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Comic Atelier Report

In order to get to know each other, discuss the comic ideas and plans, and get some hands-on work done, the DELTA project team and three of the four artists involved in the delta comic met for one week at the Cöln Comic Haus. Unfortunately, German Covid19 regulations kept Burmese comic artist Thant Myat Htoo from coming, so he participated through video conferences in the afternoons. The Cöln Comic Haus has a designated “Comic Lab(or)” and is conveniently located between a supermarket and a cafe/bakery, so we had rather promising infrastructure.

In the morning of Monday, January 24th, we started off by a round of introductions, which was followed by a series of short presentations about concepts that were central to the research project and that the project team wanted to flag up for the artists, so they would better understand where the researchers stood. The researchers also raised the question of how to represent these concepts in comic form: change & transformation, materials & materiality, rhythms such as tides & seasons, more-than-human actors such as animals & spirits, situated perspectives of delta dwellers and researchers, memories & different layers of stories, and questions of coherency and framing among the stories from the different regions. In the afternoon, we began to talk about the stories that the researchers had drafted and discussed with their respective partner artists beforehand. The artists also shared their draft sketches of characters and places based on these draft stories and discussions. It was fascinating to learn about the variety in the artists’ biographies and art styles in previous work, ranging from internet art, comic, illustration and animation to painting, beading, carving.

In the morning of Tuesday, January 25th, the project team took their guests for a walk from Köln Südtstadt to the Cathedral, and then on to Ehrenfeld, where we followed a guided tour on Cologne street art around the Ehrenfeld train station. In the afternoon, we returned to the Comic Lab to continue working on our stories, and to start preparing a group presentation for the panel on the following day. Cologne-based comic artist Claus Daniel Herrmann joined us for parts of the day, interested in the people and process behind the delta comic, and providing very helpful comments and suggestions for the collaborative work process. 

The morning of Wednesday, January 26th, saw more work on the comic stories; anthropologist and comic artist Steven van Wolputte from the University of Leuven joined us for a while, sharing some of his experiences with comic-making. In the afternoon, we ran the hybrid panel on Creatively Creating Comics. 

On Thursday, January 27th, we again had a morning session of working on the individual stories in artist-anthropologist pairs, and an afternoon session discussing some more general questions. On this day, we focused on the transitions from the stories from one delta, and drawn by one artist, to those of another delta and artist. We identified elements, such as tides, animals and plants that were suitable to link the two adjacent stories/deltas, and agreed that the respective artists would work together to create a transition double-page, where the style of one artist flows into that of the other. We also discussed possible styles and images for the cover art and agreed that this should be a composite realised by the four artists together. Finally, we talked about possible titles for the comic and chose “Delta Tales” as a suitable name. In the evening, the panel on Ethno-graphic Storytelling on Rivers, Climate and Change took place at the Cöln Comic Haus.

Friday, January 28th, was the final day of the atelier, and the artist-anthropologist pairs worked hard to get as far as possible with planning their two delta stories, while they were still in the same room. Each pair agreed on how to proceed with their work in the coming weeks and months. In the early afternoon, we ran a final video conference with Thant to wrap up the workshop. It was clear that the personal interaction over these five days had helped the comic project forward significantly: being in the same room, participating in the same events, exploring Cologne street art together, having lunch together or being hunched over the same screen or scrapbook all contributed to let all of us involved in the comic better understand each other’s perspectives, techniques, ideas and preferences. The only thing that could have improved this experience would have been if Thant would have been allowed to participate in person, too. He showed lots of enthusiasm, participating in video conferences at very late hours in Myanmar, but in the end had to admit that he did miss out a lot of the discussion during the panels; and we in Cologne missed his in-person participation and getting to know him in the same way as the other three artists. 


Read here the report about the panel "Collectively Creating Comics: Ethno-Graphic Storytelling and/as Teamwork"


Read here the report about the public event "Ehnographic Stories of Rivers, Climate and Change: A Discussion with Comic Artists from Around the World"