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All About Trick Cartooning

Trick cartooning is an incredibly easy and fun method that captures kids’ attention, betters behavior, and helps them remember Biblical truths for a long, long time. We use trick cartooning in all of our crusade services and about twice a month in a regular children’s church setting.

How effective is it at capturing kids’ attention?

During a recent crusade, the pastor’s wife, made this statement after an evening service. I was just intrigued by what you were drawing. Suddenly, I made myself stop watching you and look around the room. There was absolutely no movement in the room and the only sound was the sound of your voice. Everyone was mesmerized! I can’t believe that something so simple could be so effective!

What equipment is needed?

There is the common tripod-type easel or a hand held easel which looks similar to an oversized artist palette except with large clips on the top. The type of easel you want to use depends on your setting. In a typical classroom, the tripod easel is fine. If you’re going to be moving from room to room to teach, or teaching in an outdoor setting such as a park outreach or Backyard Bible Club, the hand held easel will work better. If you are an artist who can draw freehand, you can do trick cartooning on any type of paper or even a chalkboard; if you are not an artist, you will need to use newsprint paper. The two common sizes of newsprint pads are 18×24 inches and 2×3 feet. Obviously, the larger your group, the larger the pad that you will want to use. In a regular classroom setting, we usually use the smaller pad. In a large children’s church, 100 kids or more, and in a sanctuary service, we always use the larger pad. Tripod easels and newsprint pads are easily found at office supply stores such as Office Depot, Office Max, or art stores. The hand held easels can be found at Joann Etc. Other equipment includes a wide-tipped marker and, if you are not an artist, you will want a pencil, copier transparency, and access to a copy machine and overhead projector.

Preparation is minimal.

If you are an artist, you can skip the first part. For we non-artists, put the cartooning master from your trick cartooning book on the copy machine and print the image onto a copier transparency (You must use a copier transparency; write on transparencies will melt.) Put your transparency master on the overhead projector and shine the image as large as possible onto the newsprint pad. Using your pencil, lightly trace over the outline of the cartoon that is shining on your pad of paper.. Note: it is very important to check your lines in the lighting of the place in which you will be doing your presentation. For example, if doing your presentation outside, your lines may be too obvious and need to be lightened with an eraser. In a sanctuary lighted with cam lights, your lines may be almost invisible and need to be darkened with your pencil.

There is a slight difference in preparation for the fold-over cartoons (in the Picture Perfect book).Whether or not you are an artist, the picture must be pre-drawn in pencil.Transparencies are provided in that book for you to do so.Be sure your projected image is not keystoned (In other words, the square of light that your overhead projector is shining needs to be square, not slightly “V” shaped.If your projected light image is slightly “V’d” in appearance, tilt the head of the projector down until the you have a square image.) Also your transparency are dotted lines which need to be traced onto your paper.These are your fold lines.Once you are done pre-tracing your fold-over cartoon, tear the paper about 2/3’s of the way off the pad, leaving about the left 8 inches attached.Now go ahead and fold your cartoon on the dotted lines to be sure that the picture lines up properly when folded.If not, just erase and adjust the lines slightly. Unfold the paper and it is ready for the presentation.Have 3 or 4 pieces of clear tape attached to your easel so that when you fold the cartoon during the presentation you can tape it in place.

During your presentation…

Needless to say, it is important to know both your lesson (script) and your drawing very well. During your presentation, you are actually doing 3 things at once—teaching, drawing, and focusing on your audience’s response. If you don’t know either the picture or your script well, in your attempt to recall the details, you will appear distracted and be unable to focus intently on the children’s response. . It is an innate characteristic in children to take advantage of your being distracted. Also, you lose your authority in speaking to an audience if you are not well prepared.

There are a couple of slight differences in presentation with the optical illusion style cartoons (used in the Switchable Sketchables). With the regular trick cartoons, the 2-step drawing is a matter of suspense, as the kids don’t what you are going to draw.With the optical illusions, the whole picture is drawn immediately so you should state first which of the 2 pictures you want the kids to see.It is the power of suggestion, or a matter of mis-direction as a magician would use.For example, when I begin to draw the Duck to Bunny optical illusion, I will state, “I’m going to draw for you a picture of a duck.”Why?Because I am telling the children what I want them to see and hopefully, the power of suggestion will help them see the optical illusion as the duck first, instead of seeing the bunny first.Then, during the rest of the optical illusion presentation, I also run my hand across the drawing (pointing with my index finger) in the direction of whichever animal I am referring to.For example, whenever I mention the duck during the rest of that presentation, I run my finger across the picture from right to left, from neck to beak, showing the children which way to look at the picture without verbally telling them.The same goes for the rabbit; when I mention the rabbit during the rest of that presentation, I run my finger across the drawing in the opposite direction, from left to right, from the tip of the ears to the nose, so the children know which way to look at the optical illusion to see the rabbit. It reinforces in their minds the characteristic of the animal I am talking about as well as assisting the children in knowing how to look at the optical illusion.

For a successful presentation…

There are a few key items to keep in mind for a successful presentation. Be sure your easel is in clear view of your whole audience. Most cartoonings consist of two pictures. Draw the most significant parts of each picture last. For example, when drawing a cartoon person, I always draw the facial features last. Whatever parts of your picture give away what the picture is, draw last. Remember, the suspense is an essential part of keeping the children’s attention and bettering behavior. Next, be sure to make eye contact when each picture is done. When the first picture is completed, you will be completing your first main point. At this time, step away from your easel and make eye contact with the children as you make that main point. Stepping away from the easel also ensures that everyone can see the picture. (In a fan-shaped sanctuary especially, someone’s view will always be blocked while you are drawing. In an outdoor setting where the children are surrounding you, you will need to turn to the left and right to ensure that everyone can see the completed picture.) The same action should take place when the second or final drawing is completed. Move away from the drawing and make eye contact while explaining your last main point. The eye contact gives you increased authority as you speak. It also helps you discern whether or not the children clearly understand your main point, so you can explain it more thoroughly if there seems to be any confusion.

Want to make them remember for a lifetime?

It’s possible. A few years back, we were doing a kids’ crusade at a relatives’ church. My husband’s cousins were watching me prepare the cartooning for that night. They asked if I remembered them coming to a single service at a church; they had driven in for the day just to watch that service. They said, Remember when you did that cartooning of a fish to a man? I said, I have that cartooning, but I don’t think I ever did it. They said, Yes, you did. They went on to explain to me not only the progression of the picture, but the entire application as well. After recounting the story to Gary, we figured out that it was 8 years earlier when the girls saw that cartooning. If, by using such an easy and effective method as trick cartooning can cause our kids to remember Biblical truths 8 years later, we are accomplishing the whole goal of our ministry! CMT has wonderful resources for Trick Cartooning in the Cartooning section of Children’s Ministry Today’s Marketplace.

© by Alisa Linn
Children’s Ministry Today

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