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Making Comics

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The bestselling, idiosyncratic curriculum from a 2019 MacArthur Fellow will teach you how to draw and write your story

“The self-help book of the year.”― The New York Times

Hello students, meet Professor Skeletor. Be on time, don’t miss class, and turn off your phones. No time for introductions, we start drawing right away. The goal is more rock, less talk, and we communicate only through images.

For more than five years the cartoonist Lynda Barry has been an associate professor in the University of Wisconsin–Madison art department and at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, teaching students from all majors, both graduate and undergraduate, how to make comics, how to be creative, how to not think. There is no academic lecture in this classroom. Doodling is enthusiastically encouraged.

Making Comics is the follow-up to Barry's bestselling Syllabus , and this time she shares all her comics-making exercises. In a new hand-drawn syllabus detailing her creative curriculum, Barry has students drawing themselves as monsters and superheroes, convincing students who think they can’t draw that they can, and, most important, encouraging them to understand that a daily journal can be anything so long as it is hand drawn.

Barry teaches all students and believes everyone and anyone can be creative. At the core of Making Comics is her certainty that creativity is vital to processing the world around us.

200 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2019

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About the author

Lynda Barry

53 books1,010 followers
Lynda Barry is an American cartoonist and author, perhaps best known for her weekly comic strip Ernie Pook's Comeek.

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5 stars
564 (60%)
4 stars
257 (27%)
3 stars
84 (9%)
2 stars
18 (1%)
1 star
7 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 161 reviews
Profile Image for Charles Hatfield.
99 reviews39 followers
October 18, 2019
A trove of ideas and exercises, invaluable to teachers and students alike, and drawn and designed with Barry's expected handmade immediacy. Delightful to page through and learn from. More than simply a wonderful practical resource, this should be recognized as another installment in Barry's ongoing theorizing about the nature of storytelling and narrative drawing. She is on to something important.
Profile Image for Sara .
1,128 reviews111 followers
March 22, 2020
Well...I finished reading this, but that's not really the point. This is Lynda Barry's actual course curriculum for making comics. Did I do any of the exercises? I did not. Will report back if/when I get laid off for coronavirus reasons.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,825 reviews283 followers
February 1, 2023
Lynda Barry's Syllabus shows Barry's first steps at a curriculum for comic-making; her work of five-years as a professor at a university comes to fruition here in Making Comics.

She encourages all the necessary tasks: loosening up students; allowing students to set aside judgment about good and bad art; drawing a lot; drawing badly; breaking down a story into panels; using simple forms.

I think this is the book for those who might want to create comics.
Profile Image for Linda Robinson.
Author 4 books134 followers
January 23, 2020
Superb book. Open it anywhere, and you will find an exercise to get your creative mojo bossa novaing. Drawing with your eyes closed, with both hands simultaneously. Story prompts that will launch a new adventure you didn't know you were going to have. Your drawings can meet you. The whole book is a comics practice, with supplies recommended (I need to get a Staedtler nonphoto blue pencil). In fact, the book is drawn as a composition book. Meta engaging.

The book is also a creative practice. Whether you want to make comics, write fiction or nonfiction, paint with watercolor, mud or celestial dust, there is something in this magic book that will start you on the journey.

I already recommended it to one person who asked what book I thought an arty youngster might enjoy, and to a friend who thought her grown comics son might like it, too. Whatever level of skill, age, or dimension - this book is a carnival of ideas.
Profile Image for Brian.
192 reviews13 followers
November 26, 2019
Fabulous. Good chance I bump this up to 5 stars after I do the exercises.

One tiny gripe: she lists some needed supplies at the beginning but not all of them. For example, she doesn’t tell you to procure a non-photo-blue pencil until the exercise it’s needed in. Perhaps I’ll update this review with a comprehensive supplies list once I’ve made it.
Profile Image for TaraShea Nesbit.
Author 3 books265 followers
December 4, 2019
I love this book. You might think it is about making comics, but it is also about attending to yourself and the world, about making a life and holding on to that 4 y/o self's imagination, warbly line, expression.
Profile Image for Elizabeth A.
1,823 reviews107 followers
January 27, 2020
A treasure trove of inspiration, ideas, and creative play. I tend to love her books, so was not surprised that this one delighted me. This is the curriculum for a class she teaches, but don't be fooled by the title. It's is not just for people interested in making comics, but for anyone interested in paying deeper attention to one's daily life. I am so inspired, and might actually bump this up a star once I go back through and actually do the exercises.
Profile Image for Rosamund Taylor.
Author 1 book122 followers
May 9, 2021
Lynda Barry makes you feel as though you can draw anything. Her pages ideas are imaginative and freeing, and she makes me escape the mindset that I have to create a "good" drawing, and instead lets me work freely in the moment. Her ethos -- to encourage everyone to draw -- is so encouraging, and I really like her openness to all kinds of drawing: by kids, adults' doodles and scribbles, brief sketches and careful designs. However, I found I stalled when I got to the central section of the book, where the exercises veer more towards writing comics in the form of memoir. I found the exercises less inspiring and more relentless. Barry has a tendency to push you: to use bad tools such as cheap oil crayons so that you will have to labour for hours over a single drawing; to spend huge chunks of time using a cheap pen to create shadow when you could just use a thicker pen; to work every day no matter what. Her approach began to feel constraining and lacking in flexibility.

