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Article: "Orchard School Hosts Comics Camp…" (River Record)

TOS-MakeComicsOrchard School Hosts Comics Camp for Kids
From the River Record, August 9, 2002

By Nicole Viger
Record Staff

EAST ALSTEAD – If anything was learned at the Orchard School children’s first comics camp last week, it was that it doesn’t require a huge budget to express yourself.

Self-taught cartoonist Marek Bennett led the week-long camp of 13 kids aged 8 to 14, during which participants worked from morning until afternoon learning how to draw comics and making their own comic book. At the end of the week, each camper made 20 copies of their finished product and swapped books in a comics convention. Each child went home with a boxed set and three copies of their own work.

Some were more focused, Bennett said, but everyone had a moment of inspiration, Anyone can draw cartoons, Bennett wrote in the camp’s introductory book, but comics happen when cartoons are put together. Many started with a germ of an idea, he said, and let that idea blossom. Drawing, reading, and imagining combined are the key to being a successful cartoonist.

Comic books are an art form that affords a great deal of possibility, especially for children, Bennett said. “It’s a way for them to express themselves cinematically,” he said, adding that you don’t need a studio full of people to communicate with a comic book….

Isabel Morgan-Karl, 8, of Putney, wrote a story about a man who works at a store and steals a man’s wallet out of his pocket but decides to give it back. The most valuable technique she learned at comics camp, she said, is how to construct a book. Morgan-Karl’s mother is an artist and inspires her to draw herself. She also brought along some inspiration – a book of the popular comics strip, “Calvin and Hobbes.”

Codi Hindes, 10, of Bellows Falls, who had some experience with making comics strips already, titled her 24-page story, “Talking Lessons.” Hindes’ main character is named Two Mouths, and, like the name suggests, he has two mouths that contradict each other. The top mouth decides to teach a man named Quiet to talk, but his plan fails miserably because Quiet slyly escapes each of Two Mouths’ attempts to teach him to say hello by holding up a sign that reads hello, spray painting the word hello and playing a tape recorder that says hello. Hindes amusing story ends when Two Mouths gives up and says goodbye to Quiet, to which he replies, “Bye.”

To develop the look of the main characters and make them interesting, Hindes said the group first made squiggly shapes on large sheets of paper and created characters out of them.

Hindes said she learned that different types of bubbles in the frame signify different emotions of characters. A square or round bubble … is used to convey a regular voice. A bubble with a wavy outline means the character is serious, and a jagged bubble means the character is yelling. If a character is thinking, small dots trailing from the bubble are used.

Speed lines drawn behind the character in the frame suggest motion, Hindes said, and added that a character drawn with a light line surrounded by dark lines can make the cartoon look 3-D.

Lots of different aspects can completely change the look of a comic, Bennett told his students. Words and sound, motion and point of view, which Bennett said is similar to camera angle, can completely change the look of a comic.

To familiarize them with drawing comics, Bennett asked each participant to show an action of event in three frames. Each of these he assembled in a book. Every decision about style, detail and point of view will affect a reader’s experience, Bennett stressed. He also had them do some animation, Hindes said this was done by drawing a character on one page, and on the next page, drawing that character in a slightly different position. When someone flips through the pages, it appears as though that character is in motion….


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