Quick Guide to Frank Santoro’s Grid Theories

On The Comics Journal, the Layout Workbook Series (from 2011):
Layout Workbook 1
Layout Workbook 2
Layout Workbook 3
Layout Workbook 4 This is the one where I first laid a grid on Tintin pages and people lost their minds.
Layout Workbook 5
Layout Workbook 6 I get into Poussin in this one.
Layout Workbook 7
Layout Workbook 8
Layout Workbook 9 Prince Valiant here.
Layout Workbook 10 Asterios Polyp
Layout Workbook 11
Layout Workbook 12 Beto vs. CF
The lecture notes that I usually riff on – they condense the ideas in the layout workbooks: Notes for Comics Symposium
Even better, video excerpts from some of my recent lectures:
Comics As Music (PIX 2016)
My old website coldheatcomics.blogspot.com is full of good riffs. Check out the Format Fever notes and thoughts on my Pompeii process. A lot of the stuff on this website is used as reference for my 8 week online correspondence course.
Here is the Santoro School Handbook, written with the help of Kurt Ankeny: Santoro School Handbook
Notes for my lecture with Aidan Koch and Connor Willumsen at LICAF 2016: LICAF Master Class

Thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers


Hi, Frank Santoro here! I’ve been teaching my comics correspondence course since 2011. You will never meet someone as enthusiastic about comics as me. I’m a good coach.

The course is 8 weeks – I run several semesters a year but I will work with you if you want to start the course between semesters. 500 bux for 8 weeks plus access to my coaching for as long as you need. Payment plans are available.

Summer Course starts June 1st 2017!

Applications are due by May 25th.

Email santoroschoolATgmail for more details.

The most common questions I get about the Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers is: “How does the correspondence course work?”

The way the course works is that there is a private blog where you get all of your assignments. This blog is updated every day with demos related to each assignment. We do a lot of fast drawing to get you thinking about sequencing much like a storyboard artist. Over the 8 week course you will create a 16 page “signature” – that means that you will basically draw two pages a week. Email me – santoroschoolATgmail – and I will send you an invite to the course that just wrapped so you can see how it works for yourself.

What if I have a full-time job? Do you think I can manage to find the time to do the course within the 8 week time frame?

I’ve had many students in the past who have had full time jobs. I designed the course so that you can do it when you have the time – at night, weekends, etc. If you “fall behind” it doesn’t matter because I will work with you to complete your 16 page comic even after the course ends. The idea of the eight week course is to impress upon you the structure of a deadline which, I believe, is central to comics making. I know lots of talented comics makers who never seem to be able to finish anything. Comics is all about the deadline. So 16 pages in eight weeks is what we aim for – however if your job or other commitments prevent you from completing the comic, I will work with you until the comic is finished.

What if I can’t afford to pay for the course all at once?

Not a problem. I’m very flexible with payment plans. Talk to me about it and I promise you that I will make you an offer that you cannot refuse. If you think there is no way that you could afford this course then think again. Often I have found that people chicken out about actually doing the work by using the “I can’t afford it” excuse. I will work with you in ways that no “real” school would ever work with you. Also my course is way more affordable than just about any other comics program out there. 500 bux for an 8 week course plus access to my coaching for as long as you need.

Thanks! Please email me santoroschoolATgmail with any questions regarding the course. I accept applications at all times.


Santoro School Application guidelines:

-3 figure drawings done on blank 3 x 5 index cards

-3 landscape drawings done on blank 3 x 5 index cards

-3 still life drawings done on blank 3 x 5 cards

-draw in a contour line style – Think Matisse – no under-drawing – draw directly in ink

-just send me small jpgs of images – dont post to your blog pls

-specific url links to any comics work you have done. If you haven’t done comics before that is not a problem.

Send applications to: santoroschoolATgmail


xo Frank


@santoro.frank on Instagram






Connor Willumsen on LICAF 2016

LICAF 2016 report by Connor Willumsen.

A year ago Frank Santoro, having just returned from The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015 (LICAF), suddenly called me and spoke to me for an hour to interest me in an ambitious plan he had for a touring workshop that would broadly function like a campaign for inclusive visual literacy. I agreed because my first experience of Frank was of him thoroughly terrifying students in a “Business of Comics” class at SVA in 2009, which he did by raving about, among other things, the misguided and stunted influence of Alex Ross on the medium.

