The Center For Cartoon Studies

Wed 10/26/2005

Well, I'm back from my trip up to the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont! I was there to give a lecture with fellow cartoonist Aaron Renier.

It is the Center's inaugural year, so there are a lot of exciting things going on at the school. We had a TOTALLY AWESOME time seeing the school, lab and library, got to meet a bunch of talented, dedicated people and gave what I think was a pretty rad lecture!

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!

22 comments on this entry

Hi Alec-

Would it be possible to get a copy of your lecture Comic Book?
Sounds like you have a grand time.

wade Oct26

Unfortunately, I'm not going to be reproducing the lecture notes. We used the school copier and and paper, so they were "free" to make. I can't really afford to print more of them right now (it's expensive enough to keep PHASE 7 and The Dvorak Zine going!) plus I don't have the TIME to go to the copy shop, fold staple, mail, etc. etc.

We only made a few extra copies, which we gave to the school for promotional/fundraising/planning purposes. Also, they wouldn't make TOO much sense unless you heard the lecture, since a lot of it is just lists of things we talked about.

Sorry! You're right though. I DID have a grand time!

Alec Oct26

that sounds so awesome! I hope Robyn keeps me in mind for a futute lecture, she mentioned that she is interested in having me come and talk about comics from a female perspective (? I guess, because I have boobs n' stuff). I hope I get to see you next weekend when I'm in NYC!!

p.s. you and aaron look mighty handsome in your ties.

Liz Prince Oct26

Loved the blog entry. Sounds very exciting. Reads perfectly except for one grammatical error, first sentence, second paragraph. Should read: there ARE a lot of exciting things going on...

Mom Oct26

Fixed! Thanks MOM. :D (My Mom's first comment on the blog!)

Alec Oct26

Alec -
is the Schultz museum related to Charles Schultz?

Isn't it nice when lectures go well??

tom Oct26

Breeeeeeeeck, You really aren't supposed to correct Alec's grammar on a blog. Thanks for the laughs, though. Alec, glad to hear you guest lectured at CCS in up and coming WRJ, Vermont (coolest state in the US). Keep churning out your work, cause it's obvious that you are committed and many of us also respect it greatly. Sincerely, Abby resident of Vermont, librarian who reads graphic novels as they are now called.
p.s.'d I do with my grammar?

Abby Foulk Oct26

Sounds like you guys did a super awesome job! I wish I could go see the school!

Is the art history paper mini-comic going to be something that will be available for other people to buy or trade? Or on your site maybe?

The Schultz Library is INDEED named after Charles Schultz. His wife made a very generous donation, so they are sort of sponsoring the library!

Thanks! PHASE 7 #006 should be out some time in February (if I can get some drawing done!) Don't worry--I'm in it for the long haul. (I thought your grammar looked fine!)

The Art History Paper WILL be available in an upcoming issue of PHASE 7. (The size/format/content of the book is going to change a bit after I get #006 out the door, but more on that later!) Sometime in the Spring probably...

Alec Oct26

I'm SO jealous!

James Sturm used to teach at SCAD [where I go to school]... as far as I understand he got fed up with the politics of the "sequential art program" and the school so he quit and made his own school!

The whole thing sounds like a dream. A small snowy town with a frickin' COMIC school in the middle of it.

We have over 200 students in the sequential art department at my school and don't even have more than 2 rows of comics in our school library, let alone a library just for comics.

I really wish I could have seen the two of you speak, especially in that enviroment. I am so jealous.

JP Oct26

"Rambled" is an inappropriate word, Alec. You raved with fervor of a poet or clergy. Like your Ignatz speech, but a hour and half long. It's been years since I've been so inspired.
Liz, I am interested in having you visit CCS (give me an email and lets talk about it) but it has nothing to do with your boobs or your gender. Did I really say something like this? I don't remember saying anything about the fact that you're female, it's really unlike me. I apologize if I did.

robyn Oct27

Basewood page 27!!! Wahoo!! Congrats, I was sure we wouldn't be seeing movement on the progress bar until school was out. Way to go!

Oh and I like the first Dwarf image better. Though the second one does have kind of a "Seth" feel to it.

greg Oct29

Yeah, I've been feeling like the world's biggest hypocrite lately. All these people are writing me to say how I've inspired them to draw more Comics while my own work has lain completely NEGLECTED. I got really pissed off about it last night and decided I wasn't going to go to sleep until page 26 was done.

It only took FIVE HOURS of inking too. It seems like I should have been able to scrounge up that time in the last few weeks. All in all page 26 took me SEVEN WEEKS which is totally depressing. I've had Basewood pages take longer than that before, but they are usually pages that the reader will see and say "Holy shit! That page must have taken him SEVEN WEEKS!" Page 26 is NOTHING--a stupid transitional page with the beginning of a montage sequence! UGH.

Whatever, it's DONE! I'm going to try and get a few more pages done this semester and then I have Dec. 15th-Jan. 15th off from school to hopefully work "The Schedule" that whole time and finish off the chapter. Only ten pages to go!

Alec Oct29

The idea of moving from Oregon to the east coast is pretty scary, but this school sounds SO COOL. Man.

Justa Nov01

Yeah, I think they are working on setting up a one-year program too. (With summer break that's only 9 months!) So it would hopefully be more accessible for people to sublet their space, or take a year off of work and just come out for an intensive year of Comics!

Alec Nov01


Never trust Alec's advice about grammar.


My mom corrects the grammar in my blog, too. I ignore it.

thegcb Nov09

Would you consider posting your lecture notes in the form of a pdf-online? I'd like to see what was covered.

Tom Feb25

Tom, I actually just quadrupled the ammount of space on, so I will try to get these notes up as a "miscellaneous" comic over in the Comics section, assuming that Aaron is okay with it.

Alec Feb26

Alec ~

Wow, just heard one of your appearances on Indie Spinner Rack (last weeks, #18), and I was laughing the whole damn time, walking around town with a stupid grin on my face. I've been ignoring comic creation lately, just focusing on illustration practive, but you got me excited again! Thank you!

Also, I just recently got accepted to CCS (going either this fall or in 2007), and this post has got me all jittery with excitement. I'm convinced my heart's gonna be racing the whole time I'm there. I'm pumped! I can't get enough of these little mini-tours I've seen all over.

Can't wait to check out Phase 7. That Basewood art is amazing.

- Jake Mix

Jake Mix Mar09

Thanks Jake! I'm glad to hear you are pumped about Comics (the more the merrier!!! ;) Good luck at CCS. Maybe I'll see you there!

Alec Mar09

dear alex, I'm interested with the comic studies. unfortunately there isn't sufficient source of the study in my country especially about the basic theories (or what so ever) . I wonder if you( or the others) can solve my problem. thanx ...n_n

eko Oct14

Eko- If you are looking for some exercises to learn Comics I would dig through the National Association of Comics Art Educators site. You should also buy the book Making Comics by Scott McCloud which will teach you a TON of information about drawing comics!

Alec Oct16

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