From 25th to 28th of May I was invited by the Goethe-Instiute to run a Comic-Workshop for 12-15 year old kids learning the german language in Skopje/Macedonia.
I worked together with the writer Karen-Susan Fessel from Berlin, who was the supervisor for the german comic texts, while I was in charge of the pupil’s comic drawings.
16 pupils (10 girls, 6 boys) were attending the workshop, for which they had applied in teams of two (writer and drawer) with self-created comic art works.
The first day – when all pupils were gathered round a big table in the German Library of Skopje – we started with a little warm-up exercise: telling a simple comic story with 3 frames only – the shortest way of telling a story with beginning, middle and ending.
For getting started the theme was „The big table“ and both, writers and drawers, had to talk over their story ideas. Then the illustrators started drawing the pictures and the writers wrote down the german texts for the description text and the speech bubbles.
It soon turned out that the kids‘ german skills varied strongly – from very little speech comprehension to quite advanced language skills.
So Karen and I had to respond very flexible to the german language conditions that were given, for example with a lot of play-acting the figures and scenes the kids had been drawing.
For me the main focus was on conveying the basics of Storytelling with the pupil’s own three-frame-story examples. Which in fact turned out to work very well with the help of our play-acting method. They all got the point quite fast, namely that a real story needs a real ending. Especially if it has only three frames.
Like in the little Ukulele song we sang just for fun with the kids:
„Es fraß ein Huhn, man glaubt es kaum,
das Blatt von einem Gummibaum.
Und legte dann im Hühnerstall
’nen rosaroten Gummiball.“
(A chicken ate, past all belief,
an Indian gum tree’s fleshy leaf
And then went to the hen house stall
to lay a rosy rubber ball.)
The next day the real comic work began.
Based on their prefered themes we offered the kids two themes to work on:
„A funny (resp. curious) Date“ and secondly „A funny (resp. curious) Noise“.
The latter we choose to avoid that all kids would tell the more or less same story – like we had experienced the day before with the „Table“ theme, when a lot of the kids had come up with well-laid dinner table stories.
So to capture the kids‘ imagination we choose to present them a totally non-visual theme as well. (Also as an offer for those who couldn’t really deal with the „Date“ theme.)
Now the condition for the writer/drawer teams was to conceive a one page b&w comic story with at least 5 frames.
Of course all of the drawers wanted to jump into image drawing right away – even with apparently having no clue in which direction the story should go. So Karen and I had a hard piece of work explaining how to make rough drafts and how to plan a comic story frame by frame.
But after all the morning actually ended with 8 rough drafts for the comics, whose drawing I was going to supervise in the afternoon.
So while Karen was improving the comic text with the writers, I started to work on the comic images with the drawers.
For that purpose I had brought some professional comic art materials and tools (by courtesy of Goethe Institute):
– an erasable „Col-Erase“ Non-Photo Blue Pencil for the first rough sketching (with a blue that would not show up in copies),
– a black Prismacolor pen for the final inking and
– two further Prismacolor Markers with different grey tones for the „coloring“.
In addition to their professional pencils the drawers also got good 185g DIN A 3 Paper sheets to work on.
And of course a trial paper for getting familiar with the new tools.
But again it was important to control the drawers impulse to rush ahead and instead instruct them to begin their art work with the setting of the frames, which ranged from 5-7 panels. So, with the help of their rough drafts and written plans, the comic artists had to draw the panel frames at first – always keeping in mind to leave space for the comic’s title, explanatory text parts and speech bubbles.
After that was done they started sketching the sceneries, which kept them busy for the rest of the afternoon…
The third and last day of the workshop passed with finalizing the drawings and doing the „lettering“ of the comics.
That is to say: both, writers and drawers, hand-lettered their comics by adding the final title, explanatory texts and speech bubble texts.
This was followed by a final rehearsal for the official presentation in front of a home crowd, due to take place in the late afternoon.
Unfortunately I was too involved playing the Ukulele and hanging the comics during that event, so that I was not able to shoot any photos from the presentation of the comics. But I got this photo from Lisa Robert and look forward to receiving some more photos from Thomas Diekhaus, the head of Goethe Centre Skopje, who – in cooperation with Biljana Kortoseva – initiated that great workshop event in Skopje.
Thanks to both of you for having me and Karen-Susan as teachers!
And also thanks to Lisa Robert for your photos and the promise to send me the images of the kids‘ final comics. I will hand them in later to this blog…
And here are the photos of the kids‘ comics Lisa sent:
„Super-Siera“ by Annika and Aleksandra
„Ein nasses Date“ (A Wet Date) by Sara and Maria
„Das Eichhörnchen“ (The Squirrel) by Elvis and Elmin
„Ein komisches Geräusch“ (A Strange Noise) by Kaja and Andre
„Besuch aus dem All“ (A Visit from Outer Space) by Biséra and Filipa
„Am Ende kommt sie doch“ (After all she comes, though) by Michelle and Jana
„Ein Berg-Adventure“ (A Mountain Adventure) by Allen and Albin