Are your kids obsessed with graphic novels? News flash: They're far from alone. If you're a parent of a child in elementary or middle school, you're probably already aware that we're living in a veritable golden age for graphic novels aimed at children, thanks to talented author-illustrators like Raina Telgemeier (of Drama and Smile fame), Kazu Kibuishi (author of the massively popular Amulet series), Cece Bell (author of the Newbery Award-winning El Deafo), and even graphic novel adaptations of classic tales from A Wrinkle in Time to Greek mythology.
If your young reader is interested in creating a graphic novel or illustrated story of their own, there are plenty of classes and camps in NYC designed to encourage young storytellers. "Comic books and visual arts, in general, have become much more understood as viable paths for young people that have talent in visual art," says A.K. Lovelace, a professional illustrator and instructor at the Harlem School of the Arts. Whether your child is just starting out in cartoon Illustration or you have a child preparing their portfolio for high school or contests, here are a few programs to support your budding artist throughout their creative development.
The Art Studio NY — Upper West Side
This popular hub for after-school and summer art programs for kids and teens offers after-school courses in comics, cartoons and Manga drawing for kids ages 8-15, as well as one-day school holiday camps focusing on cartoon illustration. Classes are taught by professional artists and encourage self-expression and technical development.
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A group of students work together with their teacher on their graphic novels. Photo courtesy of CMA
Children's Museum of the Arts — Hudson Square
If your child can’t get enough of graphic novels, the CMA offers a week-long, interactive summer camp where students can learn about classic American comics, manga, and contemporary graphic novels. Through creating their own graphic novel, kids learn techniques in cartoon illustration, perspective drawing, character design, cover art, and storyboarding. This class accommodates both newbies and those familiar with graphic novel design techniques. There's also an advanced course in digital storytelling techniques, for young artists who are ready to take their comic art skills to the next level, introducing Adobe Photoshop, digital editing, and coloring. Young artists learn how to develop and share their work online, and produce a short digitally edited and colored comic.
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Drawing class in session at the Harlem School for the Arts. Photo by Adrienne Elise Tarver for the school
Harlem School of The Arts — Harlem
Power Portfolio is a program designed for middle school and high school students interested in building their portfolio for application to NYC arts high schools, top universities or contests. Offered in summer, this week-long intensive program helps students interested in comic book illustration to develop their skills in figure drawing, perspective, character development, storyboarding, composition and color theory. A.K. Lovelace, professional illustrator and HSA instructor says, "The goal is to develop a robust platform for developing kids that have an interest in storytelling and sequential art."
The New School — West Village
The New School's continuing education program Open Campus offers youth & teen programs that boast small class sizes, mentorship from experienced faculty, and hands-on, project-based learning that prepare students for art and design, performing arts, or liberal arts colleges. Their summer cartooning class for children in grades 3-5 focuses on character design, creating narrative sketches, and facial expressions, as well as storyboarding.
Stories Bookshop and Storytelling Lab — Park Slope, Brooklyn
Kids ages 7 to 12 can participate in afterschool and one-day workshops focusing on graphic novel storytelling and creation, taught by a published graphic novelist. Young authors go through the entire process of creating a graphic novel from idea to finished product, with guidance on fleshing out characters, developing the story, sketching, penciling, inking and coloring.
POW! Writing and Drawing Comics at Uptown Stories. Photo by Margaret Miller Reuther for Uptown Stories
Uptown Stories — Washington Heights
Want to learn how to use cartooning vocabulary to tell stories? Students at the writing and drawing workshops at Uptown Stories are taught every stage of comics illustration development, including pin-ups, single-frame and multi-frame pages, using art materials such as pencil, pen, ink wash, and watercolor and collage materials. Little art experience is needed. All the students participate in a gallery show at the Word Up Bookstore and have their work printed in a class anthology. Perhaps best of all, Uptown Stories has a pay-what-you-wish policy. Kate Reuther, Founder and Director of Uptown Stories says, "Our mission is to inspire kids to discover and develop their inner voices in a diverse community of writers. Unlike most youth programs which either target low-income youth or affluent achievers, Uptown Stories makes a home for all families through our pay-what-you-can tuition policy. We never ask for proof of need; we only ask that families pay what they can afford. The result is an exciting, challenging, and supportive community where young authors and artists from all backgrounds thrive.”
Wagner College Lifelong Learning — Staten Island
Learn about plot, setting, dialogue, illustration, and composition in this exciting children's book and graphic novel workshop, which encourages visual literacy skills. Students publish their very own professionally bound book and bring their writing to life with graphics and illustrations. No prior experience is required.
A page from The Baguette Fight by Amalia Ichilov, who has been at Writopia for a year and half. Courtesy of Amalia Ichilov via Writopia Lab
Writopia Lab — Brooklyn & Upper West Side
Writopia Lab aims to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in children and teens through creative writing workshops offered year-round and in week-long summer camp workshops. Graphic noveling is offered as an elective for their full-day camp open to writers ages 9-16.