For the remaining three days of professional workshops — the morning sessions — Émile, Badoux, and I decided to keep it simple and just work collaboratively with our Burmese counterparts. We pooled ideas and came up with three we thought would work.
On Wednesday we introduced an “exquisite corpse” jam where each of the artists — including us — drew one panel of a continuing narrative. As a group, we came up with a character and a situation — a man sitting at an outdoor restaurant — and then let our individual (and collective) imaginations take over. As everyone gathered around, I started things off, drawing a guy sitting at a Chinese barbecue, with no overt clues as to what should happen next. Badoux came next, and he added conflict — and humor — by showing a close-up of the guy’s leg, with a hungry rat approaching it. Then the Burmese artists took over, and it was really fun to see the story take off, as the rat was revealed to be remote-controlled, and the protagonist morphed into a true Burmese, with a longyi and everything. The final results, which we tacked up on the board, weren’t exactly publication material, but the exercise was a great ice-breaker. We had seen each other at work, realized we shared a sense of playfulness and humor, and were looking forward to our next get-together.
On Thursday I proposed a new idea, which Émile and Badoux embraced enthusiastically. Taking a pre-ruled sheet of paper, each of us drew the opening panel of a six-panel page. I drew a wooden hut, situated in a rural area at the end of a dirt road. Behind it were some simple mountains, a sign was in the extreme foreground, and a round shape — sun, moon, or… something else — hung in the sky. Badoux drew a jet plane flying overhead in a cloudless sky. And Émile drew a bedraggled, stinky dog, sitting by the side of the road. From each of these jumping-off points, the idea was for the artists to continue the story, bringing it to a satisfying conclusion by panel 6.
Mine, Badoux, and Émile’s opening salvos
Once again, the group embraced the idea and set to work. We three visitors took the challenge too, finishing the stories of our two counterparts (and continuing on to their own page, if they finished the other two in time). It was really fun to share the space as the twelve of us worked, taking occasional breaks to peek over at our neighbor’s progress. For my own part, I used Émile’s panel to reference the then-imminent Thingyan Water Festival, depicted so charmingly in Guy Delisle’s The Burma Chronicles.
Again, I was really impressed with the Burmese artists’ creative and humorous solutions to the “problems” we had posed — particularly in regard to Badoux’s drawing of the plane. For that one, many of them came up with some really rather dark and cynical interpretations, many having to do with terrorism and plane crashes. It was clear that they found the material rich for political commentary, obscured by a veil of humor.
For some reason, during this exercise a number of the Burmese cartoonists worked me into their comics! As you can see from these examples (again, artist’s names redacted), there’s no mistaking who the hapless lovestruck character in these stories is. What’s up with that?! And why didn’t Émile and Badoux suffer the same fate? *Sigh*
Tomorrow: Friday’s exercise, courtesy of Émile Bravo…