Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category
It was ten years ago today that I quit my job to become a full-time cartoonist.
I had been trying to get syndicated for the previous ten years and was getting nowhere. (Well, not “nowhere” – I made some good contacts, got some good encouragement.) It seemed like the dream that I had had since I was a little kid was just not in the cards for me.
I majored on graphic design in college and had worked for small firms and big corporations and I was tired of doing what I was doing. And I had been doing “humorous illustration” as part of practically all my jobs. So 1+1 equals building my freelance base till I could leave my job. I started this process in 1998 (with tons of help from cartoonist Rick Stromoski), sent out promos and started to add clients. I took the monetary plunge of buying pages in “source books” where an art director would hopefully see my stuff, and like it, and pay me. I was lucky that I also had other outside gigs – teaching cartooning at a local college (which was steady money I could count on) and doing caricatures at parties and festivals.
I met my future wife at the end of 1999 and she knew from the get-go that I was unhappy with my job. It took another year or so to be ready, both in mind and career. It had gotten to the point that I didn’t have enough off-time to do, or look for, any more freelance work. I had made sure I could get medical insurance through a local art organization. Got all my ducks in a row. It was scary. My parents were worried. But once I left, I knew it was the right thing to do. As a matter of fact, I weirdly have little sense memory of having been a clock-puncher for over 15 years.
I did this quick scribble of the last pose on the last day of figure drawing for the Introduction To Drawing class I’m teaching. My style is always a bit angular and thus cartoony, and this is certainly not a great drawing…but here it is anyway.
It’s not really NSFW but the wiseguy in me couldn’t resist using ol’ timey censor bars just in case someone got offended. (If I really wanted to be a wiseguy, I should’ve reversed the whole thing – left the bars open and blacked out the rest.)
So, you may remember that about a month ago (when I got back to regular blogging) that one of my lame excuses was that I spent 12 days in Nicaragua. It’s true. I’ve got the intestinal distress to prove it. (To be truthful, I did OK since I kept myself on a steady diet of chewable Pepto-Bismol. It was only after getting home that I got sick.)
How did this come about, you might ask? Well, the small town I live has a sister city in Nicaragua – Leon, to be specific. My wife and I went down five years ago as chaperons with the Gettysburg College Choir, and it was a powerful experience. We stayed with host families, visited schools and NGOs (non-governmental organizations), saw sites both amazing and heartbreaking.
A few years ago I was at a small comic con, sitting next to Marek Bennett and I asked what he’d been up to. He said he had just gotten back from Nicaragua – his small town in New Hampshire has a sister city there – where he had been doing a comics cultural exchange*. Wait a sec, I said to myself, I wanna do that.
Things moved pretty fast after that…a little too fast. Project Gettysburg-Leon was ready to send me right away. But I wasn’t ready, and then I ended up in grad school working on my MFA, and figured I could do this project for my practicum.
I ended up being the adult leader for eleven students from Gettysburg College. At one of our meetings before we left I did a little comics exercise with them. I had them do an 8-page mini comic about their lives. I then scanned them, our student leader translated them into Spanish and we copied them to take with us.
We did a lot of stuff that wasn’t comics-related – helping to build solar ovens, etc. I did my stuff in conjunction with Taller Artistico Xuchialt, a community based art school. We did an 8-page “Day in the life…” mini-comic, starting with getting up in the morning and ending with going to sleep – then we filled in the rest. We did three sessions at the school, mixing Gettysburg students with theirs. And it worked just the way I had hoped (even without me prompting) – as they drew, they shared their lives.
I also did a session with the instructors of Taller Artistico Xuchialt. They asked me to show them some stuff on expressions in cartooning, and how I use computers in my work. There was a bit of trickiness with the latter since their version of PhotoShop was much, much newer than mine, and everything in PhotoShop was in Spanish. So I had to feel my way around, remembering where menus are and such. I felt like I was in a half-remembered neighborhood trying to recall landmarks.
* Marek even did a comics travel journal about his experience.
In the “Graphic Novel to Film” class I teach we look at Road to Perdition. Jude Law plays a sleazy photographer/hitman in the film (a character that is not in the graphic novel) and one of my students refered to him in his reading blog as “The Law.” So any time he was mentioned in class the next day, that’s what we called him.
I think once Jude Law’s career takes the next inevitable step of appearing in only direct-to-DVD action films, can make a meta actioner and call himself “The Law.”