HF4U Workshops

Posted on Aug 8, 2010 in comics, news

At the very end of June, a day after returning from the scorching Glastonbury Festival, I did two Comics & Drawing workshops over two days with children at BBC Manchester for Higher Futures 4U to show them the possible creative careers open to them. I’ve blogged before about the great work this organisation does and these sessions were the 4th time I’ve worked with them.

I thought it would be good to write about the drawing examples I use in these workshops but as it is a long and image heavy post, I have put it behind a cut.

Before the schools arrived I drew a self portrait drawing a cartoony self portrait drawing a be-quiffed stick man self portrait. This blew one girls’ mind. I draw this so that hopefully the kids recognise it as me right away and believe from the start that I might know what I’m talking about.

This time I had about 20 minutes with each class (20-30 kids) and started with a short talk about how I started drawing by copying cartoon characters I liked. I make a point of saying that tracing and copying drawings is not cheating but actually a really good way to learn how to draw something right and where you might be going wrong. Then I did a brief drawing exercise I learnt from Jim Medway (an excellent comics teacher who does a lot of work at Manchester Art Gallery) where I draw famous cartoon characters and get the kids to shout out when they recognise it. They always get them after only a few lines and I tell them that this is because the most famous characters, Bart Simpson, Mickey Mouse etc, are based on simple shapes and even the kids who said they couldn’t draw admit they could draw a wobbly square for Spongebob.

Following that I chatted a bit more about studying art at school and how I draw for a living now, and that some days I get paid to just colour in. Then I showed them the basics of comics, one drawing next to another that visually tell a story. I keep this really simple by using stickmen to show that you don’t need to be able to draw amazingly to tell a story using comics.

Above you can see that I drew a stick man dropping his ice cream and changed his expression accordingly. Then I ask the kids what could happen next. One of them usually says he eats the ice cream so I draw the stick man happily licking it up. One boy suggested that the ice cream was an alien and I liked that idea so much I changed tack and drew that for him.

Then it’s about time the kids get involved so I tried a little game I read about on James Kochalka’s webcomic American Elf. I ask a volunteer to come up to the flipchart and draw a wiggly shape, not a square, triangle or circle. Then I ask them if they think I can make a cartoon character out of it. Only a few put their hands up the first time but after I do it once most of them have a little more faith in me and get really excited about what I come up with. They also make the shapes as difficult as possible once they get the idea. I ask the kids about certain details and if we have time we come up with a name for the character too. There’s a few nameless examples on the first stick man comic example and the rest that I did over the two days are below.

‘Professor Spike’ (as it should be spelt, tut tut) is my favourite here. The name, the mad fluffy hair and the tutu were the children’s ideas. He reminds me of the worm from Jim Henson’s ‘Labyrinth’. The name ‘Rexaur Muscles’ cracks me up.

This lad’s elaborate squiggle had me vexed for a while but I showed him alright. I remember the kids laughing with every hand I drew.

This last one is one of my favourites. It’s a shame we didn’t have time to come up with a name for this slightly glum bird thing.

I felt that both days went really well and the more I do work like this, the more drawing games and examples I’d like to learn to be able to teach more to children about the basics of cartooning and how much fun it can be.

Ana, the tireless organiser of Higher Future 4U, sent me some of the feedback from the children sent by the schools the week after. They all made me smile. Here are a few of those comments:

“My best bit was with Adam when he was drawing, which has inspired me. I have started to have a go at random wiggle shape monsters.”
“My best bit was seeing an artist turn lines and squiggles into cartoon characters.”
“My best bit was when Adam made a scribble into a cartoon because it was very creative.”
“My best bit was when I went to Adam and he drew himself drawing himself drawing!”
(Mind: Blown)
“My best bit was when the artist drew the man who fell with his ice cream.”
“When I met Adam Cadwell he was a brilliant drawer and he told us that you don’t have to be perfect to draw.”

(If you’d like to contact me about doing a Comic or Drawing workshop for children, whether in a school or as part of an event, please email me at adam(at)adamcadwell.com. My rates are flexible and I’m happy to work within budgets or in some circumstances for free.)


  1. JakeHarold
    August 8, 2010

    @adamcadwell well, that made me smile a lot – I hope you get to do more workshops soon!

  2. marcellerby
    August 8, 2010

    @adamcadwell what a neat blog post. I find teaching the younger kids so much more rewarding than the older one who can be a little snobby

  3. AndrewTunney
    August 8, 2010

    “draw a wiggly shape, not a square, triangle or circle. Then I ask them if they think I can make a cartoon character out of it.”

    This is how I practice poses and anatomy. No joke, that is my actual process. Without the army of little children obviously.

  4. HF4U Comic Competition « AdamCadwell.com
    July 28, 2011

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