Art center to host comic book workshops to prepare artists for upcoming show highlighting mental health awareness

Matt Rhys, a local comics creator with Ideal Comics, will be hosting workshops at WNAC to help local artists create content for the upcoming show "Turn the Page! Comics and Mental Health."

SCOTTSBLUFF—Comics and mental health care are coming together at the West Nebraska Arts Center in June in the exhibit “Turn the Page! Comics and Mental Health.”

A joint show by WNAC and Cirrus House, Matt Rhys said the show is meant to reach out to younger people in particular.

“We are helping people explore the medium of comics art, sequential art, as a way of describing their feelings and coping with mental health,” he said.

Since sequential art is not a common genre for local artists, Rhys, a youth worker at Cirrus House and comics creator at Ideal Comics, will be offering three free comic workshops at WNAC leading up to the show’s debut on June 28.

“We will be helping people through the basics of it,” he said. “How action flows from panel-to-panel, what the terms are, that kind of thing.”

A comic page, he explained, is a series of art pieces that come together to form a whole.

“One of the fun things about a comic page as a piece of art is that each panel is individually something, but the panels together are something else,” he said. “Each panel is one moment of time, or one perspective in one moment of time, but an entire page is a sequence of time. That’s why we call it sequential art.”

Participants for the workshop will need to bring their own materials. Rhys recommended artists bring a pencil and sketchpad. The workshops will be held on April 12, May 10, and June 7 from 5-7 p.m.

“We’ll cover slightly different materials as it works out,” he said. “We’ll have time for people to ask questions, we’ll go over some terminology, go over some basic story structure stuff, but it’ll be very repeatable.”

Part of the decision to use a comic theme for this year’s exhibit comes from the universality of sequential art.

“Comics are something that are really relatable,” Rhys said. “Whether it’s the Sunday funnies or American superhero comics or Japanese manga or whatever, it’s an artform with variations that a lot of people relate to. It’s something that can have a uniquely personal nature to it that makes it a very good basis for the catharsis of dealing with your own struggles. There’s a lot of strength to be garnered from the artform itself and the community around it.”

Due to the size of the Bronson Gallery, artists will be limited to up to two pages, at a minimum of 10 inches wide and up to 16 by 20. Entries are due at Cirrus House on June 18 and at WNAC at June 25.

“A standard comic book script would be 22 pages long,” Rhys said. “We’re not going to be able to have 22 pages laid for one person, so we had to limit it someway.”

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