LICAF 2016, after about a year of planning, was Frank’s experimental initial step to these ends, which have an unknown and expanding scope.

Me, Frank, and Aidan Koch met up in NY to fly together to Manchester. The rest of the CW crew met us there.

Here is my report:

It is a struggle to reflect on anything without first commenting on the unfathomable number of sheep abstractly pacing between an ancient network of low stone walls up in the Lake District of northern England. I guess I saw, by virtue of my eyes being open, over a thousand sheep over the weekend. I became self conscious and learned to be discreet about my developing preoccupation with photographing them.


Recently it was pointed out to me that children rarely marvel at vistas, which suggests it’s a learned adult concept – a needless excuse for hiking and travel, but yes the scenery was beautiful, etc.

Kendal is known for Beatrix Potter and the Kendal Mint Cake, which is no cake at all. All guests received at least one. Mine was an anti-freeze indigo blue. I am not aware of anyone who tasted one. Here are the ingredients:


Kendal is also known for it’s precocious adolescents of the Middle Ages who had an obligatory devotion to the laborious longbow discipline in order to slaughter the French under a carpet of arrows, which they very much did in Crécy and Agincourt. These archers were cloaked in “Kendal Green”, a wool fabric, not to be confused with the over-hyped “Lincoln Green” worn by Robin Hood.

Frank made an attempt to charm the mayor of Kendal, in my presence, by telling him that I practiced Longbow in Canada, a misleading truth. The Mayor could not have cared less, and I respected his appropriate reaction. He then told me not to jaywalk.


At a gallery displaying beautiful comic pages from Hanneriina Moisseinen’s recent work Kannas – The Isthmus, described as a book about cows and other animals during World War 2, the mayor (Stephen) and his wife (Sarah) struck up a conversation with Aidan Koch, Frank and myself. He was wearing a massive piece of gold jewelry around his neck that sort of resembled an ammunition belt. I didn’t understand why this was happening, and any time I say “I didn’t understand why this was happening” in regards to my time in Kendal, it’s because in terms of comics culture, I am more used to experiencing a disinterested glazed pessimism, often from the likes of it’s own tribe, to say nothing of relatively high ranking civil servants. The mayor and his wife came to hang out and meet cartoonists, him and the rest of the town were genuinely enthusiastic. As our conversation progressed I fell into a light panic from wondering who was supposed to end this conversation and how. The implied pressure of civility and politeness is real in England. My contrary reaction to this was a suppressed and sadistic urge to stretch the length of the conversation beyond comfort. Sarah was chill and doodled a map on a scrap of paper towards other towns we could check out in our rental car.

We were mercifully spared this trial of mannered courtliness by being interrupted with an announcement that there would be an interpretive dance piece performed by the local students which had been inspired by Hanneriina’s book. They walked right in among us and danced in black tights.

The easiest way to impress me is with a casually presented dance performance. I didn’t understand what was happening. It was great and we applauded and the students sort of unceremoniously vanished while we were ushered to a dinner.

what other comics festival has interpretive dance on it’s opening night? LICAF 2016

A photo posted by @santoro.frank on

Throughout the weekend, not once was I left wanting for a hot meal (and alcohol, if necessary), generously provided by the LICAF organizers or Frank, who was acting as a professional host. This concept is so otherwise foreign in my experiences that it triggered in me the alert paranoia of theft. This might seem like a trivial detail but I appreciate it deeply. It’s a simple concept that cites by way of action the insufficiently discussed problematic nucleus of the comic industry and culture: food money. At the last MoCCA everyone knew to meet at the Society of Illustrators simply because it was known that they were serving free pasta salad.

At dinner it became apparent how varied the guest list was in terms of audience. I only recognized a few names and nobody knew me. Almost every time a name was announced, with the exception of a few nabobs, there would be an audible “who?” A musician in the corner entertained us by playing a saw and DJing with phonographs. My jaw dropped when I heard that otherwise there was a nearly successful booking of something like a Jim Steranko nude escape artist routine. I’m not sure if I misheard but I got the impression that it wasn’t a joke. We played a UK game called Pub Quiz, and our table tied for the lowest score even though we cheated.

