By STEVEN NALLEY
Chuck Galey began his visit to East Oktibbeha County High School with an activity, but he gave few instructions.
He scattered several images across the room, and students had to work together to put the images in proper sequence. When they had finished, Galey revealed the images’ origin: “Re-Zoom,” a wordless children’s picture book by Istvan Banyai where each scene zooms out further from the last.
Sequence, he said, was critical enough that graphic novels, children’s books, comics and other books that used pictures as a storytelling medium were often collectively referred to as “sequential art.”
Galey led a workshops on sequential art at EOCHS on Thursday and West Oktibbeha County High School on Friday, helping students make their own rough drafts of sequential artwork and giving them insight into the business of graphic novels and children’s books.
Galey is a published author and illustrator, and he has collaborated as an illustrator with author David Davis on “Jazz Cats” and “Rock and Roll Dogs” and with author Dotti Enderle on “The Cotton Candy Catastrophe at the Texas State Fair” and “The Fat Stock Stampede at the Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show.” However, Galey said he studied graphic novels extensively because he believed there was much to learn from the way their art was sequenced.
“The way a reader goes through a book is a bit of a science to me, because each page is part of the story, and it flows from one panel to the next panel,” Galey said. “You can interpret that as flowing from page to page in a picture book. Picture books are limited to about 14 spreads, or 28 pages. With only 14 pictures, you have to be very strategic about what you choose to show.”
Galey is also a member of the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Teaching Artist Roster, and he said he had been visiting school libraries and conducting summer readings for the past 12 years. Each year, he said, he visited between four and five schools.
“What I like to do is talk to these students and let them know someone from Greenwood, from the Delta, can grow up and do art like this,” Galey said. “It takes work, but you can do it.”
Susan Allen, secondary librarian for the Oktibbeha County School District, said she discovered Galey at a Mississippi Library and Media Professionals meeting in Tupelo five years ago. She said she saw a unique learning opportunity for the creative writing and art students in county schools.
“I always try to bring an author or an illustrator in to speak with the students (each year), and he was both,” Allen said. “I try to get local people if I can find them, and there are a number of them in our area. It’s a unique opportunity for them to see a career they might want to pursue. It’s kind of an eye-opener.”
Allen said Galey also visited the two schools two years ago, and the Starkville Area Arts Council and the Mississippi Arts Commission funded both visits with grants. Galey said he was happy to return.
“I like dealing with the students,” Galey said. “They come from different backgrounds, different cultures. They have their own stories to tell. If I can provide them with some knowledge of how to do that, that’s all the better. It is my hope that they utilize this beyond high school.”
Allen said Galey’s workshop was also valuable for students who did not necessarily plan to pursue careers in art or writing. Sequential art could teach students the sequential thinking students needed to clarify their thoughts in a research paper, she said, and graphic novels could attract students to libraries who might not normally visit them.
“Sometimes, there’s even a little fear about going into a room filled with books,” Galey said. “If there’s something there that makes you comfortable, even a magazine, then that will start stimulating the reading, which is so necessary.”