Live briefs, research and community engagement

We’re often told that research informs teaching, but what does that really mean? Here’s a great example of how the research undertaken by academic staff supports innovative teaching methods and informs teaching.


Senior Lecturer in Comics and Graphic Novels , Julian Lawrence is an award-winning cartoonist and educator specialising in comic books. Julian’s work concentrates on the undercurrents of communication through gesture in the medium of comics.

In June 2021 Julian presented his conference paper, 21st Century Winter Journey, at the Media Communication and Cultural Studies Association Conference (MeCSSA). The paper introduces his visual essay book chapter describing a collaborative comics-based research (CBR) project between a homeless charity and a cohort of 2nd-year university students. The 21st Century Winter Journey project explores the status of community art education (CAE) in Middlesbrough UK, and the ways learning and making comics impacts communities locally and internationally.

Cover by Julian Lawrence

The project challenged Year Two students in Comics & Graphic Novels at Teesside University to make comics, do research beyond the classroom boundaries, and explore the surrounding local community. Academics and students partnered with staff and homeless members of Streetwise Opera (SWO) who were staging a performance of Schubert’s opera Winterreise. SWO provides resources and community support to people affected by homelessness across the UK. The task as a class was to collaboratively develop the opera into a narrative with SWO and adapt the libretto into a graphic novel.

Traditional comics-making methods informed the foundation of the project’s artistic practice:

• Rough sketches and thumbnails based on research
• Cleaner pencil drawings and lettering
• Rendering inks and colours
• Final, camera-ready artwork.

Following each iteration, SWO and Julian (as tutor) gave students feedback and revisions.

Page by Ebonny Cavanagh

Julian suggests that analysis of the project widens conversations in CAE through Research Informed Teaching (RIT), Just-In-Time Teaching (JITT) and Paolo Freire’s “conscientizaçāo” (awareness). RITT, JITT, and awareness triangulate and locate learning in a community’s relational and public spaces. In applying these theories with cartooning practices, a powerful pedagogical tool emerges. When students become researchers and make comics they negotiate their understandings of community, their identities, and their futures. These observations are evidenced in the reflections students wrote as well as in the finished comics they submitted at the conclusion of the project. RIT, JITT, awareness, and cartooning guide the flow of artistic practice through shared group experiences within community spaces.

Page by Mia Redfern

Forms of comics such as comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels are recognized internationally. Creative practices of making comics and cartooning are transferrable to schools, community centres, universities, and care homes everywhere. As such, the medium of comics functions as a transversal language and participatory culture that links people and communities together.

Tragically, the global pandemic hit as students were developing the comic, and all teaching migrated online. Despite increased pressure to self-isolate, socially distance, and learn online the 64-page graphic novel was successfully completed and deliverd as Christmas presents in December 2020.  Julian continues to use live briefs to encourage research and create meaningful and community-based learning in and outside of the classroom for students.

The School of Arts & Creative Industries offers both a BA Comics & Graphic Novels and an MA Comics & Graphic Novels

 

Five Minutes with Sarah Perks

Sarah Perks is a professor and Head of Department in the School of Arts & Creative Industries.

I grew up on a council estate and I was always into anything to do with the arts, from pop music to reading and watching everything. I’m not really sure that I conceived of working in any other arena. I am now a curator, academic and writer. In 2017 I was was one of Creative Review’s 50 Creative Leaders. I’ve led many major projects with international artists.

A highlight of my career was working with the filmmaker and artist David Lynch. My work is about relationships — between artists and audiences and between art forms. It is also political, about the structures at work in society, how they shape our experience, and where there is inequality because of these. I’m currently developing work on how arts can embrace social justice by combining our heritage with futures such as environmental issues, inclusion and technological advances.

Arts and culture inform our world alongside science and technology. They are part of everybody’s experience and our lives depend on creative thinking. Arts and culture enable debate and help people understand the complex and unequal world around us, and be part of designing a better one.

At the School of Arts and Creative Industries we see success as fulfilling your ambitions, whether you are a planning to design the interior of a primary school, create the logo for it, teach the children in it, or work with them to tackle poverty. If you’re thinking of applying to the School, my advice would be choose what excites you rather than what you think you should do. If you stay creative and curious about the world it will never bore you


Our courses:

 

Students Benefit From Unique Textiles Print Facilities

Vicky Graham is a Senior Technician in the School of Arts & Creative Industries. She talks here about the unique textiles print facilities and life in our school.


The textiles print facilities are unique and accessible to all students across the School, offering open access booking and specialist modules taught in the print facility. The facilities are in the beautiful grade II listed Waterhouse building with a variety of print equipment that is as impressive as the location.

The academic staff have an extensive range of skills and experience in art and design and vast teaching experience. Many of the staff work in the sector, running their own businesses. They are regularly featured in
international exhibitions and are published in magazines and books. The staff have up-to-date industry knowledge, and you can expect these experiences to shine through in their teaching. It’s such a positive and supportive environment and the campus amplifies the sense of community.

If you’re studying at the School of Arts & Creative Industries, I’d recommend taking advantage of all the additional opportunities on offer. Go to all the artist talks, exhibitions and use all the facilities. Three years will go by so fast and you don’t want to miss any of it.

Follow some of Vicky’s work on Instagram

Find out more about our BA (Hons) Fashion