“Adjacent Panels” part 1/2; parallel Comics Open Studios led by Belgian cartoonist Ephameron and American cartoonist Anders Nilsen, with students in Communication Design, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.

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Belgian cartoonist Ephameron’s Graphic Narrative Open Studio at CommDe, Thailand
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American cartoonist Anders Nilsen’s Comics Open Studio at CommDe, Thailand

On May 14-17 2018, some 40 students at the International Program in Communication Design (CommDe, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand) attended in two groups to 4-day parallel “Open Studios” led by Belgian cartoonist and illustrator Ephameron (aka Eva Cardon) and American cartoonist and illustrator Anders Nilsen.

〈Anders Nilsen wrote his own account of the 4-day “Chulalongkorn Comics Workshop Phantasmagoria” on this blog post.〉

“It was a remarkable experience in about a hundred different ways, but in particular the students were amazing.” Anders Nilsen (blog post here)

The current post presents the two first days of the Open Studios, and a second post will soon display pics from the last two days of workshop. Students were able to experience two completely different approaches in comics composition during these Open Studios, as Ephameron focused on capturing the essence of a short story and its breakdown and visual adaptation in comics form while Anders Nilsen explored “non-standard” panel layouts and constrained comics exercises (inspired by OuBaPian experiments from the Pierre Feuille Ciseaux international comics residency-laboratory) in order to generate unexpected characters and plots. I do apologize here for the far too invasive presence of my noisy camera, and thank all participants for the patience and understanding. Nicolas

Here are the presentations of Ephameron and Anders Nilsen’s Open Studios by the CommDe program which invited the two artists and hosted the event.

L’image contient peut-être : dessin

Eva Cardon leads CommDe Open Studio on Graphic Narrative. In this open studio on Graphic Narrative each student chooses one of the short stories from American author Raymond Carver collections What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Cathedral and turns it into a graphic narrative that explores the limits of comics, and experiments with storytelling techniques. Eva works under the pseudonym Ephameron and is based in Flanders. She publishes and exhibits internationally.”

L’image contient peut-être : dessin et texte

Anders Nilsen leads CommDe Open Studio ‘Where Do Your Ideas Come From: A Comics Workshop.’ Anders will lead students to explore their own creativity in developing characters and narratives. Anders Nilsen is the award-winning artist and author of nine books of comics and visual narrative including Big Questions, Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, The End and Tongues. His work has appeared in the New York Times, The Chicago Reader, Medium, Kramer’s Ergot and elsewhere. His comics have been translated into numerous languages and his artwork has been shown internationally. He lives in Portland, Oregon.”


DAY 1: MONDAY, MAY 14

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Getting acquainted: Anders Nilsen and student Winnie.

DAY 1 in Ephameron’s Open Studio. Part 01: story-boarding of a Raymond Carver’s short story. The Belgian artist introduced the life and works of Raymond Carver and proposes a warm-up exercise. All students had to break down an imposed short story Why don’t you dance? (from Raymond Carver’s collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love) into a storyboard of 10 illustrations.

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Ephameron introduces the life and works of Raymond Carver.
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Student Noey and her comrades go through the imposed Raymond Carver’s short story Why don’t you dance?.
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Student Darnis, Pin, Cherry and their comrades go through the imposed Raymond Carver’s short story Why don’t you dance?.
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Student Sharon breaks down Raymond Carver’s short story Why don’t you dance? in a 10-panel storyboard.
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Ephameron goes through all the Why don’t you dance? storyboards produced by her students.
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Ephameron provides comment on all the 10-panel storyboards during the first collective review.

DAY 1 in Anders Nilsen’s Open Studio. Part 01: the Comics Loop. Meanwhile in the classroom below, the American cartoonist proposes a first exercise to generate imaginative character designs. Each student randomly draws a name card on which a stock character is named (“beggar child”, “drug dealer”, “elephant”, etc.). Each student is then asked to divide an A4 page in four panels and is given a few minutes to create the character design of his/her assigned character in the first panel. When done, students are given a few more minutes to come up with completely different interpretation and graphic rendition of their assigned character, in order to avoid the obvious/common portrayal they might have provided in the first panel. When the second panel is completed, students must redraw their character in the two last panels but in graphic styles different from their personal style in order to leave their confort zone.

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Student Arty considers her “beggar child” character.

When done, the same exercise is repeated but with name cards of objects, then name cards of settings/sceneries. All character/object/setting designs are then separated and taped to a wall. Each student must then designates his/her 3 favorite character designs, then objects, then settings.

After voting, the three favorite character designs, objects and settings are brought together.

