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Writing With Pictures: Step 7 - Abstraction

Written by Nick Kremer
July 11, 2012

Step 7: Abstraction

            At this point, students have generated what is typically known as a “dummy” draft – a rough visual outline of what the final product should look like.  To take it to final form, however, a few more creative decisions still need to be made.  One of those decisions regards visual abstraction, the level of realism contained in an image.  An iconographic representation of a character, object, or setting (a “cartoon”) is read in a very different way than a lifelike illustration.  Generally speaking, the more abstract an image, the more readers identify with it at the conceptual level (an idea); the more concrete an image, the more readers identify with it at the perceptual level (a thing).  The visual examples contained in the following video podcast will make this concept considerably clearer. 

           Abstraction can be exploited to great effect by an illustrator – if he/she has the technical ability to draw images in a manner that fits his/her vision.  While I have found that originally-reluctant artists in my classroom often end up being much more skilled than they give themselves credit for, I have also allowed students to partner with Art classes in my school to “hire” an illustrator (in a manner that mirrors real-life) in order to craft a final draft, or to use photography or computer animation software to create digital compositions.

           INSTRUCTIONS: After watching the podcast, determine the level of abstraction you want to utilize in your visual narrative.  Go back and draw a final version of the images in each panel – or employ a talented artist (perhaps a family member or student) to do the illustrating for you as he/she listens to your artistic direction.  Once a final draft is completed that meets your liking, “ink” the lines of each panel (with a pen or thin marker) so they stand out on the page.