Travel plans and Mailbag

I leave for my upcoming Germany trip on Monday! I’m very excited about the workshops and can’t wait to jump into them. As it turns out, I’ve been invited to yet another conference in Germany held in Berlin this September, so I’ll be headed back out there in a few months as well! I’ll keep people posted as that develops.

I’m also very proud of how well my students did this quarter in my Cognition of Comics class at UCSD. My 24 students all did research projects on some aspect of visual language theory, be it running experiments or coding through lots of comics to see their properties. We ended the quarter with two weeks of presentations where they shared their work with the class. All the projects turned out great, but we’ll now be working on transforming several exemplary ones into publications. Really looking forward to sharing this work with people.

And finally, I got an interesting question over on my Facebook page. I always enjoy answering people’s questions, so I figured I should bring it over here too. Ryo Infinity sent me this message:

“Research by the University of College London asserts that anyone can learn how to draw – which contradicts some of your claims about improvement after the “critical stage”. “In fact, say scientists, while some are born with natural talent, anyone can learn to draw well. In research presented at a recent symposium at Columbia University and soon to be published by Columbia University Press, Chamberlain and her colleagues found practicing drawing significantly improved people’s abilities over time, as rated by other people who participated in the study. ” What are your thoughts on this? The researchers opine that anyone can learn how to draw well after thousands of hours of practice – even if they start after puberty”

And here’s my now slightly-expanded reply:

“Thanks for the question. I don’t think of a “critical period” as a hard line that then prevents you to draw (it’s not a switch that turns off). It’s a diminishing ability to acquire drawing skills as you age. But, the decline seems to happen around puberty (just like in language acquisition). 

That said, I don’t know of the work you’re discussing, but my instinct is to say that yes, some people will naturally be better than others (just like some people naturally have a knack for languages) and practicing something over time will help improve it (just like languages). However, I’d want to know what the criteria are that they are using to judge proficiency. If it’s just “other people in the study” then those aren’t “fluent drawers” either—essentially like asking people who are learning Mandarin to judge the fluency of other learners. That makes no sense as a test of proficiency. I’d also likely challenge the basic foundations of what they believe drawing to be (and what they believe “good” drawing to be), since that’s at the heart of the issue really.”


  • If we speak about comics, the goal is not to draw "professionally" but to transfer message graphically. If kids now and cavemen in ancient times could do this, only one problem for adults is the lack of self confidence.

    If they try to create perfect images from memory, they obviously fail. If they let their drawings to be primitive and use references, in most cases they get good enough results.

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