During February and March 2014, leading Apples and Snakes artists worked with young people in secondary schools across Islington as part of a project called Unheard Voices. The graphic designer, comic creator and illustrator Richy K. Chandler wrote about his experience with Unheard Voices in his blog Tempolush. Here’s what he had to say.
Earlier in the year I got the chance to take part in Islington Council’s Unheard Voices project where children collaborated with poets and other creators, through the fantastic performance poetry organisation Apples and Snakes.
In a series of workshops, my task was to help classes in two different schools create and visualise poems and stories, with the goal of putting those stories into a printed collection…
That’s a big challenge but fortunately I was working alongside the amazing performer, poet and writer Inua Ellams who had already laid down much of the groundwork with the classes by the time I joined in the fun.
Inua helped children from City of London Academy Islington develop story ideas. As a group they eventually settled on the theme of a bird with no wings.
Here are some of their early designs of wingless birds.
While these were planned as just developmental drawings, they were so good, some ended up in the finished book as part of the complete story.
All the kids in the class threw their own ideas into the pot and voted for the best directions to take the story…
…Here are some ideas for the climax of the story along with the votes that the class gave each idea!
Alongside the story development, we looked at different ways to visualise our main character who would come to be known as Pegano. Based on the kids’ agreement on what the key characters should look like, I created a reference sheet for them.
Pegano was always the odd bird out. Some of the others laughed at her because she could not fly, some pitied her, but most of them simply ignored her.
Pegano pretended not to care. When they turned to laugh at her, they would see her studying the forest floor, looking after the small things that crawled, but when they turned away, Pegano would look up at them, flying through the sky and wish they would speak to her.
Now I had the task of guiding the children through creating images that could be used to tell the story in comic form. This was an exciting new way for me to make comics!
First I divided Inua’s text into chunks so that different groups of children could focus on visualising each section.
The kids started developing ways to express each scene or moment. At this point there was no need to make perfect drawings, just get their ideas down on paper, which they did brilliantly.
For the final workshop, the pupils chose which scene they would be depicting. They drew exciting images to be used in the comic version of the story.
In the end I had a big stack of drawings which I took back to my studio to scan into my mac.
The plan was to lay out the images and add text and panel borders, so the story would read effectively and look great. I added grey tones and manipulated the artwork a little. Sometimes I took two or more images and collaged them together. Other times I moved the position of certain elements of a picture or created a mirror image of a drawing if that seemed suitable in the context of a page.
Only very occasionally did I have to draw or redraw anything myself as the children’s artwork expressed what was going on clearly to begin with.
As when making any comic, as the pictures were laid out it became clear how to edit the text. Often large amounts of words were removed as the pictures alone could express the action clearly.
So below you can read the final results of the collaboration between Inua, myself and most importantly the children of City of London Academy Islington.
Part 2 of Richy’s experiences with Unheard Voices is now live on his blog. You can find it here.
If you’re interested in knowing more about Richy’s work and what he’s up to, visit his blog for updates and previews.Read More