Watch As The Book Lounge's Comics-Inspired Window Comes To Life For Open Book Festival 2016
A group of South African comics creators transformed a window at The Book Lounge in Cape Town into a comics-inspired artwork in honour of Open Book Festival 2016. brainwavez.org tagged along to document the process: find out more about the project, view our behind-the-scenes photos, and watch a timelapse video of the art coming to life.
On the weekend of 13 and 14 August four South African comics creators, plus a street and graffiti artist, worked at The Book Lounge, an independent book store in Cape Town, South Africa, to transform its Roeland Street window into an art piece to celebrate and advertise this year's Open Book Festival. Doane Smuts
and I joined them to capture the project on video and in photos so that something of the art, which is transient, will be preserved.
The Book Lounge's Roeland Street window is well placed to grab the attention of passersby and is regularly used by book shop's staff in creative ways to advertise upcoming events at the store but this year comics creators have been invited, on more than one occasion, to paint an artwork. (The first was Willem Samuel, in February, for his Mengelmoes
Above: A timelapse video filmed over the two days. (See below for our two behind-the-scenes videos.)
The window comprises two panels so two separate artworks were conceived. The creators decided to use as much space as they could to ensure that they grab people's attention.
Luis Tolosana of Falcon Comics
worked on the left panel to recreate this year's Open Book Festival logo, which incorporates his character Philo from Philo's Wish
. Underneath that graffiti and street artist Mak1one created the text announcing the event.
The second panel features an homage to classic comics. It's by Deon de Lange, using his character Tomica from Tomica
, a comic he co-creates with David Covas Lourenco, and Ben G Geldenhuys and Danelle Malan, using Noah, a character from their comic Cottonstar
Above: The team in front of the completed work. From left: Luis Tolosana, Ben G Geldenhuys, Danelle Malan, Deon de Lange, and Mak1one.
The project was supposed to be completed in an afternoon but instead it went on for a day and a half due to unforeseen problems, as well as the work just taking longer than everyone expected. The result, however, is wonderful, as you may have seen above. (It's recommended that you watch the video twice so that you can focus on the panels separately to see how they come to life.)
Two Teams: Two Approaches
The two teams used very different methods for creating their artworks, which are discussed in detail later in this article. As they were working we filmed their progress and talked to them about their inspirations and challenges.
Above: The first of our two behind-the-scenes videos.
Here you can see how the window progressed over the two days:
Above: The start of day one. The initial text had been painted already so that Luis Tolosana would know how much space he had to work in.
Above: Luis Tolosana has started drawing his guidelines, while Deon de Lange, Ben G Geldenhuys, and Danelle Malan are taping up their template.
Above: The end of day one: all the line work is complete, as is the black fill in colour.
Above: Into day two: colour is starting to appear in both designs.
Above: Mak1one has completed the first pass on his text and the teams are continuing to add colour to the art.
Above: The art is becoming more visible from the road.
Above: The team adds final touches to the art as the sun sets.
Above: The completed window.
Panel 1 Up Close: Recreating The Open Book Festival Logo
Luis Tolosana created the logo for this year's Open Book Festival earlier this year by using the original logo, of the book, and incorporating Philo into it, which adds an emotional layer that has garnered much positive response.
Above: This year's Open Book Festival logo.
To recreate this on the window he worked entirely freehand, without a template, as did Mak1one, who joined the activities on the second day and jumped in to work when Tolosana took breaks or was working on the other side of the glass.
Luis Tolosana began by referencing the logo from a printout as he drew guide lines on the outside of the window in yellow for Philo and red for the Open Book Festival logo. He then recreated the line work and painted in the fill colours on the inside of the window but he was essentially working with a mirror image of the logo he had already spent so much time on designing.
He would periodically go back outside to adjust the guide lines when he felt that they weren't quite right and erase guide bits that he no longer needed. He also had to wait at times for the paint to dry before he could add another coat, which was especially necessary for the darker colours. During these moments Mak1one would usually continue with his work on the text.
Luis Tolosana's approach was very traditional but he found it slow going and frustrating as his comics art is very detail oriented and he is a perfectionist. "The process of putting art on windows is a lot different to comics," he says. "Painting backwards was an issue and colouring from the darkest colours to the lightest colours, and then just making sure that proportionally it was the same as the image I was copying off was a nightmare. Those were the major hurdles that I had to go through."
However, by the end of the weekend he was happy with the outcome of the process: "I'm stoked that my character is now the logo of OBF 2016," he says.
Panel 2 Up Close: Creating An Homage To Classic Comics
Deon de Lange, Ben G Geldenhuys, and Danelle Malan arrived "late" on the Saturday but it transpired that they had been off site working on a template for their design, which they had then printed out in large scale on A4 sheets of paper.
Above: The covers of Detective Comics #164 and Batman #9 inspired the art on the second panel of the window.
The design is a mashup of the iconography of two classic comic covers: Detective Comics #164
(October 1950), which features the iconic pose, and Batman #9
(February 1942), which features the spotlight. The team's resulting homage places South African-created characters Tomica in the Robin role and Noah in the Batman role.
"We were just looking for a classic cover to homage. People know this image [from Batman #9
]. At first I was thinking the one with Tintin and the spotlight
where he's running to the side but we didn't want to do that. Then I was looking at the X-Men one with Wolverine and Kitty Pride [The Uncanny X-Men #141
, part one of the Days Of Future Past
storyline]. There are a lot of 'spotlight' famous covers and when people look at this image [they] immediately know [they're] looking at a comic cover. It's a very common theme through famous comic covers so that's what we decided on to copy and homage," says Deon de Lange.
He continues: "We also just wanted to make sure that the whole image looks like a comic book so that people know exactly what they're looking it. We also threw in the 'untold tales' so that people [would think] 'ok, cool, these are stories and we don't know about them [so let's] check them out'."
Above: Ben G Geldenhuys and Danelle Malan talk about coming up with the design for the window.
The team's approach was entirely different to that of Luis Tolosana. The team members printed out a mirror image of their design on A4 sheets of paper, which they taped together in rows and then taped to the outside of the window so that they could work from the inside. On the first day they traced the lines as fast as they could to ensure that they could remove the paper at the end of the day (it had already become apparent as they worked that this would be end up being a two day job) as it would be gone by the morning either due to the weather, which turned badly during the day, or passersby removing the paper out of curiosity. They also filled in all the black areas so that the paint would have a chance to dry over night.
On the second day, with all the line work in place - and dry - on the inside of the window, they tackled the colours. They had the same problem as Luis Tolosana with needing to paint multiple coats and having to wait for them to dry. "Glass isn't a medium we are very familiar with so we didn't factor in how opaque the paint would be. Also, we didn't look at the type of paint and how it would react to the glass," Ben G Geldenhuys says.
It got colder as the day progressed and various people tried a fan and a hairdryer to try and speed up the the process, with limited success. "When it's humid and cold and rainy paint drying is a bit of a problem," Danelle Malan says.
Nevertheless, by early evening they had managed to finish the work and the window was complete.
Learn More About South African Comics
If you would like to see the art in person it will be on the window until at least mid September to advertise the 2016 Open Book Festival, which runs from 7 to 11 September 2016 and includes the Open Book Comics Fest
, which features free events running at various venues throughout the city, as well as the comics marketplace on the weekend.
If you would like to learn more about South African comics
, the community, which includes the creators of the window art, will be participating in a Twitter event on Wednesday, 7 September 2016. All the details are here
. They will be showcasing some of their work, talking a bit about the window, and offering advice for aspiring creators.