At the dinner and throughout the weekend, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and fans reminisced about Darwyn Cooke, who passed away in May of this year. He was a special guest at LICAF 2015, which I’m told was his first time out of North America. I’m also told that, by all accounts, the experience had a profoundly positive effect on him.**

The next day, part of the Comics Workbook crew presented a sort of lecture together. It was Frank as MC, commanding the room, and me and Aidan in a couple chairs playing off his questions and AV ephemera. We had a full audience but I suspected we were unknown entities to the majority.


Frank had already earned my trust in terms of leading us through public and educational presentation by showing me the John Berger clips he would prep the audience with, and he cemented that trust in practice. He intuitively understands how to keep it from becoming a condescending Ted Talk, a thinly veiled advertisement, or, most common in the comics scene, a painfully reluctant reading and slide show.

Berger 2 from Frank Santoro on Vimeo.

The John Berger clips, serving a foundation of accessible art theory, were used to establish a context for the audience which would envelope our disparate work and leave no person unequipped to understand where each of us were coming from.

While each of us spoke, a video played showcasing one of our works. The camera behaved like a patiently mobilized reading eye, with which the audience could passively and fluidly empathize if they chose, while listening to us speak or reading the overlaid excerpted quotes. It lacked the the dead rhythm of a normal slide show, and the content and conversation worked harmoniously together. As always, Frank was emphasizing timing. We didn’t plan it strictly or stick to a script, so what Frank and Aidan were saying felt fresh to me, and I became a part of the audience whenever I wasn’t speaking. The direction of conversation between us and the rest of room was guided by curiosity. (all the videos are HERE)


We all retreated to a group Workshop with local students. Frank’s teaching style was like an energetic performance. He was literally running down a hallway between two rooms, simultaneously teaching two groups of students, with me and Aidan in the wings for assistance. It was telling to watch the students take the limited premise and engage with wild variation. The personal associations they were forming were evident in the drawings.

Then we got to see Kendal. I liked walking the town with Aidan because we had a similar height and silhouette. I looked like a grown-up version of the blueberry girl from Willy Wonka, and she had a good kind of a bleached Mick Jagger thing going on. We were both devastated to discover that we had missed out on some local owls that had been hanging out in the town center, supposedly happily available for head-patting.

Late that night, outside the Ring of Bells Pub, a quiet old man with a muzzled dog read my mind and gave me elaborate directions to a urinal I would access through the alley. The man using that urinal loudly grumbled at me about his having long hair in the 1970s.


I had been told that two of our crew had experienced a sort of hallucinatory waking nightmare sleep paralysis at the hotel all the guests were staying at. While I was taking flash photos of sheep in the middle of the night, Craig Thompson approached suddenly out of the darkness and gently explained to me and Aidan that he had experienced the same thing. That night it happened to me. That makes 4 people, that I am aware of.

Me and Naomi Nowak walked through the local castle ruins in the middle of the night under the light of a full moon. To access it we had to traverse a cemetery, a moat, and a cricket club. I was too afraid to fully enter a dungeon which had lacked any light or visibility. I returned during the day to learn it was a toilet.

The temptation to watch TV in the hotel at night was itself an existential horror. The content was comprised mostly of Gordon Ramsay, Bradley Cooper movies, and a British version of Maury that had a Euro flavor to it.


The next afternoon I gave my own workshop. I walked the audience through a basic conceptual approach to making a comic page that I might use, one that allows for speed and discourages the common trepidation or burden of the ‘next image’. While they drew I shared from my mixed bag of cautionary tales, which, for instance, described how division of labour and editorial hierarchy in mainstream comic books discourages communication and often prohibits the artist from making creative decisions in terms of layout and sequencing, which for me is the essence of cartooning, and limits most of it’s craftspeople to being dependent storyboard artists under a constant threat of replacement, as it meanwhile postures as a pseudo-auteur culture. We talked about arbitrarily contrary but equally valid systems of visual perspective. Unstructured composition. Web programming. I struggle to remember most of it, but had the impression it was well heard.

Here’s me paraphrasing a conversation I read between Paul Joyce and David Hockney in on the subject of western and Chinese visual perspective.

