Archive of Australian Alternative Comics: COMICS WORKSHOPS

The Bio-Hazard comics workshop poster. (Poster design by Xander Black)

Back in the 1990s a small number of design students enrolled at Sydney’s University of Technology were fortunate to attend two comics workshops taught by local creators Jason Paulos, Bodine Amerikah, Stuart Hale, Ant Larcombe, Sam Young and Xander Black. The events were organised by the students. Working in the Visual Communication Design program at the time, the course from which one of the creators, Ant Larcombe, was a graduate, I was happy to act as go-between and coordinator of this student initiative. The first workshop was Basick Inkstinct in 1996. This was followed up and developed the following year with the same tutors under the title Bio-Hazard. Both workshops enabled students to have contact with industry practitioners, creators and publishers of titles such as Hairbutt the Hippo, Cyberswine and Zero Assassin. This type of contact can make a valuable contribution to student training. It permitted students to see comics production as a valid form of visual communication within the graphic design field, a course that the majority of those who attended were enrolled.

The Basick Inkstinct comics workshop flyer. (Flyer design by Neil Heymann)

Both workshops were informally structured with the creators sitting at tables with the students demonstrating their skills on paper and engaging in studio banter with each other as they drew. Stuart Hale and Xander Black gave brief talks about comics making and the relative merits of local creators before the comics artists went through a practical session of scripting, thumbnails, page layout, rough and refined pencils, lettering and inking. The visiting creators were very generous with their time and the students appreciated this. These workshops preceded a more formal and official event that I subsequently organised, namely the Mind Rot Australian Comics Seminar & Workshop that I have blogged about previously in this series. That more formal workshop and accompanying symposium represented a further step in the process of formally recognising comics design within the academic curriculum as I was eventually able to offer comics based projects in the subjects Word and Image and Graphic Visualisation in that course and in the Master of Animation course that followed some years later.

This is the eleventh in a series of posts called Archives of Australian Comics History that document moments in the recent history of Australian comics, particularly alternative comics and the Australian Small Press. I started researching this subject in the late 1990s and it eventually led to my PhD thesis: Ph.D. Macquarie University, Division of Society, Culture, Media and Philosophy, A Study Of Contemporary Australian Alternative Comics 1992-2000 With Particular Reference To The Work Of Naylor, Smith, Danko And Ord, 2003. On completion of the research I donated the materials and comics I had collected to the National Library of Australia: Michael Hill Collection of Australian Comics.

Posts in Archives of Australian Comics History:   Comic-Fest   Comics  in Record Shops   Comics Workshops   Down Under Ground   Getting SMASH(ed)!   Imaginary Worlds Symposium    International Exhibition of Drawings   OZCON   Mind Rot   Savage Pencils   Sick Puppy Comix   TiNA Arena   MCA Zine Fair   2002 Sequential Art Studies Conference   2nd Sequential Art Studies Conference

Archive of Australian Alternative Comics: MIND ROT

Trawling through material from my back pages for content that will form part of my semi-autobiographical comic (Blotting Paper: The Recollected Graphical Impressions Of Doctor Comics) I came across this poster for an event that I conceived and organised at the University of Technology, Sydney back in 1998. I was a lecturer in Visual Communication in the Design Faculty at the time and endeavouring to incorporate comics based projects into the curriculum. Comics is a perfect medium in which to practice techniques of visual communication reliant as it is on the combination of words and images. First year undergraduate students undertaking Word and Image projects were generally enthusiatic about comics based applications. To increase the students’ understanding of the professional practice of making comics I decided to involve some practitioners.

Poster for the event designed by Neil Heymann.

With additional funding from the student group Stop Motion Sickness I invited Mandy Ord up from Canberra, Dillon Naylor from Melbourne and Glenn Smith from Sydney to show their work to visual communication design students and discuss how they went about making it. Mindful of the possibility of regional differences from the research I was doing into the Australian small press scene at the time it seemed interesting to have a speaker from three different cities. Each comics creator made a 45-60 minute presentation of their work followed by a Q&A session. Naylor profiled his comic about share-household shenanigans Pop Culture & 2 Minute Noodles, Ord her intensely inky, autobiographical tales of life in Canberra, Wilnot, and Smith his painstakingly linear drawn, slice-of-life The Sydney Morning Hell. Each guest also led a practical, sequential graphic workshop with a small group of students. Gerard Ashworth, also from Sydney, who attended the seminar helped out. The event was a small but significant moment in Australian comics history, especially in terms of the study of the medium within the ‘academy’.

The title? Attempted irony, perhaps? I think I was put in a defensive position by some of my colleagues about claiming comics as a valid medium of visual communication back in those days, thirteen years ago. Photography was the then popular medium followed by graphic design and illustration whilst comics, animation and video were off to one side. The poster was a good piece of visual communication by the then student Neil Heymann, now a New York based advertising designer. Teaching comics as practice was the hurdle then. A steeper jump followed with the notion of comics being considered as a medium of scholarly study and research.

This is the fourth in a series of posts called Archives of Australian Comics History that document moments in the recent history of Australian comics, particularly alternative comics and the Australian Small Press. I started researching this subject in the late 1990s and it eventually led to my PhD thesis: Ph.D. Macquarie University, Division of Society, Culture, Media and Philosophy,  A Study Of Contemporary Australian Alternative Comics 1992-2000 With Particular Reference To The Work Of Naylor, Smith, Danko And Ord, 2003. On completion of the research I donated the materials and comics I had collected to the National Library of Australia: Michael Hill Collection of Australian Comics.

Posts in Archives of Australian Comics History:   Comic-Fest   Comics  in Record Shops   Comics Workshops   Down Under Ground   Getting SMASH(ed)!   Imaginary Worlds Symposium    International Exhibition of Drawings   OZCON   Mind Rot   Savage Pencils   Sick Puppy Comix   TiNA Arena   MCA Zine Fair   2002 Sequential Art Studies Conference   2nd Sequential Art Studies Conference