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The three selected characters (therianthropic duck, faceless millipedes-cat and hybrid elephant) after selection by the students, and editorial intervention by Anders and yours truly as two initially picked characters were too similar. As a substitution, the faceless millipedes-cat was imposed for its poetic, graphic and narrative potential.
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Board with the selected character designs; and with picked settings and objects before editorial discussion, intervention and substitution.

As the three selected objects (like the fish can or the anthropomorphic chair) could be turned into characters and would be redundant with the initially selected characters, Anders and I decided to substitute them for a meteorite (which could also be used as a setting), a “bone trapped in a crystal”. The “top of a building” setting was discarded in favor a snow globe, being an object and holding a potential setting. The 9 definitive elements were then used as references, and limitations to maintain coherence, for a collective comics composition assignment -in the form of an exquisite corpse– based on the constrained exercise La Boucle/The Loop developed by the ChiFouMi Association. This exercise had been already implemented at the Faculty of Communication Arts in 2015 with 17 participants, whether professional Thai cartoonists or enthusiasts (more info on this dedicated post). Here is the “protocol” of the constrained exercise. Let’s note here that the story remains “wordless” to facilitate the development of the narrative, as the presence of dialogues might complicate the action of linking the first and last panels together.

Step one: defining 9 elements (3 characters/ 3 objects/ 3 settings). See above.

Step two: each student draws a 6-panel regular grid on an A4 page. Every student must start the action of his/her story in the sixth (and last) panel using one or several of the 9 imposed elements. When done, he/she gives his/her page to the artist on his/her left. Time limit: 15′.

Step three: in the first panel of the page he/she got from his/her seatmate, the artist must continue the action he/she started on the previous page. Time limit: 15′.

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Student Kade reaches the end of the third step as she draws her second panel, using the therianthropic duck character and the “pound with lotus” setting turned into a “desert island”, in the top left panel of a page she received from her seatmate.

Step four: all pages, with only the first panel filled by an artist and the sixth panel filled by another artist, are gathered together. Each student randomly draws a number and -following order of the numbers- can select a page on which he/she will have to fill the four remaining panels (or panels 2 to 5), and link panels 1 and 6 into a somehow coherent narrative.

  Step five: each student must now fill the four empty panels (or panels 2 to 5) on the page he/she picked, and link panels 1 and 6 (each drawn by another student) into a somehow coherent narrative.

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Student Uang connects the imposed first panel (with faceless millipedes-cat drawn by a classmate) and last panel (with hybrid-elephant heads turned into meteorite drawn by another classmate) by filling panels 2 to 5 to form a somehow coherent narrative.

 The Final Story: As presented by the Association ChiFouMi, “the story that is made through all these joints makes an infinite loop, where all the elements that were produced before gives some kind of common road where each author can intend its own singularities and its own imagination, while following a protocol nearly invisible.”

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When the Loop is completed, pages are reassembled in correct order, and Anders Nilsen goes through the final story with the students explaining their often imaginative and exhilarating narrative twists. Here: student Kade explains her plot. Incidentally, this commented and collective reading of the resulting comics evokes the tradition of orally commented 30-meter-long graphic narrative scrolls (know as Bun Phra Wet) in North-Eastern Thailand and Laos.

It is interesting to note that a series of recurring motifs appeared throughout the narrative, without any consultation among the students. If “transformations” are obviously to be expected in order to link two disparate panels together, the frequency of “transformations by digestion” was here quite remarkable. Recurring motifs include ingestion, swallowing, vomiting, excretion (maybe in connection with the importance of food in Thai culture, or with gluttonous Brahmin Chuchok whose belly would burst in the Vessantara Jataka, or Krasue spirit with their internal organs hanging down from the neck?), and some related scatological elements, to which -and quite logically in a Buddhist culture- the recurring lotus flower raising from mud would balance. Karmic retribution, and Inception-like worlds inside worlds, were quite present too. The resulting comics was wild, and hilarious at times, as the following pictures show.

The PDF of the complete loop is downloadable on this link: CommDe Comics Loop.

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Page from the Comics Loop, with panel 1 by a first student, panel 6 by a second student, and panels 2 to 5 completed by a third student. Full story in PDF below.
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Page from the Comics Loop, with panel 1 by a first student, panel 6 by a second student, and panels 2 to 5 completed by a third student. Full story in PDF below.
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Page from the Comics Loop, with panel 1 by a first student, panel 6 by a second student, and panels 2 to 5 completed by a third student. Full story in PDF below.
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Page from the Comics Loop, with panel 1 by a first student, panel 6 by a second student, and panels 2 to 5 completed by a third student. Full story in PDF below.

The PDF of the complete loop is downloadable on this link: CommDe Comics Loop.