I would have liked to have seen Aidan’s workshop but it was going on at the same time in the next room. It encouraged me to hear that she had people drawing their own feet in silence.

When I learned that Jordi Bernet was at the festival I decided that I would try to meet him. There was a man walking around the festival who resembled an aged and weathered Torpedo. I lightly shadowed this man until discovering that I was completely wrong in assuming it was Jordi Bernet. Eventually, at the hotel, Frank pointed out the back of Jordi Bernet’s head from a distance, which was disappointingly unremarkable and un-gangster-like. I think I expected him to be a sort of evil Euro-Seth.


However, I did happen across Gilbert Shelton in a carpeted hallway. He explained that he was there to “bullshit about the past”, which struck me as an appropriate sub-header for most comic festivals and literature. Frank repeatedly reminded me that Gilbert laid essential groundwork for the American underground comic scene, and further on through his example to Crumb and then to Moebius, and marveled that he was simply walking around undisturbed. He stressed that the important moments at festivals like this are when you run into people between two places, which Kendal was ideally suited for given that the festivities truly encompassed the entire space of the town.


At the closing reception Hanneriina Moisseinen outlined some of the ways in which she has been directly and practically supported as an artist by her own country, the likes of which were unheard of to me. I asked her about notable pop-cultural offerings from Finland, and she immediately and excitedly described a TV show called The Horny Police Officer, which has proved difficult to search for.

Frank rented a car for the pleasure of it, and he kindly offered to tour us through the countryside once we finished our duties. His driving was intuitive, confident, and frightening, the experience marked by a constant terror that we were on the wrong side of the road, which at times we actually were. Frank reassured us by describing an incident at the last LICAF wherein he wrecked a rental car and a belligerent man screamed at him for ruining his vacation. When concerns were raised about us scraping along the side of parked cars on the left, he said this:

It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Our crew, with Frank behind the wheel, left Kendal at 5 am to catch a plane in Manchester. That’s a little over one hour of high speed driving through torrential rain on a slippery highway with low visibility, navigated through disorienting traffic circles and a condescending GPS, making it at times one of the hairiest drives of my life. Each of us personally had to reach a peaceful acceptance of the possibility of a gruesome death out of a desire to catch our plane on time. I am retrospectively grateful for this moment, which was essential to our bonding and had a satisfying narrative conclusiveness to it. As Frank eloquently put it, it felt like we were leaving the scene of a bank heist.

At airport security we were obligated to go through a bizarre cultural interrogation. They asked Aidan what her favorite TV shows were, and what my high school principal’s name was.

We made it back in one piece from England #comicsworkbook #beautiesandthebeast

A photo posted by @santoro.frank on

Aidan was dropped off in Brooklyn, and me and Frank eventually parted ways at a turnstile in a subway station in Manhattan. Through the gate, I watched him return back up to ground level, passing 5 cops performing “random” bag checks. As he passed them, he let loose a loud Transylvania laugh which lasted and echoed until he was on the street and out of sight. I saw that this made the police laugh nervously, glancing at each-other.

A video posted by @santoro.frank on

Shout out to people I met, conversationalists, and new friends. Aidan, Naomi, Niall, Oliver, Jack, Craig, Ollie, Joe, Joe, Chris, Tony Baba Ganoush, the Finnish crew, and those who’s names I forgot or forgot to mention. You can all crash on my couch.

And additional, privileged, special thanks to Frank Santoro, Julie Tait, Carole Tait, Aileen McEvoy, other festival organizers, and all the volunteers for their generosity.



(Check out more LICAF coverage HERE! and Check out a 20 minute video of Connor’s workshop HERE!)

(**Editor’s note: RE thee late great Darwyn Cooke – See Seth’s touching eulogy of sorts from The Doug Wright Awards from this year HERE where he describes the scene at the hotel bar at last year’s LICAF.)



Connor Willumsen makes comics in Montreal, Canada. His newest works are Portraits and SwinespritzenFind more of his work HERE.

Aidan Koch’s LICAF 2016 Report

LICAF opening night #licaf

A video posted by @santoro.frank on

Editor’s note: Aidan Koch participated in a lecture to an “academic conference” on Friday at The Box Theatre at Kendal College (see Frank’s report here) and in the “Comics Workbook Composition Competition LIVE” on Saturday in addition to her on workshop on “the poetics of comics” later that day. Sunday, she signed some books at the Clock Tower and talked shop with the rest of the CW gang at our table there.


