Teaching, days 15-16

image1972031352.jpgWednesday, like the day before, was basically a time of quiet, intense labour on the students’ part.
Free Comics ed. Torben Hansen was unfortunately late, and didn’t actually meet them, but he got to look at most of the comics-in-progress, and asked to be contacted by three of the students.
That, I think, is one of the greatest oppurtunities of working with a class like this – that I can use my network to get others published, sometimes with their first comic ever.
Thanks to a couple of students who had finished early, we had the exhibition area cleared quickly, and I was satisfied with the day’s work when I got on the train home.

Once again, Thursday was dedicated to more work, and I was glad to see that many of the class had worked through the night.
One by one, comics were finished during the first hour of today’s session, and we started getting the exhibition up. I’d had a vague idea about using fishing wire to string the sheets out between ceiling and floor, so they would appear form a distance to float in the air.
Instead we had to use the material at hand, a quite visible, fibrous, white nylon string. Although the illusion of weightlessness was gone, the string turned out to give a good sense of space, much moreso than the alternative, massive mobile walls.
The lightboxes used in session were also brought down one after another as comics were finished, to be used as displays for some pieces.
As deadline loomed closer, the hanging was still empty in some places but in the nick of time the last comics were hung, literally, to dry like laundry.
In my opinion the exhibition went brilliantly, and I overheard a lot of well-deserved praise for the artists. If nothing else, I am personally very proud of my students’ accomplishments over the course of four short weeks, and hope to hear of their progress in the future (in or outside comics)
And then it was over.
People seeped gradually out the door, and in the end I was left there with a few of my students, who appeared to feel the same anticlimax.
We lingered for a minute, but in the end, that was it. I could kick myself for not giving a speech, or at least gathering “my kids” one last time.
They will be missed, and I’m afraid some may abandon comic making now that I’m not there to bend their arms. They are a talented lot, and damn it, I would love to see some of that talent channeled into comics!
Time will tell I suppose. And an email from one of the gang, if I’m lucky ;)

Teaching, day 14

image1109818281.jpgThis was my view all day :)
I’m a proud little teacher, all remaining students are hard at work at their final product, each by their individual aesthetic and ability.
“Remaining students”, yes. As expected, some have fallen by the wayside, a few even quite recently as the ambitions were raised according to their general accomplishments.
In a relatively short course like this (ie, not an entire term, or even an actual education) there is only time to play catch-up on the students who have the motivation to learn.
Fortunately, those who don’t generally have the courtesy of staying away instead of bothering others with their presence.
I am very excited that my publisher at Brun Blomst and Free Comics, Torben Hansen, is coming by tomorrow to see the almost-finished comics, and hopefully handpick a few for his monthly magazine! Yay!

Teaching, days 10-12

“The Mindscape of Alan Moore” went down well on Tuesday but when I tried turning it into a fast one-two combination with “In Search of Mœbius”, some fatigue seeped in.
Wednesday was time to turn in inspirational art for the “diploma comic”. That proved to be an alien concept to some students who either brought synopses for their comic or, in some cases, nothing at all. Also, three to four students were hijacked to an excursive trip with the silkscreening class, and even more were bedridden with some virus that’s running the dorm circuit.
So what was intended as a head start to the concluding assignment was somewhat stunted from the get-go. I did manage to communicate to the students present what ambitions I have on their part: that they transform the visual expression they bring from other disciplines into a graphic narrative form.
This time there are no limitations concerning panel borders, traditional tools, or straight storytelling; in other words, the gloves are off.
Unfortunately, that concept made some students nervous about giving their best shot, and I’ve had to repeatedly point out the level to which the bar has been raised.
And Thursday came repitition time again, as more students came back from sickness or Copenhagen, unprepared.
At least, by noon, most of these had finished layouts and at least some idea of the visual comic concept. We’ll see Monday if they have made progress over the week end.
During lunch I made plans for a collective exhibition with the architecture and design process teachers, in which our classes will show off their accomplishments. That way we can have a proper finale to the course, and I won’t have to print and staple any anthology mini’s.
Life can be fair.

