The Center For Cartoon Studies
For weeks and weeks now I have had a sheet of paper on my wall labeled "CCS lecture." I've been writing down ideas and topics on there that I wanted to talk about in this lecture. I've been so busy though, that I hadn't let myself START working on the actual lecture notes, because I knew I wouldn't want to do anything else once I started!
So on Friday after I FINALLY finished all of my classes, I came home and immediately began making rough breakdowns of my notes. I took a 3-hour break that night to help hang the art for the "Panelists" art show at Giant Robot New York. I was totally exhausted by the end of the night. Then I woke up early Saturday morning and spent ALL DAY making my finished notes. I took another break that night to GO to the "Panelists" show which was really cool, but also CROWDED and a little intimidating (Dan Clowes was there !??!)
Sunday morning Aaron and I met early at the Port Authority bus station and headed off to Vermont! Our bus ride was awesome. Not only were the views really beautiful (up North they are a little further along with Autumn and they have all the beautiful colors that go along with it) but I also got a TON of work done! I penciled two and a half pages of my Art History paper, which is going to be a minicomic.
My friend Robyn came and met us at the greyhound station in White River Junction and walked us back to the historic downtown. It's such a beautiful little town! Robyn was nice enough to let us crash with her for our WHOLE trip, so we dropped our stuff off in her apartment and the TOUR began!
The Center For Cartoon Studies is right on the main strip in White River Junction, in an old DEPARTMENT STORE. (SO COOL!!!) They have a giant classroom set up on the ground floor (as well as a bunch of offices) and then a HUGE, AMAZING "lab" and/or workspace in the basement. We wandered around, looked at all their equipment, asked a BILLION questions and just in general, got VERY excited. Just think! A WHOLE SCHOOL DEDICATED TO COMICS (!!?!)
Next we headed over to the "Schultz Library" which was ALSO extremely exciting. I mean, basically it is an ENTIRE LIBRARY filled with NOTHING BUT COMICS. They have some really amazing stuff in there and Aaron and I were hard pressed to tear our selves away. We could have stayed there all night reading Comics! What a collection!
That night my old friends, Betty and George Phillips drove down from Randolph, VT to have dinner with us. I spent a summer living and working in Randolph (just up the road) building sets for a Shakespeare company started by their daughter and my good friend, Charlotte Phillips. We drove out to a pub somewhere, along with another cartoonist, Rich Tommaso, who is working on a project with the CCS. It was nice to be able to catch up with Mr. and Mrs. P, talk about Comics and enjoy a nice meal!
That night Robyn, Aaron and I decided that we would work on "THE SCHEDULE" the next day, since we all had a lot of work to get done. So we headed back to the school bright and early the next morning. There we got to meet James Sturm, author of The Golem's Mighty Swing and the founder of the Center For Cartoon Studies! He is SUCH a nice guy and made us feel very welcome. So we spent most of Monday hanging out in the basement drawing Comics or illustrations or working on our lecture notes...
I had 15 pages of notes from earlier and then Aaron looked through those and added another 5 pages of content. At one point I asked Robyn, "Can your photocopier do double sided pages for our handout sheets?" and she said, "Aren't you guys going to make them a COMIC BOOK???" I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of that! OF COURSE!
So we drew up a cover and a back cover, and compiled a grid of some of our illustration work for endpapers and we made the notes into a 24-page lecture companion comic book! WOO! The coolest part about this was that EVERYTHING we needed to make the book was in the CCS basement. At one point Aaron was cropping reduced photocopies on the papercutter while I was imposing the final images on 11x17 paste-up sheets. We printed them out and then we were BOTH able to collate and staple them, because there were actually EXTRA staplers that could reach into the middle of an 11x17 sheet and plenty of space to spread out. (It was like being in self-publishing HEAVEN!!!)
Oh, and on our breaks that day we wandered around White River Junction and did some errands here and there or went out to eat at some of the cool little diners and restaurants. New Hampshire is right across one of the rivers, so it was always funny. We'd be walking along and suddenly we'd be in a different state!
The morning of our lecture we woke up early, PUT ON OUR TIES (yeah!!!) and went to the basement again to draw a bit and to get ready. I think I was driving Aaron a little nuts because I was getting SO excited. The morning class finished at around 11am and we took over the classroom to set up. We put up a bunch of our art, we put some paper on the wall in case we needed to draw something and then we moved a projection screen around so that we could show some of our full-color work on the computer.
We had seen some of the students hanging around while we had been at the school, but they all seemed pretty shy and/or quiet and hadn't talked with us much. We were worried they weren't going to like our talk! Luckily, I think in the end we won them over. Our talk was pretty cool! I rambled on for an hour and a half about self-publishing, inspiration, dedication, attitude, drawing comics, reproducing comics, distributing comics and promoting comics. Right as I was finishing my segment it totally started SNOWING!!! We all ran outside to take a break and catch big snowflakes on our toungues (it was the first snowfall of the season!)
Then we came back inside and Aaron took over, talking about his writing, editing and drawing process, and basically how he went from making minicomics to making his gigantic graphic novel "Sprial-Bound." We then showed a bunch of "slides" (on the computer) and then spent the last half hour or so answering questions and discussing Comics with James Sturm (in front of the class).
After our talk, a few of the students came up to us and said, "That was the best lecture yet!" (which really felt great) and then James asked for the imposed master copies of our lecture Comic Book, so he could send it to FUTURE lecturers and say "This is what some of our OTHER lectures have put together" (hint hint).
Also, we got to chat some more with James in his really cool office about Comics and about the school. He really is the most dedicated, hardworking guy. Not many people could just decide to START A SCHOOL and then really make it happen. I think the Center for Cartoon Studies is off to a GREAT start and will only get better as time goes on. James showed us a bunch of the students' Comics which are really great and improving at an astounding rate. I hope the Center will be around for a LONG time and that it contiues to grow and improve as well! (I also really hope that I can continue to be involved!)
Anyways, the rest of the trip was pretty low-key. I totally crashed after our lecture, taking a nap on one of the couches, and then we went and got some lunch/dinner. We hung out for the rest of the night drawing and basically winding down. I got SIX AND A HALF PAGES penciled for my Art History "paper" as well as penciling an illustration for homework.
All in all I'd say it was an AWESOME trip. It was such an honor to get to talk about Comics and I met a bunch of really awesome people who are working hard to make the Comics Community a better place. I'm really hoping that I'll get a chance to come back up to the Center in the future to hear some talks, teach, or LEARN!