'Tooning Your Favorite Tune: Draw An Autobio Comic Strip of Your Favorite Song | Keith Knight | Skillshare

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'Tooning Your Favorite Tune: Draw An Autobio Comic Strip of Your Favorite Song

teacher avatar Keith Knight, World's Foremost Gentleman Cartoonist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Your Assignment


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Sketching Your Idea


    • 5.

      Drawing Layouts


    • 6.

      Penciling and Inking


    • 7.



    • 8.

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About This Class

Craft a short, personal comic strip inspired by your favorite song! Join Keith Knight — nationally syndicated cartoonist featured in The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Daily Kos, and Mad Magazine — for this 30-minute class all about finding your cartooning voice. You’ll learn how to find a story, convey it in a concise manner, and use the tools of the trade. All you need is a song that means something to you and some paper to get started. This class is perfect for both beginning artists and seasoned pros. You don’t need to know how to draw to make an awesome comic strip!

Meet Your Teacher

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Keith Knight

World's Foremost Gentleman Cartoonist


Keith Knight is the world's foremost Gentleman Cartoonist and Star Wars prequel-denier. The multi-award winner has released 13 books, incluing his latest, Knight Takes Queen.

His cartoon work can be seen across a variety of mediums, including Medium, the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Daily Kos, Alternet, MAD Magazine, and more.

He likes ham.

