After studying like mad for a doctoral test at Eastman School of Music, jazz trumpeter Dave Chisholm decided he needed a new outlet for his creative energy. So he spent February through December of 2013 writing and illustrating a 204-page graphic novel. Then he set its seven chapters to music – composing a full-length soundtrack of seven songs to pair with it.
Now, 26 panels from this book, “Instrumental,” will be displayed in a gallery exhibit for his one-man show, “Music Meets Comics,” which runs October 27 – December 5 at Lightner Gallery in Lightner Library. An artist reception where light refreshments will be served will be held Thursday, Oct. 30 from 4:30-6 p.m. Earlier that week, Chisholm will also host a comics workshop at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28 on the second floor of Allen Hall. The exhibit and workshop will serve as a teaser for a coming spring semester course Chisholm will teach as a visiting professor at Keuka College.
“Anytime you do a class like this, people may think ‘How would I draw Batman?’ but really we’re telling stories in pictures and words. In reality, comics are just a medium for telling any story,” Chisholm said.
For many, superheroes serve as the initial gateway into comics, Chisholm said, describing his early interest as a child in the pulp iconography of familiar favorites of the genre. But it didn’t take long for him to move from interest in the superheroes to those drawing the superheroes, to think about their process and how they might think about translating a narrative idea to a 22-page series of drawings with words.
With three degrees in music, including a doctorate in jazz trumpet, Chisholm says his day job is “all things music, with comics thrown in.” In addition to trumpet, he also plays guitar, piano, bass and drums and sings, too. He teaches music lessons and is also an adjunct music instructor at Keuka College. He toured the Western U.S. with a rock band in the years between his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and some of his adventures became part of his first graphic novel, “Let’s Go to Utah” which he described as “inspired by the craziness of touring … where it’s all spread out and you drive through the desert for hours and hours and kind of lose your mind a bit.”
Come spring, Chisholm will be running a full-semester, three-credit course through the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts on comics. Students will explore hands-on the detailed work of traditional ink-on-paper comic book creation. According to Chisholm, the course will cover the finer points of comic book panel composition, page composition, working with scripts, lettering, and character/environment design. The overarching goal of the entire course is training students in clear, communicative, sequential storytelling, he said.
“I’m interested in the mechanics of comics, meaning, how do you pace a story over eight pages? How do you put it together?” Chisholm said, describing a potential panel sequence where a man finds a key lying on the ground, uses it to open a nearby door, and a lion jumps out at him.
“Is the key important? Is the man important? Will we show reactions on his face, or are we using words to show what he’s thinking? It becomes this incredibly rigorous intellectual exercise to communicate any idea or narrative in comics form. It has almost infinite possibilities and that’s inspiring to me,” he said.
Another example he cites is the work “A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge” by Josh Neufeld which documents life and times in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
“He did research, went down several times and kept in touch with people and he happened to tell this story in the medium of comics as opposed to a novel or documentary,” Chisholm explained.
If students were to follow elements of Chisholm’s approach of integrating music into comics, they might start with an exercise of illustrating lyrics, he said, citing Queen’s iconic “Bohemian Rhapsody” as example.
“So if the lyrics state: ‘Mama, just killed a man/Put a gun against his head/Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead,’ how do we show this? Is he on the phone with his mom, calling from prison, telling her this stuff? Is it told in flashback?” Chisholm asked.
By the time the course concludes next May, students will each have written and/or drawn 24 character sketches, 24 environment sketches, a 1-panel strip, a 1-page comic, and a 2-3-page comic “book” for the final project, he said. All final project comic books will share a similar theme and will be printed in a collective anthology by the end of the semester.
For more information on registering for the course, students can contact the registrar’s office or visit http://registrar.keuka.edu
Dr. Jennie Joiner, assistant professor of English at Keuka College, is putting a new twist on some classic short stories, sonnets, plays and prose.
Joiner introduced a new course this fall, Literature in the Wider World, which serves as the new introduction to the major. It seeks to expand student horizons on books, reading, writing and all-things English and to grasp the role literature plays in everyday life.
Professor of English Doug Richards, chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, visited Joiner’s class and shared a real-life example of how English can play a role in careers beyond writing and teaching. According to Richards, a graduate of Keuka’s organizational communication program was on a sales call “that was going nowhere” but took a positive turn when the prospective client referenced the medieval poem, Beowulf. The Keuka graduate was able to build on the allusion in conversation, earn the client’s respect, and make the sale.
“You will know the stories of your culture and can engage in intelligent conversation and you’ll get further along,” advised Richards. “Keep working on building links and connections.”
And that is what the students did in Joiner’s class. They studied some classics, among them Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, and short stories, such as Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper. However, more than simple context and content were discussed. In addition to reading the traditional works, students also investigated digital and other media formats, and even theatrical and cinematic formats, in the case of Susan Glaspell’s play Trifles, and Fitzgerald’s classic, The Great Gatsby.
While digital technology has had a significant impact on the written word, students debate more than just print-versus-e-book preferences. One challenge Joiner gave students is to consider literature as hypertext, the embedded digital links to prior electronic postings. In the final assignment, for example, the autobiographical “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” a popular treatise against slavery, students reviewed the Biblical story of Daniel in the lions’ den. They then analyzed a portion of the work where Douglass describes his newfound freedom as escaping the hungry mouth of the lions.
While on its own, the reference makes literal sense, Joiner said, “it’s a hypertext without links and we have to be aware there’s a link, so how do we fill that in? We can read [literally] without understanding the allusion but what if we do? All of a sudden it takes on this whole new meaning and how does it help [Douglass] make [his] argument? His audience would have understood that [allusion] and we, today, may not.”
Douglass’s “Narrative” contains several other Biblical and secular allusions, which students further analyzed in their final class project, where they could choose their own creative medium to demonstrate the knowledge gleaned in their studies. While some students presented digital essays using literal hyperlinks and hypertext, others chose creative mediums – digital and traditional – to share what they learned.
For example, freshman Brianna Jackson of Syracuse used a multi-dimensionsal software known as Prezi, which some have compared to PowerPoint on steroids, to present a 3-D, visual display of quotes, images, colors and more. Two students, sophomore Jake Banas and junior Justin Hess wrote fictional stories, with Banas “writing a story about writing my paper,” while Hess reverted to the classic detective-reporter serial, turning the research into clues to decipher the mystery.
Meanwhile, sophomore Tyler Hixson of Shortsville created a Facebook persona for Douglass, posting photos available in the public domain, as well as links to facts and figures relative to Douglass, then “friending” the real Facebook accounts of fellow students in the class. He also created a Twitter account using the handle FreddyDouglass17.
Joiner asked students to compare and contrast pros and cons of each format or medium.
While sophomore Judy Ludwig of Rochester merged the traditional term paper with hypertext, she “came to the conclusion that you needed both – neither the hypertext nor the traditional paper did everything you needed it to do,” explained Joiner.
Similarly, Jackson’s Prezi slideshow was visually appealing, “but in terms of something that can stand on its own, this won’t work – we need you to fill in the blanks,” Joiner described.
The win-win partnership between Keuka’s Division of Business and Management and Fox Run Vineyards is so beneficial to both that it just might call for a toast.
For the second straight year, Fox Run has supplied students in Keuka’s Business Entrepreneurship class, with four vintages of wine to market as souvenirs in a microbusiness operation that runs from concept and sales strategy, to inventory management and accounting, to delivery of goods. The off-site sales add to the winery’s revenues while providing students a unique opportunity to learn the ins and outs of operating a small business.
The course and the winery partnerships, which have included Hunt Country Vineyards in Branchport and Keuka Springs in Penn Yan, have coincided hand-in-hand since 1991. Currently taught by Neil Siebenhar, chair of the division and retiring associate professor of business, the class is offered in the spring of each year. The specialty-label wines are marketed as “bottled memories” to the graduating class, their parents, alumni, staff, and faculty of the College. (more…)