Comic Boom - Comics in Education

Comic Boom - Comics in Education - Using comics in art education with Hester Harrington

June 04, 2023 Lucy Starbuck Braidley/Hester Harrington Season 2 Episode 7
Comic Boom - Comics in Education - Using comics in art education with Hester Harrington
Comic Boom - Comics in Education
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Comic Boom - Comics in Education
Comic Boom - Comics in Education - Using comics in art education with Hester Harrington
Jun 04, 2023 Season 2 Episode 7
Lucy Starbuck Braidley/Hester Harrington

This week Lucy chats to art educator Hester Harrington about her approach to using comics in the art classroom.

Hester Harrington, Art Educator and Co-Producer for Little LICAF - is part of the LICAF team responsible for comic content for youngsters, family and educators as part of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival year round programme of events. She is also a part-time secondary school Art teacher, with over 15 years of teaching experience. She is passionate about designing resources and providing engaging educational experiences for youngsters that enhance creative skills.

Twitter: @Hester_Harring
Instagram: @HesterHarrington.uk

For LICAF please head to
Twitter: @littlelicaf and @comicartfest
Instagram: @littlelicaf and @lakesinternationalcomics
Facebook: Little LICAF and The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

Little LICAF resources: https://www.comicartfestival.com/licaf-live/little-licaf

Link to Wild Escape resources for museums and teachers: https://thewildescape.org.uk/resources/filter/for-teachers

Links to everything  discussed, including all of the comics Hester mentioned in this episode,  can be found on the podcast padlet.

 
Producer and Host:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com

Music by John_Sib from Pixabay

Show Notes Transcript

This week Lucy chats to art educator Hester Harrington about her approach to using comics in the art classroom.

Hester Harrington, Art Educator and Co-Producer for Little LICAF - is part of the LICAF team responsible for comic content for youngsters, family and educators as part of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival year round programme of events. She is also a part-time secondary school Art teacher, with over 15 years of teaching experience. She is passionate about designing resources and providing engaging educational experiences for youngsters that enhance creative skills.

Twitter: @Hester_Harring
Instagram: @HesterHarrington.uk

For LICAF please head to
Twitter: @littlelicaf and @comicartfest
Instagram: @littlelicaf and @lakesinternationalcomics
Facebook: Little LICAF and The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

Little LICAF resources: https://www.comicartfestival.com/licaf-live/little-licaf

Link to Wild Escape resources for museums and teachers: https://thewildescape.org.uk/resources/filter/for-teachers

Links to everything  discussed, including all of the comics Hester mentioned in this episode,  can be found on the podcast padlet.

 
Producer and Host:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com

Music by John_Sib from Pixabay

Hello, and welcome to comic boom, the comics and education podcast. If you're interested in the ways that comics can be used in the classroom, then this is the podcast for you. My name is Lucy Starbuck Braidley and each week I'll be joined by a fellow educator, an academic, a librarian, or a creator of comics to discuss their journey into comics and provide some inspiration to influence your practice. And today I am joined by HESTA Harrington art educator, and co-producer for LICAF. Hester as part of the little LICAF team responsible for comic content for youngsters, families and educators, as part of LICaF the lakes, international comics, art festival, and there year round program of events that they lay on. She's also a part-time secondary school art teacher with over 15 years of teaching experience, which we really draw upon in our chat today? Really interesting takeouts from an art education perspective. She's passionate about. About designing resources and providing engaging educational experiences for youngsters that enhance their creative skills. And that comes out so clearly in our conversation today. Hester fires out so many references in this chat, the comic boom padlet is a wash of new things to explore this week. As well as some fantastic, ready to go resources, which are available for everyone. And I've put all the links to those, into the show notes and into the Padlet. And thrilled to be able to really dig into the role of comics from a perspective of visual arts today. I think we often explore it from a literacy perspective in comic boom. And today we're really looking into that art side and thinking about how comics can be used as reference and a resource and something really rich to draw upon. When we're developing children's art skills and then knowledge of what's out there. So lots of interesting takeouts today. Very close to my heart. Here's what has to, has to say.

Lucy:

Hello Hester. Welcome to Comic Boom.

Hester:

Hello. Thank you for having me.

Lucy:

Oh, it's great to have you here. what can you tell us about your journey as a comics reader? How did that all start for you?

