This just in! The absolutely beautiful Little NEMO: Dream Another Dream Anthology by Locust Moon Comics.
This anthology includes contributions from CCS faculty member Stephen R. Bissette and alums Charles Forsman, Cole Closser, and Katie Moody.
This just in! The absolutely beautiful Little NEMO: Dream Another Dream Anthology by Locust Moon Comics.
This anthology includes contributions from CCS faculty member Stephen R. Bissette and alums Charles Forsman, Cole Closser, and Katie Moody.
We here at the Schulz Library have been happy to be involved again with the Cartoonist Studio Prize, a collaboration between the Center for Cartoon Studies and the Slate Book Review.
Submissions have already started pouring in, and we’ve made a little display here:
You can read more about the Cartoonist Studio Prize, including directions on how to submit a book for consideration, here. Any book published between January 1 and December 31, 2014 is eligible.
Visit us and see this amazing Lego model of The Center for Cartoon Studies Post Office Building & Schulz Library by Andy Price!
One of the most exciting recent acquisitions at the Schulz Library is The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature, a companion volume to the more adult-oriented, three volume Graphic Canon, edited by Russ Kick. The book features adaptations of beloved children’s stories by a number of talented cartoonists, including CCS alums Colleen Frakes and Lucy Knisley, who tackle Carl Sandburg’s “Rootabaga Stories” and the Harry Potter series, respectively. Former CCS visiting faculty member R. Sikoryak takes on The Adventures in Tom Sawyer, charmingly retelling Twain’s story in the manner of newspaper standby The Family Circus. The whole thing is a treasure trove of great stories and art, equally appealing to audiences of any age.
This week we were visited by Warren Bernard, Executive Director of the Small Press Expo (SPX). He gave a great lecture on World War II propaganda comics by artists like Will Eisner and Hank Ketcham.
On display in the library RIGHT NOW is a book that Warren co-edited called Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising. It’s full of more amazing images from our collective cartooning history. Check it out!
This just in at The Schulz Library…
The Expeditioners and the Secret of King Triton’s Lair, the second book in the series, was released this September. S. S. Taylor and Katherine Roy are currently on a tour to promote the book. For an up to date list of where they will be appearing and signing, visit: sstaylorbooks.com
Katherine Roy’s nonfiction book, Neighborhood Sharks, is now available as well! You can buy it here.
SPX 2014 was a total blast for The Center for Cartoon Studies and Schulz Library!
Co-founder, James Sturm, moderated the Alt-Weekly Comics Roundtable and co-hosted the Ignatz Awards with the absolutely radiant Sasha Velour (Sasha Stienberg, class of 2013.)
Several members of the CCS community were nominated for Ignatz Awards this year, and one took home the brick!
This year’s fellow Sophie Yanow was nominated in Best Graphic Novel for War of Streets and Houses.
Luke Howard (class of 2013) was nominated in Promising New Talent for Trevor.
Sophie Goldstein (class of 2013) was nominated in two categories -Outstanding Artist for Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell / House of Women and Outstanding Minicomic for House of Women, which she won. Congrats Sophie!
The QU33R Anthology, which included contributions from many members of the CCS community, won the Ignatz for Best Anthology!
Congratulations to all our Ignatz Nominees and Winners!
New York-based illustrator Katherine Roy, a 2010 The Center for Cartoon Studies alumna, has been churning out book after book of gorgeously-illustrated nonfiction for young readers. In addition to her series of young adult novels, The Expeditioners, co-created with CCS affiliate Sarah Stewart Taylor, Roy produced the illustrations for Anthony Aveni’s Buried Beneath Us, as well as her own project Neighborhood Sharks, which is due out through Roaring Brook Press this Fall. As I spoke with her, Roy was preparing to leave for Kenya to begin researching her next book project, a nonfiction book about elephants. We corresponded via email in April.
Carl Antonowicz: So the last time you spoke with us here at the Schulz Blog, you were teaching a class at Art Institutes Boston, which had a really interesting panoramic drawing assignment. Have you been doing any more teaching?
Katherine Roy: I love teaching! Especially freshman art school students, they are just the best!! But I’ve found that designing curriculum for college-level classes is one of the most time intensive jobs there is, and between research for new books, promotion for upcoming books, school visits and getting the usual stuff done (eating, sleeping, bathing, etc) I’ve had a pretty full schedule. I hope to teach again soon, though, perhaps for the Foundation or Illustration departments of an art school here in NYC!
CA: You’re headed to Kenya on a research trip for your next nonfiction illustrated book–which is about elephants, I hear? Could you talk about how you arrived at that topic and financed that trip?
KR: I’ve always loved animals and I’ve always loved science, and elephants have been one of my most favorite creatures since I was a little girl. I was known for collecting stuffed animal and wood-carved elephants throughout elementary and high school, most of which is still resting somewhere in my mother’s attic. So once Neighborhood Sharks was underway and I was beginning to imagine follow-up books, African elephants seemed like the perfect next book. Where Sharks is about the physical proximity of a species to us living just off the coast of San Francisco, Elephant will be about the emotional proximity of a species. We have a great deal in common with elephants in terms of longevity, maturation, and family structure, and they are amazingly complex and intelligent creatures. I also love that Sharks takes place in the water and follows a predatory fish, while Elephant takes place in a dusty, land environment and follows a herbivorous mammal. The dramatic difference in landscape and type of creature will give me completely new problems to play with in this next book.
