Saturday 21 March 2015

Bart Simpson Doodling On A Poodle Eating Noodles - a week of comics by kids

My thanks go this week to New City Academy in Upton Park, or is is West Ham, or is it East Ham, or is it just plain Newham E13 (I never quite worked out where my school would describe itself as being, but I walked past the Boleyn Ground en route to work every day) for inviting me in to teach my Comic Art Masterclasses for four whole days this week. During which time I managed to produce comics with a record breaking ten classfuls of kids - that's about 300 caricatures drawn, and as many individual comic strips drawn by the kids, from year 3 to year 6. These are the comics the various classes produced.

When I add a bit of colour to these comics after the fact, I often have trouble deciding what colours to slap on. Not so this week, when the individual classes did the job for me, being name Scarlet, Jade, Emerald, Saffron, Aqua, Crimson, Magenta, Lilac, Turquoise and Purple. My apologies have to go to Crimson class, whose comic I've mistakenly labelled Scarlet (but, to be fair, the difference between the two is too subtle even for me, as you can probably tell).

As I show each group's comics to the other groups at the school, and each group plays the game whereby we come up with a title for the comic book, certain memes recur. In this week's case, including the name of the teacher in the title became a thing, beginning with Mr Kennedy's Lunch. Luckily we avoided too many cliches and, as always, they were overflowing with genius ideas. In each case 30 titles are written down on bits of paper and selected in a knockout competition, so you're looking at the best out of 240 top notch suggestions.

Tha Cat Tgurk was a result of that syndrome whereby a child, usually in year 3 (as was this example), writes as title down which neither I nor they can subsequently decipher. The class almost always vote for this most random of titles.

These two comics are the products of a much rarer beast, which I try to avoid when I can - the Mega Group. I always stipulate that I can only run the Comic Art Masterclasses with a group of up to 30 maximum. As any class teacher will know, you can't teach more than that many kids at a time, especially if you hope to give any of them even a modicum of individual attention. However the logistics of some schools dictate that you're trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot, and in this week's instance, where a school had been generous enough to have me in for the best part of a week, we had to do what we could to ensure all 10 classes could get a taste of the Comic Art Masterclass. Hence the Mega Group.

We begin with two classes in the hall (this week's school was fortuitous in having a large central area between each cluster of classrooms) and I give them the introduction demonstration. Then they break into their two individual classrooms to draw their characters. We then return to the hall for the "treads on a worm" how-to-draw-a-comic-strip demonstration, and again back to our classrooms to draw our comic strips. This means that 60 kids get to see the fun demonstration bits. One group then gets me in their class for them to come up with the comic book's title, then the other group gets their caricatures drawn. On Tuesday I was able, beyond even my own expectations, to draw the caricatures of both classes in the Mega Group (60 caricatures in under an hour! I amaze myself). Sadly this wasn't possible for the second mega group, which is frustrating in the extreme, but what can you do?

No, I don't know what was happening with my hair here.

The celebs they chose to tread on a worm were Simon Cowell (of course, though he was suggested less often than usual this week), Kim Kardashian, Samuel L Jackson, The Queen, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing Bananaman in The Beano, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the new promo video here.

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