Sun 3/2/2008

The ten days leading up to my recent trip North were not fun. I was super stressed out, trying to juggle some tight freelance deadlines, my regular teaching work and the prep work for my two lectures. I was getting less and less sleep each night, culminating in only 4 hours of "flat work" (as my grandfather calls it) the night before I left.

All I wanted to do on the train ride North was sleep, but I still had to ink about 16 pages of my lecture notes. I decided, "I'll ink them all first and then reward myself with a nice nap when I'm done." It is a beautiful seven hour train ride from New York to Vermont. Each time I looked up from my pages the scenery would change dramatically. The buildings got shorter, then they were fewer and fewer, more trees started appearing, then suddenly everything was covered in snow! The sun set and a few hours later I finished inking my last page, just ten minutes before the train pulled into White River Junction. (sigh)

Robyn and Dennis came and met me at the station and then we headed over to The Center For Cartoon Studies to meet up with my pal JP.

I was starving, so we all piled into JP's car and drove over the river to Hanover, NH to get some Indian food. Our party of four turned into a party of six, then eight, then TEN as more and more cartoonists kept showing up. This, if you ask me, is the coolest part about CCS. Cartoonists everywhere!

Stuffed with food, JP and I headed back to the school, where we stayed up until 2am making the handouts for my lecture. Let it be known that JP really saved the day (or... night?) on this one! While I was scaning stuff in, making corrections, and printing things out, JP was erasing pages, laying things out and working all kinds of crazy magic on the photocopier. Thanks JP!

We stumbled back to JP's place, and I got to briefly see the One Percent Press Headquarters before I finally crashed hard and slept like a ROCK.

Oh man, the next day was jam packed!!! We showed up at the school early, and I got to meet Jason Lutes (!!?!) who teaches the Cartooning Studio course. We split the class up into thirds, with Jason, JP and I each critiquing a few students' homework. My group included Lucy Knisley (who drew THIS AWESOME PICTURE of me lecturing!)

JP and I ducked out early to grab a quick lunch and then we scooted over to the "Verizon building" where the CCS second-years have their studio space. I held an impromptu "professional practices" talk, where we got into the nitty gritty of self-promotion, networking, TAXES and all kinds of other freelancing specifics. I even learned a thing or three thanks to some helpful comments and suggestions from Steve Bissette who sat in with us.

The talk went a little long, so Robyn and I hightailed it back over to the school. En route, she reminded me that the lecture slot was two hours. I had somehow confused this with my other lecture which was THREE hours, so suddenly, I had to condense everything to cut out an extra HOUR... My solution was to talk REALLY FAST!

Overall, I think the talk went pretty well. It was basically an updated version of the talk Aaron and I gave back in 2005 but enough time had passed that it was an entirely new group of students. Also, I have learned SO MUCH in the last three years of self-publishing, I was able to correct a lot of stuff and provide better information. There was a lot of jumping around and gesticulating and a bit of yelling for good measure. I managed not to cry which was a relief. Also, my hair was totally out of control, from a shower I took RIGHT before I went to sleep the night before. Ah well, what can you do?

I was EXHAUSTED after the talk, so for dinner JP and I just walked two doors down to get some pizza with Chris Wright who was in town, and Joe Lambert. Afterwards, I went back to the school for one more hour, to do a demonstration of how I'm coloring Aaron Renier's next graphic novel. Again, though I was supposed to be the one dropping knowledge, I ended up learning a thing or two (thanks Joe!)

There was stuff going on that night, but I was just completely tuckered out, so JP and I went back to his place, talked for a while and then I fell soundly asleep. That JP Coovert is one stand-up guy and quite the host to boot. He's got so many exciting things things in the works too... keep an eye out!

Anyways, the next day JP dropped me off at the bus station and I was on my way to Stockbridge, MA. It was probably a short distance, but by bus I had three connections and something like 8 hours of traveling to do that day. I made no pretenses about getting work done. On the bus, I SLEPT.

When the bus pulled into the little town of Lenox, MA, I was dropped off on the corner, by city hall. I asked the driver, "Uh... is there a station?" He said no, and that he could take me to the next town over, where there was a bus terminal, but I declined, for fear of missing my bus. He reminded me that the next bus did not come for another FOUR HOURS, but I still declined, so he got back on the bus with a shrug and drove off into the snow, leaving me on the corner.

It ended up being a really great decision. Instead of spending four hours in some smelly bus terminal, I explored this beautiful little New England town. I ate a nice lunch in a cafe and then asked the proprietor if there was a library in town. It turned out to only be a block away, and it ended up being one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever entered. I spent a leisurely three hours reading a stack of about 20 children's books by Bill Peet, William Steig and Quentin Blake. Then I caught my bus right on time!

I had been in such a rush, leaving CCS, I had forgotten to print out the details of my arrangements in Stockbridge, MA. The bus dropped me off on main street and I just stood on the curb for a few minutes wondering, "Is someone going to come pick me up?" It was snowing, and eventually the cold made me take some action.

I looked to the right, down the main street, where I saw a sign for The Red Lion Inn. It seemed to be the only show in town, as far as hotels went, so I figured "what the heck" and walked a few blocks over to it and went inside. "Um... I don't suppose there is a reservation for me?" I asked the guy behind the desk, and sure enough, there was! THAT was easy. :)

It's no secret that I have a pretty hard time relaxing, but I'll tell you, being 150 miles away from my drawing table, in a hotel with no cell phone reception and no internet access pretty much did the trick!

I checked a small map of the town that was in my room and discovered that Stockbridge is also home to the Berkshire Theatre Festival. Carolyn spent a few summers there painting sets, so I decided to take a walk to go check it out. It was a bit further out than I thought it would be, and it was snowing and freezing cold, but it was nice at least to stand there and see it. I got some dinner on the way back to the hotel, took a BATH (for the first time in... six years?) and was asleep by 8pm.

The next morning, Melinda from The Norman Rockwell Museum picked me up and drove me out to the museum, which was just beautiful. She got me free admission to the museum, which I had about an hour to check out before my talk. The LitGraphic exhibit was amazing, with stuff from Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb (THE ORIGINAL COPY OF THE YUM-YUM BOOK !!?!!), Dave Sim & Gerhard, Lynd Ward, Peter Kuper, and many others. Oh, not to mention dozens and dozens of original Norman Rockwell studies and paintings. MAN! Talk about an inspiring hour of input.

It was kind of a crummy day (still snowing) so the turnout wasn't quite what we had hoped for, but the lecture still went pretty well I think. The few people who turned up were able to ask a lot of questions and get more one-on-one time, so that was good. Melinda seemed pleased with the talk, so that was good enough for me! I packed up my stuff, and she dropped me off at the curb again to wait for the bus.

I slept sporadically on the way back to New York. Each time I awoke, there were fewer trees, fewer stars, more houses, then more buildings, which grew higher and higher until once again I was back in the city.

My inboxes were filled to the brim, and I immediately had to jump back into the stress of all the different projects and duties waiting for me. So a big thank you to all the folks at CCS and NRM for giving me a chance to get out of the city for a few days, and to get some fresh air in my lungs while also sharing some of my thoughts about Comics and self-publishing!

There are a SLEW of exciting things happening right now in other aspects of my life, but I better save those for future posts.... This one has gone on for long enough! (More soon!)

8 comments on this entry

Aw your cowlick is totally endearing! I bet they listened extra hard to your lecture because of it. Sounds like a nice and fun little trip!

Liz Mar04

sounds great... I really wish there was something like CCS closer to where I live... I would certainly love to attend workshops led by creators such as yourself. Glad you found a way to relax for a bit. Hope you are well.

Alec --

Whoa! That's the SAME view I had from my room in the Red Lion (Room #305)... and there actually WAS internet access, wireless and at the computer in the library down the hall. Well, it's a moot point now.

This looks great. Wish I could've seen both your talks! I've heard good stuff about them.

-- Marek

Marek Mar05

Marek - I should have known! Ah well, I was definitely better off without it.

Andy - Did you hit SPACE this weekend? If not, you should put it on your radar for next year! http://www.backporchcomics.com/space.htm Hope you are doing well too!

Alec Mar05

Alec, your talk was awesome!

Your knowledge was functional and elegant, and you should SO
build the Phase 7 Guide To Self-Publishing (in all your copious spare time, I know...)

Anyway, thanks for coming to CCS' good luck on all your projects; I spent a bit of the evening going through your lecture notes and they were quite inspiring on the get-my-shit-together end of comicing.


Mattyoung Mar05

yeah I should have gone to SPACE but I was in a different part of Ohio visiting with my sister and new niece... next year I plan on attending (if not exhibiting with my buddy who did that show this year.).

Jewett Mar05

Cartoonists wear ties? I'm flabbergasted.

ak47 Mar06

STAR WARS ties! ;)

Alec Mar09

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