April Comics Challenge: LET’S ALL DRAW UNICORNS with Sarah McIntyre!

For our April comics challenge, we’re joining in with a fun challenge set by the inimitable Sarah McIntyre! Sarah is currently the writer-and-illustrator-in-residence at Booktrust, and they are running a fantastic competition called Pictures First where you can make a drawing and then have that drawing turned into a short story or poem by a Famous Writer Person! And you can enter this competition in the funnest way imaginable… by DRAWING UNICORNS.

You can read all about the competition over on Booktrust’s blog! Here Sarah shows step-by-step how to draw her character Dumpling the Unicorn:

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And here’s Sarah explaining what she wants to see in your drawings!

I don’t just want to see ordinary pretty pictures of a unicorn with flowers and rainbows. Your picture needs to spark a story, and you have to give the writer lots of visual clues, interesting and unusual unexplained details they can use to inspire their story. And there needs to be some DRAMA, your unicorn is in some sort of peril, or caught up in a situation that makes the viewer think, HEY WAIT, WHAT IS GOING ON HERE??

 

This can be anything from danger (hanging off a ledge on Mt Everest, battling in a fighter jet) to embarrassment (suddenly appearing in front of the class in only polka-dot knickers, farting in a lift).

 

The people who win the competition will be thinking of several things:

  • WHERE is your unicorn? Is it deep-sea diving? At a chip shop? On Mars?
  • What’s it standing on? Concrete? Lava? Moon craters? Broken crockery? Or is it falling from some great height?
  • How big is your unicorn? Is it tiny enough to live in a matchbox? The size of a pony? Or enormous like Godzilla? How can you show that in the picture?
  • Mood? Different colours can influence the mood of your picture. A yellow background might make it look cheerful and sunny – or possibly toxic. A spotch of red or hot pink can make something stand out so we notice it.

  • Is your unicorn wearing anything? It might be wearing anything from basic bows or a horse blanket to a full Marie Antoinette costume or a sparkly disco suit. It’s mane and tail might be styled. Or not.
  • Who else? Are there other characters in the picture? A group of elves in a forest will suggest a very different setting to, say, a group of school children on a football pitch, workers on a construction site, or a Jurassic lake full of dinosaurs.
  • Expression? Does your unicorn look angry? Embarrassed? Worried? Over-caffeinated? Strangely chilled out, considering the dire circumstances?

 

Head on over to Booktrust to find out how to enter this fantastic competition! And if you’re on twitter, be sure to tweet pictures of your drawings to @Booktrust with the hashtag #DumplingTheUnicorn!

Top Tips for Making Comics!

There is, of course, a lot to be said about the art and theory of making comics – indeed, some people have written whole books on the subject – but on the other hand, there isn’t. If you’re working with kids who are just starting out, there are a couple of incredibly simple tips that will do a lot to help make their comics clear and readable. And these are:

how-to-make-legibile-comics-2 This is the big one! It’s worth restating over and over again, at the start of every session if needs be.

To go a step further, it’s good to encourage the kids to think about what the characters are going to be saying as they plan the panels, to ensure there’ll be plenty of room and to make sure that reading order flows nicely, and avoids the following kinds of confusion:

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Also:

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While we’re on lettering: you don’t want to be too prescriptive necessarily, but I find it can be helpful to think about HOW the lettering’s going to look – the joined-up cursive script that kids are dutifully practising in other lessons may not be the best fit for making readable comics. Or in other words:

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AND FINALLY: all panel layouts and ways of combining images as a sequential narrative are of course valid: but again, just when you’re starting out it may be helpful to reinforce the message to stick to clearly defined panel borders with, crucially, a gap between them.

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That’s it! Once more, the first one’s the biggie: if you want to pick one thing to focus on, let that be it.

(These strips feature Professor Panels of How To Make Awesome Comics, appearing here by courtesy of The Phoenix.)  

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March Comics Challenge: COMICS JAMS!

A great way to get kids started writing and drawing their own comics is to make it into a fun game, and one great way to do that is with Comics Jams!

