"Why don't you join the workshop?", a colleague asked while bringing the news about the exhibition of Gerald Gorridge's work and his two-days workshop at CCF Bandung, a couple of weeks ago.
"I'd like to, but I won't be available in the second day", I answered regretfully.
I trusted another colleague to deliver names of two participants on behalf of our institution, then set my mind to other work. I no longer thought about this matter, until the day came. Attending the opening of the exhibition on Nov 6th, I asked that first colleague who helped organizing the event, "Has he come up with participants' names?". "Nope", was the answer. Then, again, "Just join the workshop, will you". I didn't reply, but was seriously thinking about it.
I lingered around the exhibition space, watching the artist being interviewed by journalists, meeting colleagues and friends, and people I've known only via Internet before. That was exciting - but I was excited for another thing, too: my publisher came and handed me my new, freshly-printed book!
I gathered around a display table, where Gerald's book, Les Fantomes de Hanoi (2006), was being displayed and explained by Gerald himself to a group of audience that surrounded the table. I've never seen this book before, and was fascinated by its water-color technique and free lines, cityscape and people's figures, despite my disability to understand what the story is all about (it's in French). I was moreover intrigued by his sketches and artworks that were displayed on the wall, which really makes me want to practice on my aquarell once again!
At one point, I pulled my books out of my bag and gave it to him as presents. He looked into them, flipped the pages and asked if I would join his workshop the next day. "But I won't be able to make it on the second day", I answered. "No matter", he replied, "Just come". Right, now my mind is made. How could I resist?!
Friday, Nov 7th, 2008. The workshop started at 14.30; I came on time only to see that I was the only person in the venue. It so happened that a heavy rain fell abruptly just before I reached CCF, which held back - even 'trapped' - some participants who were on their way. When they finally arrived, chairs had to be removed and tables were to be brought in and arranged in a line, where Gerald, an interpreter and workshop participants could be seated. "Here we go", I thought, "My first real training in making comics".
The session begun with a task for us to make a story in three short, precise sentences, based on our real life experiences. The first sentence should introduce ourselves, the main characters in our own stories. It should also provide information about the location, time settings and all necessary details about the atmosphere that would build the story. The second sentence is where a 'problem' occurs, while the third sentence should contain the solution that ends the story. "It should make five to seven pages of comics", he said, "But no more". We were given 15 minutes to write it down, then read it loud to him, then he would respond with remarks and criticism about how the story could be more interesting - especially when it is transformed into comics form. I like it how clear he could explain about possibilities and development of each of our stories, and how he could point out the weakness of the plot as well as its strength.
After we all had our turns (there were about 12 of us), we were asked to draw the main characters of our stories, in various expressions. Now I started, of course, with the "Tita" you've seen in my recent drawings. I was asked to include more facial expressions, more realistic (meaning, with nose and all :D), so I tried. I remember the first pages of my graphic diary, made during my apprenticeship in Germany, when I still had spotty cheeks, short hair, and a nose. I remember also my earliest drawings from my teenage years, of journeys to other islands, back when "Tita" looked more cartoony. Then, further back, when we had to draw our own faces for an art lesson in junior high school, when I had to look at my face in the mirror, while filling my paper (already pencil-lined thinly for proportions) with drawings of my eyes, nose and mouth. Right, let's blend them all this time! I could manage, surprisingly, considering how long ago it was that I allowed myself to try other drawing styles!
Saturday, Nov 8th, 2008. I made a return trip to Jakarta for a nephew's birthday, bringing Dhanu and Lindri. There's a change of plan due to Syb's condition (he had to cancel going to Jakarta with us): I had to cut our visit short. On one hand, it was a pity to rush our family gathering; on the other hand, I might have the chance to continue the workshop at CCF.
We departed from Jakarta at 14.30, reaching Bandung at about 17.00. I dropped off the kids at home and left again for CCF, arriving shortly before 18.00. I think I missed the first half of the session.
Everybody was seated around the table, the participants working on their storyboards and taking turns in showing their pages to Gerald to receive remarks and input. Based on my story from the day before, I quickly composed my storyboard - consisting five pages in total. This was also a rather new thing for me, for I am not used to drawing in boxes. But it was not impossible. My turn was among the last ones, for it was getting late.
His input to my storyboard was about building up the condition of the main character, gestures, and clearness of the story. I realized my story is a bit vague at the end and around the key element that makes the story important. A lot of improvement could be made, and I might - one day - complete those pages! (I'm telling you: it would involve lots of water-painting, photo references, and my sentiments and memories about Albert Cuyp marketplace in Amsterdam :D)
At the end of the session, Gerald gave an overview about producing the finished pages (transferring images from A4 to A3 sized paper, deciding tones, inking, etc.) and incorporating texts into drawings (mind the gap!). Then, since a question was raised towards the subject: about the procedure of comics publication in France. All in all, his explanation was very comprehensive, and it is evident that he has lots of experience in this, especially considering him being a lecturer specialized in comics art at the European School of Visual Arts in Angouleme, France (they offer a Master's Degree in comics!). I'm glad I got the chance to absorb a bit of his knowledge. Lots of thanks to CCF Bandung and the interpreters (Mb'Windie & Mb'Dina), to Manyala and Gerald for this experience!
Photo of Gerald, taken from detik.com: Melihat Hantu dari Vietnam
More photos from detik.com: Pameran Komik di CCF
And a video, also from detik.com: Melihat Hantu dari Vietnam
Gerald's other activity during his visit in Indonesia: Workshop HAPPENING KOTA KOMIK in Yogyakarta
Gerald was also mentioned as one of the mentors in LINGUA COMICA program (London, 2007) - see also Paul Gravett's site about Lingua Comica - so he must have met Aziza Noor, our colleague who was selected to represent Indonesia in that program.