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Critical Pictures: Page 5, Did It Work?

Written by Mitch Nobis
April 29, 2013

The student reflections suggest tremendous growth.  Though few of them claim joy at being assigned Thoreau’s essay in the first place, they clearly put thought into the visual rhetoric of their comics.  Here is a sampling of comments from their reflections:

  • I made a point to emphasize the quirky comfort that Thoreau felt in prison [by showing that the prisoners’] expressions are content.
  • The dialogue panels are generally parallel to the two characters having the conversation because a neutral angle shows balance in authority and friendship.
  • [I used only] black and white to represent the plainness and simplicity of Thoreau’s jail cell.
  • One tactic I used was color—blue for things Thoreau thought were good and red for what society thought was bad/taboo.
  • I varied the size of the panels to address importance.
  • I used sizing to represent the small, common man vs. the government system.
  • I dressed the jailer in all black to make him seem intimidating.  I also drew the jailer a bit taller than both Thoreau and the cellmate to help convey this feeling.
  • I zoomed up close to [Thoreau’s] face to show the importance of his thoughts about his fellow townsmen and women.  Then, in the next box, I showed him walking on a different path than the rest of the people to show his independence as a thinker.
  • Finally, in the last panel, when Thoreau leaves jail, he and the people around him are the same size to demonstrate how [jail] wasn’t that big of a deal.
  • As for the writing, I wanted to make it simplistic because “Civil Disobedience” is very lengthy and difficult to put in a comic.  I used key details from the text instead, the parts that I felt were most important.

Though the unit was only one week long, the students were able to clearly explain how visual texts from advertisements to photographs to comics influenced them as an audience.  The language gained from the visual literacy introduction gave them the tools to analyze and explain those visual texts.  Instead of just saying an advertisement made the product “look cool,” they could now explain that “the ad used the rule of thirds” to grab their attention and “emphasize the product.”  There is certainly more work to be done, but this activity served as a solid introduction to critical visual literacy.  It allowed the students to enter the discourse of visual texts.

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