Cartoonist Richard Farrell ‘22 Explores “Visual Storytelling“

Richard Farrell ‘22

Art Correspondent

 Graphic narrative produced in workshop. Illustration by Richard Farrell ‘22.

The Visual Storytelling Workshop, led by writer, artist, and Davidson alumna Ali Fitzgerald ‘04, was an interactive exploration of the phenomenon of visual narrative. From the Homecoming currently in the VAC, to the Zine Fest being held in early April, this workshop is one of many events highlighting the importance of graphic arts at Davidson. 

Fitzgerald expanded on the importance of line, shape, abstraction, form, and lighting to create a visually cohesive and engaging story. Through a series of prompts, the participants practiced the strategies she shared in an effort to more intentionally communicate themes and characters in a story. 

Dramatic changes can be accomplished through small artistic decisions. Visual indicators such as lines around a face, a raised eyebrow, or the posture of a figure suggest character, storyline, and motivation. Ali Fitzgerald drew one image, and as we suggested themes, she tweaked her drawing. 

This exercise resulted in one character taking on drastically different themes, emotions, and activities. Fitzgerald’s demonstration showcased that drawings, though extremely powerful in a visual narrative, are malleable and delicate. 

Another creative exercise involved writing our responses to five simple questions, such as “What was the last compliment you received?” or “What is one conversation you’ve recently overheard?” The responses were set aside, and several artistic prompts were introduced, asking us to draw subjects such as the last thing we dreamed about or something we had witnessed that day. Then, in groups, we shared our written and artistic responses. 

The goal was to arrange them into one story, with the use of the written responses as captions for the drawings. This was not only an entertaining activity, but it also allowed us to work backward from the drawings, establishing a story from the imagery rather than creating imagery from a story. 

The result was not a disjointed collection of different pieces, but a collaborative synthesis of work. Having a story stemming from imagery was a really exciting and refreshing prospect. 

I love narrative art, but I notice that I often get caught up in the overarching story that I am attempting to communicate, rather than allowing myself the freedom to start with the imagery and form the story around it. Ali Fitzgerald’s activity provided an opportunity to do just that. 

Finally, we were encouraged to create a story between two panels, emphasizing the theme of love. Other than these simple parameters, Fitzgerald allowed us significant freedom to draw whatever we wanted and use one of the transitions to communicate a story about love. I chose an action-to-action transition and created a drawing of a garden gnome’s unrequited love for a toad.

Richard Farrell is an undecided major from Princeton, NJ. He can be reached at rifarrell@davidson.edu.

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