Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wizard World Chicago

Well, I got back to Chicago yesterday, safe and sound from San Diego. My computer is still in the shop, so I'll wait to post my Con-report til I can properly fill it with links and some photos. In the meantime...

If you're in the Chicago area next week and want to come meet me at another convention, I'll have a booth at Wizard World Chicago next week from August 4th through the 6th. I'm at booth #3184, so come on by, check out my shwag, and chat!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Murphy's law strikes, and ComicCon looms

Isn't it always the case... just as I had a ton of work to do and preparation for ComicCon, my computer skizzed out and is now in the shop. Argh! Luckily, my talk was already saved to my flash drive, so that won't be affected, nor should any of the handouts I'll have for the Con. However, it also means that there will be no Meditations updates next week.

So, just one more reminder about San Diego:

My talk on the Visual Language Panel will be in Room 7B from 1:15-2:30. I'll be talking about the underlying structure of how people understand sequences of images.

Every year at the CAC they sell a CD collection of the papers for people's talks. My contribution will be just like my talk: a pdf essay about the Grammar of Visual Language. And, if you needed any more incentive to come out and here me talk, this paper will only be available on the CAC CD for the near future. I'm not planning to upload it online anytime soon, so it is a ComicCon exclusive.

Also, after my talk I'll be doing a booksigning at (I've heard) the Comic Relief booth. I love Comic Relief. It was my comic bookstore of choice when I lived in Berkeley and they always do a great job of promoting things that deserve it. So, come to my talk, say hello if you see me around, and definitely come by the booksigning to buy books and chat with me. Hope to see you in San Diego!

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Today's Meditation is "Ballerina", a piece written as a companion to Autumn.... It was partially based on a girl I dated whose face reminded me of a porcelain doll. It was also one of my first computer attempts, again just to letter, but also to fill in blacks and to make the repeating panels at the end.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Not Just Perception

So, it seems this Art vs. Language/Iconic Bias stuff is on the brain these days…

A great deal of research on "art" or looking at drawings has been situated in Perception studies of psychology, and I've on occasion bumped heads with various who have taken this track. Perception, as it pertains to visual things, studies how it is people's vision works: the psychology of vision. I can understand how it might fit with visual language studies, and it does, but only to the same extant that studies of hearing fit with spoken language.

This issue is related to the Veil of Iconicity issues that I've been writing about lately. Thinking that drawings should be situated in Perception fails to recognize that they can form their own system of communication, rather than simply being a router for the perceptual activity of vision.

Rather, my visual language theories seek to recognize that drawings are different. Drawings are not just "visual material" that is seen like everything else in the world (ahem, though the aparatus of vision might treat it the same). Drawings come from the mind, they are conceptual representations, and as such can't just be lumped in with all perceptual things that don't come from the mind without some distinction. Just like words in a language, they are part of a code. It just happens that this code often looks like what it means.

Monday, July 10, 2006


With the completion of my second visual adaptation of the John Keats poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci, I'm going to start posting a few of my smaller works. I did a couple series of shorts, including this next run of Meditations.

This one is called Autumn..., and it was done in the Fall of 1998, shortly after I graduated high school. A friend of mine had been doing a zine in which she wrote a similarly themed poem, and had kind of issued a challenge for me to match it. This single page is the result of that, and the girl in it is meant to look somewhat like her. I believe this was the first piece I ever used the computer on, in this case merely to letter it. I had done an "alternate" version where I used a "cloud" filter to make the sky dusky looking, but ended up not using it for anything.

Incidentally on a theory note, several years after I had drawn it, the sequence with the leaf falling was one of the first which sponsered me to start rejecting the idea of linear transitions between panels. Can you spot why?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

More on ComicCon

So, I've found the official Comic-Con programming guide is now posted. Here's the Friday description for my panel:

1:15-2:30 Comic Arts Conference Session #6: Visual Language—
Neil Cohn (Meditations: 1999-2002)  reveals the “secrets” of sequential art: the grammatical rules and visual “parts of speech” underlying comics' use of sequence. Zon Petilla (Cal State University–Fresno) asserts that there is a universal visual grammar operating in comics that can be used to teach language. Hal Shipman (Northwestern University) examines the contrast between the vocabulary and grammar of visual language in European and American comics, represented respectively by the adventure strips Tintin and Terry and the Pirates.

Note the room number 7B. For those keeping track, that's right across the hall from McCloud's panel in Room 8. Quite convenient, eh? (hint hint)

Webcomics writers unite!

So, I successfully returned from my trip to Boston, having found a place to live, which is good, because then I don't have to start school living out of a U-Haul. On this trip I was given an amazing welcome tour by Comixpedia's very own Kelly Cooper. First Alexander Danner, now Kelly... Boston is having a great showing by webcomics writers! It bodes well I think, since they can recruit subjects for my mad experiments for me.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Comic-Con Visual Language Panel

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I'll be speaking on a panel about "Comic Theory" at the Comic Arts Conference at San Diego's Comic-Con International. The talk is going to be on Friday July 21st at 1:15-2:30 (not sure the room still). Here are descriptions of all the talks on the panel:

"The Secret of Sequence" - Neil Cohn
The sequential aspect of juxtaposed images has often been regarded as central to comics as a medium. This presentation will reveal the rich patterns underlying comics' sequence: a grammar, complete with "(visual) parts of speech" and grammatical rules. Pushing beyond the confines of linear panel-to-panel relationships, this approach should intrigue anyone interested in how comics communicate.

"Visual Language and Universal Grammar" - Zon Petilla
My research involved using a cognitive map to bridge the gap between understandings of a group of words for a Limited English speaker to test my theory that there is a Universal Visual System that can be used to teach language.

"The Western Vocabulary of Visual Language" - Hal Shipman
Within the Western comics tradition, there are essential cultural variances in the vocabulary and grammar of visual language. Contrast these differences in European and American comics, represented respectively by the adventure strips Tintin by Herge and Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff.

I'll post more as I learn it...