How many videos on “How to Draw People” have you watched on YouTube this year? A lot? Me too. How many “How to Write People” videos have you watched? Less? Me too. We all agree story is the most important part of visual storytelling, but most of us spend far more time practicing the visual part than we do the story part. We study art in order to tell a better story instead of studying story to inform our art. Why? There’s actual a few reasons.
There’s a sense that when we sit down to work, our efforts should produce something. We need to see the fruit of our labor and, more importantly, we think others will want to see this fruit as well. Drawing meets this need immediately and measurably. The page is blank. We draw a picture on it. Regardless of ability, it’s easy to see what was accomplished and easy for others to identify what you produced, be it doodle, sketch or fully rendered image. We like to accomplish things, so we tend to draw and we tend to draw the same things over and over. When you practice story there isn’t always something concrete, like a drawing, to show for your effort.
There is also a magic to drawing. It feels like a skill that has value in its own right. Everyone wants to draw, but few can. Not everyone wants to tell stories but everyone assumes they could. It’s hard to see the skill of storytelling as a valuable tool worth developing because it’s subjective, intangible and takes time to share. It’s the opposite of drawing which tends to be objective, tangible and immediately sharable. Story is a skill though and it’s one in high demand. Marketing companies, ad agencies and any company producing content or media needs storytellers.
Story is king and creating a truly compelling story is not easy to do. It’s something that needs to be practiced, just like drafting or painting. There are literally millions of resources for artists but not quite as many for storytellers. In an effort to further my own understanding of visual storytelling, and because I love it, Waiting for Rockets has created a series of “Visual Storytelling Exercises” as a resource for those interested in comics, graphic novels or children’s books.