  DAY 1 in Anders Nilsen’s Open Studio. Part 02: the comics “scrabble/domino”. Anders Nilsen proposed another exercise to which the students were invited to participate whenever they wanted during the 4-day Open Studio. The American artist scattered some illustrations on different walls and asked the students to add new illustrations after, before, above or below his own in order to generate strips, and narratives which would slowly spread across the walls.

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Anders Nilsen taped his inaugural illustration on the wall and explains the “scrabble/domino” assignment.
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Exactly 2 minutes later, the collaborative strip already takes a… digestive/flatulent turn.
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Collective & improvised “scrabble/domino” comics, by Anders Nilsen and his students.
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Collaborative improvised comics; using characters generated earlier, Anders Nilsen and the students added panels to the strip throughout the day. Never without some cooking.

DAY 1 in Ephameron’s Open Studio. Part 02: figure drawing. Meanwhile Belgian artist Ephameron lets her students release some steam, after a challenging and focused day of short story analysis and story-boarding, by proposing a “figure drawing” session. Each student was invited to draw one of his/her classmates, respecting proportions and attitudes, and exploring various facial expressions.


DAY 2 in Ephameron’s Open Studio. Part 01: comics adaptation of various Raymond Carver’s short stories. At the end of previous day, Ephameron provided each of her students with a different short story written by American author Raymond Carver and mainly taken from the collections What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Cathedral. Each student has the three remaining days to adapt his/her assigned short story into a comics.

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Students Mim (left) and Sharon (right) with Ephameron.
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Focused. From left to right: students Plye, Lukpear, Fern and Bank.
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Student Fai storyboarding a short story by Raymond Carver.
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Student Lukpear breaks down Raymond Carver’s short story The Calm into a 10-panel storyboard for Ephameron’s Graphic Narrative Open Studio.

DAY 2 in Anders Nilsen’s Open Studio. Part 01: Taming the Beast. As the Comics Loop resulted in a wilder-than-expected exhilarating narrative, the American cartoonist decided to go for an additional exercise in order to “tame the Beast” and channel the energy.

Anders Nilsen presented the students with Daniel Clowes‘ comics page “What Is the Most Important Invention of the 20th Century?” published on October 1989 in the first issue of his comics series EightballThe page is a visual adaptation of “the work of David Greenberger, who asked questions of nursing home residents and transcribed their answers in his zine The Duplex Planet.” Other Duplex Planet-inspired comics -with each story’s title is the question Greenberger asked, e.g., “Where Do Wiseguys Come From?”- appeared in Eightball #2 to 4, and 6 (see below for pics).

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Anders Nilsen presents Daniel Clowes’ “What Is the Most Important Invention of the 20th Century?” (October 1989).
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Daniel Clowes’ “What Is the Most Important Invention of the 20th Century?” published on October 1989 in the first issue of his comics series EightballThe page is a visual adaptation of “the work of David Greenberger, who asked questions of nursing home residents and transcribed their answers in his zine The Duplex Planet.”
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Title panel is left blank (for now). Imposed (and previously discarded) characters 1 to 5 have each to occupy their assigned panel, and explain what they witnessed during the “Event” of the Comics Loop. Students can then choose between characters 6 and 6′, who participated in the “Event”, to fill the final panel. When art is done, students add the imposed title “What Happened?”.

Here are some results from the “What Happened? – Clowes/Greenberger” assignment by the students.

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“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Winnie.
What Bamie 01
“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Bamie.
What Arty 02
“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Arty.
What Rit 04
“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Rit.
What Punn 06
“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Punn.
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“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Wee.
What Kade 03
“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Kade.

And an extra constrained comics assignment:


DAY 2 in Anders Nilsen’s Open Studio. Part 02: Finding Anders Nilsen.  The American cartoonist did a short presentation of his journey as an artist, with the various defining steps and realizations mapping out his career path, such as stressing the importance of his sketchbooks in all aspects of his numerous projects. Some 25 of his books (from zines to graphic novels or collaborative productions) were on display in the classroom for the students to consult.

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Finding Anders Nilsen: some 25 books -from Anders’ early zines to latest graphic novels, sketchbook facsimile, coloring book or ChiFouMi collective projects- were available for consultation.

DAY 2 in Anders Nilsen’s Open Studio. Part 03: “I Almost Died!” assignment.  After a lot of fun, students were asked to work on a more dramatic and/or intimate (or humorous if preferred) 8-panel comics page starring two characters. The first character would talk about a time that they almost died. The other character only speaks once, to ask a question. Seven panels show the two characters, and one panel (selected by the student) shows something else.

