Maisy Byerly '15: Life in Taigu: Comic Contest!

Maisy Byerly was one of the 2015-2017 Shansi Fellows at Shanxi Agricultural University. This is her second year narrative.

Part 1:

Forty-nine students from Class 1501, and thirty-nine students from Class 1402 made comics on the theme “Life in Taigu.”


This unit was not just exciting because everybody left with a finished comic, but also because I was able to teach about something I love. The topic covered some storytelling strategies, politically important cartoons in history, and language work. One other goal of this lesson was to improve their reading and writing of capitalized letters. Many of my students can barely read capital letters. I told them that all of their comics must use capital letters. Now some of my students only write in capital letters and it feels as though they are screaming at me – oops! Submissions to the contest were largely unique in style and story, though there were some repetitions: waking up late, falling asleep in class, the cat mentioned twice below, and eating. The winners represent students who stood out in terms of story, composition, art, expression, and originality.


The four winners from Class 1501 (second-year undergraduate English majors):

Mathilda 荆璐



























Mabel 刘王娟






























 Banner 邴文博






























Candice 雷婷婷

 The four winners from Class 1402 (third-year undergraduate English majors):



























Amber 攸越

























Lareina 李秋月

Sky 李忠

Isabella Black 张艳悦

As a follow-up to the actual comics submissions, students received two comments from classmates of theirs. The comics were entertaining on their own, but the comments provided an opportunity for more debate and discussion, as well as constructive criticism. I was impressed that every comment had a balance of praise and guidance.


Some of the commenters found unique ways to express their admiration:

  • Every part of your cartoon shows vividly part of our daily life. Great! I’d like to give you 9 scores, the one left is for fear of your over self-confidence.

  • I have to say that your work is so good that deserving appreciating.

  • I expect your next amazing work.

  • In a word, it’s so cool that I can’t help remembering it.

  • Why don’t you take being an artist into considerate.

  • We are all not artist, so I think your drawing is very well.

  • Your strength is enormous, and so is your appetite.


Some of the commenters had pretty high standards:

  • The hairstyle in 5 and 6 are different from in the 1, 2, 3, 4. -    

  • Boys look like girls.

  • The boys in the pictures is handsome, but the girls you drew is not very beautiful! Ha Ha Ha.

  • Are you and your friend two beauty-foxes? You have tails! Hah…!

  • You should draw your characters more exactly, for example, the characters in beds don’t look like humans.

Some of the commentators took advantage of the opportunity to share their life advice:

  • From the cartoon I know that you have unsatisfy with your roommates sometimes?---I’m not sure. But everyone is not perfect.

  • It’s so cute and lovely. Maybe you don’t have enough sleep time.

  • I think this cartoon is wonderful. But I always get up early every day. So I never be late for class. Maybe they get up 5 minutes early they will not be late like me. HAHA!

  • You know, from this picture, I know why you’re being more fat. HAHA~

  • (About being single) Don’t worry, dear! You are not alone.

  • The true love is not that couples never quarrel. It is that they quarrel for a whole life and still live together.


And of course, some of the commenters gave useful suggestions about how to improve the comic. These are pieces of advice that I will also try to keep in mind as I keep working on my comics:

  • You can attach the number on every part like 1, 2, 3 to make the logic more clear and direct.

  • If you use a pen to draw it, maybe it will become more attractive and look like a finished work.

  • And I think you can paint figures with uniform style.

  • Big letter would be better.

  • The number of people could become less, but the people should be expressed on more details.

  • In my opinion, you need to improve the completence of your sentence and pay attention to the spellings.

  • Maybe you can use a smaller paper. It looks a little empty.

  • I think you can improve how to place each picture.


After each comic had received one comment, I introduced the idea of seeking a second opinion.  I was happy to see that some commenters engaged with each other, disagreeing about the best step forward for the artist.


  1. It’s so cool and imaginative. But I think some parts of the cartoon was so simple.

  2. I disagree. I think it’s good to be simple because it is comic. The meaning of comic is the most important thing. I think.

  1. You can draw much more details, like your hair!

  2. Because I think the person will be very funny and cute if they don’t have hair, and readers also can imagine their hair freely.


Part 2:

In preparation for drawing the comics and the stomach-wrenching experience of showing their drawings to other people and the public, we did some relaxing drawing activities as a group. The most popular was drawing partners without looking at the paper. After which, we guessed the person. Here are two examples:


Guess Who 1













Guess Who 2

During the mid-class break, students took a stab at drawing me without looking at the paper while I stood in various poses. Here are the highlights:

Drawing the Teacher 1

Drawing the Teacher 2

Drawing the Teacher 3

Part 3:

In exchange for their efforts, the four winning artists from each class were given a woodblock print of my most recent Life in Taigu. I spent Chinese Labor Day preparing a full print studio set-up on our porch. I printed an edition of ten of the following design:

Woodblock Print Prize

BONUS! In case you read all of those comics and are still in the mood for more, here are the comics of two students who really love braised eggplant! (And if that’s still not enough, check out more of my comics at or contact me to find out if I am going to make all of these comics into a book. I will if you ask me!)


Braised Eggplant:
















Lee 曹田田






























Anna 刘畅

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