What is a Comics Jam, I hear you ask? Let’s find out!

 

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This activity can be huge amounts of fun, and serves as a great Creative Icebreaker to get groups writing and drawing. And can lead to all kinds of unexpected and hilarious results. Here is a personal favourite, from one of Neill’s Comics Club groups in Oxford: the strange and slightly heartbreaking tale of Mr Chip, and his adventures in the world of dating…

 

The wonderful writer and illustrator Sarah McIntyre has lots more excellent advice about making comics jams – check out her blog post on the subject!

If you’d like to use this activity in your own classes or groups, you can get the whole thing as an activity sheet by just clicking on the following images:

Or you can download as a PDF, here!

We’d love to see what you come up with – please send your own pictures and comics to info@comicsclub.blog, or tweet them at us at @ComicsClubBLOG – we’ll be sharing some of the best!

 

Comic Swap!

Has your comic club made a comic? Why not get involved in the new Comic Swap run by Hannah Sackett and Lydia Wysocki, with Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books

Hannah and Lydia tell us how it works…

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Comic Swap helps groups of children share comics they’ve made. Our first swap is now open!

How it works:
  • You, as the adult responsible for a children’s comics-making group, send 6 copies of your comic to us at Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books.
  • We add one copy of your comic to the Comic Swap library at Seven Stories.
  • We shuffle the comics sent to us by the groups taking part in the swap.
  • You wait excitedly by the letterbox to receive 5 comics made by other comic swap groups.
  • You read your new comics!

The closing date for emailed permission forms is Friday 7th April 2017.
The closing date for posted comics to arrive at Seven Stories is Friday 14th April 2017.
Swapped comics will be posted out in May 2017.

Each comics swap group must be formed of multiple children and at least one responsible adult. Please do not send us any money: your group pays postage costs to send your comics to us, then we pay the postage to send you 5 new comics made by other groups.

Visit our blog for full details of how to get involved: https://comicswap.wordpress.com/about/

Don’t worry if you don’t have a comic to swap this time round – there will be more Comic Swaps to come, so start making those comics now!

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CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Creating Characters!

Have you had a go at our February Comics Challenge yet? Lots of fine people have, taking Jamie Smart‘s top-notch tips and creating all sorts of strange and remarkable characters. Let’s have a look!

First, here are some of the amazing creations from Neill’s Comics Club group at The Story Museum in Oxford:

DJ DUCK, by Morrigan!

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The **CATEGORICALLY NOT CUTE** Floating tozbot, by Sabeen!

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The frankly extraordinary MR DEPRESSED LATTE MAN, by Eliza!

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The (extremely positive) FLYING MAGIC CLOUD SHEEP, by Jack!

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The (adorable) GINGERBREAD BOY, by Freddie!

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The (angry) Ballet Pig MR BALLA ANGRY, by Libby:

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…and lots more! (Sorry to everyone I didn’t get a photo for!)

It was great seeing other people join in on twitter, too:

Once you’ve created a character, of course, the fun part is making up a whole story about them! Neill’s usual starting point for story structure looks like this:

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But in honour of Jamie’s work, this time we tried a variant, which looked a bit more like this:

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…and which led to some HIGHLY ENTERTAINING results:

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(AMAZING. I do love a story with a moral, apart from anything else.)

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(HARROWING).

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(MACHO APPLEJUICE)

…anyway, why not try this out yourself? you can find Jamie’s activity sheet as a download here, and a stack of blank comics pages right here. Let us know how you get on!

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Comic Club Spotlight with Dundee Comics Creative Space

This month we head to Dundee – birthplace of The Beano, The Dandy and many, many more comics. Damon Herd tells Hannah Sackett all about the brilliant Comic Clubs running at the Dundee Comics Creative Space.

Name of your Comic Club: Comics Club at Dundee Comics Creative Space

Where do you meet and how often? We meet every week in our own dedicated space in The Vision Building in Dundee. Tuesdays from 4.30-6.30pm for 10-13 year olds and every Wednesday from 4.30-6.30pm for 14-17 year olds. We also do outreach workshops at local schools and community groups.

