Frank Santoro’s 2016 LICAF Workshop – Notes for Attendees

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:


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









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