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hey, everybody. I'm Keith Knight, gentlemen cartoonist and welcome to my skillshare class. Tonnage for tonnage, drawing an autobio cartoon about your favorite song. Just a little bit about myself, I am a nationally syndicated cartoonists, I've been doing it for 20 years way too long. But I appear in places like The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, I also appear a lot of alternative weeklies, I appear online and medium.com, alternate daily coast, I also do work for Mad Magazine so, I get around. Anyway, by taking this class, I hope that you're able to mine material from your life and make it funny, make it tragic, make it happy, make it sad. So, what we're going do is do a four panel cartoon about a favorite song, or a song that affected your life in a happy way, sad way, tragic way. I think autobiographical cartoons are a great resource, a visual diary that you'll be able to look back on and be psyched about. So, let's do it, shall we? 2. Your Assignment: So, let's talk about the project that we're going to be doing. It's called Toonage about Tune-age: Drawing an autobio comic about your favorite song. I picked this subject matter because music means a lot to me, I was in a band when I was small, when I was in college and then, not too long ago about 10 years ago, so I wasn't that small. Here's the thing, it doesn't have to be a favorite song, it could just be a song that, actually just has a great story about it and that's the thing that I'm doing. The song that I'm doing is not a favorite song, but it's a song that sort of means a lot to me. I think we all have that. Music is such a universal thing that we all have some sort of experience with a song, a certain song, whether it's a funny experience, or a tragic experience, or something that means a lot about a family member or something. Again, as a comic, it doesn't have to be just funny, ha ha, it can be totally meaningful, it could be totally serious, or sad, or melancholy, so, that's super important, I want to teach that. The second thing is, you don't have to know how to draw, to do a decent comic strip and that's a huge point I want to make. A comic strip, you could be a crap artist, but a really good writer and you'll have a really good comic strip. But, if you're a great artist and you don't have good material to work from, good ideas, then you're going to have a crap comic strip. So, when you're thinking about the song that you want to do the strip about, the titled is about your favorite song, but it doesn't have to be your favorite song. It could be a song that you absolutely hate, but it means something to you in some way, shape, or form. It could be a song that remind you of something or somebody. The song that I'm going to be doing, it's Dr. Dre's California Love, and it's not one of my favorite songs, but it means a lot to me. It reminds me of my time, of a trip I took to Cairo, Egypt and it came on in a nightclub. It was just a very neat experience, and so, that's more interesting than say, the story of my favorite tune. So, it's not about making sure you have your favorite tune, it's about the story that's attached to it, that's what makes it interesting. The other thing is, as long as the story's interesting, there's no need to draw a really amazing work, like some of the best cartoonists I know, XKCD and folks like that, they do stick figures, they do stick figures, and it's all about the writing, that's what makes it so good. So, if you have a great story, it doesn't matter whether you draw out like this, as long as there's a good story, it doesn't matter. 3. Materials: Okay, let's talk about materials to draw comic strip. I'm an old fashioned guy, I'm old school. So, I do everything by a pen and paper, I do not have a Wacom Tablet, I like to sell my original artwork and I just like sitting in a cafe drawing it. So, we're going to talk about sketchbook. I still use the old composition books that I used to get when I was in school. So, this is what my notes look like and sketches. It's completely chaotic and crazy. I don't mind driving across all the lines, I'm so used to it and it looks like it's a big mess, but actually all this stuff makes complete sense to me and it really looks like what my studio looks like, which is kind of scary. It's also important to have a drawing materials. I like to draw with a ballpoint pen in my sketchbook, not pencil, not mocker, but a ballpoint pen. It's got a great field to it. I get to be really loose with it and I tried to recreate that looseness when I do the final artwork. Here's a pencil that I use. It just your average number two pencil. I don't use repro like light blue repro, I just use this and then I erase it after. I don't know why I have this eraser right now, I usually use a gummy eraser because they're so much better, they're clean, they don't break apart like this one does and make a big mess. So I suggest you get the gummy eraser. Let's talk about rulers. This is a ruler, it cost me $0.89 and a Rite Aid. I still like to use all this stuff that I used in grade school. I'm still doing the same thing I did in grade school, and then, this is a triangle which is actually way too big than I need it and it's very dangerous but if anyone screws with me I could take him out. Markers, this is super important. The markers that I use, this is a Sharpie Rub- A-Dub laundry marker, and it's permanent Inc, and it's made by Sharpie and it looks like a Sharpie, but it's not a sharpie, it's not as Incy. So, you can control it a little bit more. So, I like to use this and I like to use micron pavement markers. These micron pigment's, I used 0.08 and 0.05. You can get those at any art supply store, and I usually