Teaching, day 9

Pre-class: today is going to be a step backwards in terms of assignment duration. I think we need to take a break after the first longer comic, and try and apply to a shorter form what we have learned about storytelling as well as process.
There will be music, and free association from that. An intermission of sorts, almost a recess. Same with tomorrow’s class, which will be a showing of “The Mindscape of Alan Moore”.

Post-class: the short assignment, preceded by a brief and erratic explanation of what can be achieved with page layouts, brought out some shortcomings, both on the part of teacher and students.
The advantage of teaching people without preconceived ideas about comics is also the great challenge in that they lack the casual knowledge about visual storytelling. Trying to explain it to them I fell on my ass, metaphorically speaking.
Listening to Alan Moore tomorrow can either clear things up or confuse them even more. Moore, I am afraid, swings both ways.
Oh, and beginning Wednesday, we will start working on the students’ final, large assignment. It will be entirely free in terms of content and form like last week’s, but being the last task of the course, I have higher expectations this time.
The students have until Wednesday morning to gather visual clues and inspirational pieces to point me in the direction they want to take with the final comic. Excited to see how that’ll turn out!

Teaching, days 5-7

After Monday’s comic history slideshow we have started making the first longer comics. It’s rehearsals at this early stage so there’s no real pressure on the students when it comes to shape or contents. I don’t much care about the color of the beast, or how many legs it has, as long as it lives and breathes by noon tomorrow.
Most are progressing as planned (and instructed) while others are trying to break the mold in first go. The smarter of them will learn from that, those who don’t may succeed anyway. This first practical week is tryout time.
I know how hard it can be to work in a roundtable environment, and if asked nicely, I let individual students go elsewhere to work as long as they touch base before class ends at twelve. Although that is all well intended, morale is slipping a bit, and people seem to forget about asking before going off to wherever.
It’s a rotten way to end the week, but I’m going to have to bring that up tomorrow. The course I provide is very much an open playground, but it does have its confines, most importantly time. And, basically, it’s as much my time as their own that is squandered.
So tomorrow is Evil Teacher time.

Teaching, day 4

Today’s session was something of a quantum leap from the last two days of relative entry level assignments, and to some degree I believe the students welcomed the change of pace. Their comics are growing visibly bolder to match the demand I’m putting on them.
I’d asked them to tell a single page story spanning three clearly defined genres (without actually mixing the genres, even. That proved nearly impossible, and that criterium had to go, eventually).
Rounding off the day and week, I played Mr Bungle’s Pink Cigarette to the class as inspiration for an open assignment. That proved to be a perfect last task before lunch, and I fancy that this kind of process will be more fruitful with this class.
As for my own performance, I can tell I’m not quite following up on all students’ work, and will have to pay more attention to their individual progress in the weeks to come. I’d hate to lose someone for my not having been sufficiently alert.

Teaching, day 3

Well, that went okay I guess, in its own anticlimactic little way. I seem to have sorely underestimated the class, even after the praise I laid upon them yesterday.
Today’s assignment was to make a three-panel strip, just to measure the individual student’s ability to tell a story in pictures. So no demands to entertainment value or narrative accomplishment; it’s what goes on between-panel that counts, and legibility.
I then gave a half-hour lecture on the importance of clarity in communicating a story by means of composition, cropping and economy of linework, and ran quickly through McCloud’s six transitions.
After a few show-and-tells we repeated the exercise, applying the new knowledge beautifully. Now, a lot of students had done perfectly the first time around, but in the second attempt there were next to no slip-ups.
Even more impressively, most managed to wring a story or at least some subtle humor out of the space and time given by the assignment!
More than any class I’ve taught before, and judging from what I’ve seen the past two days, these are imagemakers already, with great intuition when it comes to visual narrative.
So tomorrow I have to up the ante a bit. We’ll lunge head first into longer-form comics, tackling layouts and more complex storytelling, AND have changing, daily constraints.
Tomorrow is last day before weekend, so I’ll give a short introduction to storytelling before giving the class a genre-mixing task of telling a simple story through three alternating genres.
See how they like them apples.
Monday will be the day of my big History of Comics slideshow, but hopefully I find the time to test their post-weekend, longterm memory with new assignments, too!