Supreme Artists 2018

Every Tuesday for the last 8 months, six pupils at the Portsmouth Grammar School have been meeting in the school Library over lunch to talk about what they’ve been reading and to learn about the process of making comics: writing, drawing, inking, colouring and collaborating. When the inaugural Portsmouth Comic Con was announced, the goal of producing a club zine to launch at the event took root. Hearing about the Little Heroes Comics organisation, gave the project new purpose: the participants would donate the proceeds from the sale of their zine to charity.  On May 5th, Supreme Artists 2018 was introduced to the world. But will the world ever be the same…?

Making comics can be difficult. It’s often hard work, and is usually a solitary experience. But starting a club is a great way to share ideas and work, stay social, and encourage each other.

Diarmuid: You should make posters of Pizza Steve. Or make a comic like the Kardashians where we see Pizza Steve and his family!

 

Jesal: Who are the Kardashians?

It’s not without its own pitfalls, however.

Sam: I normally always create my own comics without any purpose to sell or give them to other people. I thought, “I’m going to share it. I’m going to make it perfect.” Now I’d probably try to be less of a perfectionist because it would speed up the process and make it less stressful.

Sharing one’s work can be stressful. As artists, our self-worth is often tied like a Gordian knot into our work. Where does the work start and the ego end? Putting out solo work, especially for young creators, demands a level of self-confidence that takes the pros years to develop (but don’t be fooled into thinking that confidence is like water displacement. With confidence and self-doubt, it doesn’t matter how many confident Archimedeses jump into the pool, the pool is still filled with the water of self-doubt). Coming together as a group, supporting each other and pointing out the value not only in an individual’s work, but in the individual can create an environment where risks are more comfortably taken and fears can be collectively deafened. The group as an artist is a supreme force to be reckoned with.    

Sam: I enjoyed going to a club and sharing. And simply drawing a comic.

 

Theo: Quite cool to know that we were making a comic others would be seeing as I usually don’t share my work.

Zines have a long and illustrious place in the history of counterculture art movements, esoteric fandom and voices from the margins. They can be a cheap and effective way of disseminating work quickly and directly and are the perfect medium in which to package the comics of a group of year 7s and 8s (Note to Parents, Teachers & Librarians: Working in Print during a Digital age  might seem anachronistic, but the zine as an object is a powerful tool. It’s a physical manifestation of effort and accomplishment. Keep in mind that this current cohort of Year 7s and 8s are made up of people who were born into a world where Youtube was already a couple of years old.).  Zines can be handmade, with an old typewriter, or with a printer or photocopier. Zines are a democratic medium and anyone can create one.

Jesal: We learned how to fit a lot of information into four panels.

 

Joe: I really liked thinking about doing it. Planning it out.

 

Eddie: Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

For Supreme Artists 2018, we started simple: four panels. How can you tell a complete story in four panels? The idea of drawing your own comic can be thrilling. It can make you want to grab a sheet of paper, a handful of pencils, pens and markers and plop down wherever you are and get stuck in. How hard can it be, right? Then, the large, square, white eye of the blank page stares back at you. Suddenly, the comic that was just in full-focus in your mind’s eye vanishes, then reappears, perched on some lofty mountain peak, surrounded by flying tiger-vultures and guarded by a thousand poison-tipped-spear-throwing ogres. Where to begin?

Theo: Take your time. You don’t want to rush it. Try and plan out what you’re going to do

 

Jesal: A four panel zine is a great way to start making comics–

Diarmuid: –And a good way to put ideas on a page.

Start small. What’s the story you want to tell? Okay, put the opus on the back burner for the time being, what’s a story you can tell, and tell briefly: Beginning. Middle. End. Giving yourself the challenge of creating a story in four panels keeps it bite-sized, and gives you room to experiment with techniques, figure out what different tools can do, and how to control the flow of a story. Working in a group can help you to iron out kinks. If you get stuck on a story point, someone else might have the key to unlocking your problem. You might be great with a pencil, but aren’t sure how to use a brush. Maybe a peer can give you a few pointers. Four panels are flexible, capable of doing a lot of heavy lifting, but manageable.

Eddie: I enjoyed using different techniques, like using Tipp-Ex to make stars.

 

Theo: Trying to ink it. Trying to get where the shadows would be.

 

Jesal: It was fun to make logos and our own characters…like Pizza Steve.

 

Joe: Trying to keep colours different was difficult. Blue and purple bled together.

Groups are also great for keeping you on task. You can set a group deadline, and encourage each other to keep going. Making a comic requires time, but if you don’t set a deadline, you can overwork it, or push the tricky bits off, and wind up becoming discouraged from ever finishing it. We were lucky inasmuch as fate set the deadline for us. A local convention is the perfect showcase for your work. But you don’t need an organised public forum for launching a comic. Hunt around for future events that could correspond with the publication of your zine: craft fairs, school fetes, open days, it doesn’t have to be comic related. Barring that, get your calendar out, flip a few pages and write “FINISH COMIC.” Underline it a few times and during your group meetings, talk about it. Ask yourselves what you’ll need to do to get everything ready to finish on time. If you start a school club, get your staff sponsor to nag you. A deadline is a great motivating force.

 

But most importantly:

Joe: Just enjoy yourself.

Hey presto, you’ve now got a comic. Next time, you’ll probably be faster. Next time, try 8 panels in half the time. Keep going. Keep pushing yourself. Keep sharing your thoughts, ideas and progress with your group, even if your group is only two people. Be Supreme Artists.

 

One last note. Consider it a challenge:

 

As Supreme Artists, think about how you can help others who may not be feeling as supreme. Donate the proceeds of your book to a charity. Encourage others to join your group. Let the habit of telling others you like their work spill out into other aspects of your life. Your group can be a force for so much good beyond the pages of your comic and the deeds of your heroes.  

Supreme Artists 2018 features the work of Theo Roseblade, Jesal Patel, Sam Lewis, Eddie Banham, Joe Houlberg and Diarmuid Bailey.

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