Aidan Koch and Conner Willumsen presenting at the academic conference at Kendal College

Aidan Koch’s LICAF 2016 Report

Apart from having read Frank’s report on The Lakes International Comic Art Festival from last year, I really didn’t know what to expect from this relatively small festival in northern England. My Fall had already consisted of opening a solo show in New York, tabling the NYABF, and spending 10 days down in Colombia for the wonderful Entrevinetas. I only looked at the map to even see where Kendal, England was located the night before I left and was pleased to find it nowhere close to the area of England I’d been before. There’s very little I enjoy more than personally investigating new landscapes.

Coming from New York, I was immediately relieved and relaxed by the town. Its nestled amid rolling green hills speckled in little white sheep, loosely piled rock walls, and thin deciduous forests. The air was fresh and misty everyday with a slight ‘farmy’ smell, which may also translate to ‘sheep poop,’ but in the most pleasant way. Within our first hours I visited the town castle, a short walk from the Castle Green Hotel, and had a .35p >_< energy drink in order make it to the inaugural dinner. I felt fabulous.


Our first event of the festival combined the latest work of the wonderful Finnish artist Hanneriina Moisseinen and interpretive dance presented by the students of Kendal College. While I greatly neglect dance in my artistic life, I enjoy it and found this piece very impressive. It definitely seemed like a promising sign that they took it upon themselves to encourage such cross-discipline examination within a ‘comics’ festival. As I discovered over the weekend, the scope of the festival, both in the creators present, and the outreach within the town was incredibly inclusive and broad. One of my favorite elements was simply the window displays in the town which were all comics-themed including Moomin interpretations, Deadpool cut outs, and a re-imagining/mash-up of Beatrix Potter narratives.



Kendal College workshop LICAF UK 2016 #comicsworkbook #licaf

A photo posted by @santoro.frank on

I suppose with an all star team like Connor Willumsen, Oliver East, Jack Brougham and Naomi Nowak, organized by Frank Santoro, it would be difficult to not have a nice time, but really, I had a very nice time. My obligations were rather minimal, the most directed being a workshop I led on ‘poetic’ comics which included some serious life drawing, collaboration, and imagination, all of which turned out beautifully. Most who attended were not exactly familiar with my work, so it was a treat to introduce them and engage so intimately on something creative. The rest of my time was generally spent socializing with fellow creators, organizers, and attendees, eating cookies, drinking plenty of tea, sheep gazing, and attempting to get a normal night’s sleep. All in all A+



Aidan Koch lives in New York City. Her most recent book is After Nothing Comes (Koyama Press, May 2016). Find more of her work HERE.

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 report


Frank Santoro here – reporting from Kendal, England. If you are only hearing about “The Lakes Festival” or “LICAF”, please read last year’s report. This is my second year of going to “The Lakes” and I hope to make it back every year. Why? Frankly, it’s because this show has Mr. Chris “TCAF” Butcher’s stamp of approval, and anything Mr. Butcher touches is gold, so I’m sold. Meaning LICAF and TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival) have some cross-cultural curation going on with the great Julie Tait, who steers the fleet of LICAF activities and who was at TCAF’s 2016 show, helping with the expansion of that festival’s venues. So, I see the big picture. A comics festival that appeals to just about everyone – not just the “mainstream” or the “alternative” crowd. LICAF, like TCAF, has something for everyone.

Indeed, this year’s LICAF hosted Gilbert Shelton and Bryan Lee O’Malley and Tillie Walden and Jordi Bernet (amongst many other greats, see the full list here). That’s about four major demographics in my comics world. Plus, ahem, Aidan Koch, Connor Willumsen and l’il ole me representing some other, uh, demographic.

Kendal is a small town on the northwest coast of England, above Manchester. The whole surrounding area is absolutely beautiful and up the road is where Beatrix Potter called home. What I like about it is how pleasantly unique this show is because of the way the show is embedded in the town.

