As part of my previous teaching job I occasionally took part in various outreach projects, community collaborations, Kids Drawing Days, gallery projects (video of still above – at 1:53) and other marketing events.
Add to that the various “live art” and Hull Arts Community projects I’ve taken part in, and I really got a taste for that mix of interacting with the public and showcasing design, art work and skill sets etc.
It was always a part of the job I enjoyed, being as close to the comic con experience as you could get, just sometimes in a more formal setting.
It was certainly one of the areas I had been interested in looking into this year as I started to look for new projects and freelance work. I.e. design showcases, or digital or traditional demonstrations, workshops in gallery spaces, at conferences or other similar settings.
And as luck would have it, I was offered some work last year that fell into that area.
First up was a short course for the Feral Art School here in Hull, looking at Creating your own Zines and/or Mini-Comics.
The Feral Art School is a great project, a cooperative educational organisation that started its life without any bricks and mortar spaces of its own and so taught its sessions in “loaned” spaces that had some affinity with the course in question.
So it was with that in mind that we approached Type Slowly (see video above), a great zine store that lives in a shared space with Warren Records Vinyl Store. It’s a space that gets used as a showcase stage for local bands to launch new music and similar events. They have a small amount of seating and a couple of work tables so it was great to be able to run the sessions there.
The course looked at the history of zines and comics, and over six sessions discussed practical approaches to developing your first zine or mini-comic, from selecting topics, looking at narratives, considering aesthetic approaches, in both the creation of original images or choice of reproduction methods. It considered the multiple possibilities for structure in terms of folds, fixings and materials, and encouraged the idea of developing a finished product, printed and ready for sale by the end of the sessions, building in tutorial time into each session to allow discussion of the work being made.
All that whilst being able to just stand up, walk across the room and point at some great examples of the form as reference.
Next up was a two day workshop for a younger audience, again looking at making comics, and built on the back of an excellent exhibition at the Cooper Gallery, Barnsley, that was showcasing the incredible work of comic artist Dean Ormston (Lucifer, Black Hammer) and Pin-up artist Fiona Stephenson (both local artists and still working out of their DC Studios in Barnsley).
The show itself was great, probably the best small exhibition I’ve seen relating to comics. As well as the fantastic array of career spanning work from the two artists, they also had work by other artists from their private collection, both contemporary (Mignola and others), and work going back to the forties. Dean’s Eisner award was on display as were several images showing full process from rough visual through pencils to colour along side the final print reduction. Great stuff.
The two day course covered some basics relating to drawing, character creation, how to keep non-action comics panels interesting, telling stories and creating dialogue. Over the two days, we pulled together a mini-comic anthology with the all the art and dialogue by the kids which was great. We also built in a tour and discussion of the work on show in the gallery which was below the workshop.
As a bonus the gallery asked me to produce a backdrop themed around the comics style city skyline we associate with superheroes, as it was to be part of their kids costume/dress up interactive in the gallery.
I was in the middle of a whole bunch of travelling around this time, and had to figure out how to keep working regardless of the inconvenience. The straight line snap tools in the software I was using proved invaluable as we headed to Scotland for the wedding of my wife’s niece at Gretna Green. As I was able to keep working in the back of the mini-bus, regardless of all the bumps and rocking as we travelled.
The whole project was really fun to work on, and what a great little gallery.
The third workshop was a single day seminar, looking at using comics to communicate factual information related to Net-Zero (carbon emissions) at DEFRA in Bristol.
I was one of three speakers including narratologist Dr Genevieve Lively (Senior lecturer in Classics, University of Bristol), illustrator/designer/cartoonist and animator Chris Day (Little Creature), and Dr Sam Cooper. a subject specialist in Net Zero Futures from Bath Uni.
My own input looked at The Nuts & Bolts of Communicating Through Comics, breaking down the elements of a page, how pages work as a whole (composition/flow through panels) and then how they work in a third composition, i.e, together in pairs, including mention the left hand page “reveal” mechanic, and a demonstration of how it is possible to create a multi-modal experience with multiple temporal positions in a single narrative, introduce narrative/concept reinforcing visual metaphors on just a double page spread (created “live” in front of the attendees, see spread above)..
After the individual presentations we helped the attendees develop ideas in comic form based around some of the concepts they worked with (relating to Net-Zero and Futures) and that they had over time found the most difficult to convey through other media. We looked again at holistic visual metaphors, multiple and staggered time-frames, and the physicality of comics and how that effects storytelling.
It was a strange, but without doubt, fulfilling day, working with a great set of attendees, all from highly specialised and unique backgrounds from within DEFRA Futures, external university’s like the University of Bath, Imperial College London and even the MOD.
I’ll hopefully get to work on other projects and workshops of this type as I move forward in this new chapter of my career.