Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Week in Helsinki

I was in Helsinki in September as a guest of the Helsinki Comics Festival. Beforehand I taught a 3-day workshop at Aalto University.

The festival was small but packed with high caliber talent like Patrick McDonnell, Joost Swarte, and David B along with Finland's inventive and productive local artists. If you want to learn more about the festival, Andy Brown from Conundrum Press did an excellent photo-rich blog post which even covers my own event, an Oubapo presentation where I showed slides of the groups work and ideas while some art students worked on my 4 x 4 activity. I've added their results to the 4 x 4 slideshow, right at the end.

(this one's very clever: the four keywords were winter, triangle, red, and sadness)

There's also a neat portrait gallery on the festival's Google+ page.


The workshop I taught was once again on adapting fixed poetry forms to comics. We warmed up with some haiku comics and then we had three days to produce a short comic using the structure of a villanelle, a pantoum, or a sestina (or one of its shorter n-ina derivatives). My quiet but diligent group of 20 students (almost all of them women) were all very engaged by the constraints and were extremely productive, several of them finishing full color comics by the end of the workshop. (At various points during the workshop I thought of Jarod Roselló's excellent essay on "the silence of cartooning" that he did for Below are two examples that are particular favorites of mine (click to enlarge).

A villanelle comic by Nina Ruokonen

"Kehtolaulu" ("Lullaby"), a pantoum comic by Elina Sauvola.

The lines of a lullaby translate as:

Sleep you little child..
..fall asleep under the grass

Elina did took up a challenge I laid down while explaining the pantoum structure and she rose to the occasion brilliantly: I learned from reading Jacques Jouet's study of the pantoum, Échelles et Papillons, that in addition to the interlocking lines I used in my own "Pantoum for Hiram," the pantoum also traditionally follow two lines of thought in each stanza, one in the first two lines, the other in the second two. Only in the last stanza do these two threads intertwine. You probably didn't notice because it's so seamless, but if you re-read "Kehtolalaulu" you will see that the first to panels and the second two panels effectively tell two parallel stories that you can read in parallel 2-panel columns: the woman kept awake by her crying baby on the left and the fever dream about monsters invading a house on the right. And in the last tier, dream and reality become confused.

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