Slowly but surely, the superhero emerges. Neck muscles ripple down toward stacked shoulders, and biceps flex menacingly, ready to spring into action should bad guys attack. Suddenly, a voice breaks the action.
“Now, I want you to try something different. Be as creative as you possibly can.”
The voice is William Keller’s, and the words are encouragement for budding artists to stretch the bounds of comic book character development. Mr. Keller, the art instructor for Ramstein Youth Programs, teaches comic art and creation classes at the Ramstein Youth Center.
Some of Mr. Keller’s students, who range in age from 5 to 12, have already developed story lines about chicken men and kids bent on vengeance against homework-giving adults. According to Mr. Keller, skill level is not an issue and different comic styles are encouraged.
“With comics, we talk about generating characters, not just drawing people,” he said. “We’re trying to generate stories around our characters.”
***image1***Mr. Keller also teaches a variety of other classes, including painting, digital photography, illustration and general art. His grasp of techniques include pastels, watercolor, clay and papier mâché. Each session is 45 minutes long, which helps dictate Mr. Keller’s teaching style.
“When the kids come in, we get right to it,” he said. “I sit down and teach with them and we get going. I don’t just talk at them.”
Taking inspiration from his older brothers, Mr. Keller has been an artist for 15 years. An accomplished painter, designer and illustrator, his artistic influences include Frank Miller, Jim Lee and Salvador Dali. His goal as a teacher, he said, is to make art accessible for interested kids.
“Classes are designed to be fun, first and foremost,” he said. “But they also present an opportunity for social interaction.”
According to Mr. Keller, classes are available on weekdays throughout the school year for age groups of 5 to 8 and 9 to 12 years old. Spaces for classes are currently open, and Mr. Keller encourages kids to come join the fun.
“Every messy kid is one small victory,” he said. “Here, we protect our artistic freedoms.”