I’m supposed to be focusing on other things.

Literacy Narrative Rough Draft


The main challenge I faced with this assignment was getting it scanned and uploaded. I didn’t want to commit to the layout fully, so I didn’t use pen, but this made the pages hard to scan. The end result still isn’t the highest quality, but I think it should be readable.

The scanning was the hardest part for me mostly because I think I tend to write with visuals in mind. When I was really young and learning how to write the advice that I always got from my grandmother was to try and “paint a picture with your words”. In my writing I always find that I leave a more lasting impression when I can show things with a specific image or anecdote, rather than just stating my point. The story about writing words off of coins, I think, conveys my message more effectively than simply saying “I wanted to learn to read from a young age”. That thought process in writing made this assignment easier in that I had a concrete story line to illustrate. It also made me notice certain weaknesses in my writing. The last page was the most difficult one to illustrate because my writing became more vague, which makes me think that I probably need to revisit my last paragraph to strengthen the ending.

The comments that I got in our peer review session were largely positive I felt. Someone pointed out that I should try to vary my “camera angles” in the last page, which I don’t disagree with. I think this points to the fact that the writing was more vague and shows that I had a hard time illustrating that in any way other than by drawing faces close up. I am excited to take this piece further and I cannot wait to see the final drafts of the other students in my group.

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