Another aspect of this book that frustrated me is that there are many exercises that require you to work with a class full of people, but obviously I'm not IN a class, and I don't understand why she didn't adapt them when she's not teaching a group.I was also a bit put-off by the absences policy she lists at the beginning of the book: that if you miss three of her classes, you're out. I would never have made it through her class if I was a student with her, and that makes me feel bad.

All that being said, this is a positive, imaginative book. It's fun to look at, very open, and full of great ideas. It made me excited about drawing, and was a good companion during lockdown. I may return to it.
Profile Image for Jim Reddy.
182 reviews4 followers
January 18, 2022
This is a collection of Lynda Barry’s cartooning and comic book homework assignments with illustrated examples from her and her students. A list of recommended materials is provided in the beginning.

The assignments do a good job of helping the reader escape the mindset that a drawing has to be perfect and encourages anyone to draw no matter the skill level. A great resource for anyone interested in storytelling, narrative drawing, and channeling their creativity.

I like how the book is designed in the style of a composition notebook. It’s a subtle touch but it helped make reading this book and doing the assignments a fun learning experience.
Profile Image for Monica.
Author 9 books22 followers
December 24, 2019
This is such an interesting, inspiring, insightful book. I appreciate both the specific drawing and writing exercises in it as well as Barry’s own musings on and explanations of the relationships between drawing, creativity, images, and the mind. There’s great stuff here.
Profile Image for Story.
860 reviews4 followers
June 27, 2020
With each book, Barry further refines her thinking and teaching. I loved reading this and will continue to practice the exercises--not only the art exercises, but also the way of thinking and noticing and being.
Profile Image for Jessica Park Rhode.
341 reviews3 followers
December 21, 2021
Why is Lynda Barry so good?
Why can’t I just do this (drawing, writing, making) with other people all the times?
Profile Image for Margaret.
1,161 reviews60 followers
October 20, 2019
Excellent excellent excellent. I enjoyed this so much. It's a teaching memoir; a philosophy of comics, teaching, and art; an exercise book; a classroom textbook. Barry does so many things in just 200 pages, and I found myself inspired on multiple levels. I'm looking forward to sharing this one with friends. While I am one of those people who have "given up on art," I think I'll try my hand at these exercises! At this point in my life, I give no sh*ts if something is "good" or "bad." So it should be fun.
Profile Image for Nick Carraway LLC.
333 reviews10 followers
March 10, 2022
1) "how old do you have to be to make a bad drawing?"

2) "Structure and plot have a spontaneous core that is too easily forgotten when we believe we must know what we are drawing before we can begin. If you open the way for them, monsters will surprise you and this is a reason to draw them. One of the hardest things to remember is to keep certain doors open to unknowns. When you are lost, there draw monsters."

3) "If I asked you which character was drunk, who would you choose? Who just got fired? Who is feeling bloated? Who is experiencing painful urination? How can such specific mood-states show up in faces made by eight different hands? No one intended to make any of these people, yet here they are with specific dispositions. Who creates a comic? The person who draws it or the person who sees it?"

4) "Changing methods every week will make this daily practice a companion. In the way certain friends make you see the world in a different way, and the way certain companions make the world more alive, the daily diary will wake you up."

5) "It can be helpful to build a story in fragments that tend to knit their own connections.
When you read your story over you may be surprised by things that seem to link up with no conscious intention on your part.
This is an alternative to the method of outlining a story, planning our characters' actions, and knowing the ending before we begin.
It doesn't matter how great the plot is, if the only thing moving it forward is logic and duty to the outline, deadness sets in.
Stay alive!"

6) "Everything good in my life came because I drew a picture. I hope you will draw a picture soon. I will always want to see it.
Profile Image for Tammy V.
297 reviews20 followers
April 26, 2022
I wish I had this woman for a teacher when I was younger. If you can't draw a comic book after this, then you haven't done the exercises (no, I didn't either but I am in love with here black and white composition book "how-tos").

