What's My Verb?

Tomorrow I head over to the Modern Graphic History Library with my juniors to look at periodical illustration. We're doing so as background to the Two-Color Figurative Suite project. A wonderful, challenging problem. How do you arrange figures to tell a story?

On Monday we cleared out a big space in the room and "directed" scenes with students as actors: a sentry stopping would-be pedestrians; two women at a bar, one of them tipsy and flirting with the barkeep, the other trying to get her out of there; a trial and a jury box. We spent a lot of time talking about verbs. Every character gets a verb. Forget adjectives. What are each of them trying to do? (communicate interest in him; hustle her out; get her number)

Students, here is the Halloween Party illustration (and Freudian bonanza) I mentioned the other day.

Check out this post for reproductions and some of the cultural background on midcentury periodical illustration, most of it for women's magazines. These illustrators became experts at narrative built from arrangements of figures. And why not? They did it week in and week out, for good money, too. But Al Parker added a level of intelligence and finish that few others could.

Al Parker, Government Girl, goauche on board in the collection of the Modern Graphic History Library at Washington University (and courtesy of Kit and Donna Parker), Ladies Home Journal, 1943)

Al Parker, "Frankenbunny" (or so I call it), 1960