Journal Entry #01 – Planting the Seeds
I thought it may be interesting to share some moments I have had while teaching since in many cases we learn a great deal more in teaching than we do just studying.
This is an exercise that we did in one of my classes. The assignment was to do a comp using particular characters [In this example, the characters have been changed to protect the innocent]. The story was to be determined by each artist, so it was pretty open to whatever you wanted it to be. The following is an example recreated from one of the artists' submissions.
“So, tell me your story”, I began after giving the comp a visual scan because I actually wasn’t sure what this story was about. The characters are sleeping on the floor-not sure why since it is evident they have furniture (i.e. the table).
The story surprised me. The artist began her long tale for such a small moment depicted, “They were going out for a picnic to enjoy the outdoors but then it began to rain, so they decided to have their picnic inside. After eating, they became sleepy so they are taking a nap.”
Okay, kind of a lot of story to pack into one image, but let’s give it a try. As I began to review the image and prepared my overlay, she became concerned. She reminded me that the story itself was “open” and she was free to come up with whatever she wanted so…why the overlay?
Well, I proceeded to explain that it wasn’t about a judgment in her story, but her visual storytelling skills. The problem was that no one would know the story by looking at her comp except her. I tried to let her know that when you compose a story that you are eager to share, it is a pity if no one else understands it. Or, at least, they are not getting the ENTIRE story. Really, if you think about it, it is a missed opportunity to not communicate the full extent of your storytelling capabilities that are swimming around in your head. When you are the creator, you often are too close to your story to realize that details are not so obvious to others as they are to you.
What it comes down to is dropping clues for the viewer within the comp, so they can share in the story experience. I tried not to change the comp too much, keeping the camera-angle, etc. very much the same and only concentrated on giving clues to her story. The result is as follows:
I’m not certain whether she was satisfied with my assessment but I hope she walked away with a better understanding of giving visual cues to aid in storytelling.
I actually realized in that session how important it was to consider all of this as well. Usually one image doesn’t have such a responsibility of shouldering a myriad of story moments. This isn’t animation. But occasionally, it does happen that you are challenged by an overzealous art note that mimics this kind of expectation. I’ve had art notes that read similar to this: Show the character entering and twirling across the room, then tripping on a vase and falling while her prince runs to catch her. Oh my. That’s a whole scene. Do they know I only have one image to show all of this?
Sometimes you can show most of what they want. Other times you need to sacrifice something. It is then important to understand the priority of the scene to know what to concentrate on. Sometimes you need to ask. In any case, it is good to know your visual cue skills can help you when this kind of challenge presents itself.