East Lyme – Instead of sitting on the couch playing video games like Minecraft and watching YouTube videos during their spring break week, tweens learned how to create illustrations that show themselves engaged in such activities as part of a drawing workshop.
Eleven middle school students signed up to learn comic art from Jason Deeble, the author, illustrator, educator, and Niantic resident. He created the picture book Sir Ryan’s Quest, published by Roaring Book Press in April 2009, and Monster Haiku, a daily webcomic featuring child-sized monsters written entirely in haiku, a form of short poetry that originated in Japan Has.
The three-day free workshop began Tuesday and will run through Thursday at the East Lyme Public Library, 39 Society Road, Niantic. All supplies were provided.
“I want to have my own story that I can look at, look back on and improve upon,” said fifth grader MacKenzie Perry when Deeble asked the kids what they hoped to learn from the program.
“I want to figure out how to do small details,” she added. “Little little moments.”
The workshop is the second in a series of three comics workshops that the library began hosting in December 2021. The third takes place three days in May after school closes, said Rebecca Scotka, the children’s librarian. Parents can register their children by calling the library at (860) 739-6926.
Scotka said she reached out to Deeble in early 2020 to lead a virtual illustration workshop for children via Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic, which has morphed into lessons about cartoons. It was so well attended that she approached Deeble again to lead this workshop after applying for and winning a competitive federal scholarship. This project was funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services – under the terms of the Library Services and Technology Act and managed by the Connecticut State Library – as well as funds raised by the East Lyme Public Library during their annual fundraiser.
“I liked doing something for the middle school kids because we have so much for the younger kids,” Scotka said. Graphic novels are among the best-selling items in the library, she noted, and most workshop applicants are “big graphic novel fans.”
She said she’s surprised how often children continue to read books about the cartoon characters Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes, which are classic comics from generations before children were born.
“In cartooning, young adults write and make up stories. You will learn about the beginning, middle and end of stories. That’s literacy,” Scotka added.
Deeble, 42, told the kids the goal of the workshop was “to get you drawing and give you time to draw.” He led the kids in a quick doodle game in which one person drew three shapes and had their partner “see something that wasn’t there before and then complete the drawing.”
The middle school students also learned to draw timed self-portraits, with an emphasis on drawing quickly and making quick decisions about key elements to include. Deeble emphasized that comic artists learn to draw quickly, since it can take years to complete a graphic novel.
“A graphic novel usually has a set goal. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. Comics are like a series of different events. They’re not connected,” fifth grader Charlie Clancy said when Deeble asked if the kids knew the difference between comics and graphic novels. This was his second workshop with Deeble. He said he really liked making comics and meeting other people who also love making comics.
Deeble told the children that by the end of the workshop they would each complete their own short version of a graphic novel. If they wish, Scotka said the children’s work would be featured on the library’s website, eastlymepubliclibrary.org.
“I want to start my own graphic novel series,” said Bella Rahi, the seventh grader. This is exactly why she signed up for the workshop.
Others said they enjoyed learning and watching each other’s progress.
“I like making comics here, meeting new people and exchanging tips with people who have the same mood and interest as you,” said Jazz Deeble, an eighth-grader who is the teacher’s daughter.
“I saw some other people’s art back in December. It’s so cool to see it now — the development,” said eighth-grader Sapphire Mendoza.