“If you’re not failing, then you’re not trying hard enough” -Barron Storey
My name is James Giar and I teach at BAYarts. I’m a professional comic book artist and illustrator, by trade. I began, roughly 4-5 years ago at Bay, brought in by my friend Randy Crider. A decision I didn’t take lightly. I consider myself an eternal student of the arts, constantly looking, absorbing and continually growing. How is a student supposed to become a teacher?
I had been teaching 2-hour Creating Comics classes at local libraries for kids prior to coming on board at Bay. I was raised, or rather, grew up on comics. And my main focus for the last 20 years has been in the comics industry. So I figured, if someone was willing to listen, then why not prattle on about what I had learned and experienced?
The above quote by the masterful Barron Storey is the first thing I stress to the kids in my Advanced Cartooning and Illustration class, held on Thursday nights and Saturdays.
My first question, after uttering this prophetic phrase in my class, is what do you think it means? You’d be surprised at how many of my kids get it.
My belief is, as children, we are all born with the need to create…to express. We dabble in crayons, markers, and clay seeking to express our wonderment and joy at viewing the world thru our own eyes. The bright and the beautiful.
The reality is, as we grow and mature, the view becomes slightly more obscure…more warped and blurred. And kids today are so over-saturated with information and exposed to the reality of what the world really is, that those innocent views are changed as well. And the truth is, some of those kids find different ways to express themselves. It may be music, dance…writing, maybe poetry. And some just find different avenues and head off in an entirely different direction. Abandoning those abilities.
It’s sad, but entirely true and a reality.
However, in my class I’ve been fortunate thus far to have some very passionate, talented kids. My goal is to get them to understand a few basic principals. First is that they see things differently than most people. They see colors, shapes, and patterns. They are highly attuned and sensitive to the world around them. They are different from most kids, and there is a need to embrace that. I myself was the weird “artkid”.
The second is, failing is a reality in art. It’s supposed to happen, and in fact, is guaranteed to happen. It’s how we grow as artists. trying things, failing and then learning from those failures.
Then you try again.
I often say, find something that you really suck at…Like drawing a cat…or a horse.
Or maybe it’s watercolor. Maybe oil painting. But you seek it out, conquer it…and find the next thing to tackle.
As kids…and even adults, we fear failure. It has a negative stigma attached to it. But the beauty of art to me is if you go in knowing something is going to go wrong, that failure is inevitable. When it does happen, you think, well I knew that was going to happen, so what I can I do to fix it? Failure is a reality, but it’s something that can be overcome. And hopefully, when you come out of it, you end up with something. Even if its knowledge.
So there’s a little story I like to tell my kids in both my Saturday and Thursday night classes. In fact, I’ve told even a few grown-ups. (Insert laugh track.)
It’s about that moment in my life where I realized I not only saw things differently, but also had an ability, I wouldn’t call it talent at this point. How I came to this part in my abilities is something for maybe a future blog entry, if I’m ever invited back to write.
I’m in the 4th grade in my homeroom class. Mrs. Spoon was my teacher, who had it out for me for some reason.
Now I was a young kid, long hair and not the most sociable 4th grader, so in her defense maybe I was just annoying.
So I had discovered Dr. Seuss and had “Horton Hears a Who” at my desk. I opened it up to this image of Horton holding the little flower in his trunk, I think he was sitting on the top of a tree. I had a piece of paper and began looking at the image and copying it, line for line. Soon I began to notice that some of the kids had gathered around me and were watching me draw. As the crowd grew a bit bigger and I was surrounded by more of my classmates, it suddenly dawned on me.
I was doing something that not a lot of people could do, or rather the kids of my same age could do. It was my first moment of clarity. Of who and what I was.
Along comes my classmate, Joey.
I just remember his first name.
Joey didn’t like me either. He stepped in, quickly snatched up my drawing and took it to Mrs. Spoon. His side of the story was that I had actually traced it and was telling the other kids that I had drawn it.
She telephoned home to my mom, unbeknownst to me.
When I arrived home from school, my mom told me about the phone call.
It is still one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. It was slightly cold out, the house warm and cozy. My mom was making dinner and was frying something. She sat me down at the dining room table, gave me paper and a pencil. She laid down a copy of the day’s newspaper. On the back of it was an editorial cartoon.
All I can remember is that it was a cartoon of a cow.
She said to me, “Draw this.”
And I did. Line for line. I was never questioned again about it. What happened between my mom and the school after that I have no idea. It didn’t matter.
I knew who I was now.
I love my kids in my classes, as much as I love teaching. And once again, I’ve never seen myself as a teacher. I’d like to think the kids and I are kind of taking this little journey together. I refer to them as my kids because by the time my 8 or 10 weeks are up they know me…and I know them. Some of my kids have been students in my classes since they were 9 or 10. And if truth be told, I get just as much from them as they do from me. Their youth, their eagerness to be better. Their purity of sight and image. My goal from the beginning was to teach them things that are not being covered in normal curriculum in their school art program. And also to take a little of the fear out of trying and working with unfamiliar materials. And I’m thankful that the team at BAYarts…every single one of them, allow me that opportunity and a place to do it in.
I’ve told you this little story just so you understand. That when I look out at the kids in my classes.
I see a little nerdy, quiet and reclusive 4th grader.
Eagerly drawing Horton, one more time.
~James “The Rev” Giar
Jim Giar teachers Advanced Cartooning, Art Club: Cartooning, Storytelling Through Comics (adults/teens) all found on the classes page. This Summer he is also teaching Sketch Covers and Trading Cards (ages 10-14), Drawing Superheroes (ages 10-14.)