Author-Illustrator Matt Holm Brings Students' Cartoons to Life


Characters came to life in the classrooms and theaters of Western Academy of Beijing Monday, as Matt Holm made his second visit to the school.

Matt is co-author and illustrator of the award-winning comic book series Babymouse. Working with Elementary and Middle School students, Matt taught workshops on storytelling and cartooning techniques.

"Students get the opportunity to see authors as real people and not just a name on the cover of a book and hopefully, seeing writing as an attainable goal," said Middle School Teacher-Librarian Rachella Simon. "Matt shared his creative process and, since he explained as he worked, students saw with their own eyes why he made the creative choices he did in his illustrations."

Matt focused his lessons on storytelling through character development. He asked students to analyze illustrations to determine facts about the characters, and then invited them to create new characters based on the elements they identified.

Matt left a great impression on the students who chose to attend his workshops. He shared several tips and lessons before inviting them to work together as a class and as individuals to make cartoons.

"I loved having the chance to learn new ways to tell stories and create characters," said Grade 5 student Eliza, who is working on a book with her friends. "It was inspirational to learn from someone who is so passionate about their work."

Want to become an illustrator and author? Here are some of the tips summarized from Matt's workshops at WAB.

Let yourself be creative rather than trying to be too realistic.

Cartoons, by nature, are abstract. Don't try to create a realistic rendering of the animal or object you're cartooning. Exaggerate and explore.

Use the space wisely to communicate as much information as you can.

Cartoons are often published in a series of small boxes. Fully utilize the area you have to tell more about the character or story. For example, is your character walking on the beach or in a classroom, at what time of day? Show the reader.

Think about what emotions look like.

Rather than drawing a smile on a character to show that he or she is happy, think about what kind of happy. Surprised about a new car? Relaxed and in the sun? Satisfied after a long meal? Explore these differences and use details to illustrate them.

To learn more about the influential and inspirational people who visit WAB, visit our Connect page.