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Getting serious, or trying. Anders Nilsen and student Kade discovering the “I Almost Died!” constrained comics.
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Kade.
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Bamie.
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Rit.
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Arty.
Almost Died Punn 02
“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Punn
Almost Died Wee 04
“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Wee
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Tonkla

DAY 2 in Ephameron’s Open Studio. Part 02: comics adaptation of various Raymond Carver’s short stories. Students pursue their comics adaptations of assigned short story written by American author Raymond Carver and mainly taken from the collections What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Cathedral.

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Ephameron and student Lukpear discuss the breakdown of Raymond Carver’s short story The Calm.
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Student Oom at work on the page breakdown of the Raymond Carver’s short story she was assigned: Tell the Woman We’re Going.

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After an exhausting second day, students Sam and Kade need a well-deserved rest…

PART 2/2 COMING SOON…


 

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Workshop: “The Thai Loop” (June 23, 2015)

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The Thai Loop was a workshop held on June 23, 2015 as part of the activities marking the 50th anniversary of the Faculty of Communication Arts at Chulalongkorn University in association with the Thai Reading Culture Promotion Program, the Thai
Cartoon Association, the publisher Let’s Comic Publishing and the ChiFouMi Association. The story created during this workshop was displayed at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (USA) during the fifth Pierre Feuille Ciseaux collective experimental comics residency (see below).

The workshop aimed at the creation of an exquisite corpse, based on the constrained exercise La Boucle/The Loop developed by the ChiFouMi Association, with 17 participants, whether professional Thai cartoonists or enthusiasts. Duration: 1 hour.

Step 01: After a presentation of the OuBaPo, the ChiFouMi Association and the exercise (10’), 9 of the 17 artists create the design of 9 imposed elements (3 characters/ 3 objects/ 3 backgrounds). The 9 imposed elements are: Yeti/Hunter/Bat, Mushroom/Whiskey Bottle/Mirror, River/Snowy Mountain/Cave. Time limit: 10′.

Step 02: Each artist is given a comics page with 4 empty panels. Every artist must start the action of his/her story in the fourth panel using one or several of the previously designed elements. When done, he/she gives his/her page to the artist on his/her left. Time limit: 10′.

Step 03: In the first panel of the page he/she got from his/her seatmate, the artist must continue the action he/she started on the previous page. When done, the artist gives his/her page to the artist on his/her left. Time limit: 10′.

Step 04: On this page, where the first and the fourth panels have been completed by two other artists, the participant must fill panels 2 & 3 to create a sequence linking panels 1 & 4. Time limit: 20′.

The Final Story: As presented by the Association ChiFouMi: “The story that is made through all these joints makes an infinite loop, where all the elements that were produced before gives some kind of common road where each author can intend its own singularities and its own imagination, while following a protocol nearly invisible.” The complete story (PDF file, 6,5 mo) can be downloaded here.


The 17 participants:

– TUNA DUNN (Tunlaya Dunn) – Thai, F, 22, freelance illustrator and cartoonist

– SITTHIPORN (Gulwarottama) – Thai, M, 45, cartoonist trainer, Cartoon Camp organizer and exec. member of the Thai Cartoon Association

– OM RATCHAWEJ – Thai, M, 58, professional cartoonist and exec. member of the Thai Cartoon Association

– SIA TAIRATH (Sakda Saeeow) – Thai, M, 60, editorial cartoonist and exec. member of the Thai Cartoon Association

– SOMBAT KHEWHOK – Thai, M, 59, children’s book illustrator and professional cartoonist

– SALAH (Nakbumrung) – Thai, M, 54, professional cartoonist

– FAH (Laothanathavorn Panada) – Thai, F, 21, Psychology student, intern at Let’s Comic Publishing

– NUTTO (Ninthomya Watcharachai) – Thai, M, 26, graphic designer at Let’s Comic Publishing

– SONOSON (Tunyaluck Techasrisutee) – Thai, M, 30, CEO/Editor at Let’s Comic Publishing

– IN – INSINE CARTOONIST (Intrayuth Thepakun) – Thai, M, 38, professional cartoonist

– SINE – INSINE CARTOONIST (Panee Itthibamrungrak) – Thai, F, 30, professional cartoonist

– PAVEL SLUTSKIY – Russian, M, 36, PhD, Assoc. prof. lecturer at Comm. Arts, Chulalongkorn University

TANGMO – Thai, F, graduate student, BA in Animation Design & Production

– TANADEK, NK, SARITA & PANLOP


Meanwhile in the USA: The story created during this workshop was displayed at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design during the fifth Pierre Feuille Ciseaux collective experimental comics residency. More information over here.

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Mexican artist Ines Estrada, American author and Canadian catoonist Marc Bell dicovering the “Thai Loop” at MCAD during PFC#5.