Hester:

Oh, well, interestingly, I didn't actually read many comics when I was a child. having listened to some of your podcasts, I was thinking, right, I need to think of an answer to this question. Like, so been wracking my brains listening to what other people have said, and obviously, you would expect someone who's into comics to kind of maybe have been a lifelong passion. And for me, it's been a much more recent thing within my lifetime. But when I was a kid, I do remember reading the Beano and the Dandy, but I definitely remember thinking that Cow Pie was not my thing. I've got memories of like my grandma reading Rupert the Bear to me. And I remember Roman Briggs actually The, the Snowman and Father Christmas. And I remember thinking that fungus, the bogeyman was far too risque for a child. But that was my dad's, I think. And we've still got that on the bookshelf somewhere. And then I remember just being in awe every time we went to Holland. My mom was Dutch, so we'd spent summer holidays in the Netherlands and all my friends. In Holland, we're reading Tintin and Asterix, but they weren't even reading them in Dutch. They were reading them in French. And then the English girl comes along and she's like, cuz we don't obviously get multiple languages taught to us at primary school in huge depth. I was just really struggling with the concept that they were speaking in English and Dutch and reading in French and it was just like, Like that was impressive. So Tintin I remember looking at a lot when I was younger, but not fully understanding the gist of the text, but at least obviously the pictures were there. So I was, in love with those.

Lucy:

Yeah, that's very similar to me actually. didn't read many comics when I was a childhood, but I did, I did love Tintin so when did the love start to blossom for you really then them.

Hester:

Well, I've always loved reading, but I'm incredibly slow. I'm very dyslexic. The idea of reading for pleasure, at school or as a teenager or even in my, my early twenties I struggled with just cuz my pace of under standing, somebody's handwriting just wasn't there. Once I could kind of hear his voice in my head or her voice in my head, I would stick with author til I'd read every single book by that person and then move on. When I look back at what I was reading, a lot of, they weren't comics. But I remember always getting book vouchers from a friend of the family for my birthday, and I just loved perusing bookshops. And they say, obviously never judge a book by its cover, but I. Remember I came across Joe Sacco's Palestine in an independent bookshop when I was living in London, in Peckham Rye. I think the bookshop's called Review, and it's an indie bookshop. And, I just loved the front cover and opened it up only to find it was a comic. And I was just like, wow, this is different. It's not got. Cow horns coming out of a pie and it's not got Rupert the Bear in it and it's serious material. And yeah, I was blown away. So that was like my first book, I bought it because of how it was drawn. As an art teacher, I was just thinking, Ooh, these illustrations would be really handy for such and such a GCSE student who's struggling with drawing using. tonal shading, but here we've got light and dark created through Mark making. This is much more achievable for this particular student. And I bought it thinking I could use it with, pupils in school. I think that that just opened my eyes as to looking at books for something else other than just to read.

Lucy:

Hmm.

Hester:

and I think that after that there was an exhibition in Manchester at the Urbis and it was all about Manga and Emma Vieceli, had illustrated a copy of Hamlet. There was the Manga Shakespeare series

Lucy:

Yeah.

Hester:

and I was just like, well, that has just brought that text to life as well. So my admission is that those books, both of them actually, I've not actually read cover to cover, but. Every year I dip into them, and use them as examples with pupils for different drawing styles when they're working. In their art GCSE or at key stage three. So that was the start of it looking at the process of the creative side of things as opposed to just sitting down and reading the whole thing. I do read comics now. I do, but I came about it from a quite an obscure angle.

Lucy:

What are your, some of your favorite titles that you've been reading recently? We like recommendations on this podcast. get

Hester:

we did, I'm part of a book club, which is hilarious cuz I went to the last book club, session and this is like prose books. And I obviously, I hadn't read the book cause I hadn't had time. And then somebody said, but why don't you bring some comics? So instead I just brought a bag full of comics. I was just like, but look at all these other things that I've been reading instead. So, At the moment, I'm partway through the worst journey in the world, which is, a book by Sarah Airriess and it's, it is her version in comic form of Apsley Cherry-Garrard's, adventure in Antarctica. And it's a true story, of Cherry who had gone to join. captain Scott's expedition and she's a beautiful illustrator and she's just produced the first volume. I would never read the book. There is a lot of words in the book, but. The, the comic is absolutely beautiful and brings it all to life, and I think she's done quite a lot of research as well, sort of like matching the characters to photographs. And it's been a really lovely journey to watch her bring this comic to fruition through different funding platforms and have been following on social media. So that's a really fun one, and my son's been reading that as well. What else am I reading? I, I do love. Teenage books just because of the worlds that they've created and the fantasy element. And I do love, Leigh Bardugo her Grisha verse. And I know that Netflix had just turned it into a series and I'd read all the books and I've been listening to it on Audible as well, but she's just produced her first, graphic novel of the shadow and Bone Series. It's called the Demonn in the Wood, and it's the backstory to one of the characters and that is absolutely beautiful as well. Oh, and Silent comics. I'm just doing a lot of investigation into silent comics at the moment