The festival takes place, primarily, at a few different venues spread within walking distance to each other. It is a Saturday/Sunday type of show, however, one can feel it expanding. The Comics Workbook crew arrived a day early  to present at an academic conference at The Kendal Museum and The Box Theatre on Friday. Then over the weekend we hosted workshops at The Brewery Arts Centre and sold our wares at The Clock Tower. And then had a closing party at Ruskin’s Bar.

The Comics Workbook crew at LICAF: Aidan Koch, Connor Willumsen, Oliver East, Jack Brougham and myself – with a special appearances by Naomi Nowak.

A number of students from Kendal College and the University of Cumbria participated in Comics Workbook workshops after the presentation to “the academics” at The Box Theatre. The great comics scholar and author Paul Gravett was in the audience, so you can be sure, loyal reader, that the Comics Workbook team “slayed them”, as the saying goes.

Here is a link to my “notes” for our presentation on Friday. I like to have a long rambling blog post of inspirational videos and rough notes to refer to during a presentation. I find that it allows the audience to revisit the material later or even during the talk.

My basic argument that afternoon is, as Geoff Dyer says of D.H. Lawrence, an inversion of the “traditional hierarchy of genre” has occurred – in comics – and more importantly for those associated with Comics Workbook. Aidan Koch spoke of how she rejects the idea of “the great American Graphic Novel” or even telling stories. She spoke eloquently of how she is concerned mostly with “the poetics of comics”. Connor Willumsen talked about genre being merely a raincoat and umbrella under which to make comics. He even lovingly compared it to a sport where performing under pressure to “do it right the first time” was valued. I riffed on my modular notecard method. A lively and valuable discussion followed within the question and answer period. It was, for me, one of the best received presentations I’ve been a part of and I would like to thank Aileen McEvoy for helping myself and my team feel so welcomed.


Oliver East and Jack Brougham – the UK CW representatives – worked the table at the Clock Tower. Generally, there are tables selling comics like a traditional comics show at the Clock Tower. And “programming” is at The Brewery Arts Centre, however, there is programming and signings at The Clock Tower. For example, the great Jordi Bernet was signing in the same room as our table on Sunday. Actually, the signing area was behind us on an elevated stage which helped ease the flow of traffic at busy times. Also, hats off to Ollie and Jack who stuck to CW’s number one rule at shows, which is, of course: “sitting is not selling”!

One of the current riffs about comics festivals is that many different shows exist within the show. Meaning, you can go to SPX and not even see everything or miss your friends completely – whereas in years past you could lap the room each hour and see everything and everyone there. LICAF is different insomuch as it is not situated centrally in a hotel or a convention center. So what happens is that one has their interactions in the town of Kendal itself. The Brewery Arts Centre provides ample space to host everyone and the short walk to the Clock Tower is where I found myself most often running into friendly faces – friends and strangers alike. It was very pleasant, I thought, especially because it was so unlike what we are used to in the States and specific to the town of Kendal.

During the fantastic opening night ceremony for, ahem, VIPs, I was lucky enough to meet the Mayor of Kendal, Mr. Stephen Coleman, and his wife, Sarah. Mrs. Coleman was kind enough to give me some driving directions up to see the beautiful countryside around Kendal. On Friday and Saturday after our obligations at the festival concluded, myself and the CW gang piled into our hired car and I drove us up as far as Ambleside and Windemere. Believe me when I tell you that everyone in the car was startled at how beautiful this part of the world really is – you gotta see it to believe it, folks. Book your tickets in advance for next year and head to LICAF and “The Lakes”, you won’t be disappointed.

Aidan Koch, Connor Willumsen and I have just returned Stateside as I type this on the plane now. I will try and fill out this report a little bit more as the jetlag wears off. (I gotta tell you about talking shop with Gilbert Shelton.) Until then, I’d like to thank Julie Tait, Carole Tait, Aileen McEvoy, and everyone who believed in the Comics Workbook programme and helped us make it to LICAF 2016.

For additional reading:

Connor Willumsen on Mint Cakes, sheep photography, his LICAF workshop experiences, and Frank’s “intuitive” driving.

Aidan Koch shares some of her LICAF experiences HERE.

My student Niall Breen’s thoughts on LICAF – he came from Ireland to hang out with us.

Jack Brougham sent his thoughts on tabling with Comics Workbook at the festival – HERE.