buy them in bulk because they'll give you a discount or if they asked you if you're a student, I always say student of life. Last but not least, this is a paper I used. It's Strathmore 300 Bristol, and get the smooth surface. They tried to sell you the velum by like sit put in it really really super small and then you buy it and then you realize you got vellum and then you feel ripped off. So make sure it says smooth down here at the bottom here. But it's great, and this is the nine by 12. I get the nine by 12 because, I'm able to fit this on my scanner with just a little bit of cutting. Otherwise, you can get an 8.5 by 11 ream of 500 pieces of Bristol from Office Max or Office Depot for like 10 bucks, which is a great deal. Now, actually it's not 10 bucks it's more than that. But that's okay, it's still a great deal. What's great about this too is Michael's, if you get this at Michael's twice a year, they have a three for one sell, so that's way right. I'm not being paid by them, I'm just saying, keep an eye out for it three for one. All right, let's get to the sketching. 4. Sketching Your Idea: So, yeah, this is what my sketchbook looks like. It looks like a huge mess but it all makes perfect sense to me, and I can tell just where I was and what kind of mood I was in when I did a lot of these drawings. So, pretty cool. But, yeah, this is the comic that I've been working on and it's about a trip. When I was in Cairo, I was at a nightclub and the song California love came on, Dr. Dre. I'm an East Coast guy, I'm not a big West Coast hip hop fan. But when that song came on and people rush the dance floor, it was like they were just so excited that I felt this national pride about hip hop, about being a Black man who are part of the hip hop community and creating something that made people from all over the world just go nuts. So, I'm doing it about that and just the sense of pride I felt. I figured the juxtaposition of that pride would be, to me, having this deep spiritual moment about pride, but also grinding international booty at the same time. So, I'm going to draw this goofy picture of me grinding international booty while this was going on. But the great thing about cartooning is in order to establish something taking place in Cairo, it takes me drawing this triangle, this pyramid and some sand, which is lying in some dots in the sun, and then suddenly you're in Cairo and no one sits and says, "Oh, that's not Cairo." No one questions that. You automatically buy into it with cartoon, I could have this cartoon take place in my stomach, I could have it take place on the moon, I could have it with a cat eating lasagna, and no one's going to sit there and go, "Oh, that's not real." Like, you have an instant buy-in with cartooning, which is what I love about it. What did it take for me to do this scene? It took a pen which cost me nothing because I stole it from my sister, and then this notebook which costs me ninety nine cents and I've establish this place. So, what you want to do with the cartoon is have a narration at the top recalling whatever the story is and then have the picture below it, and so that's what I'm doing here. I'm trying to figure out the the four panels. So, I was visiting a nightclub on a trip to Cairo and the DJ put on a little Dr. Dre, and then I have the crowd bum-rush the dance floor like a group of toddlers descending on a broken pinata, and then it ends with as I was grinding that international booty, I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride as a black man, as an American, and as a fan of hip hop, and then I'm screaming, "Thank God for Dr. Dre." Maybe there's something else, "Thank God for the good doctor." Or something like that, I don't know. But, yeah, and this is hopefully the funny drawing at the end, but I'm also trying to come up with funny silhouettes of people running towards the dance floor, and I just thought this is a funny shot. There's so many other things that we did too, but we're going to simplify it down to these four panels. 5. Drawing Layouts: Okay. Now that we're finished sketching, let's start to lay out the finished piece. Okay. What you want to do is take your Bristol, and it can be nine by 12, it could be eight half by 11, it could be much bigger than that. But we all want to do the same measurement, which is eight inches by eight inches, okay? So, I want you to take your ruler, I want you to take the triangle and your pencil, and I want you to lay out a square, eight inches by eight inches. Then, I want you to quarter it. So, four inches in, do a line like that, four inches in, do a line horizontal. Then, I want you to write Toonage about Tune-Age up at the top there. Then, right over here, I want you to put By, and put your name there with a circle. By the end of it, what I want you to do is put the name of the song, down here below, and who it's by, and then the year it came out. That way we can identify it, okay? So, once this is done, we'll start to lay this all in from your sketch book. 6. Penciling and Inking: Hey everyone, Keith Knight, here and this is the next video. It's basically be penciling out the comic strip, and then inking it. So, I'm going to do a play-by-play, and you guys can follow along. I'm not going to put you through the agony of this whole thing because it takes about 40 minutes what I'm doing, but I'll skip ahead some of the boring parts. But if you notice, I did find my gummy eraser right there on the right, it's a mess. It was at the bottom of my bag. So, it's got lots of schmutz and stuff in it, but it's still a better eraser than the eraser I showed you in the earlier video. There's that pyramid that I'm drawing to set the stage that I am in Egypt. This is the great thing again about cartooning