Story Avenue Workshop

At the end of February, I was invited to Edmonton by the Young Alberta Book Society to participate in Story Avenue, an annual workshop for grades 5 and 6 from different schools to learn about creative writing. Although I have given several presentations to adults, and I teach an adult illustration class, this was my first time working with elementary students.

Since I'm an illustrator and not a writer, I decided to do my workshop on how to create characters, focussing on the idea of refinement and that your drawing isn't necessarily finished after your first try.

I began the workshop by sharing some of my process for illustrating a picture book. There's a lot of work that goes into illustrating a book. Lots of drawing and refining needs to happen before the illustrations are taken to final art. I showed them how much planning goes into the early story boards, how many times I redraw things until the image is just right, some of the changes I made and why those changes helped to tell the story better.

I demonstrated how I draw a character. I showed them how to just have fun with shapes and not get hung up on proportions, and how to make their character look younger or older. I also showed them how to use one colour to do an initial drawing and then then a second colour to refine the drawing.

Then we brainstormed some ideas and character traits for their characters.

Their assignment was to come up with characters that they could use in a story using only two colours: one to do the initial drawing and one to refine. Most of the kids really got into it. I was so happy with the amount of creativity and effort that went into the character designs. I did the same workshop 4 times in 2 days to roughly 100 kids in total and all of the results were so unique.

Although I went into it not knowing what to expect, doing the workshop with the kids was a really good experience and I'm so glad that I did it.

Thank you to YABS for the opportunity 🙂

And thank you to Carolyn Fisher, who has tons of experience with this sort of stuff, for letting me pick her brain 🙂