Local News: New EN375 Format Brings Art and Writing Students Together (02/02/22)

Students practice writing and drawing in Intermediate Creative Writing (EN375). The new course format allows students to explore the relationship between text and image in comics.

Photo submitted by Dr. James Brubaker

The Intermediate Creative Writing class (EN375) is testing a new lesson format in hopes of giving students a better understanding of the relationship between image and text in comics.

Hannah Sanders, an associate professor in the department of art and design, said she wanted SEMO to teach a class on the subject of comic writing and imagery. The idea came after she received a scholarship to take a summer course at Harvard University taught by comic book artist and illustrator Peter Cooper.

“The course gave me a lot of valuable information,” Sanders said. “I have been able to work with artists from all over the world and of all ages.”

Sanders said she wanted a course at SEMO similar to her experience at Harvard; in her own professional body of artistic research, she creates works of art combining images and text.

To help build the class, Sanders enlisted the help of Dr. Sandra Cox, associate professor of English. Cox then enlisted the help of Dr. James Brubaker, another associate professor of English.

In the course, the three professors collaborate to give students the real experience of working with students in another profession. The lessons also help them understand what image and text gain from each other.

Brubaker is the EN375 teacher, but her class works in conjunction with Cox’s LI523 Topics in American Literature and Hannah Sanders’ Topics in Art and Design (AR504).

“At first, English majors were like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to draw,’ and art majors were like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to read,'” Cox said.

In order to help students feel comfortable performing tasks outside of their comfort zone, teachers and students will visit each other to practice writing and drawing.

“We have a really unique class structure where all of our students receive comic book theory and critical analysis, as well as creative writing components and artistic components, because we have three professors,” Sanders said.

Sanders stresses the importance of this opportunity for creative writing, art, and English majors, as the class has three collaborators from different professional backgrounds.

Brubaker describes EN375 as a bridge between introductory creative writing and advanced courses in fiction and poetry. He said the students focused on graphic storytelling, while incorporating traditional storytelling topics.

Brubaker points out that writing students won’t make perfect works of art when they do drawing exercises, so he reminds them that they aren’t graded on their drawing abilities, but rather on the idea behind their drawing.

Second creative writing student Skyler Roberts describes the class as an interesting experience. She said she learned a different perspective of creating stories when she was making art instead of writing.

“I feel like the images add to the writing because you can see characters, see their facial expressions, and then infer your own thoughts and feelings from those images,” Roberts said. “At times, pictures can be so much more powerful than words.”

Watch student progress through the end of the semester at the Nest Gallery in the Seminary Building at River Campus. Their work will be exhibited from April 4 to May 7, 2022.