Lucy:

Yeah, I want to talk to you about silent comments a little later on. You can feel free to give us some hints now. Good, good places to start with

Hester:

So, the one that I'm concentrating on at the moment is by a Brazilian creator called Gustavo Duarte. and he's done a lot of illustration for, DC and Marvel Moon Girl. And, other bits and pieces. But he's produced his own book, which was quite well acclaimed, and that's the one which I'm focusing on at the moment, which is called Monsters and Other Stories. I'm looking at how I can use that as a inspiration for a resource in the classroom.

Lucy:

It's so useful to have someone with an art background who's coming from comics, from an art perspective because I think is one of the barriers, for. teachers, including comics in their curriculum, because I feel like it's more acceptable when you're talking, about art to say things like, oh, I'm not very good at it, or, or This child just doesn't have a talent for it. And in a way that we never would in other subjects. But art sort of remains. More reliant on the concept of talent and That's something that can't be learned and therefore, if if it's not your thing, it's not your thing and, can't, you know, build your skills in that area, which I don't think is correct. I think that, that you can learn how to do things and I'm just interested, In your thoughts on that and how you approach of building skills, that people need to create comics of their own.

Hester:

So I've been teaching for God really well over 15 years now, in secondary school level. Um, I'm just really pleased that I've kind of come to the point and the age with the experience that I've got now, especially post pandemic, that I feel really confident in front of my classes to be able to say, look, we are in a really privileged position in our subject, and I know we only see you for like an hour a week if you're in year seven, eight, and nine, but we do not have to all reach the same outcome it's not like being in. Like potentially like a maths lesson if you are presented with some parameters of a task, you have to reach an outcome in maths that is either right or wrong. And most of the times we use the same workings out or we structured into how to use like workings out to get to that correct outcome. And everybody in the class for us to be right, we have to get that number and it needs to match the same as everybody else's answers. And I just said like, nowadays I approach my art lessons with that view outlook of right folks, this is what I'd like us to do. This is your task. This is like, you know, you've gotta set a few boundaries, otherwise if it chaos. But, I expect to see 30 different outcomes and all of them are valid and all of them are correct. And I think just that change in language of accepting that everybody's outcome is different. And they're all right. And it's an achievement has helped me as an art teacher to kind of then look at people's outcomes and to my view of like that, that critical view of like, well, this is successful and that isn't successful. That's. I think that I've changed that. Because if you, if if they're doing it, they're doing it, that is it. That that's the creative process. And if I'm just putting my own personal opinion on whether something is more good or less good than somebody else's piece of it, that's a personal preference. But that doesn't. Take away the validity of them having done the creation. So I think that that's massively helped me as a teacher. And then I think as well, like that artistic. Journey. Everybody's gonna have things which they sway towards or sway away from in terms of skill or interest. So I just try to make sure that I'm getting as many broad experiences in the classroom as possible. And certainly post pandemic, the fine motor skills of many children, of any age groups are really lacking at the moment because they've missed that tactile, experiential. Lesson time because they've been behind a camera so it's like, see, seeing my GCSE students try to squeeze paint onto a pallet is quite traumatizing at the moment because I'm just like, oh, can you just pretend it's your foundation or something? Because you've put way too much paint on there. They, they just don't have the dexterity.

Lucy:

One of the things that, from studying art through school that felt very integral to me to kind of my experiences was The critique was built in that we, there was a constant process of yes, but this could also be improved. And how do you manage that? Do you encourage them to do it themselves? Their own kind of reflections or?

Hester:

yeah, definitely. I think first of all, to reframe that word critique, I always bookend it by saying it's not a criticism when you're giving someone a critique that is just, it's feedback and maybe we should switch with the younger kids. A little bit of feedback and I think. If you liken it to other activities that youngsters are doing, that idea that you don't reach an end point necessarily. There isn't a full stop that you can draw under the end of a song. With art, you keep going with it the same as if you're playing a musical instrument or if you are playing sports. You keep. Fine tuning that muscle coordination, whether they're gross motor skills or fine motor skills, or whether it's your, your contemplation of what you're putting into your composition. So I think it's using the language of critiquing a really positive way and then also harnessing all the different art forms that are available to us nowadays and, and acknowledging that they are all acceptable. So that if somebody says, I can't draw, I am useless at observational drawing, then we go, that's fine. You don't need to be a photorealistic, tonal pencil drawer to be able to create great artwork and ergo great comics. and just recently, I was showing a pupil. They have to do some observational studies for their, GCSE project. And we were looking at packaging and they were really worrying about like the shadows and the light on how it was hit in a bottle. And I was just like, well, if you look at Jack Teagle's work, he's got really. Graphic chunky lines. You know, instead of like shading things in, you can just draw a little shape to indicate where the lights hit the bottle. And he's done a, a wonderful cartoon, for, comics can save the world 10 years to save the world. Um, it's all about like the single use plastic. And so we looked at how he'd used the drawings of plastic bottles in there and that just gave. This student an inroad to being able to do observational drawing, but it was more of a, a doodly, David Shrigley sort of like line to it instead. But it's still observational drawing. And I think you look at some of historically really great artists, like Vermeer painted, basically using an outline that had been traced using one of those, you know, the black boxes where you

Lucy:

Yeah. Yep,

Hester:

Transmits the image up to that upside down. So I just think, well, if you need some guidelines to help you on your way, Vermeer used them.

Lucy:

Yeah,

Hester:

that I can let you hold something up against the window.

Lucy:

What would Vermeer do

Hester:

use a light box. Yeah, precisely. If he can use it. I'll go give you a bit of carbon paper. You can trace the outline, and then we can concentrate on where, where the light in the dark are, or use a light box and you just got to use the tools available. For the individual because everybody can come about it in a different way. And like if you're doing the human form, yes, you could sit and you can draw something really beautifully and intricate with detail like, you know, Danny Pendergast did in Leigh Bardugo. Like lovely little illustrations for Demon in the woods. But likewise, in Dave McKean's. Black dog. At some point in that he uses paper cutouts of very chunky, stylized silhouettes of human form that is still capturing the human form, but it's not. Photorealistic. And I think giving pupils that opportunity to explore what art is and what drawing and recording and observation can be, you can go really wide and explore lots of different other materials,

Lucy:

I was gonna ask you about how the comic arts fits into your curriculum, but it sounds like it's very much embedded. It's another visual stimuli, it's woven throughout. Is that how it is, or do you do specific units where you're really focusing on it or what's your approach?

Hester:

I think within the syllabus that we are responsible for delivering. We've got key processes and techniques and terminology. That we need to make sure that each year group, no matter what art teacher is teaching it, that they are all getting a consistent skills based. And so we have themes and topics that go across each of the different year groups, but certainly if I was to use an artist that another teacher uses, but I'm not as familiar. With that artist or I'm not driven or inspired as much personally. If it's not, if I'm not teaching from an intrinsic viewpoint, then it's harder for me to kind of get excited about what I'm doing. So I bring in whichever artists I feel passionate about that demonstrate that technique. That fit in with that theme. Some of my examples will be techniques and artists and creators and illustrators from comic books. But the comic isn't necessarily. The focus, it's the technique and the process cuz there'll be another art teacher teaching the same thing, but maybe using a different artist that's not from a comic book, if that makes sense. That said, our year seven project, we do an imagination and illustration project and it's really nice to use that as an opportunity for pupils to do to, to have some comic content within that. So we all make. Comic characters in 3D form, either from dolly pegs or sock puppets based off characters from comic literature. Which is super cuz it's character design, but doing it in a 3D way and we're doing a section now, which incidentally just is the same as what they're do in English, but in written form looking at monsters. So we are gonna do it visually using comic narrative and they're doing it written.

Lucy:

That's really

Hester:

Um, and doing it as a prose piece, but that was coincidental. I'd like to say that that was down to meticulous fine planning, but it's, it's, uh, it, yeah, but this is a secondary school, obviously. Each teacher's responsible for their own subject learning and. It's great when we get the time to build in like those links cross curricularly, but that happens a lot more easily, I think at primary level where one teacher's responsible for teaching a number of different subjects. So I think it's often easier to shoehorn, for one of a better word, comics into a classroom, maybe in a primary level because that teacher can join up different subjects

Lucy:

Yeah, they've kind of got that oversight of everything and we can do a bit more weaving.

