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Creating Cartoons Like Jim Davis (C3W18)

On week 18 in Classical Conversations (CC), we have a little fun looking at cartoons and American cartoonist, Jim Davis. The students always love looking at cartoons. However, I’ve historically been more fascinated Jim Davis’ business savviness as he’s expanded his simple Garfield comic strip into a world wide licensing empire! This year, after dwelling on cartoons and comics a while, I’m realizing there’s more to them that I initially understood.

Cartoons and Comics serve an interesting role in our culture. Of course they make us laugh- which is some of the world’s best medicine. Laughing also makes it easier to learn. The more we connect emotionally with a topic, the more likely we are to remember it. However, comics and cartoons do even more than that. Comic strips reach us in a way that traditional art and literature don’t. They bridge some sort of gap. (What is that???) Comic strips are an art form that makes us smile, not just with a pictures, but with clever wording as well. My mom, who taught grade school years ago, still marvels at how many kids, who were previously uninterested in reading, would get started reading with comic strips and comic books. My own two sons have really enjoyed the Garfield books I’ve had near my desk for the last few weeks. Even my younger son, who’s generally not nearly as interested in reading as my older son, has picked up the comic books and started reading them some.

I’ve never thought of myself as a person who really loves comics and cartoons, but as I got to thinking more about it, I remembered that I enjoyed Calvin and Hobbs a lot when I was younger. (Now I just pray that my own children don’t act like Calvin!)  When I worked in a corporate cubicle for six years, I loved reading Scott Adam’s Dilbert. I’ve always enjoyed the witty puns in Frank and Earnest by Thaves and the ever-popular The Far Side by Gary Larson.

So, maybe I’m more of a cartoon person than I would claim to be. I think if someone with Scott Adam’s sense of humor created a comic strip about a homeschooling mom, I’d enjoy reading every book they write! All this has really helped me appreciate the week we spend in CC leading our students in a Jim Davis-like art project.

Our Jim Davis Art Lesson

In this art lesson we get to talk with kids about personification. It’s a large word, but it’s just the name for when you give human characteristics to a non-human. If you’re students have seen Veggie Tales or Beauty and the Beast lately, you can use those as examples. Jim Davis uses personification constantly in his most famous comic strip, Garfield. In fact, personification is used in many successful cartoons and comics, including Mickey Mouse and Snoopy. There’s something disarming about seeing our weaknesses portrayed in an animal or inanimate object that allows us to laugh at ourselves. The more human-like the animal seems, the more closely we relate.

Art lesson on drawing cartoons

In this lesson plan, we spend a little time planning out a cartoon dog and noticing how having him stand upright and giving him human hands makes him look almost human, in spite of his floppy ears and long nose. I had a lot of fun looking online at different cartoon dogs and sketching them out!

Once students understand some of the basics of sketching cartoons they are often significantly more interested in art! This, of course, makes me love cartoons!!

Here’s the Full Lesson Plan

Jim Davis Lesson Plan

I wrote this whole lesson plan out for my tutors and for you!  You can purchase this Jim Davis lesson plan here.  This 5 page lesson plan includes:

  • A condensed background on the artist
  • A short lesson on cartoons in the art world
  • A carefully crafted sentence about Jim Davis (ideal for memorization)
  • Vocabulary words and definitions
  • Materials list
  • Simple art project instructions for creating a cartoon with a dog
  • Step by step instructions for how to draw a cartoon dog
  • Suggestions for scaling the project to experience levels

You’ll want to clip a few Garfield cartoons from your newspaper or pick up a Garfield book from your local library. Alternatively, you can find Jim Davis’ comics at garfield.com.

Creating Cartoons like Jim Davis- Lesson Plan

Want More?

This blog post is part of a six part series about the amazing artists we study in the 3rd quarter of cycle 3 in Classical Conversations. Here are links to the whole series:

Check out my Cycle 3 Resources page for more info on these and my weeks 1-6 drawing lesson plans!



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