Winsor McCay Artist Study

Winsor McCay

As part of our Edwardian studies, we have been learning about cartoonist Winsor McCay. McCay was the first artist to have had a comic strip printed in a newspaper. He is best known for his Little Nemo comic strip (1905–14; 1924–26) and his Gertie the Dinosaur animation (1914). Our focus for this study was the process of creating cartoon strip.

Winsor McCay Resources

I began with a film from YouTube:

After watching this, the children read the following books:

The first was disappointing in so far as it only detailed Winsor McCay’s childhood. It was very, very detailed, but did not contain interesting enough information about McCay. Fortunately, there are lots of biographies online, so we used those instead. The second book was a book full of comics in the style of Winsor McCay, about his original character, Little Nemo. The girls really enjoyed this book, and it was a great introduction to comic strips as a genre of art.

Learning About Comic Making in the Style of Winsor McCay

As one of our main goals is to create an Edwardian Newspaper, the girls took an in depth look into how cartoons are created. They would eventually be making their own comic strips to go into their Edwardian Newspaper. The girls worked their way through the following book, one double page at a time:

Winsor McCay Catoonist

My girls completed every single activity in the book. The first half of the activities took the girls through the whole process from start to finish of creating a comic strip. This included making up the characters, drawing them, how to draw action drawings, as well as including speech and sound effects. The second half of the book included comic strip story prompts which the girls took and used to design their own comic stories:

Creating a Full Comic Strip for Our Newspaper

They then tried to emulate Cartoonist Winsor McCay by creating their own comic strip, which we stuck into the newspaper:

I photocopied a whole critical analysis of Little Nemo in Slumberland (July 26, 1908) and read it to the girls. To be honest it was more information than they needed or even fully understood. But I believe Becs will probably go to art uni when she is older, so I thought it would be a good introduction to the idea of art analysis. Along with an article on Women’s Suffrage, I added this Winsor McCay critical essay to our newspaper with Abs’ cartoon on it…

…and also (as it was quite long) continued it onto the next page:

I finished off Rebecca’s cartoon page with an excerpt of Robert Scott’s diary of his last few days. We are learning about the Antarctic explorers around in the early twentieth century as part of our Edwardian studies:

This was a really productive study, which we did daily over many weeks. We will possibly be extending it to cover McCay’s simple animations which were created in the second decade of the twentieth century.

Further Reading

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