This is something an adult could do with a child, or a group of children. It is set up for the classroom (much like her "Syllabus" book which I remembered I had once I got "Making Comics" from the library). This is something a child who can read could do by themselves - give it to your favorite graphics lover. My experience is that the young folks who love graphics (manga) have an excellent grasp of the way to put a story together. My grandson amazes me with his astuteness on character-drive vs event-driven stories and story arcs.

Everyone needs a inspiration book in their library to pick up and open to a page and "go." This will fill that bill.
Profile Image for Tena Edlin.
788 reviews
January 1, 2020
I finally finished the latest Lynda Barry book, and it is full of great activities and lessons for me to use in my Cartoons, Comics, and Graphic Novels unit. She has such a great way of making everyone feel like an artist and helping everyone channel that creative, fearless child in all of us. This book made me think of how I can reintroduce journaling back into my GOAL classes, but in a different way.
Profile Image for Peacegal.
9,942 reviews90 followers
July 14, 2020
Kids love to draw, and are exuberant about depicting their world and imagination in pencil and crayons. Most adults give up drawing, thinking they're "no good at it."

Lynda Barry has created a book for these drawing-averse adults, hoping to help them recapture the joy of the hobby. For that audience, I give this one 5 stars. For myself, I have never given up drawing, so I don't really need that constant goading, BUT there are some great ideas for drawing and story prompts here!
Profile Image for Beth.
263 reviews
June 8, 2022
I've been reading anything Lynda Barry creates for years, so in all honesty, this could have been a refrigerator repair manual and I probably would be here telling you how great it is. While this isn't one of her Marlys comics I can lose myself in, nor does it have the emotional punch of _The Good Times are Killing Me_, this is a satisfying 'how to' book. How to what, you ask? Well...a lot of things. Primarily, this is about writing and drawing comics, but there is good advice here for drawing in general, writing in general, and teaching writing or drawing or comic making. You can be her student by following the assignments. You can pretend to be her by doling out these assignments to other people. The art--both hers and re-tooling of student examples--is fun and fantastical. The writing and writing prompts are genuine and clever.

This book will appeal to those who are fans of Barry's work, to those who are interested in "faux naive" drawing, writers of fiction and memoir, and creatives of all types.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,634 reviews329 followers
Want to read
April 29, 2020
WSJ list of diverting books:
"This combination of memoir and cartoon-drawing workbook is perfect just to read, but even more fun if you’ve ever desired to learn to draw. Who better to guide you than Lynda Barry, the legendary cartoonist always attuned to finding beauty in even the ugliest of sketches?"
Profile Image for Cory Busse.
Author 2 books
August 21, 2020
This is a terrific book. For anyone who's ever wanted to write. To draw. It's a stylized and densely populated primer on both. It's as much a joy to look at as it is to read, and even if you never do a single one of the dozens (hundreds?) of exercises in it, you'll appreciate how much love went into crafting them, and how much fun you might have if you decided to try. This is a keeper to go back to again and again for inspiration, to get creatively unstuck or just to mix up the doodles that you're making while you're ignoring all those Zoom calls.
Profile Image for Thijs Koole.
27 reviews1 follower
January 19, 2022
An amazing and philosophical look at the absolute basic idea of "drawing" as an illustrator there were moments in this book that deeply moved me. Overall it’s a book with exercises that will help distill ideas and drawings into stories with in-between tidbits of knowledge. But it was those tidbits that really took me for a ride.
742 reviews8 followers
March 31, 2020
Tremendous inspiration for anyone interested in doodling with comics. Lynda Barry provides a range of fun, engaging creative exercises. More than that, though, she shares her passion for the medium itself, evoking the magic that can be made with little scribbles.
Profile Image for Maia Foster-O'Neal.
184 reviews5 followers
July 5, 2021
The beginning of this book is fire, just so great. As someone who works with children, I can corroborate all of the points Lynda Barry makes about the psychology of art and story as it functions for children. The rest of the book was intriguing, but mostly it just made me wish I could take an actual in-person comics class with Lynda Barry and a bunch of other students.... a lot of the exercises and assignments are ones that really require a legit group of people for the full experience.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,124 reviews
December 27, 2021
Super awesome as I expect Barry's books to be. So much of the exercises here can be adapted to straight-up creative writing, too. I'd saved this to do the lessons as I went along, but it turns out that just meant the book was collecting dust on my bookshelf. Maybe one day when I wake up from this interminable ennui, I'll get to it! That said, it's a great read (and visual feast, obvs) for the philosophy.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 161 reviews

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