Text by Tari Eguruze, MA Design Management & Cultures, Photos by Camilla Brueton and Pen Mendonca
The PG Community recently held their most recent Pop Up Common Room at the House of Illustration in Kings Cross, next door to Central Saint Martins.
This was a collaborative, hands on, comics creating workshop attended by postgraduate students from all UAL colleges and one lecturer. The session was run by practice-based PhD students Penelope Mendonça and John Miers, members of the UAL Comic Studies Network and comic creators and cartoonists in their own right. The event was devised in response to the ‘Comix Creatix: 100 Women Making Comics’ exhibition running at the House of Illustration.
Pen Mendonça is a practice-based PhD student and graphic facilitator, and her research focuses primarily on the portrayal and exploration of single motherhood in comics. John Miers is a practice-based PhD student, published cartoonist, and working lecturer, whose research focuses on the use of visual metaphor in comics drawing.
Pen and Jon started the session with snippets of information of women who have made names for themselves in the comics industry, putting the workshop within the context of the 100 Women Making Comics exhibition.
The exhibition has been staged was right on the heels of the recent controversy of the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême award having an all male shortlist, in direct contrast to the Comix Creatix show itself, which is a shining beacon of hope for budding comic enthusiasts around the world. Pen and Jen managed to give a brief, but surprisingly broad look into some of the women working within comics over the past century.
After a brief break-the-ice exercise of quickly sketching self-portrait cartoons of ourselves we dove straight into a tour of the exhibition itself where we were encouraged to draw whatever stood out to us, and listing any notable artists whose names we came across.
The feedback from the group on the tour expressed that the exhibition made a huge impression on them. Some had no idea women had such a prolific role in the industry. The exhibition featured and not just one type of women, but women in every genre, style, or corner of the world one could imagine.
As a group we were inspired as we moved into the main event of the workshop; a collaborative comics creation exercise where we began by drawing one comic panel directly inspired by at least one of the works we saw in the exhibition. We then passed our work to someone else in the group, and contined their panel however we liked.
By the end of the session we had each worked on a comic page with at least three others in the group. It was clear that our comics had began to progress into more meta and existential comics, inspired somewhat by the works of the great women in the exhibition we explored earlier. This response may not have happened if we had not been encouraged to work together.
Before leaving, Pen and John had the group to stick their work up on the wall, which everyone spent time looking at and enjoying the co-created comic strips. As people left, each took a piece of their artwork away with them, hopefully leaving proud and inspired enough to look into the history, the artists, and artistry of the comics industry a little deeper than they perhaps had done before.
Within this comics workshop there was an emphasis on collaborating on a piece of comic work, and sharing a better understanding the women who work or had worked in the medium. I think what made the workshop successful is the fact that we all left having worked together, and learning something new, more so than focusing on producing a heavily worked up piece of comic art.
More photos from the workshop: