This weekend was 2D- Northern Irelands Comic festival. We had heard great reports from comic creators about what a wonderful friendly event it is, so I was very happy to be asked to attend and run a Comics workshop at it.
2D is held at Londonderry / Derry in a beautiful part of Northern Ireland. Due to family and work constraints I could only attend the Saturday of the event which runs from Thursday to Saturday at the Verbal Arts centre in Derry. I’d left home in the usual last 10 minute rush hastily throwing things into a bag and leaving wet primed canvases on the easel. The usual overworked chaos was exacerbated by the fact that Richmond’s car ( the more affordable to run of our 2 ) had sprung a petrol leak, so we transferred to my dog hair filled gas guzzler to drop the dog off at my sons and complete the six hour plus journey to Troon. Ferry to Larne, overnight at Richmond’s parents, then a 5.45am start & Rich drove me to Belfast Central station for the train to Derry. Sadly I slept through what is apparently one of the worlds great railways journeys, the last mile or two which I did see were certainly scenic. Rousing my fuzzy head from sleep, I scribbled some workshop plans down in my jotter. I have a few set workshop plans, but every session is always different depending on the group of participants, so I try not to get stuck on set scripts. This workshop was to produce a one page comic strip in an hour. I would normally come laden with resources, books and comics, but with all the travelling my kit was no more than a few spare rulers and rubbers… and now some scribbled notes.
As the Taxi dropped me off at the venue, I was immediately met with a warm welcome and friendly crew, who despite being in the middle of setting up heroic Ciaran stopped to make me at feel at home with a cup of tea.
My workshop was first on that mornings schedule, no sooner had I gathered materials and set up than the children started to arrive, plus a few adults. When the room was full I made a start, and then more arrived, then more! Squeezing everyone in with extra seating and grown-ups standing, It was a great session! We warmed up with drawing cartoon self-portraits showing a range of emotions. We then looked at developing characters both with Chibi’s drawn from 3 circles and how to get from a stick figure to a dynamic action figure, building up proportions, perspective and movement. I then dashed everyone through comic layouts, terminology, backgrounds, perspective, storytelling technique, planning and they were away, everyone managing to finish their planned one page story.
I managed a few hello’s to the now gathered stall holders & guests busy in the main room with throngs of local families and comic fans, Grabbed a cup of tea, then headed for my table. I wasn’t expecting a table so this was a treat! I was on the mezzanine level where the majority of the children’s activities were centred. My tea remained un drunk. It was a blur of sketching for the rest of the day, one of the themes was Robots, so we were all drawing the children as Robots. Robots? I haven’t a clue how to draw Robots? I am old, my robots are from 50’s sci-fi films, none of your fancy transformer things! Some children also clued into the zombie theme, So used to being ultra PC around children this was funny “ Mum are you sure its okay to draw the maggots coming out of the eyes? Mm okay “ to the children’s delight. I also drew a ‘Goth’ looking young man, only “darker” and a princess. Face painting ladies were busy next door, but I did do a couple of Mr Green faces, what better advertising for our book than have folks wandering about painted as the main character!
Eimear and James get the Mr Green Treatment
Then there was the after party at Sandinos bar, a blur of monkey jokes with my favourite cartoonists, wild dancing and fantastically interesting conversations with the coolest friendliest comic dudes. I’d heard 2D was brilliant, and so it was. The team worked their cotton socks off to look after everyone and provide an important cultural arts & literary event for the area. It was an honour to be invited. This festival sets the comic event bar very high! Of all the various art and work hats I wear, comic people are the most fun, enthusiastic and friendliest people I know, and 2D brought out the best of that. I’m definitely going back!
Gary Leach signing early 2000AD’s