Residency: Comics and Story Making

In February and March 2023, I visited the Kindergarten through 5th grades at the Chinese Immersion School in Eugene for a Comics-making residency! This residency was organized by Lane Arts Council as part of their ArtSpark in-school residency program. Lane Arts Council is an incredible organization with amazing people, check out their website for more information about their programs and events for arts in Lane County, Oregon!

Comics-making is a really special practice for me. When I get to visit a new school and work with students on these projects, I also get to practice and learn more about making comics.

In this residency, we focused on learning about what makes comics different from other ways of telling stories with images and words. We practiced linework for illustration including figure drawing and using line of action. We also made 4-panel comics on bristol board with liner pens. 

Since this was a school-wide residency, I created lesson plans for each grade, built around the Oregon State Standards for Visual Arts. Using the state standards helped me create themes for the residency and focus on goals for specific activities and discussions. Scroll down to the end of the post for links to the residency outline for each grade.

In kindergarten and first grade, we focused on shapes, color blocking, and drawing expressions. Students also had practice in using the artist pens, making plans and sharing materials.

Second and third grade students focused on the structure of comics.We talked about how if we see Calvin 4 separate times on the same page, it’s just one Calvin doing 4 different things. 

All of our classes got to look at images of comics and compare them to other artistic images that are not comics.

Grades 3 and up made their own sketchbooks, using the basic pamphlet stitch method. It’s still my favorite way to begin a class, with lots of choice and gaining a new skill. It’s also a really great opportunity for students with different skills to help each other and ask for help. 

In the older grades, we also practiced figure drawing using Image Theatre from Theatre of the Oppressed. First, students created a list of ideas, based on a prompt. In some cases the prompt was “Where’s somewhere you’d like to visit?” and follow up with “What’s something you’d like to do there?” Student responses generated a list of action-oriented words that we could then use in our Image Theatre game.

In Image Theatre, we act out actions or stories silently, repeating the same action sequence over and over again, like an animatronic in a theme park. We start out standing in a circle so the whole class can see each other, and all together act out the same action like “eating pastries in Paris.” As we act out our actions, we look around and see how each of us interprets the same action the same or differently. I also ask us to freeze in mid-movement so we can see what the action looks like from a still moment.

After a couple of whole-class rounds of Image Theatre, I split the class into two groups. One group will remain actors for the next part, and the other will be the artists, who will use their sketchbooks and drawing materials to draw the actions they see their classmates acting out. I ask them to focus on drawing quickly, and suggest they try to draw their classmates as stick figures, introducing the concept of line of action in this way. The actors act out a couple more action prompts, freezing partway through so the artists can draw them. Then, the groups switch and the actors become artists and the artists become actors. 

This small game is just a quick practice to introduce line of action and action-oriented poses, and I think in the future I’d like to incorporate it into a longer residency focused on observation drawing. 

From an anti-oppression education motivation, this Image Theatre/ Figure Drawing game is at the heart of this residency: it begins with student responses, which become the action prompts, and allows students to approach art with their whole bodies. Students are also grouped with each other, to avoid making one student feel specifically targeted or left out. 

We spent about the last day or day and a half working on final comics, which were 4-panel comics on bristol board. I gave students the option to make their comics about anything they wanted, and we had spent the week leading up to the final comic working on prompts based on observations from life, imagining scenarios and places we’d like to visit.

The older students in this residency got into a discussion about what kind of jokes or art are appropriate to make, what it means to make art that is “offensive” or what happens when art causes harm. This was a really important moment for me to learn from, and moving forward, I’ll include a discussion of being intentional about what subjects to include in art making and the consequences from making those choices. 

We ended the week at Chinese Immersion School with gallery displays in the classes of the artwork made, which is always a really fun moment. I love to see students look at each other’s artwork and make joyful reactions. Check out our art from the Story Makers and Comics at Chinese Immersion School in Eugene:

Special thanks again to Lane Arts Council for organizing this residency! Lane Arts Council serves all of Lane County in Oregon, with in-school programs, community arts and First Friday Art Walk. They’re a truly amazing group of folks that are essential to what makes this a thriving creative community. Check them out here and learn about getting involved and events and programs coming up!

Links & Downloads

Here are the quick outlines for each of the grades, with Oregon State Standards for Visual Arts included:

This is the slide show of artwork I showed students, using Visual Thinking Strategies to support student discussion and learning:

Comics and Story Makers Lesson Plan k-5 by Jen Hernandez Art LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.Creative Commons License Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Comics Drawing for Teens @ Lebanon Public Library

Comics drawing practice for Spring Break

In this class, we’ll create comic characters, make 4-panel comics, practice illustration techniques for character design, figure drawing, expression and story-telling. Students can come with ideas for a comic they want to create, characters they’ve been working on, or start fresh with character and story prompts provided in class! All materials provided, attend any one day or all 4 days.

Day 1: Creating Characters
Design characters with backstories, using character reference charts

Day 2: Quick Comics
Make a quick 4-panel comic based on step-by-step prompts

Day 3: Details and Expressions
Use line in illustration and angles in comics to create drama, tension and expression

Day 4: Using the Senses to Create Comics
How to make a visual comic that a reader can “hear” “smell” “taste” or “touch”

This class is perfect for students interested in comics, webcomics, graphic novels, character design and story writing.

Hosted at Lebanon Public Library, this class is 4 days. Each day can be attended individually.