that put the setting now and it just takes a couple of lines here and there. Right there, I'm pointing out where the nightclub entrance is. Honestly, there was no nightclub in the pyramid, it's just a small joke that I throw in there. Here's a very important thing when doing autobiographical cartoons, don't let the truth get in the way of a great story. So, if it's funnier to put a nightclub in the pyramid, then go with it even though that didn't happen. It's better to go with the funny part or the goofy part or whatever. I'm drawing the DJ right now, pulling out a record. If you see his arms, they're rubbery. They've got a twist to them that is not realistic, but to me it looks far more appealing and more funny as a cartoon. So, that's the way I draw it. So, in the third panel here I'm drawing all the people rushing the dance floor. I'm drawing them as silhouettes. This is one of the tricks of the trade when you're cartooning and stuff, you want to vary the picture to make it a little more interesting. One of the things I try to do is balance blacks and whites. What I mean by that is, there'll be parts where I silhouette characters. So, they appear just as these black figures in one of the panels, and that just helps balance the black and whites. A note about as far as drawing your characters is concerned, I noted I spend a lot of time about how should I draw my character? How should I draw my character? Really, it is about the story more than the character itself. You could draw yourself in any way, but I suggest you do some practices. There are a couple of the Skillshare classes about developing a character. There might be a certain hat that you wear, or that's my thing is just like this hat that I always wear. So, honestly, all my characters will look the same but because mine has a hat on, it looks like me. But I know people, I got a buddy who draws himself as a flower. I know people who've drawn themselves as toast. Toast is very easy to draw. So, yes, this is me tracing over the lines for the panels. I always do this by hand because I like- some people do this with rulers. I use rulers when I Pencil it out, but I don't do it when I do it by hand when I ink it, because I like that handcrafted shaky hand-drawn look. The goal here is the story itself. I think the difference between a good one and a great one as far as cartooning goes, is like if the story is something that's unique to you like a really personal story, don't give me a tune that says, "This is my favorite tune because the way they sing it is very difficult and here are the cool lyrics." If you're going to talk about the cool lyrics in it, show me how it applies to your life. I want you to do a comic that's unique to you and if you do that, you will have a really cool comic and I will say, "Great job." But if you just write down the lyrics and just draw, illustrate the lyrics, then I don't know what to do with you. At the top of that, it says tune-age about tune-age. It'd be great if everyone did that. I like the idea of everyone does the same size and so the same look. So, just maybe we can put it all together in some amazing collection or something like that. I don't know. Then sometimes I'll mess up a little tiny bit but that type of stuff you can either take care of with white out which is very old-fashioned, or when you scan it in Photoshop which is something I didn't cover, but if you want to upload this and I tweaked my cartoons after I finished drawing them. I'll clean them up a little bit via Photoshop. I generally scan it at 600 DPI, I'm sorry not 600 percent as a bitmap and then I fix it up. I get real close but it's important to scan it when you do the preferences in Photoshop. Go into general preferences and go into general and make sure it's set on nearest neighbor before you scan it. That way it'll be a hard black and not this grey edge to the line which can be a pain. If you don't have a scanner, after you finish inking your comic, you could take a picture of it with your cell phone and then just upload it to the site. That would be cool too. If you think it's hard to read the whole comic, hard to read in the one photo, you can just take individual photos of each panel, that would work too. This is where I have put down the thicker- Along the marker and picked up one of my micron pigments. I picked up an 08 to do the narrative text. There's generally two voices that I like to use in my comics, which is me telling you the story, which I usually use capital letters at the top of a panel to tell that story. Then, the drawings below, the narration enhance what the narrative is. It's always best to throw in a little extra something into the illustration, so it doesn't just back up the narrative at the top. But sometimes you can't do that, especially in such a small strip like this, in such a small space. So, some of it in the second panel. I'm literally just drawing the DJ playing out the record, and repeating what's going on in the narrative. But if you look, I drew Was on the outside. I had this dilemma when I'm writing this stuff, when I'm inking the text. Sometimes I have these epiphanies where I'm like, "Oh, no. I want to change the line right here so let me try to change it," and I was thinking about it, and I was thinking about it. I was like, "Okay, I'm not totally sure what this is going to be, but I'll write this Was on the side and maybe add it in after via Photoshop." But then I changed my mind and I think I stuck with it. The whole line was about feeling pride with American hip hop being such a huge thing to everybody around the world, all the international people in the club. So, I had a lot of pride. But at the same time, I was grinding international booty. So, I sit there going. I came up