More about my upcoming UCSD Extension Class!

Since I’ve been receiving numerous emails with questions about my upcoming online class at UCSD Extension (January 7-March 9, 2013), I thought it would be good to combine them here.

Q:  Can you give a little more info on how the class is structured?

Our goal will be to zero in on the book dummy itself, in terms of telling a story with utmost clarity.

We will explore the most effective ways of communicating story through images.

I must stress that this will not be a drawing class per se — in the sense that there will be no time to apply any drawing details, nor tight rendering.

In my experience, students (and many pros) have a tendency to focus lovingly on completing details and minutiae prematurely (before fully plotting the entire story), creating exquisite but static compositions at the expense of the whole. The story itself becomes incomplete.

By keeping our drawings simple, we will avoid becoming a stuck car tire, spinning mud.

From “Dies Kind Und Der Katze” by Bachér & Berner

Nailing key points like character creation; pacing, creating drama; graphic shapes and their importance; rhythm; making judicious use of white space. These are just some of the issues we will address.

Early study for Lydia, the protagonist in Matthew Cordell’s “hello! hello!”

We will be identifying art media (so many possibilities) used in today’s picture books, both traditional and digital. See a style you like? Ask about it!

And there will be plenty of sketching!

From “Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug” by Newgarden & Cash

The book dummy is the most important stage in the creation of picture books. Analogous to drawing architectural floor plans before building the house itself, this is the stage where all creative decisions on the picture book are made.

With your completed floor plan (the book dummy), you can move on to experimenting with the art media of your choice upon completion of this class.

This is why all drawings for our class must be done simply. We will complete three book dummies in nine weeks. In other words, stick figures are totally smart & OK!

All students are required to have an active library card. Everyone must borrow, read and share picture book selections, based upon a given theme for that week. Nowadays, any library book can be reserved online for later pick-up.

“Dancing figure” (above) © Christophe Niemann
“Librarian” (below) © Debbie Tilley

In addition, everyone will be required to have a  photo-sharing account, like Flickr , Picasa, or Photobucket to store images. This is where rough sketches would be uploaded. Students link images to display direct onto the class blog or discussion boards. This is to insure we do not over-tax UCSD Extension’s servers, as images take up far more memory than text.

All class participants will have access to:

(1) A Discussion Board, where everyone shares thoughts about the weekly theme, as well as technical tips (Example. Best ways to create low-resolution scans and PDFs; recommended links).

(2) A Group Blog, provided for this class only via UCSD’s Blackboard software. Students will be divided into critique groups. Each group will have its own Group Blog, to ensure ongoing feedback and support on works-in-progress.

(3) Class availability, 24/7. You can work on assignments anytime. Just remember that new lessons will be posted every  Monday morning!

Q:  Can you give a little more info on how the class is structured?

Every Monday, there will be a new Announcement summarizing the lesson plan plus assignments for the week. Assignments must be completed and uploaded every Sunday @ 11:59 pm. Each new class week begins on a Monday.

Q:  Will we get to share our work with other students?

Definitely! In fact, this is a must, and a major feature of this class! There will be critiques, discussions, and opportunities for feedback  throughout the course. Rules and guidelines for procedure and protocol will be distributed.

Q: Will you be giving feedback?

Yes!  I will be reading everyone’s comments —- with an eye towards encouraging everyone’s mutual support. And I will jump in as appropriate.

I will also list specific times when I will be online live to address immediate concerns.

Most importantly, students must have high speed internet to participate. To test your equipment, go here. To preview and sample our class’s online tools free, go here.

Questions? Post them below (‘Leave a reply’)! I look forward to meeting you, and building our Creative Online Community. Feel the buzz? Register here.

Think you can’t express anything with stick figures? You’d be wrong! Click here and enjoy!



Course title:  Illustrating Books for Children (ART 40011)
Dates: January 7th – March 9th, 2013 (nine weeks)
Fees: $275  (early bird special: $250 if enrolled by 10 Dec 2012)
To register: 858-964-1051;


11 responses to “More about my upcoming UCSD Extension Class!

  1. Pingback: From UCSD Extension: An Interview with Joy Chu * | got story countdown

  2. Pingback: On Inspirations and My Upcoming Class… | got story countdown

  3. thank you Joy! I’m really looking forward to your class 🙂

  4. Hi Aijung!
    While I’ll definitely address layout, design, and typography (all my personal favorites!) , we won’t be actively applying them to the 3 three dummies we’ll complete for this workshop.

    The plan is to hone in on the content of the illustrations themselves, in terms of (1) how best to convey action; (2) how action demonstrates a character’s personality; (3) making sure the action drawn is understandable to someone else reading it.

    In other words, in order to maximize communication in our drawings, all three book dummies will be wordless.

    Everyone will work with a bare-bones premise that has a beginning, middle and ending,. No text allowed except for sound effects (“Pow!” or “Slam!”) or exclamations (“Hi!” or “Wheeee!” or “Ouch!”, stuff like that). You will be able to “riff” on the premise itself — possibilities are endless in this regard.

    I find that beginners to sequential story-telling often rely on text to explain what they cannot (or won’t) draw. And subsequently, these folks won’t learn as much about the power of images in expressing ideas.

    This 9-week session will hopefully give new perspectives to any stories you may be working on. We’ll be covering a lot! The exercises are designed to help in your preliminary prep of other people’s stories, as well as your own.

    By the way, UCSD Extension offers another 9-week class on writing picture book text as an entirely separate 9-week class. It’s called Writing Children’s Picture Books (WCWP-40261). There’s so many important elements to address when you write the story too! No drawing involved in that class. This is why I’ve had aspiring writers as well as writer/illustrators subsequently taking my class too. They want to know what kind of text best inspires an illustrator. The writer students I’ve encountered often work much harder than the artist students — and they blossom by producing new ideas for stories through the exercises.

    I do not recommend taking both the writing class and my illustrating class simultaneously. It will make you nuts. If you’ve ever taken Illustrator plus Photoshop classes (knowing zilch about either) during the same semester, you’ll know what I mean.

  5. wow, this sounds amazing! are we going to be working on the writing of the dummies as well, or just the artwork? i have some of my own ideas for stories, as well as a longer manuscript written by someone else that i want to make into a children’s book. i don’t know if you’re planning to cover it, but i’d be interested in learning a bit about text placement and typography as well.

    i am excited. the idea of creating 3 book dummies in less than 3 months is AWESOME! especially because for me all the preliminary work is the hardest part. i love going to finish the final artwork – that’s where the fun comes in for me.

    okay, i’m in! your blog is already so helpful, i can’t wait for your class!

  6. It would be wonderful sharing time & space with you, Anna! Your work keeps evolving while blazing new trails.

  7. Sometimes I wish I was starting all over again! It would be wonderful to study with you! 🙂


  8. Thanks, Joy, I will post this on my page as well.


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