This past Saturday I travelled to Pittsburgh to lead a 3-hour cartooning workshop with Andy Scott at the community space for arts and technology, Assemble.
Have a look at the goings on. It was a blast.
To get into the nitty gritty about the workshop, Andy and I facilitated three primary activities.
To cover the basics and to make sure that kids didn’t feel much pressure regarding their drawings, we has a station dedicated entirely to covering the step by step construction of cartoons. Andy and I provided materials that would allow them to draw both famous characters and entire simplified worlds a la Ed Emberley. The kids would have the opportunity to copy them by sight or by using tracing paper.
I wanted to make sure that we harped on copying as a positive learning tool and not as something to be ashamed of. I know first hand how empowering it can be to know how to draw a character that you see on tv and on billboards. In my mind, an activity like this one would allow the kids to go home having nailed down Homer Simpson or Sponge Bob, a brag worthy skill that’d be a great boost to their self-esteem.
Besides step by step cartooning, we set up a self-portrait station, where kids were encouraged to draw themselves as animals, robots, bugs, superheroes or their favorite household items. These drawings would then be used to create a poster design for the following week’s Crafternoon.
In addition to that there was a large collaborative megacomic on a massive sheet of butcher paper. For this megacomic, Andy laid down a basic structure of frames, a couple of “meanwhiles” and “BUT”s and a few city skylines. After that, we let the kids go to town, encouraging them to take the stories to the outer limits of believability.
Of course, given that the space is oriented towards drop-ins, kids were welcome to follow their cartooning muses in any way they pleased. Some kids wanted individual attention, so I spent time with many of them making one sheet minicomics. The chief approach to my process was by collaborating with the kids, trading off our comics frame by frame.
Everyweek, the crafternoons offer a different engaging activity free of cost to kids from around Pittsburgh, but particularly to those from the Bloomfield, Garfield and Friendship communities. Have a look at their varied March offerings:
If you’re living in Pittsburgh and are interested in the possibility of volunteering your time to lead a crafternoon, please do so. The more we share our talents with kids in spaces like Assemble, the more opportunities for growth we give ourselves and the children in our communities. You can get in touch with assemble via the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week’s Crafternoon will be a screen printing session with Steph Tsong and the friendly folks from the Artist’s Image Resource in Pittsburgh. Using the contributions of the workshops attendees, I put together a little poster for the kids to try their hand at printing.
The goal of the poster was to create something that would work as promotional material for the crafternoons that would playfully capture the high energy environment which typifies the Crafternoons at Assemble and that could also be customizeable by the kids on their own. (Thus the empty word balloons.)
It was a blast to run a workshop like this. I hope to work with Assemble and similar organizations in the future to create spaces for kids to draw and work on comics fundamentals.
If I could do this for a living, well, that’d be a dream come true!