Leading a Cartooning Workshop at Assemble

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.

imageimage-3image-4One of my favorite things to do is to make comics with kids. They know what’s up.

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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.

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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:

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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: outreach@assemblepgh.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.

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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!

Great piece on the significane of materiality

As you might know, I’m an advocate for print. You might also know that when I’m trying to come up with new stories, the way in which I typically dive into the endeavor is to choose a form that I’d like to work in. Form always dictates a new story. If I’m unsure of whether or not the story works, I simply ask myself if  it feels right in the vessel that’s transmitting the story. More often than not, this is the reason why my stories don’t cross over too well on the digital landscape. Nevertheless, it’s a fluid creative process that avoids insurmountable creative blocks.

In light of this process, I often times find myself thinking about the constant talk of the digital world supplanting the analogue. I feel that those kinds of conversations sensationalize the issues, imagining that we are humans that transmit stories perfectly as pure information.

We don’t and we can’t.

The specifics of the reading experience are integral to how we understand and contextualize a text. That’s why I think a lot about a text’s materiality.

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Aaron Kashtan recently uploaded a talk that he gave at Georgia Tech regarding the reasons why he teaches Materiality. If you’re interested in notions of bridging the analogue/ digital divide, I’d recommend reading the talk while looking at his presentation. If you’re into that, you should definitely delve deeper into his blog.

I use these sorts of texts in order to model the sort of thinking I want the students to engage in when they do their own writing, because my real goal is to get the students to understand writing as a material, embodied process. Again, our instinctive belief is that writing is all about the expression of ideas, the expression of semiotic content, and that the container in which those ideas are embodied is irrelevant. I want them to realize that that’s not the case, that writing is always an embodied and situated process and that it always results in the creation of some sort of material artifact.

Illustration: El Gallo De Oro

As you may know, I do illustrations for Carnegie Mellon University’s newspaper, the Tartan. I like the weekly illustration challenge as I improve my drawing chops, especially because I get to see the images go to print.

Here’s a peak at my most recent contribution. It was for a Forum Article regarding the recent (and seemingly ineffective) facelift that a campus food vendor got.
The article is on the Tartan’s site.

Laura on El Vibora #62

Just something I thought I’d share. Drawn by Laura in 1984, ain’t it a beauty?
so you might ask, Quien es Laura?

Unknown to most anglophones (and even many Spaniards), Laura Pérez Vernetti is a spanish illustrator from Barcelona that contributed regularly to the underground Spanish comics magazine, el Víbora, from 1981 until 1991. Her work is distanced from standard aesthetics and conventional narratives, focusing primarily on comics that deal head on with themes of erotica, experimental forms, and socio-politcal commentary(the Spanish Civil War in particular). Additionally, she has adapted the works of Maupassant, De Quicey, Jung and Kafka to comics.
A more comprehensive bio can be found on the Lambiek Comiclopedia.

Most recently she put out an homage to the Portuguese poet, Pessoa. A biography and adaptation of his poems and prose, she published ‘Pessoa & Cia‘ in December 2011 through Luces de Gálibo. Those spanish speakers among you, interested in learning more about this book, which she both wrote and illustrated can check out the short that RTVE aired in January of 2012, along with the article written by Jésus Jiménez.

Here’s a taste of her style: