Aspen Words hosting graphic novel workshop for teens |

Aspen Words hosting graphic novel workshop for teens

by Andrew Travers
Students in Aspen Words' Summer Graphic Novel Workshop will publish a webcomic at the end of the week-long class. Pictured here is instructor Tim Fielder's comic, "Matty's Rocket."
Courtesy photo |

If You Go…

What: Summer Graphic Novel Workshop with Tim Fielder, presented by Aspen Words

Where: Colorado Mountain College, Aspen

When: July 27 - Aug. 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

More information: 970-925-3122;

A group of teens will publish comics this summer and maybe embark on lengthier projects, as Aspen Words hosts its inaugural Summer Graphic Novel Workshop.

The program is open to all high school-aged teens. No prior experience with writing, drawing or graphic design is required.

“If you are not, quote unquote, a great draftsperson, that’s perfectly fine,” says Tim Fielder, the New York-based artist leading the class. “It’s open to anyone who has a story in their head that they want to reveal in sequential panels.”

Fielder attempts to help students find their voice, find a personal style and, every so often, find a calling.

“There are kids who come in, who know what they’re doing and want to be a pro,” he says.

Fielder is allowing students to work in any genre. The workshop will teach them the language of comics and the production process, from breaking stories to coloring to publishing. At week’s end, the workshop will culminate with the release of a webcomic by each student.

Though the final product will be web-based, students can work in both analog and digital forms — drawing and inking by hand or on a computer, or a combination of both.

Fielder is an illustrator, animator, digital artist and founder of Dieselfunk Studios, which produces the online serial comic “Matty’s Rocket.” The comic combines a retro Buck Rogers-style space fantasy with historic events of the mid-20th century, starring space pilot Matty Watty.

Fieilder has been teaching for 10 years — I caught him between classes at New York University and the New York Film Academy — and he calls the relatively short one-week program a “sweatbox environment,” where he focuses on kids’ strengths, teaches them the process and shepherds them toward finishing a story with a deadline in mind.

He kicks it off by having students write down story ideas, which evolve into rough scripts and then into a “breakdown” comic page, eventually moving into inking, coloring and publishing.

“The hopeful expectation is that kids will have fun and enjoy the process of creating comics,” he says.

With students coming in at different levels of skill and most likely with varying degrees of comic book fan-hood, Fielder uses Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” as a textbook and gives a crash course on comic artists and their styles, from Hal Foster (“Tarzan”) to Jack Kirby (co-creator of “Captain America,” “Fantastic Four,” “Hulk”) to contemporary greats like Frank Miller (“Sin City,” “The Dark Knight Returns”) and Alan Moore (“Watchmen,” “V for Vendetta”) to today’s rising artists and the styles that have emerged out of Asia and Europe.

These days, Fielder says, his favorite comics are Greg Ruck and Michael Lark’s “Lazarus” in print and “Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Ether” online.

Bringing graphic novel instruction to teens is a new venture for Aspen Words, the literary nonprofit formerly known as the Aspen Writers’ Foundation. It’s the latest in what’s been a growing slate of programing for young adults from the literary organization. In recent years, its valleywide poetry workshops in local schools, culminating in poetry slams at the Wheeler Opera House and PAC3, have been a highlight of the local winter arts season.