with the word swollen because then, it's the booty granting the booty, getting swollen with pride, and the whole phallic symbol of it. This is me inking in the Thank Gawd 4 Hip-hop. Since I'm screaming it, I'm making it a much thicker line, so it's louder. It's sticking with all the sexual innuendo. Yeah, the money shot for this thing is the last illustration, which I did a really good version of it in my notebook of just me having this revelation saying, "Thank God for hip-hop." The next thing I'm going to do is highlight some of the letters in the text. A friend of mine, a colleague of mine said, "Your text is almost a character in and of itself." I really liked when they said that, because it is. That's the narrator, it's this text, and that text I really want to make sure people understand what I'm trying to say. That's why what I'm doing now is highlighting certain words in the text by making the letters thicker and darker so they stand out a little bit more. For people who sit there and go, "I don't know how to draw this. I don't know how to draw that." Here's some advice for you. Copy and steal. Now, I don't mean steal people's ideas or anything like that. But if you see somebody who draws like a really good car or a really good cow, because I can't draw cows very well. So, if I'm going to draw a cow, I like to find a cartoonist who draws a cow really well, and then try to do a version of that cow in my style. I just remember, I think it was Robert Crumb was drawing a record. I love the way he draws records. I love the way he draws a lot of stuff. But one of the things is that I really enjoyed the way he did records. So, from then on, I would draw a record in a very similar way. My style is basically a combination of all these different influences. The more you know of the comics language, the better. Because then you can use it to your advantage and get your thoughts and ideas across in your comic strip. So, it's great to know that the larger you draw letters, the louder the character speaks, and the thicker you draw letters. If you draw them shaking, then they're moving those little shaky lines. Okay, so, I filled in the letters, and then I drew that box off the letters, so it's the narrative. Now, I'm moving along with the thicker pen to highlight, say the record, and I'll do the pyramid. I'll do a few other things. Now, color in the silhouetted characters too. That will be important. So I may have touched on this before, but what I love about auto-bio cartoons is it's a great way. It is like a diary. It's like a visual diary. I knew that, but I really didn't understand how important it was to me until Dark Horse put a collection of 500 of my strips together, 500-page collection. I had my first kid, and I was sitting there thinking, "Wow." When he's old enough I can hand this to him and say, "You wonder why your father beat you? Well, this is why." Then I can give my 500-page collection. When I look at it, it's fond memories of moving from Boston to San Francisco, and then that's where my career really started, and all that stuff. So, it's got a lot of really neat stuff, really neat memories. This is me. After I use the thick marker, I use the thinner marker to get all the little nooks and crannies and stuff like that. So, if you notice at this point, I'm now, just trying to make it look pretty. Another thing I'm going to do after this is I'll be scanning it into Photoshop, and I'll be adding some gray tones to it. This is something you can do if you want or not do. But I started doing it about two years ago or a year and a half ago, and I really like how it's made things look nicer. Again, I scan it, nearest neighbor, Photoshop at 600 dpi. I've cleaned it up as a bitmap. But then, I switched it over to gray scale, and that's where you can add the gray tones in it. So, I have these particular grays that I use for my daily. One is for making my skin black, and using it for, it's sort of a light gray. Not a light gray, but it's a gray gray. Then I have a darker gray for other stuff. At some point, I realize that I'm in a nightclub, and it's nighttime. I realized I drew this pyramid in the middle of the day with the sun shining. So, I was like, " have to figure out how to make this nighttime." So hence, I draw the moon there. How am I going to solve this problem? I break out the thick, black marker, and I start filling it in. I'm blotting out the sun. Okay. So, and at this point, I am taking my very valuable, recently found gummy eraser, and I'm just erasing away all the pencil. Now, you can use a light blue repro pencil, so you don't have to do this erasing because the erasing can be a pain sometimes. But I'm just never keen on the light blue repro pencil. Not that I have anything against it. I sat next to one in second grade, but I'm just not a fan. Okay, that looks like it's it. I just tweaked a few different things. Then I x-ed out the Was, because I won't be needing to use that. What I'll do with that is just get rid of it in Photoshop. But, yeah, just putting in the gray tones. You just change it to grayscale. Then what I do is I use layers. I use a second layer, and put in the gray tones there on the second layer. Then I flatten the image, so it's in there. Then save it as a TIFF file. I'll usually make it a little bit smaller. But there it is. I hope to see yours very soon. I hope you enjoyed this wonderful class. 7. Conclusion: Thanks, everybody. I hope you had a great time with this class. Please load your stuff up on the site, it'd be great to see what everybody does, take a look at mine, and please say nice things about the class. I'd love to do more of these and spread it about and I appreciate it, and I will see you next time. 8. More Creative Classes on Skillshare: