Visiting Artist: Dash Shaw

Dash Shaw with his book in the Schulz Library

Dash Shaw is the creator of Bottomless Belly Button, which is being made into an animated movie. He treated the students to the silent trailer. He says, “Story dictates how it needs to be drawn.”

Bottomless Belly Button cover

When Dash was looking for undergrad schools, SVA and SCAD were the only options for learning comics. He went with SVA. But now he thinks The Center for Cartoon Studies has some of the most exciting work coming out of it.

With Bottomless Belly Button, Dash wanted to make a long comic, like a manga work. He wanted to make use of the same type of decompressed storytelling, such as a long dinner scene over many pages.

He published Body World as a webcomic that makes use of the continuous vertical scroll. It is an exploration of how people experience empathy and his interest in how telepathy would work. Impressively, he made a print edition that has maps that fold out corresponding to the pages and tabs on the website.

High School Sinking is a short minicomic inspired by 90s shojo manga (meaning aimed at female teenagers) and autobio comics. It focuses on the inner turmoil of one of the characters. In New School he used a non-realistic coloring method to tell a third story. A la Alec Longstreth and Basewood, he drew the pages on 18×24 inch paper. The finished comic was printed at letter size (8.5×11 inches).

New School cover

In Doctors, he started making minicomics with colored pages. Each scene was a single page (the opposite of Bottomless Belly Button). Around this time, he also started working on animation. So to work on the editing process, he arranged his outline on a bulletin board with each point on a different color card so he could rearrange them.

Luke Howard introducing Dash Shaw

His first movie was My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea. The whole thing began in 2010 in his kitchen. He had been accepted to the Sundance Institute for a traditionally animated project. But then he met Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture). He enlisted help from his friend Jane Samborski, a trained animator, and some fellow cartoonists. Andrew Lorenzi painted a camp flashback scene. Frank Santoro painted some backgrounds. When it was nearly complete, he visited friends in Brooklyn for advice about adding sound. Since he knows Jason Schwartzman and Lena Dunham personally, the convinced him to reach out to them; they both said yes. A little further along, finish line in site, they were able to reach out to more actors such as Susan Sarandon and Maya Rudolph. With the work of mostly 2 people, the movie was completed in 2016. Partly because it was always a side project.

My Entire High School Is Sinking into the Sea cover

In regard to knowing what project to tackle next, he says, “It should feel like a fun or a good idea.”

Dash Shaw at his board as drawn by Luke Howard.

Photos and notes courtesy Jarad Greene (’17).

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