Comics with Max Alexander / Play Radical
In July 2020 we worked with the Thistle Young People (Thistle YP) group, getting to know them and their interests through the power of the humble comic. The two-part session led by artist Max Alexander, who goes by the alias Play Radical, explored the concept of change – a theme that is integral to Edinburgh Art Festival’s 2020 summer programme of artist responses to the Covid-19 pandemic and Thistle YP programme – making friendships and connections, building and expanding skills and trying out new things to take steps towards the future they want.
As well as getting everyone involved in some playful and imaginative games centred on transformation, Max showed dynamic examples of the oeuvre of expanded-comics - tracing their trajectory – from the classic comic books made by Marvel and DC, through to today's webcomics to more abstract examples like the work of Evan Cohen. These examples showing how the comic format of sequential panels can be approached in countless ways - working as a tool for the artist to decide what they're going to share and how. Max sees this as important when exploring ideas of change; something we only have a certain amount of control over in our lives. Creating art around this can be a way to take ownership of your own experience and find ways to understand and tell your story that feel good for you. The group were given an art pack designed by Max, which included playful prompts to enable moments of private reflection, which could then be used to inform their art pieces as much or as little as they liked.
In the session Holly, the Festival’s community engagement manager, introduced Edinburgh Art Festival and its summer programme, and discussion was had around how art can be a brilliant tool for exploring the concept of change. As well as this the group shared their thoughts on what kind of art they like to see and make, and how creativity can help develop confidence. We look forward to working with the group again, building upon the ideas they developed and experimenting with their passion for comics and illustration in the future through visiting exhibitions, meeting artists and trying new artistic processes.
Rameez gave further fantastic reflection on making and learning about art: "Art has two meanings ‘alternative routes to succeed’ and ‘astonishing routes to success’. It’s all about trying out new things, experimenting/exploring ideas and it all being innovative and diverse. Try and not to feel afraid if things don’t go to plan. Art and creative thinking reassures you that it’s perfectly ok not to get things right the first time round. And also never lose hope and keep on persevering. Art has so many inspiring messages and our challenge is to unravel them like scientists or people going for advertises and being a new perspective to the world."
Thistle YP is a dynamic, creative and collaborative project, working alongside young people, their families, schools and communities, to take steps towards the future they want. They believe that planning for your future after school should be exciting, whatever support you need.
Max Alexander is an artist and inclusive play specialist who works and writes under the name Play Radical. His work centers facilitating and creating opportunities for play and creativity for people of all needs and ages. Max's individual practice involves drawing, writing and very occasional performing. As an autistic artist Max is passionate about access to arts and culture for Neurodivergent communities and people.