LICAF opening night #licaf

A video posted by @santoro.frank on

Ambleside UK

A video posted by @santoro.frank on

Connor Willumsen talking about working with colorists #comicsworkbook #licaf LICAF UK 2016

A video posted by @santoro.frank on

LICAF 2016 master workshop post


thee Comics Workbook crew from the USA

Aidan Koch, Frank Santoro, and Connor Willumsen at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016

presentation notes and videos

During this presentation I will be referring to this master blog post – please open it in a separate window: http://coldheatcomics.blogspot.com/2015/02/notes-for-comics-symposium.html


Watch these videos later –


watch the above and consider that “comic books” are the intersection of art and commerce

and watch at the end for the doodle by Michelangelo



1:02 inversion of the traditional hierachy of art – where the doodle, so to speak, is the height of the craft



1:04 on becoming a writer incrementally




watch the above and draw a loved one from memory –  in your sketchbook – or on a scrap of paper – but it has to be a drawing made with real effort – as if you had someone like a parent or respected elder or friend who knew the loved one and were judging if it looked like the person or not



Aidan’s work connects to what Dyer speaks of–the inversion of the traditional hierarchy. She isn’t so interested in the “graphic novel” as a proving ground for being a cartoonist in 2016 – the fragments expand the conversation of what is possible within the form and much like Lawrence’s most poetic and mysterious works, like his travel diaries, expand what the idea of a novel is or can be.


Connor’s work connects to Berger’s idea of fighting disappearance

Connor’s drawings of loved ones are done “in real life” and through video phone calls and his sequential narratives are often presented “unbound” and exist as numbered drawings and not necessarily as a book at all



Berger on Storytelling as a space time that exists like music




I read a Guy Davenport essay about a Eudora Welty novel which used a very clear symbolism of the Persephone myth and I adapted that symbolism into a “melody” with a 4/4 time signature – I was also thinking about the 8 of an octave–or at least humbly attempting to draw a myth in 8 panels without the normal sequencing–I want a more “all at once” reading. The panels are numbered and it can be read “across the spread” or in a traditional zig-zag or even out of order and I believe the “song” is still heard; the melody is clear and the symbolism there to peel away like an onion. In the Welty novel the symbolism is spread through the characters and the period drama of a southern American wedding in the early 20th century. A sprawling literary use of the symbolism. I wanted to see if I could distill it down to the most core “notes” or “sounds” by using words and pictures (color and line) in the most simple and (i hope) clear way possible to present the symbolism with drawing.


Watch the above “Berger 4” video and then watch the video of Aidan’s “original” drawings made for her books (below)


I feel that Aidan’s work, like Connor’s, and my own, is rooted in the belief that drawing is a language. Letters and words are symbols after all. Lines. Shapes. Words written are but lines drawn, aren’t they? Even the printed word or the word on a computer screen is an image. Comic books are simply words and images together. Comic books and graphic novels and even comic strips have been overly concerned with character serial narrative “soap operas” than they have been with the poetry and mystery of visual literacy.







Click on the below and then click back.


Layout Workbook 3

Back? Great.

Then, of course, there is the idea and the reality of genre narratives, like a vampire story or a science-fiction story. These comic books are very different than the “poetic comics” we are discussing here today. HOWEVER, I think that as Berger says “Metaphor is our guide” and so the super-hero escapism of many mainstream comics reflects our 2016 world me thinks (like a Black guy who wants to be bulletproof). In cartooning circles, how one draws is like how one speaks or writes. Connor’s “digressive” drawn line offers a type of “familiar” language that comics are often phrased. The digressiveness is disciplined in service of the genre. Genre and style are just raincoats, umbrellas under which to play within convention and to stretch the idea of what is familiar–the time in the narrative is experienced through the space depicted on the page with such stylized lines—a language unto itself within complex, many drawer-d toolbox that is the craft of comics. (said with a straight face – comic book drawing and this type of pen and ink drawing is often impenetrable by non-initiates)



Dyer talks about metaphor and the fictive below (:48) and I think his ideas connect to how cartoonists can use style like a jazz musician and metaphor and invented scenes to serve the wild heights of style – even Aidan can engage in the style game, the dynamism of comics and the space, the glimpse, between the “genre” of western art’s depiction of the figure and how the figure is depicted in *most mainstream comic books









Clowes Auction

Here 8-10-16 to 8-17-16

HERE is auction on ebay




















































any questions pls email santoroschoolATgmail

What do we call the house?

