As the summer winds down and fall winds…up?…I wanted to write about what I’ve been up to in the last few months.
Mere days after the school year ended here in Portland, I flew home to New York City to be a bridesmaid in my best friend Lisa‘s wedding. It was great to have two weeks of post-school decompressing, city-exploring, and time with family and friends. I also drew a street scene or two:
While in New York I also got to visit my pal Ellen Lindner, the fabulous cartoonist behind the webcomic The Black Feather Falls and editrix of The Strumpet. We spent some time hanging out and working at her studio The Hypothetical Island in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Ellen also gave me a little tour of the other comics-focused studios in the building. Then she introduced me to her friend Dave Kelly, and the three of us went to eat some Italian sandwiches that were as delicious as they were enormous, which is to say pretty delicious. Here is a photo of Ellen and I, smiling as we digest:
My other New York comics/drawing-related adventure was attending Sketch Night at the Society of Illustrators, the museum that now houses MoCCA. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been in a life drawing class, and this was a nice re-introduction: a big group of artists at all levels of age and experience, drinks, snacks, live music, and skilled models. Still, the whole set up took me right back to the classes I had in high school and college, and I slipped into a more realistic–(for lack of a better word)–style. Not that this is bad, just different from how I usually draw these days. It was an interesting thing to experience:
My goal was to create work that was both stylized–that is to say, work that captured the character of the models–and that addressed past life drawing bad habits such as leaving out backgrounds and shadow. I was pleased with how most of my drawings turned out:
I think this one is my favorite–it’s the line quality, the shading, and her big toe:
In summary, here is a comic I made while the models were on break:
Once I returned to Portland it was back to teaching. I partnered with Marc Moscato of Know Your City to lead a day-long comics class at MercyCorps. We worked with students in their summer program to create comics that touched on social issues that were important to them. I also taught the webcomics portion of the IPRC‘s Comics Certificate Program. This was particularly terrifying to me for two reasons: 1.) I had never taught adults before, and 2.) I see myself as a total luddite who knows only the bare minimum of the technical skills needed to publish comics online. Despite the self-doubt and obsessive class prep, everything turned out fine. The class was fun to teach and I think the students left knowing more than they did before. So: mission accomplished!
Then I headed off to Sisters, Oregon, to teach comics at Caldera for two weeks. This was my third summer there, and just like I had in past summers I worked with a group of rising high school freshmen and sophomores. Caldera is a really unique organization, and my absolute favorite place to teach. Throughout the year they partner with low-income schools in Portland and Central Oregon to offer art classes, workshops, mentoring, and field trips to students enrolled in the program. In the summer these students are able to attend camp (for free!) at Caldera’s Arts Center in Sisters, where they work with teaching artists from a variety of disciplines. The campers are amazing, my colleagues there are amazing, the philosophy and culture of the place is amazing, and it is amazingly beautiful. At the center of camp is Blue Lake, formed by volcanic implosion and the inspiration for Caldera’s name:
One of the things I love about working at Caldera is that I get my very own classroom space to arrange and decorate however I want. It’s great to have so much control over your teaching environment. This year, as in years past, I was put in the ice rink–a building that really was an ice rink many years ago, but now just looks like a big old warehouse. It took a while, but my assistant Quill and I transformed the bare room into a cozy little library/comics lab. You may be thinking to yourself: “Quill–that is an unusual name,” and that would be fair. At Caldera, staff and campers pick a “camp name” that they go by all summer. (Mine was Rosalie, not too much of a stretch).
Anyway, the space! Here you can see the work area, and the projector/lecture area. Also decorative curtains and lights:
This is the little comics library, flanked by some homemade posters of quotes by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden of Drawing Words and Writing Pictures. It may not look like much, but this is actually a few suitcases’ worth of graphic novels and minicomics:
I also made these posters illustrating the six Panel Transitions found in comics:
Here’s the classroom after things have been broken in a bit, with works in progress all over the tables and decorative Christmas lights shining:
In some ways this summer at Caldera was difficult. It was a shorter session than I was used to, so I had less class time to let students get deep into their work. And as always, I have such high expectations for the class, and for all my students to love it, that the pressure kept me up late some nights. But after a few bumps I could see that the students were really getting into their comics and enjoying themselves. The camp session ended with a showcase where artwork from all the classes were put on display, and the final comics looked amazing. Here are a few for your reading pleasure; from top to bottom they are by Tanzy, Wyvern, Snake, and Replay:
Now I’m back in the Portland swing of things, which includes my own comics work and getting things in place for the current school year. A few weeks ago I tabled at Rose City Comic Con, and in November I’ll be tabling at Short Run in Seattle–for the first time! I’m working on a new(ish) project, though really it’s been in the works for quite a while. It’s graphic novel called “Middle,” and in a few weeks I’ll be serializing it over at I Cut My Hair Comics. I’m also setting up a residency at Cleveland High School, and preparing to teach an eight week comics class at Creative Science School–both in Portland.
So…that’s where I’ve been and where I’m at. I plan to keep writing about my experiences teaching and making comics, so keep checking in!