An illustration without emotion doesn’t fulfill its true purpose.
That’s the message cartoonist Jim Gill gave Feb. 15 at Nord Middle School in a workshop for language arts students, a yearly initiative hosted by the gifted department at the Educational Service Center of Lorain County.
He taught about 30 fifth-graders how to convey their feelings on paper.
“Think of a girl who just got a new puppy,” Gill told them. “She is surprised and happy with that and takes the dog outside on a walk. All of the sudden, Godzilla moves in next door and he’s fire-breathing and just terrifying. Godzilla takes a step into the girl’s yard and squishes her new dog. This brings on more surprise, but not in a good way. This surprise comes with anger and sadness.”
The students drew their own four-panel illustrations showing happiness, surprise, anger, and sadness. Gill emphasized the importance of properly shaped tears, a clenched jaw, and how to use eyes, mouth, and eyebrows to signal complex feelings.
“Eyebrows might be the most important part of the face when drawing a facial expression with emotion,” said Gill. “Eyebrows can take an otherwise identical expression from devious to happy, sad, scared, or a combination. Always ask yourself if your eyebrows are adding to or taking away from the emotion you’re trying to illustrate.”
Gill works for the Center of Arts-Inspired Learning in Cleveland and spent 23 years as an artist at American Greetings. He graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1982 and has been working with students since 1997.
“We help with arts-integrated lesson planning and these workshops,” he said. “My particular forte is language arts, but there’s also math and science connections. I work with kids all the way from kindergarten to high school. Many of these kids today are working on young author projects, and my job here today is to assist them in that.”
The artist added that as more schools deprioritize arts programs, workshops like his become increasingly important.
“We’re teaching our students to do what they’re told, but many aren’t becoming problem-solvers,” he said. “Creativity is a huge part of that equation. A great imagination goes a long way toward resolving all types of problems. Even creative writing has taken a back seat. You need a balance in everything. We used to be known for our innovation, but that is going away because creativity is literally being pushed out of schools.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.