I recently spent a week at Church Cowley St James school, just up the road here in Oxford, working on a project with all the kids in Years 4 and 5 to create a giant mural comic to adorn the wall of their library building. And look, we did it!
We started out with a couple of days of workshops; getting the kids to come up with ideas for the story and create their own characters, and then we dived in with some giant comics-making! First, I pulled together a load of the ideas and themes into a script. A really, really detailed script:
And then we got the kids to work in groups, taking turns painting a character each on the boards we were using for the comic. For some, I'd sketched in some vague outlines for figure placement and layout, and then let the kids work on top of that:
And then for others I left it much more free form, letting the kids go nuts drawing their own characters, whatever size shape or craziness took their fancy:
And then it was my job to draw the framing sequence and characters, and generally attempt to tie it together into something resembling a story. Here's the finished thing, in place:
And here's the whole story, panel by panel!
I'm insanely delighted with how it all worked out. I had a lot of slightly worryingly unanswered questions in my mind going in, wasn't quite sure how some of it would work / if it would work at all. I had thought about maybe trying a less free form approach - kind of me drawing a strip and then getting the kids to colour it in with a kind of 'paint-by-numbers' approach. But, honestly, that just seemed way less fun. In the end I think the process worked really well; the way the story starts off as any old comic, and then gets weird and colourful, and then gets REALLY REALLY weird and colourful, before snapping back to relative sanity at the end.
Anyway, it was enormously fun to do. I was really impressed with the kids' imaginations and creativity - I mean, that's not really a surprise - but also with the sheer fearlessness of the way they dived straight in, working with these huge acrylic marker pens directly onto this giant canvas.
Here are headmaster Steve Dew and school librarian Anita Bruce standing next to their new, 1000% MORE AWESOME library wall! Huge thanks to them both, and to all my co-creators, and indeed to everyone at Church Cowley St James who helped make it such a hugely fun thing to do for a week.