As some of you might know, my day job is as web and graphic designer at the International School of Amsterdam (ISA), in the Netherlands. Last week was Book Week at ISA and it being a Kindergarten to Grade 12 school, we were lucky to welcome of some really great authors. They held many talks and presentations during the week and I was fortunate enough to meet and talk to some of them. Our school is also fortunate to have amongst its faculty and staff, a number of published and self-published authors. As an ISA Book Week first, we were asked if we’d be interested in talking to the students about our work and experiences as writers and artists.
As much as I find difficult to speak to a crowd, small or large, I thought this would be a great opportunity to recap on where my adventures in comic making have taken me since I started creating Captain Wayne. I had planned to hold a talk for high school art students anyway so, we all thought this was a good way to combine the two. It would also allow me to not solely focus on the creative process but everything else that’s involved in being a one man band.
On Thursday, I addressed a small group of high school eleventh grade students. These are kids that study visual arts as one of their six subjects of their International Baccalaureate. I managed to cram everything I had intended in the 75 minutes I had been given. The students seemed very engaged, asked questions throughout the talk and were even taking notes! I started with the origins of the Captain Wayne project, how it can to be and how it developed over time. Ideation doodling, developing concepts, writing, storyboarding, the importance of observation drawing, how human and animal anatomy relates to drawing imaginary characters and creatures, combining digital workflows with traditional techniques, those were some of the topics I covered. The first part focused on my process while creating my first graphic novel, as an artist but also as an author. I moved forward to elaborate on the reasons that pushed me to publish online, and how I went from a lonely, cave-bound creation process to one that involved sharing and learning from others. The idea of offering your art for free (to a certain extend) in order to grow an audience and a fan base still seems to be considered as unusual and weird. We briefly talked about social networking sites, my approaches, trials and tribulations and the importance of attitude as it influences how others perceive you. Students were eager to find out about a miracle recipe for meeting lots of people interested in your work. It somewhat came as a surprise that what works for one artist will not necessarily be as rewarding for another. I did mention that, in my opinion, the key to success is to be genuine and never negative.
I moved on to talk about how, as my online presence grows ever so slowly, I find myself contributing to collaborative projects and invited to take part in all kinds of projects. I was happy to be able to convey the idea of the never ending, ever evolving artist’s journey which comes with harsh challenges but the most fulfilling and unexpected rewards.
Ultimately, my presentation’s focal point was my personal artistic journey. The feedback I got was far more engrossing than what I could have anticipated: students and teachers alike found it fascinating and inspirational. My initial and principal two goals were: a) not to make a fool of myself and b) to do my best to keep my audience interested for most of the presentation’s duration. The morning of the first talk I did remind myself that what mattered more was to convey my passion for my personal projects and it seems I hit a home run on that front. Even the two ninth grade classes that attended the second session on Friday were all ears throughout and had plenty of interesting questions. That was really amazing and inspirational, for me!
The most fascinating aspect of this whole experience is that while there was at first a certain reticence on my part to open up and talk about what really seemed to matter, I somehow came to the realisation that what I do and why I do it were what my audience was after. It’s a strange feeling to see that my own work and artistic endeavours can inspire a crowd of young minds as well as their teachers. The last week has been a humbling experience, it required a leap of faith on my part but the pay-off was way more than I could have anticipated!
Finally, I’d like to thank our wonderful librarians, Michelle and Nathalie, for giving me and my colleagues the opportunity to step out of our comfort zone and let our students see a side of us that they maybe did not suspect existed. I’m looking to put together a screen cast with a voice over of the presentation and post it on the Making Captain Wayne blog, so hopefully I’ll get that online soon for those interested!
Don’t forget to tune in on Thursday for the next update of Trouble on P57-Exodus. See you then!