Theater and Turnarounds

With one phone call this past weekend from my boss, my life became three-fold crazier with a temporary assignment to help with our school's production of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. For three weeks, I'll be at school Monday through Thursday coaching students in the finer points of performance and Fridays, my regularly-scheduled teaching continues. Thankfully, spring break is dead ahead so I'll get a week off in the middle of this chaos. Good thing I adore my students.

This semester, in addition to a class on creating children's books, I'm teaching cartooning, a class I started nine years ago and one that I am continually revising and updating as my own skills improve. Each session I take students through the basics of character construction and onward into the development of simple comics. Right now, we are immersed in the practice of getting characters out of static, forward-facing positions and that means doing turnarounds.

Turnarounds feature sequential character drawings in which the subject is - yep, you guessed it - turning around. You begin drawing the character facing outward and then draw the character in a 3/4-view, profile, and so on. In the past, I had students simply imagine what that would look like with their characters but I realized I was making an already difficult assignment harder. 

This year, I had students create a 3-D model in animation clay first. This gave students something to look at so they could see how the shapes in the figure change with each shift in perspective. They were thrilled with the chance to play with clay and the level of detail was delightful. Some of their sculptures made me giggle and I'll be sad when I have to package the clay back up for next year. (Animation clay is non-hardening so it can be used over and over.) 

The following week, they all began the turnaround process. I asked for a four-position turnaround: front, 3/4s, profile and back. While this was still a challenging assignment, I think the students had a better grasp of what they needed to do and how to do it. I've included a sampling of some of their efforts here.