Hester:

We're all doing, Again, it's a silent comic, called The Wanderer by Peter Van Den Ende who's from Belgium and great big, illustrations of a ship going on a journey. And so I use that in the classroom and then developed it into a resource that was put on the Lakes International Comic Art Festival on their resources page as well. So it's up for grabs for anybody to use, but it's great cuz every child does one illustration of this ship going on a journey inspired by comic artwork in essence. And then we've managed to get each table and each class to kind of put their illustrations in their own order. They decide, well, if this was one collaborative book, where's this ship going? And how can we make sense of everybody's drawings to tell one collaborative story out of each individual piece of artwork? So yeah, it's, yeah, it's all upon lines. You can, anybody can

Lucy:

Fantastic. I'll put the links in the show notes. So, this is probably a good time to talk a little bit more about Silent Comics. There's obviously, there's an appeal to you about the Silent comic. Maybe you could, people who might not know what Silent Comic is, explain a little bit what they, what that is and what draws you to them.

Hester:

Yeah, so silent comics are a comic book. That's just the images telling the story. They tend to be wordless, as in they lack. Speech and thought bubbles, but they can still be, I suppose, the presence of signs like newspaper titles or street signs or maybe sometimes sound effects still in there. I came across a number of different silent comics through working part-time freelance for the Comic art festival, in their children's section, helping organize books and activities and resources for families and children as well as educators. And I came across a section of books that were, published in France. It was like Anuki, and there's another little one with a little cowboy series. And they were just beautiful. And although they were aimed at young children, they were just captivating for any age range. And I think as I'd kind of got more of a firm footing in the comics world, which sort of started when the festival started 10 years ago, and I started. Working outside of just my reaches as a, an art teacher and thinking as a parent and thinking about my own son's literacy, that any sort of literacy comes from reading something in sequence, in, in order to understand the narrative and. If you can talk your way through a picture book that's got no words, I think that's, it's doing a lot of the language and for your own understanding. But the irony is that there's no words in it at all. So it started from, teaching my son to read and looking at those books. And then I went on a bit of a hunt for like, what are silent comics? Where else can I find them? And there's a lovely series that, Are all about animals. I'd got it from the school library. It was called The Tiger by Frederick Brrémaud, I think he's called. But that was Abso, it was cinematic. It was like watching a film, this journey of a tiger going through the jungle and his his day. But not a single word in it. And. Like I mentioned before, the Gustavo Duarte, his book Monsters is silent. Joe Sacco to go back to him as well. He's done an amazing fold out comic of The Great War, which was the first day of the battle of the Somme. And when you pull that out in a classroom, Kids are just mesmerized by it because obviously I do not teach key stage three or GCSE history, but they've been learning it somewhere else and they come into my art lesson and I'm like back, well, today we're doing black and white mark making. We're going to look at joe Sacco here, we have this comic and you pull it out and you have to get everybody, the whole class, like push all the tables together to open it out. It must be like 16 foot long or something, and they can talk me through the consequences and the sequence of what is going on

Lucy:

So you read it, you still read it, sort of one end to the other. You un you unfold the whole thing and then,

Hester:

yet, and you just follow it. And there's, there's a great clip on YouTube of him discussing that as well. but they know the facts. There is a little accompanying booklet to decipher it if you're not aware of like what's, what. but he's drew obviously from a lot of archive footage, so it's completely accurate, but there's no words in that comic. It's a silent comic. and yet the amount of words that come outta their mouths as they're doing it, it's great because you can, that, that the verbal narrative, that side of it, you can either have it as a quiet dialogue in your head. When you look at pictures somewhere in your brain, it's telling you the words even though there's no words. There's just a couple of really great comics that I've come across. And again, there's another one that I've just come across just recently called The River by Alessandro Sanna. An Italian artist, but it's beautiful watercolors about different seasons along a river in Italy, the mood and the, the emotion that is transmitted and your brain translates that into words and I think there's something quite incredible about that. I think, you know, if you, if you can manage to tell a story and you've got no words, you're doing something right.

Lucy:

And you are using the art to its maximum potential, aren't you? When you, when you take away the words you're having to use all of the different techniques. I've recently been working on some teacher training on comics about how you can look at comics and analyze comics, from a literacy perspective. And I was looking for examples, preparing my slides, and at, at the end of the day, when I looked at what I'd selected from, I dunno, about eight different titles, although that none of them were silent comics. All of the pages, all the spreads that I'd chosen. All bar one didn't actually have any words in. And I think it, it was because I was looking for really strong examples of the visual techniques that actually, that's the moment when, when the art shines, is when the words are kind of stripped away and it's, it's just the visual storytelling. I love how it comes in and out as well how you can have silent moments within comics, which do have words in elsewhere. I think it that can create some of the most powerful moments.

Hester:

Yeah. And just the fact that someone's taken all of that time and that effort to think about. the nuances of the, the composition and the art materials and just all of it, I found astounding that it carries so much meaning and that you'll be able to interpret a general. Understanding from it that we can all share. But then at the same time, it's open to that personal interpretation and so that you can have that emotional connection to the image as well, because the words aren't there telling you what to do. And I think that that gives me as well the free license as an art teacher who's short on time in the classroom. Because it does sound a little bit sacrosanct to kind of go Well, yeah, I don't actually sit and read the entire comic to my class cause sometimes I physically don't have

Lucy:

Yeah.

Hester:

But I think it gives you courage, hopefully, as other educators to be able to kind of go, do you know what, actually, I can use comics in the classroom even if I don't read the whole book. To them. It's like if you play a track from a song, you wouldn't listen to the whole album necessarily, would you? So you can take these little snippets outta comics and still use them. Looking at process or looking at technique, looking at composition, looking at meaning. And certainly there's a lot of comics which, cover really tricky issues. So with my older students, when they're doing a title for a project that's maybe to do with, mental health or maybe conflict if you there, there's, there's a lot of photography out there that covers that within the art world. And there will be paintings and there will be other pieces of artwork, but there's always gonna be reams and reams of comics produced with that as a focus. So I know that, Lucy Sullivan's, barking? It's really frenetic. The images on the page, the illustration. That is about someone being, sectioned and it's a young female and I just think that, the drawings and the way that she's written the text you can see the anxiety in the illustration and that actually is a much more accessible way for a, a teenager to kind of go, oh, right, okay, I can draw in this style rather than having to Cause otherwise if you, yeah, to, to collect that imagery firsthand, it's really difficult. There's a, an amazing image of this young female protagonist running away. It's just, it's a page that, uh, when I'm looking at it here, it's, it is silent, but there's this. Big, scrappy black dog representing, obviously depression in the background. And that's a great way to come at what very tricky subject material that a teenager might want to explore. But the imagery and the technique is appropriate for the age range. She works a lot using carbon paper and doing blind drawing, so that takes you straight back into the process, which if you. Looking at it from a creative point of view, that's a really safe parameter to kind of go right. Okay. So imagine you know that you are angry. Listen to some angry music draw using carbon paper. You can't actually see the marks on your page. Imagine what a dog looks like and when you lift that up from the page, you will have an angry drawing of a dog drawing carbon paper. And that process, that technique is. Inspired entirely through comics, yet you don't need to sit down necessarily. It's great if you've got the time to read the whole comic. So I think if that helps people kind of start to use comics more in the classroom, If you then start looking at how comics approach really complicated issues, there's, there's a real wealth of examples out there that you can use.

Lucy:

Yeah, that's so true as a form, it does lend itself so much to people, exploring their own experiences and tellings of biographical Perspectives, doesn't it? And I think that, that, that's something that I think is quite empowering for young people as well, to be able to tap into that. They can tell their own stories and it's kind of a form that's got a whole history of that, you know? I did wanna ask you, we've had a very varied discussion. It's been brilliant. We haven't spoken much about, little LICAF, and your involvement in that and the kind of projects that you work on. We'd love to hear more about it.

Hester:

So I feel really honored to kind of have that, String to my bow, obviously I, I come from, my own art practice and then love working in creative environments where I'm helping facilitate other people's artwork. I do my own artwork just as a hobby for myself. It's not comics related. Don't make comics, but, in the classroom as a teacher, when I was teaching more full-time, I had the opportunity to create some artwork that would go on display for the First Lakes International Comic Art Festival, which was just over 10 years ago. And from that, I think the first year I, we, I'd done sock puppets inspired by sup. It was just, yeah, by characters from comic books. But I think there'd been an emphasis at that point of superheroes and they were, they were magnificent and, From that I was invited sort of each year to kind of do a, a window display or create some resources and I was invited to do, a selection of lessons based off, the Centenary of the Great War, and I'd got a copy of Black Dog by Dave McKean, which was the, biography of Paul Nash, the painter. We used that in the classroom as a vehicle for learning, I was able to just like pick a section from that book and use it as inspiration for children to then create their own responses, like a short, number of panels in their sketchbook. And I found it really exhilarating using such contemporary stimuli in the classroom. Cuz there is obviously. A tendency to go back to well-known artists and well-known names, in art. And it's always nice to just challenge myself and keep it fresh. And so over the years I've been able to expand on that role and work not just within my own school, but, go freelance and start working in other schools, visiting schools. Creating projects that would tie in with what they were learning in the, in the curriculum. And there would be a theme obviously that tied in with the festival. So developing resources, helping teachers feel confident using art materials and comics in their own classroom. And that grew to little LICAF, which is obviously the kids section of the main festival. LICAF being the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. I've been really fortunate to work on a number of different projects. And more recently research projects which have been funded for myself and my colleague, Sim Leach, we've done a two year research project in Manchester, in Abraham Moss Community Primary School. And we are now working on a new two year project Here in the Lake district, working in the Barrow area, as well as a special school in Kendall, looking at how we can constructively use comics in the classroom as a vehicle for curriculum learning through creativity, improve Reading for pleasure, literacy, engagement a as well as like wellbeing as well. So there's a lot going on. It's, it's a really big field of work and it's, it's just getting more interest, more traction. More teachers are becoming comfortable with the idea of I can have a comic in my classroom and it's. It is a proper book,

Lucy:

Yep.

Hester:

and, and it's not just funny and it doesn't have to have superheroes in it like this, this understanding of the word comic, and what that means.

Lucy:

And it's not just for boys.

Hester:

yes, exactly. Uh, so yeah, One of the resources which I developed was based off, I think the idea of what a comic is as well. It doesn't always have to be a book. I think that's what I've more recently sort of like trying to look at. Clarice Tudor does a lot of four panel comics cuz they sit really well in that Instagram panel on social media. And so that idea of taking a four panel comic and very pithy. Key points creating a short sequence. We, kind of created this comic challenge for children to draw their own comic inspired by the environment and looking after the planet and looking after, different species and, and what we can do on a, community scale. We've got, Claris to kind of do an age appropriate one for younger children and not encouraging children to go on social media. I'd kind of. Clicked and got a number of different examples and put that in again, into a PowerPoint, into a resource that's available online for anybody to use. But then schools can share those panels and obviously just cuz it fits on Instagram doesn't mean to say it has to go on Instagram, but that's been picked up as well by, um, the art fund. And, we've tweaked it as in a collaboration that concept with Claris doing a new, four panel comic looking at the UK wildlife and using resources which are in museums and art galleries that feature animals and wildlife from the UK that aren't extinct yet. And what would happen if that hedgehog came out of that taxidermy diorama and came to life? You know, where would it go? What would it do? So it's that using your imagination to think about, right? How could we translate? An artifact that features an animal, and put it into a comic. And I think that that's really engaging cuz it's short and it's snappy cuz it's just for panels and there's a template. So teachers that aren't comfortable with comics can at least have a go with that. So yeah, it started, a window display and it's ended up being big, very well funded research project, the most recent ones, funded by the Paul Hamlin Foundation. And it's really encouraging to see how teachers and pupils are responding to comics. Their engagement is brilliant. When you bring a comic into a classroom, nobody's asking to go to the toilet and leave the, the classroom. They're all staying sat down. They're paying attention. So yeah, there's something about them which just obviously appeals.

Lucy:

Uh, yeah, you can see it in so many different ways and I would love you to come back and talk through some of the findings of your research project when you're closer to, pulling it all together. But it's like really, really important that we have that kind of researched basis as well to. Put the official stamp on what we all know to be true from our own sort of anecdotal experiences that happening across the country. But it's, it's great to have some kind of properly funded research. Actually backing that

Hester:

Yes. We need to do more of this. So here's hoping we can keep Yeah, keep the momentum and, Have comics more highly recognized in, in classrooms and people should feel comfortable using them.

Lucy:

Completely agree. So we're coming to the end of our time. I wondered if you've got a few key takeaways. You want do a little summary section at the end of the podcast. Just a few thoughts to leave people on.

Hester:

Yeah. I think if I can use comics in the classroom and I was not a huge passionate comics reader as a child and as a teacher, you know, keeping on top of my game if I can bring comics into my teaching. toolkit. I think, you know, that should give everybody hope that you can explore it as an avenue for a vehicle for learning. And you don't have to use the whole comic book. You can just take a section, you can focus on the process, what a comic can look like at the end as a, as a final outcome. You could just concentrate, you know, on a character design, a panel. It could just be four panels, it could be a poster. I think challenging the idea of what your outcome. Needs to be. It doesn't need to be a multi-page, multi-panel, full story. You can be inspired by comics and not have a comic as the outcome that the children use. And, and look at the resources that are there. There's loads that we've done online, but there's, there's loads of on on Twitter, people suggestions. Oh, what, what would be a really helpful. Comic to learn about, I don't know, the Vikings, something to do with history. Something to do with geography. It's amazing the subject matter that comics can cover, especially when it comes to like, PD lessons, personal development, wellness, comics, for mental health or, looking at emotions or friendships or behavior like that is all I, I could go on for so long going, look at this one. Look at meta frogs, like anti anti-bullying for like traveler community that's online in Scotland. Like there is the role there using comics as the vehicle for learning with really. Interesting, relevant subject material. It doesn't need to be an add-on to the curriculum. You can embed the curriculum through comics, and as a book to go and read. Bearing that in mind. I'm just thinking about there's loads. I'm kind of like a, another section of my shelf is like comics related to geography. So I've got like my, system that I use for my library bookshelf it's not normal, but there's, there's a section where I've got got, my geography comics section, I really love Aimee De Jongh's days of Sand. And it is a beautifully drawn comic, about a photographer in the Great American Dust Bowl, which is obviously historically. It's an accurate, occurrence that happened in the United States in the middle of the Great Depression, which I knew nothing about and would never be interested in reading about cuz it's not relevant to my existence. But, the comic is incredible. And just talking about the Dust Bowl in the central and southern states and how it just brings all the. Farmers to their knees cuz just dust keeps blowing everywhere. I was just like, wow, was that even a thing? And it's a beautiful story, but based on something which I just would, would never have crossed my path had it. And I would never have sat down and read something else about it. Were it not with the beautiful illustrations that Amy's done in Days of Sand. So go and check the one out.

Lucy:

That sounds stunning. And absolutely fascinating. Yeah, I think that'll definitely be one that I get. I can't buy all of the recommendations. I can't, can't keep up, but I think that'll be one that I will

Hester:

This is why we have libraries.

Lucy:

This is true. This is why we have libraries.

Hester:

Yeah.

Lucy:

my book back to the libraries, so then it costs me money anyway.

Hester:

Oh, bless you. I notice if I books, when you take them out under a children's library ticket, you don't get fined on a kid's library ticket.

Lucy:

You're not recommending fraudulent behavior in the public library

Hester:

No, not at all. Like, but no, not at all. It's just, it's just whichever card I've got to hand when I've taken the books out. But yeah, no, we take our books back on time. Lucy, I'm not like you at all. Oh

Lucy:

thank you so much for coming onto the podcast. It's been brilliant. It's been absolutely great to have the art perspective, and yeah, absolutely fascinating. So thank you very much for, for coming along.

Hester:

Thank you very much for having me. Cheers. Thank you. Bye-bye.

Then we have a great chat with HESTA. I loved hearing all of her ideas, and the way that she really weaves comics into the curriculum do check out that planning that she mentioned, the units of work that are available there completely for free as a great starting point. If you're not sure how to get started. Some really rich sessions have been put together there. I cannot wait for LICAF this year. I will be going for the first time. I've got my accommodation booked second, the whole family up to the lake district to go. It starts on the 29th of September. It's always an incredible lineup of events across the weekend, and I'm really looking forward to exploring that firsthand for the first time this year. Thanks for everyone. Who's reached out to say they enjoyed the episode with Dave Shelton. Last week. We even got a reply from Mark Stafford, cartoonist in residence at the cartoon museum to my question about whether or not. When he's drawing a scene in black and white, if he sees that world in black, Blower or if there's a kind of process of translation from color into black and white. he said, and I quote. For direct from Twitter. Hello, Lucy. Lovely show. When drawing in ink, I see things in terms of ink. I don't think, think that's the same as thinking in black and white. I just want the ink line to be the most expressive thing I can produce with the tools I have in hand. Which is really cool and interesting thing to say. So I really appreciate that carefully thought out, answer to my question. Um, yeah. I love the idea of being expressed as, as you can, with every single line that you make. that's definitely given me some food for thought, so thank you very much, mark. For that. I'm not going to do a recommendation this week on the show. Hester has done such a great job of giving a really rich and varied, list for people to be digging into. Um, And I'm still reading the titles that I've met in over the last few weeks. To be honest, I cannot start a new book every week. That'd be crazy. So I'm going to give myself a little bit more time to explore those a bit more deeply this week. We definitely have some new listeners last week. So if you are new to the pot or even if you're an existing fan, please do consider liking, sharing and subscribing on your networks. And those positive reviews and whatever platform you're listening to, you really do help the podcast to reach the ears of people who will be the most interested in it, which is what it's all about. So please do, if you've got a moment to spare to give a review, that would be fantastic. Thanks so much for listening everybody. I hope you've enjoyed this episode. This is comic boom, which is produced and hosted by me, Lucy Starbuck, Bradley. Thanks for listening.