A change of pace today. I went to a regular customer, a school in Haren, to give a cartooning workshop to HAVO/Atheneum 4 students as part of their annual cultural project.
Prior to the workshop, I had a talk with studio-mate Jeroen who is setting up a series of classes for media students aged 16-20, which starts tomorrow. We exchanged tips for working with the various audiences. I advised Jeroen, for example, to keep comparisons with other media in mind; for example, building a cast of characters could be exemplified by pointing to the cast of a popular TV series like Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld is a Tintin-like figure in that he’s a fairly blank character surrounded by secondary characters who are more colourful visually and characterisation-wise. The setup is slightly more nuanced than Tintin because Jerry has his quirks and is a stand-up comedian, but the principle is the same. What with the recent flap about the actor playing Kramer losing it onstage and hurling racist invective at his audience, I got to see and read more about these characters than I had in a while, and I could see that in the Letterman interview about the affair, Jerry Seinfeld still had a thoroughly nondescript face.
Jeroen, for his part, helped me with my difficulties about introducing a theme, encouraging me to let my students free-associate for a bit. Today’s workshop did have a theme again, so I got to try that out. I decided at the last moment to take a copy of Groningen bij Nacht along, because the theme was "The City".
The workshop itself was a surprisingly difficult gig. I knew in advance that I’d be working with a class without interference from the teacher, and this hadn’t been a problem in previous years, but this class was unbelievably talkative and impossible to get quiet. There were factors that contribute to restlessness in these classes. There were a dozen other workshops going on at the same time, including a dance class in the recreation room. So everyone has the urge to flutter from one room to another, while the classes are being taught by guest teachers who can’t impose punishment. I’m a bit envious of the artists who teach more physical classes; while it was clear to me that the students in my room wanted to draw, they clearly found the sitting still that inevitably goes with drawing too difficult.
But those factors are present every year, and this year the talkyness was exceptional. Feh. Luckily, these kids have a little more in the brainbox than the ones I’ve been teaching lately, so they can multitask. They did absorb what I told them, even when they didn’t appear to be listening. But man was it tiring, especially having to repeat the organisational instructions all the time.
The kids also balked at the idea of having 13 hours of homework assigned to them, which I can understand. Comes with the activity these workshops are part of, though, so all I can tell them is that if they weren’t spending those 13 hours on this, they’d have to spend it on some other homework.
I did again split the class in two, mentioning the theme briefly at the start but leaving it there until after the break. Seems to have worked; the kids could focus on the theme, and did some pretty good free-associating. In fact, they did a better job at tying their work of the previous hour in with the theme than classes at that level did at previous workshops. So I’m sticking with that method.
Again, the class ended with sufficiently developed work from the class, as well as the formation of groups of students who will cooperate on comics. So, difficult though these two hours were, they got results. I’ll be back at the same school tomorrow, teaching a mixed group of HAVO and Atheneum students, Years 4 and 5. I’ll be bringing more copies of Groningen bij Nacht. Hopefully, the next group will be a little quieter.