March 27-30, 2023
More information at Lebanon Public Library Events

Multi-Dimensional Zine Workshop @ The Common Canary

Make Zines with me at The Common Canary!

Zines are dear to me for their versatility: they can be anything from revoluntionary treatises, costumed cat coloring books, to memoirs. And, they can bend the rules of reality and physics!

In this hands-on workshop, we’ll make some flexy-zines that fold and unfold in surprising ways. From there, we’ll work on narratives and how we can transform our perspectives and thinking through one-page comics and zines!

Hosted by me and my dear friend and fellow local artist and arts educator Christina Tran, this workshop is designed for adults, teens and families with kids ages 9 and up.

All materials and instruction provided!

Accessibility note: The event will be hosted in a workshop space located in the garage of a residential address. There will be access to a bathroom. COVID vaccines and masking are appreciated. Extra masks and hand sanitizer will be available! Please refrain from coming to the event if you are feeling sick, and we ask that you communicate with us afterward if you become symptomatic or discover you were in line of exposure.

Saturday, October 22, 2022
Register on eventbrite
Registration: FREE!
Recommended donation: $5

Comics & Sticker Making at Common Fields

This fall, we’re making comics at Common Fields!

Come join us on Sunday, November 6, 2022 at 1:00 pm
to share stories, drawings and create your own comic book to take home!

In this 2-hour workshop, families are invited to drop in, pick up a pencil, some markers and create! We’ll have live demonstrations and games to practice our skills in comics making, plus materials for sparkle stickers.

Food and bevergaes are available at the locallyowned food carts at Common Fields.

This family workshop is open to kids ages 5 and up with a parent or guardian. Registration is $15 per child; parents/ guardians free!
All materials provided and included.

Registration is now closed!

Lane Arts Design Mentorship

Each quarter, I work with Lane county students on small group design projects. Our projects are lead by students to develop, design, and create web-based interactive stories and artwork. Students gain marketing and creatice skills for portfolios and career exploration. This program is coordinated by Lane Arts Council in Eugene. Find out more by clicking below!

See sign up info at Lane Arts Council
See past student projects at

Past Design Groups

Check out our previous design groups and see what we created!

Design Mentees Meet a Professional Artist

Lane Arts Design Mentees in my Digital Storytelling group got to hangout with Corvallis-based illustration artist Janique Crenshaw this month for a Ask An Artist session! This group is the 4th generation of my Digital Storytelling class with Lane Arts Council Art and Design Mentorship program. In this class, students learn story writing, character design,…

A Daily-ish Habit of Comic Drawing

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Multiple times a year I get ambitious and want to take on an art challenge like MerMay or Inktober, or #The100DayProject. And just as often I struggle and fail to complete the challenege. With a bit of a shoulder shrug, I accept this about me: I tend to take on too much and can’t complete all the things I want to do. Hard pill to swallow, and also a chance to practice some self-love/ self-acceptance.

Buuuuttttttt, I do REALLY want to do these challenges. I see the value in them: establishing a practice, being consistent and developing skill. These are important to me and aligned with my value of being a constant learner and artist. I think, maybe I can have it all, but on terms that make sense for my life…

And so, I present my own version of #The100DayProject (which typically is working on a project daily for 100 days):

The Daily-ish Comic Habit, 2022!

I will create one comic panel + one short diary entry for each day for 100 days (although those days might not be consecutive).

This project is in pursuit of 3 goals:

  1. To establish a typical habit of drawing everyday-ish
    • SMART-ish Goal: more days drawing than not drawing, 4 out of every 7 days… ish
  2. To develop a consistent style of line and inkwork for comics and illustrations
    • SMART Goal: each drawing will be penciled and then inked using only felt tip pens and markers in black and gray, focusing the work on line rather than color
  3. To re-establish a journaling habit and focus on the experience of living and not just being busy…
    • SMART Goal: each entry will be about events of my day and reflections about that day and WILL NOT INCLUDE the words WORK or BUSY

My Daily-ish Comic Habit will be posted on Instagram whenever I remember to do that, and I’ll keep this post updated with each entry, as well as thoughts about establishing and keeping a habit and what I notice about my practice and goals. If I can stretch it out long enough, maybe this habit will help me practice other drawing challenges through the year!

Feel like establishing your own daily-ish habit? Tell me about it in the comments!

The Daily-ish Comic Habit of 2022

Summer Story Makers at The Arts Center

This summer, I set up some blankets in the park and got together with a group of young artists to create fantastical stories and explore new worlds!

Stories are at the heart of all art for me. Whenever I observe art, I’m always wondering about the stories being told: the one I imagine, the one the artist was thinking of, and what someone else, sometime and some place elese, might see. Stories hold important magic; when we share and listen to stories, we’re taking part in observing the world and ourselves, we’re sharing life.

One of the best things about teaching art is the opportunity to encourage people (of all ages) to think about the stories they like to tell and listen to; to use their imaginations and speak up and give life to their creations by sharing them. I’ve developed the curriculum over a few different iterations, including online virtual classes and in-person. This class is interdisciplinary, drawing on writing skills, drawing, and theatre arts, plus practice in presentation and embodiment.

Interested in taking the class? Check out the class page and sign up for the newsletter to find out when the next Story Makers class for kids, teens or adults (in-person and virtual) will be coming around!

In this post, I’ve included my class breakdown, with some downloadable writing prompts and story charts. For any educators out there, please feel free to adapt this class outline to your students’ needs, and let me know if you have any ideas for the class!

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