‘You could write a story about a fruit bowl coming to life; delving into the action-packed ‘Battle of the Bananas’. Or what about penning a tale of a tank, being driven by a gerbil…? Anything is possible in the exciting world of comic books – and ideas are infinite.”
The young faces of the children who took to the Strule Arts Centre, Omagh on Thursday, for a special ‘Comic Art Masterclass’ shone brightly with creativity and enthusiasm.
They were excited to start drawing: And not simply because they loved all-things art and Spider-Man, but because they were being introduced to the colourful craft by none other than adept artist, Kev F Sutherland – who has previously drawn for the giants of Marvel, Beano and Doctor Who comics.
“Put your hand up if you think you can’t draw,” Kev bellowed with energy, addressing his class of 24 modish minions, who had been listening intently to his every word since the class began.
Only one insecure hand took to the skies, and immediately Kev, a native of Aberdeen, now living in Wales, was there to the rescue.
“What is your name?” he questioned.
“Daragh,” said the boy.
“Okay, Daragh. Come on up,” Kev beckoned, with gusto. “Thank you for being our first brave volunteer for the day! I am going to show you how easy it is to draw. Because ANYONE can draw – and that includes you.”
An artist is born
No sooner could Bart Simpson say, ‘Eat my shorts!’, than young Daragh had perfectly crafted the mischievous yellow TV character, hair and all, after a few quick and simple directions from Kev.
“Give it up for our artist, Daragh,” Kev beamed, to the star-struck crowd. “Don’t you see: Anyone can draw. I know you can do it. Even the person that invented the Power Puff Girls said he ‘couldn’t draw’, and the rest is history.
“Some of you will even grow up to be sophisticated artists,” he added. “Today is about showing me what you can do.”
With white A4 sheets just crying out for design, Kev instructed the children to create their own stories, their own characters – “have a scribble and see what happens”, and their own titles for their comic strips.
“You could go for a scary character,” Kev said, contorting his hands into the shape of claws. “Superhero characters,” he added, adopting the ‘SuperMan’ stance. “Animal characters…
“Use a pencil. Use a rubber. And take your time.”
‘IDEAS AND IMAGINATION’
Once the 24 children of Omagh and beyond began crafting their clever, curious and cunning comic creations, we decided to leave them to it to ensure the wells of magic and imagination remained undisturbed – but we caught up with Kev once more at the end of the class to find out how the children got on.
“The children of Omagh were brilliant,” Kev said, with genuine delight.
“The great thing about kids is that they are automatically responsive to the nonsense I want to tell them: Which is how easy it is to do what I do.
“It may look difficult… but it’s not!
“I try and get as many ideas out of their heads as I can, to help their imaginations soar.”
Kev has spent the month teaching children across the North how to design a comic strip.
Each of the comic strips is put together into one comic book, with a unique title, chosen by the children, and cover art which Kev designs and colours in.
“I’ve been all over the North this month, from Newtownards, to Enniskillen, and Cookstown,” he said. “In every one of my classes, I get the kids to write down potential titles for their comic book, and the most popular one becomes the title.”
‘SOMETHING ABOUT WAFFLES’
“So far, we had titles ranging from, ‘Dragons Burn The World’, to ‘’The Anime Who Took Your Mum Away’.
“We’ve also had, ‘Fat, Bald Zombie’, and ‘Insert Comic Title Here: Make It Something About Waffles’ – which was just amazing,” he recounted.
“And today, in Omagh…” he paused, for effect. “The.”
“Oh, just ‘The’,” he smiled. “That was the title that the Omagh kids thought was the best that they came up with. It’s rather profound!”
“I have it here; the comic book that they produced today,” he said, whipping the wonderful work up from the now-empty table.
“Inside it, there is a comic strip by every single one of them.
“One kid did a strip about Demogorgan from Stranger Things… A second child did a drawing of Vecna from Stranger Things. And another drew a cat… which was probably out of Stranger Things…
“I’m amazed they all weren’t wearing Hellfire Club t-shirts!” he joked.
“And at the back of their comic book, there is a caricature of each of their faces, which I drew specially for them.
“So, they all go away with their comic book, confidence in their art, and most importantly, the knowledge that it is easy to do what I do… So they can leave school and steal my job!”
A ‘Marvel’ous background
Inspired by both story-telling and entertaining people, Kev has worked for Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, Viz, Red Dwarf and The Dandy as well as hundreds of comics and publishers – “who no-one has ever heard of”.
Drawing for more than 30 years, Kev, who is also a comedian, has recently-released his first three graphic novels, ‘Findlay Macbeth’, ‘The Prince of Denmark Street’, and ‘The Midsummer Night’s Dream Team’ – and he is planning even more books in the future.
“If you like your Shakespeare relocated to the 1970s, with twists to the tale, you’ll like my graphic novels,” he explained.
“When I was at Beano and Marvel, I worked on everyone else’s characters, which was great,” he said.
“Everyone wants to do that. But you aren’t left with books you can sell.
“So, for me, creating my characters, adapting my characters, and writing my own stories from start-to-finish is the most satisfying thing.
“Once you have completed a work where you can say: I did that. That’s what I wanted to do. And it looks like it’s supposed to. Then that is the best feeling in the world,” he concluded.
And with that… KABOOM!
Kev was off to conduct yet another ‘Comic Art Masterclass’ with the young artists of the future.
They may well steal his job… But that’s exactly what Kev wants them to do.
For all-things comics and comedy, including purchasing graphic novels and more, please visit Kev Findlay Sutherland’s website: ‘www.kevfcomicartist.com’.
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