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Scratch that–who’s got two thumbs and her master’s degree?

21 May

Spoiler alert: it’s THIS GUY again! :D

Sorry for the extreme delay in updates, you guys! I was completely wrapped up in my nervousness about meeting with the thesis committee, and after that I was busy celebrating the fact that I TOTALLY PASSED! In fact, every single member of the class of 2011 passed, making this a first in CCS history! I’m pretty proud of us.

We had a fantastic commencement ceremony featuring speeches by Lawrence Lee Derks III (whose blog is brand-spanking-new) and Francoise Mouly of RAW, Little Lit, and The New Yorker fame! You can watch a video of the ceremony, including a somewhat-impromptu dance number, here (courtesy of Bailey‘s dad). While you’re at it, you can also check out our amazing diploma drawn by–who else?–my fantastic advisor, Aaron Renier! I’m gonna do a post gushing about everything next week (and reflecting on my time at CCS), but for now you’ll have to make do with this picture from the graduation reception:

Me and the fam!

That’s me with my mom, dad, and grandma. My grandpa is, as always, the one behind the camera. I’m wearing the smile of someone whose life suddenly includes sleep, showers, and chocolate-covered pretzels! (My grandparents brought me boxes of Sarris chocolate-covered pretzels all the way from Pittsburgh…and if you’re from the ‘burgh, you know how great those are!) I had a fun time showing them all around WRJ and introducing them to all my friends.

Now that they’ve gone home, I get to kick back, relax, and–oh yeah–get started on work for Drawn Out Storytelling! Pat, Bailey, Paul, and I all headed to NYC earlier this week to meet with some of the storytellers and plan out our illustrations. We’ve got a fantastic lineup for these shows! Kevin Allison (of The State and Risk!) Jeff Simmermon (of The Moth and And I Am Not Lying), Peter Aguero (of The Moth and The BTK Band), and Ophira Eisenberg (also of The Moth and As Is) will all be there on varying nights, plus a bunch of other incredibly talented storytellers, artists, and musicians! Check out the full lineup on our Kickstarter here.

And, speaking of our Kickstarter, guess what? We are 93% funded! :D Thank you guys so, so much for your support–it means everything to us! We’re just $125 away from our goal, and we’re incredibly excited. If you have a spare dollar or two, please think about sending it our way so that we can make this show the best it can be!

I’m about to wrap it up for tonight, so here’s a little drawing I did during one of our many summer thunderstorms this week:

rainy run!As someone who’s lived in California for the last eight years, summer rain is a new and wonderful phenomenon to me. I love it! I assume that someday the idea of it being 80 degrees and pouring rain will become normal to me again, but right now I’m content to spend a lot of time staring out the window, fanning myself and marveling.

Who’s got two thumbs and has finished her thesis?

4 May

That’s right: THIS GUY!

DONE WITH MY THESIS

That’s a super-quick celebratory photo of me (in all my manic, sleep-deprived glory) and all 8 copies of my thesis project, just before I turned them in! As you can see, I chose to go with the purple and blue crest with “Fiat Comix” as the logo. I feel pretty good about how they turned out, but I think I’d like to try doing another round. I want to print it on bigger bags with the proper ink for printing on fabric so that I can have a better one for myself (right now, I have one of the messed-up versions!) and maybe some for sale, too!

I hope that the thesis evaluation committee thinks that everything looks good, too. I’m pretty nervous about going up in front of them next week, of course, but–fingers crossed–I think things may go okay. Aside from my nerves, I basically feel like this:

YESSSSSSSIt’s amazing what a few nights of good sleep and a few days of eating well can do! Now I’m all pumped up for Drawn Out Storytelling! Thank you very much to everyone who’s donated so far–we’re 43% funded! We’re not out of the woods yet, though. The way Kickstarter works, we don’t actually receive any money unless we meet (or–be still, my heart!–exceed) our goal; if we raise less than our proposed amount, all the money is refunded and we have to find a way to finance the show out of our own pockets. If you have the chance, would you check our Kickstarter out? You can donate as little as $1, and there are a lot of really great prizes if you donate. You can win keychains, free tickets, and lots and lots of original art, ranging from sketches to finished illustrations to custom comic books! I don’t mean to harp on about it, but I’m so excited about this show and really, really want to see it made. It’d really make my day if you could help us out by donating or spreading the word!

Speaking of things that are making my day, I’m also pretty pumped for Free Comic Book Day, which is this Saturday. I’ll be hanging out at Newbury Comics in West Lebanon, NH, sellin’ my wares and enjoying an awesome comics holiday. I’m hoping to make a new mini to give out that day, so I’ll keep you posted on how that goes. Come see me if you’re in the area–I’d love to say hi!

Doin’ my part for CCS Awareness Week!

12 Mar

I talked in my last entry about the CSSSA-Innerspark program and how much it influenced me in high school. Today, if you guys’ll humor me for a little bit, I’d like to blather on a little bit longer about who I am and the program I’m in right now. For those of you who don’t know (or who have just been skimming the blog looking for pictures of girls in their underpants–of which, to be fair, there are a lot), right now I’m in my second year at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT. CCS is one of only three schools in the US that only teach comics, and we offer a two-year master’s degree or a one-year certification program in comics and being AWESOME.

So how do you get to CCS? Sit yourself down, and listen to my tale…

This is me before attending CCS:

I wish I was drawing comics right now...

As you can see, I was a sad and lonely girl, befriended only by statues of sea life.

…No, that’s totally not true. I was pretty happy in undergrad–I liked UC Santa Cruz, I had good friends, and I was taking fun classes. I just wasn’t doing a whole lot of art. I’d decided to go for a literature major because I’d liked my high school lit classes so much, and since you couldn’t minor in art at the school I attended I relied on doodling in my notebook as an artistic outlet. I drew comics now and again in my sketchbook, but none of my friends were really into drawing (although they were really supportive), so it was basically just for my own amusement. I’d fallen out of contact with pretty much anyone from CSSSA, and gradually I forgot what it was like to be surrounded by so many like-minded artistic individuals. I came to the art major late and didn’t really click with many people in the department, probably because I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do artistically. I did a lot of drawings and paintings that I was half-into, but ultimately I was more happy with the work I was doing in the Stevenson College Programs Office and in the margins of my notebooks, even if I didn’t really know why.

I didn’t figure out what I really wanted to do until I visited CCS’s winter Portfolio Day. That was where I met James Sturm, Michelle Ollie, Jason Lutes, Steve Bissette, Robyn Chapman, Alec Longstreth, and Jon Chad for the first time. Everyone there was so interesting and enthusiastic and articulate about what they did in comics and why they did it. It was just like CSSSA–a fact that I didn’t even put together until later–except that I’d get to stay for two whole years instead of for a month. The only downside, I thought, would be the challenge posed by the Vermont weather.

What is this strange, cold substance?

It had been a balmy 40 degrees that weekend, though, so I figured it couldn’t really be all that bad. (Little did I know what was in store!) I rushed home and spent the whole next week putting together my application–transcript, letter of recommendation, essay on the theme of “cartoonists are like that”, and a four-page comic featuring myself, a snowman, a robot, and a piece of fruit–so that I could be considered for the next round of admissions. In the meantime, I found myself getting antsy and kind of frustrated with my painting classes. Now that I knew I wanted to do comics, I wasn’t as excited to paint, and I wasn’t sure I could combine the two to my satisfaction yet. The rest of that quarter was an exercise in patience and trying to cram the rest of my required art classes into ten weeks.

The day that I got the acceptance letter in the mail was, seriously, one of the best days of my life. That summer, with the help of my friends, I packed up everything I owned and headed east to White River Junction.

Holy hell, I just moved to Vermont.

To be honest, I was totally scared. Pretty much everyone I knew was on the West Coast, and my closest relatives were three and a half hours away–not too far, but farther than I was used to going, for sure. I didn’t know anyone in the program (except for Valerie, the school’s awesome operations manager, who met me once at Portfolio Day and recognized me instantly when I came back into town), and I was living on my own (no roommates, no pets, nada) for the first time ever. But my awesome classmates and the school won me over pretty quickly.

Lookit all these RAD comics!

Immediately after coming to CCS, I was introduced to a whole new world of artists and influences. I grew up reading newspaper comics, my parents’ copies of The Funny Times, and a whole lot of terrible shoujo manga. I was the most comics-savvy person in my group of friends in Santa Cruz, but everyone I talked to here introduced me to something new I’d never read before. If I wanted to check it out, all I had to do was take a five-minute walk over to our fantastic Schulz Library. It. Was. Awesome.

I didn’t just spend my first year reading, though.

I am binding the HELL outta these books!

I learned how to do all kinds of awesome stuff that year! I tried out a bunch of different tools, figured out which ones worked best for me, laid comics out on master sheets and in InDesign, fought with the copier, contributed to anthologies, helped perfect-bind books, visited a bunch of new cities, tabled at conventions, and–oh yeah–drew a ridiculous amount of comics. Seriously, I have never been so productive when it comes to my art. Here’s a sample of what I did:

TOTALLY FREAKIN' AWESOME!!!

The above image doesn’t even show everything that I did in my first year. Not pictured are my Ed Emberley comic, Caution (the first anthology I contributed to, although my story by itself is pictured), Tales from San Papel (the second anthology), Eat Up, Cat (my children’s book, which I’ll be finishing this month), and the diary comics I did every week first semester. We don’t call the first year ‘comic book boot camp’ for no reason!

By the end of the year, I was pretty tired…but I was exhilarated with where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing.

...I have never been so happy.

Sappy as it is, that thought balloon is totally true. Choosing to attend CCS was the best decision I ever made. Yeah, it was scary to move; yeah, I miss the hell out of my family and friends on the West Coast; yeah, I’ve slept way less in this past year than I maybe should have. But I’ve made some wonderful friends and done so much work that I’m really proud of here. I have only three months left, and it’s a bittersweet feeling. I’m excited and scared to move somewhere new, and I feel so lucky to have come here and found this amazing support system of cartoonists. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now without what I’ve learned at CCS.

If you’re interested in applying to either (or both!) of the CSSSA or CCS programs, you can find more information on the CSSSA website here (for the animation program, but they also have several other concentrations) and the CCS website here. If you have any other questions or anything like that, please comment or send me an email! I’d love to talk to you about comics, comics school, or whatever. :) You can also check out these other posts about CCS from other students and alumni.

I can’t adequately tell you how much I recommend these two programs, guys. I know that by this point I just sound like a spokesperson, but CSSSA and CCS played a huge part in who I am today. Apparently I am really moved by anything with a lot of C’s and S’s. Who knew that was the way into my heart?

A peek into my fabulous lifestyle!

2 Feb

Did you know that yesterday was Hourly Comic Day? Neither did I, until Dakota mentioned it on Monday! Since I’ve enjoyed other people’s hourly comics and since I didn’t get a chance to do 24 Hour Comic Day this year, I vowed to myself that I would give this a shot. So, here’s what my day was like yesterday:

Hourly Comics Day!Don’t be jealous of my decadent, star-studded lifestyle. It just comes with the job. ;) If you like, you can read other people’s hourlies here.

See you guys on Friday! I’ll have a new visiting artist sketch (or two!) for ya then.

Drumroll, please!

31 Jan

All right, you guys, this is it! These are the last visiting artist sketches of the CCS class of 2011. So, without further ado:

Beth HetlandBeth Hetland will be completing the first two books of Fugue, a three-book series about her mother’s lifelong relationship with music–particularly the piano–and its effect on her family.

Jesse MeadJesse Mead will be working on Where Gods Lie, a fantasy epic/adventure, as well as collaborating with Monty Montgomery on Lincoln and Franklin: Ghost Hunters (whose name pretty much says it all).

And that’s all of us, guys! Come May, there are gonna be some amazing comics on the market. I am super excited! I am also super petrified, because I have a lot of work to do in between now and then. I guess I should probably get back to that.

See y’all on Wednesday!

What is this unfamiliar feeling?

26 Jan

Oh, right. It’s warmth! It has totes been above 0 degrees here for the past two days, which has been positively delightful and has let us all thaw out a bit. Never in my life did I expect to think that 18 degrees was balmy weather heralding the oncoming spring, but I guess that’s Vermont for ya.

You know what else is quintessentially Vermont? Sketches of the CCS students’ visiting artist talks. Here’s the next set:

Betsey SwardlickB. Swardlick will be starting a long graphic novel about the life and times of a man named Frank and all the roles–son, musician, father, lover–he plays throughout it.

Tom CasteelTom Casteel will be continuing work on Low Down, the abovementioned story about a man’s midlife crisis, as well as completing a number of shorter collaborative comics about a guerrilla English Lit class on a subway, meditation, and adoption.

Pat BarrettPat Barrett is continuing work on Petrified Girlfriend (a story about a young New York couple who is forced to come to terms with their faltering relationship when the girlfriend becomes…well…petrified) and contributing to Farmy Acres, a three-person webcomic in which each strip takes place in a different part of the same farm.

Next week is the last set of these visiting artist sketches, you guys! After that, you’ll have met every member of the CCS class of 2011. Then it’s back to regular ol’ artists again. :)

Time to break out the Mr. Freeze puns.

24 Jan

Not very nice, I snow, but it is -12 degrees out right now. I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO COPE WITH THIS WITHOUT TERRIBLE PUNS.

In other news, here’s the next batch of CCS visiting artist drawings. I think they’re pretty cool:

Jesse DuronaJesse Durona will finish a 72-page graphic novel called Capek, a sci-fi story about a robot that finds a human baby in space and makes it his mission to reunite the child with its family.

Ben JuersBen Juers is hard at work on a 24-page silent comic about bower birds engaging in all kinds of Buster-Keaton-like slapstick antics.

Kevin UehleinKevin Uehlein will be working on two projects this year: Life Skills, an autobiographical piece based on his time spent working as a life skills teacher, and Visions of the Aporkolypse, an anthology about the inevitable pig-related death of human society and tyranny.

All right, that’s it–I’m gonna go chill out, cocoon myself in a blanket, and draw morbidly obese cats until spring comes. Get my drift?

…….ICE!

Oh, hey, internets!

21 Jan

Long time, no see! Sorry about the long hiatus. When winter break started, I thought, “Will I have enough time to make a bunch of new art and update the blog regularly while I’m traveling through Charlotte and showing Paul around Del Mar and catching up with my family before I go? OF COURSE I WILL.”

I guess you can see how well that worked out. I was (*shock, gasp, horror*) busier than I thought I’d be, so I didn’t have much of a chance to draw. When I did, it usually went something like this:

WHAT SHOULD I DRAWWWWWI would sit there for a long time, staring down a blank sheet of paper. The longer I sat, the less valid or funny any of my ideas seemed, and eventually I would think, “Well, I’ll just do it tomorrow,” and go hang out with the fam. And the next day, the whole process would start over again.

But now I’m back in the place I work best, hanging out with the people I work best with, and I’m ready to start rocking out the rest of my thesis…well, as ready as I’m ever gonna be. I also have the rest of the CCS visiting artist sketches from last semester for you guys! So, without further ado, three more members of the CCS class of 2011:

Monty MontgomeryMonty Montgomery will be working on two different comics this year: Riot City (the teen kung-fu comic he mentions in the above drawing) and Max and Bosco (a comic about two musicians working at a restaurant in a dying universe).

Andy James ChristensenAndy James Christensen will be continuing work on The Stag, his mini-thesis from last year that dealt with a man living alone in a post-apocalyptic winter world and the strange creature he, for lack of a better word, befriends.

Carl MefferdCarl Mefferd is continuing work on Waking Dreams, his story about a Pacific Northwest town whose residents lead very different lives in their dreams.

I hate to say it, but I’m not as pleased with this set as I am with the previous one. I sat in a different place for the second round of presentations and had to draw everyone straight-on instead of from the profile, and I had a lot more trouble continuing the drawing as people moved their heads and changed expressions. For some reason it’s easier for me to adjust for slight differences in angle or expression from a side view rather than a front view, so I spent way more of the ten-minute sessions redrawing the same details over and over rather than refining them. *shrugs* What do you guys think?

Okay, that’s all from me tonight. I’ll see y’all on Monday–for reals this time!

I’m a veritable whirlwind of activity!

28 Dec

…Unfortunately, none of that activity is for art-related stuff right now. I’m about to run off to Charlotte to visit Paul (and, with any luck, see Bailey as well), and anytime I travel somewhere I pretty much spend the night before running around in a tizzy. I have packing to do, errands to run, walks to take with the family, cats to keep off the keyboard and out of my suitcase, and an impressive headache, but no brand-new art tonight. What I do have for you is the last of the first set of visiting artist sketches from the senior class presentations. There’s only one today since I haven’t had a chance to scan the second round yet (I’m still figuring out my parents’ scanner), but once I’m back I’ll begin posting the next set. So, without further ado…

Em SauterEm Sauter will be completing a third volume of M. Sauter’s Guide to Douchebaggery and continuing work on her two beer-related webcomics, Pints and Panels (featuring four-panel beer review comics) and Vicki Stowe: Brewmaster (the fictional life story of Vicki Stowe, the next female brewmaster).

Sorry for the short update–I’ll have something new for you guys on Wednesday, I promise!

Dear Mayans: thank you for inventing hot chocolate.

10 Dec

Seriously. It’s gotten so cold here that I’m practically living off the stuff! If there was a way I could get this stuff intravenously, I would absolutely not do it because I am terrified of needles but metaphorically I would be in total favor of it.

…I just reread that last paragraph and am thinking that maybe I should cut down on my intake a little bit.

Chocolate beverage addictions aside, here’s the next set of sketches of the CCS class of 2011:

Ben Horak

Ben Horak will be completing a new issue of Grumptoast, his one-man anthology, as well as redesigning the cover of the first issue. He’s also designed some sweet merchandise featuring some of his recurring characters.

CJ JoughinCJ Joughin is continuing work on City of Cards, her story set in an extremely capitalist, corporation-run future. So far, transparent scrum halves have only made an appearance on her fantastic shirts from Japan and Korea, but I can only hope they show up in her comic as well.

Paul SwartzPaul Swartz is continuing work on The Magnificent Mockingbird Presents: A Vanishing Act (the first chapter of which was his mini-thesis last year) as well as compiling a monster alphabet book and beginning work on an as-yet-unnamed project about a young man trying to revitalize his tiny hometown’s economy by faking a UFO landing.

That’s all for this week! If I haven’t sunk into a sugar-induced coma by Monday, I’ll post more work then. :)

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