When we were making the crowdfund video we had yet to figure out a name for the house before settling on Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency. I like long titles as opposed to the constant shortening of names / titles.

Video by Michael Pisano | michaelpisano.com


test 12/14/15

Comics Club

This article originally appeared on The Comics Journal 7/03/2014

One of the things I’ve heard younger makers talking about is how they can’t get in to certain shows. SPX. CAB. TCAF. Then they talk about how they “did” a certain show because they could get in. Or they talk about shows they are going to “do” (some of which I haven’t even heard of) because that’s a show they could probably get in to if they apply early enough. However, many of these shows are in smaller, out of the way markets and often the expense involved – travel, hotel, table fee, etc. – to set up there is not proportionate to the social benefits and sales that come from attending; perhaps that money could be better spent fostering and/or bolstering your local scene.  Just saying.

Start a comics club. That’s basically how the comics scene in Pittsburgh started. Back in the 1970s there were a bunch of comics fans who started hanging out every week to talk about and trade comics. They made a monthly fanzine. And then once a year they had a convention. Sound familiar? It’s fandom. Basically the same thing happened all over the country and the comic book direct market was born out of that and then comic-book stores flourished. You know the story probably. There are good parts of the story and bad parts. Let’s focus on the good parts.

Comic-book stores and conventions provided a space for like-minded folks to get together and talk shop. That is still the case. However for younger makers, especially makers of “alternative” comics they really don’t feel welcome at most comic-book stores or that many traditional comic-book conventions. Something like HeroesCon (arguably the most alt-comics-friendly mainstream show) is completely out of step to most younger alt-comics makers. It’s just not their crowd.

The shows that are in step with younger alt-comics makers are often out of reach or just not “doable.” West Coast people complain about how expensive it is to get to SPX. East Coast people complain that “no one buys anything” at APE. Shit, I remember wanting to go that Autoptic in Minneapolis and then I looked up flights and it was simply cost-prohibitive.

I don’t really want to open the can of worms that is the argument over curated shows. So let me try and focus on some other alternatives to “doing shows.”

Just go. Go to the shows you don’t get in to. Hell, I got in to TCAF but they stuck me way in the back by the bathroom and the only people that went that far back into the room were looking for the toilet. So I just walked around with my books and hand-sold them. Something to consider. Next year I’ll probably just do that and skip applying for table. After they read this they probably won’t let me in anyways…;)

So what is the solution? What show do you “do” if you are an alt-comics maker?

I think everyone should think locally. Start a comic club. It doesn’t have to be a “drink and draw” at a bar. It could be just meeting at the library once a week or once a month. Start a fanzine or a Tumblr or something.

Just figure out a way to introduce the social element that is difficult to achieve in our scene. We don’t have openings like art galleries. We have signings. And usually at a store that doesn’t have any chairs. Galleries don’t have chairs either but you catch my drift. Signings are a mixed bag. I know that I always feel obligated to buy the book if I go to a signing. I don’t feel obligated to buy something on view at a gallery if I go to an opening. And shows – at least alt-comics shows – are competitive. Competitive to get into and competitive on the floor. There’s only so much money around.

I was lucky to literally grow up at a comics shop that had chairs. And couches. Bill Boichel’s store was the only store in the neighborhood that didn’t have a sign that read, “Kids must be accompanied by an adult.” We got to hangout and shoot the shit. With the older kids. And then we started a fanzine and then an anthology. Soon we had a scene. And I don’t mean scene in the negative way like it was a clique. I mean, the store fostered a community spirit—not a competitive one.

I’ve been doing these “academy classes” “comic-book sales” in my NYC summer studio. I tried doing this in a coffee shop in Pittsburgh and it worked too. I like the idea of a “floating academy” or a “floating comic con”. But really it’s just a comics club.  Just take over a coffee shop corner or a few tables at Whole Foods and tell people to come hang out. Forget spending tons of money on a table at a show a million miles away from your house. Think locally. Community form as commodity form. Take a while. Think about it. (I stole that last line from Bill Boichel).