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Average number of members: 15-20

How long have you been running? Since March 1st 2016

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Tell us about your club: DCCS is a social enterprise and studio project set up by the University of Dundee with funding from the The Rank Foundation. The aim is to provide educational workshops and to encourage creative learning through comics. Ink Pot, our studio, is filled with comics artists, many of whom are graduates of the comics courses atthe University and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design here in Dundee. The Ink Pot artists facilitate our workshops.

Most weeks we will do an exercise to learn a bit about comics but there will always be free drawing time. Sometimes we are working towards a publication, such as our anthology Tales From Dundee & Beyond, which was launched at Dundee Literary Festival last October. The Comics Clubbers also put together 8-page zine-style comics of their own work for the festival. Some of them became super entrepreneurs, handing out flyers and encouraging people to buy their comics! We also had an exhibition of comics in Dundee last year and the children’s comics were included in that too. Our connection with the University means we are able to get some great guests, such as Will Morris and Cam Kennedy. Dave Gibbons is our patron and did a workshop and portfolio review here when we first opened.

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Do you have a comic club activity you’d like to share: We love to start our workshops with warm up exercises and the favourite, by a long way, is consequences (or exquisite corpse), which always has everyone in stitches when the wacky characters are revealed at the end.

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Which comics should we be reading right now? Tales From Dundee and Beyond: Comics Club Comic Strips Volume 1. The anthology of strips by the young people in our workshops from the first six months of Comics Club – available from our website! The characters on the cover were designed for us by Glasgow-based artist Letty Wilson, who is a graduate of the Comics Masters at the University of Dundee. The Beano is still a favourite with our comics clubbers, and there is usually a Marvel/DC argument going on among some of them. Anything with a pug in it would be a big hit too. We looked at Lumberjanes a few weeks ago and that was popular, everyone started running round shouting ‘What the junk?’ Personally, I really like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Love and Rockets and anything by Julia Gfrörer.

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What are your plans for the coming year? More of everything. More Comics Clubs, more anthology comics, more exhibitions, more guests, and more collaborations with other groups.

Where can we find out more? Here at our website. We also have a mailing list if folks want to be kept up to date with all things DCCS: http://eepurl.com/ct8XFn

Many thanks to Damon and to the members of the Comic Clubs for sharing their work!

 

 

February Comics Challenge: Create a Character with Jamie Smart!

For this month’s comics challenge we are very lucky to have an activity designed by the amazing, talented and wholly indescribable Jamie Smart! Jamie is the prolific cartoonist, creator of Bunny VS Monkey and Looshkin in The Phoenix, as well as Find Chaffy, Where’s the Doctor, and MANY MANY MORE, not to mention being the creator and editor of the incredible all-ages anthology comic Moose Kid Comics. One of Jamie’s signature talents is his knack for creating unique, distinctive and hilarious characters, so for this month’s Comics Challenge he’s showing us how to do just that!

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If you’re doing this activity with a group, try brainstorming a load of suggestions at step 1 and writing them all up on the board / flipchart / wall / whatever, and then picking one to draw – that way you’ve got loads more ideas for when everyone else has a go!

Here’s the whole thing as an activity sheet, ready to be drawn on:

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Or: download as a PDF!

Have a go yourselves, and do show us what you come up with! We’d love to see your characters – get in touch through our contact page or tweet them at us at @ComicsclubBLOG!

Thanks so much to Jamie for letting us use this! If yo’re putting together a collection of Great Comics For Kids, Jamie’s work is an excellent place to start. You can buy his books such as Bunny VS Monkey (3 volumes so far, and beloved favourites all) in all good bookshops or direct from the Phoenix.

 

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You can also read all 3 issues to date (plus one Christmas special!) of Jamie’s incredible Moose Kid Comics project online. For free!

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And be sure to check out Jamie’s website for more details on ALL HIS OTHER STUFF! There is a lot of stuff! The guy is VERY PRODUCTIVE!

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