Oh man—financing the trip! The moment after I got the amazing news that my editor had made an offer on the book and I’d finished jumping up and down, I was filled with dread about how in the world I would pay for it, because YIKES, going to Africa is not cheap. But luckily, thanks to a roundabout connection and generosity of a few strangers and scientists, part of my stay in Kenya will be as a guest at the Mpala Research Centre a few hours north of Nairobi, where I will be able to join the ecology and elephant research teams for a few of days out in the field. Following my time there, my mom will be flying into Nairobi to join me for a safari, and as we’ll be sharing a room during Kenya’s rainy “low season,” the per person rate is surprisingly reasonable. I even found a good deal on the flight! The trip will still cost a money of course, but between selling drawings and prints upon my return, some savings, and a slight bump in my advance, I think the financing will come together without completely destroying my ability to eat and pay rent for the rest of the year (fingers crossed). I suppose in the age of the internet it’s a little old-fashioned to insist on traveling, but the writing and the art in Neighborhood Sharks would not have been possible those days spent on a boat with the Farallon shark research team. I love traveling, I love learning about the way things live, and I love talking to scientists and researchers, so I’m fully committed to creating a life and a career where on-location research is my foundation for accurate, engaging stories. The passion comes through in the work, and best of all I get to share my experience with my readers through the books. Speaking of which, I’ll be posting photos from my trip while it happens as much as the internet and mobile network permits on Twitter at @KRoyStudio! For anyone interested, please join in following my feed!
CA: Your book with Sarah Stewart Taylor, The Expeditioners, went into its paperback printing not too terribly long ago, and (unless I’m grossly mistaken), you have a sequel volume coming out this fall. Could you talk a little about your experience with this book?
KR: The Expeditioners series has been a joy to work on with Sarah. It’s so rare for an author and illustrator to get to work together on a book—usually the editor stays firmly in between them, so that each party gets to contribute their own vision without feeling pressure from someone else’s ideas—but for us the collaboration has been tremendously rewarding and the books are stronger for it. We’ve also both learned a lot from being so close to each others’ creative process. So much of our lives as writers and artists is spent working alone, so it’s great to be “in it” with someone else on the same team! The first book indeed went into paper back in fall 2013, and the second book, The Expeditioners and the Secret of King Triton’s Lair, will be coming out in September 2014. I’m tremendously excited to share Book Two with our readers! Finally, I can neither confirm nor deny the possibility of an octopus submarine, so please don’t ask me any questions about that.
CA: Have you been doing any more work with the caterpillar character we saw in your thesis–or have your other works dominated the majority of your time?
KR: My upcoming nonfiction books, along with The Expeditioners series, have definitely dominated my creative time over the last couple of years. But even though none of that work is explicitly comics, so much of what I learned at CCS goes into every image I create. I do miss actual comics though, and the Caterpillar is never very far from my mind. Right now we’re playing around with self-publishing my first Caterpillar comics on Kindle, and so far my very first Caterpillar comic, The Perfect Snowman and Other Caterpillar Tales, is now online and available as an ebook (http://amzn.to/1kb2DJP) with Spots and Junior Pharaoh to follow soon. I also have plans to pick up the series again in the future, perhaps shifting it into a more picture-book like comics-format so that it might find a wider audience. I definitely see more Caterpillar in my future, along with other fiction for kids!
CA: How is being a professional author/illustrator different from self-publishing comics? Obviously, you’re getting paid for your work, but how does it affect your writing/drawing process?
KR: So many things! My third book as an author/illustrator will be Making More, a nonfiction exploration of reproductive biology in the natural world, and coming up soon I’ll also be working as the illustrator on a book called Bottle of Pop by author Greg Mone, all about how plastic and soda are made and what happens once to the bottle once you’re done drinking it. Beyond book projects, I try to get out and enjoy NYC as much as I can, and I’m also attempting to learn how to play the violin. I’m on my way to my dream of being as mediocre a violinist as Sherlock Holmes!
It’s been a great couple of years for Montreal-based cartoonist Julie Delporte. In addition to having been The Center for Cartoon Studies’ Fellow for 2011-12, she’s released the wonderful Pigskin Peters Award nominated Journal through Koyama Press, the children’s book Je Suis un Raton Laveur through Canadian publisher La courte Échelle, and has worked on a francophone comics radio broadcast Dans ta Bulle in Montreal. If all that weren’t enough, she has a graphic novel, Everywhere Antennas, coming out through Drawn and Quarterly this May. I spoke with her via email this past week.
Carl Antonowicz: You were the fellow here at The Center for Cartoon Studies along with Blaise Larmee back in 2011; You’ve been fantastically productive since then, publishing not only your children’s book Je suis un raton laveur (which is adorable) but also Journal with Koyama press, along with the dozens of other projects you’ve had in the works. Do you think that your time at CCS helped you to become more productive?
Julie Delporte: The Koyama and La courte Échelle books published last year and the Drawn & Quarterly one to be published this year I started during my fellowship at CCS. Basically, I had nothing else to do than drawing: no job, no boyfriend, and not the same language as the people around. There was a bit of money provided, and all the students of the school around me (including my roommates) were working very hard… So yes, the CCS context helps to be productive! But I didn’t do half of what I wish I could have done. I’m someone with a lot of ideas of stories and concepts, and I feel really frustrated not to be able to draw and write them all. I’m not a hard worker, It’s painful to me to stay at my desk all day. I really wish drawing would be more physical, like dancing. Right now, I’m not so productive. I’m in that position where I have to start new books… And I don’t have a lot of self-discipline.
CA: I can see how being hunched over a desk all day might be unpleasant. Do you tend to work at a desk when you’ve got big cartooning stuff to work on, or do you usually work in a sketchbook?
JD: I wish I could work in a sketchbook, but I need a desk, or I feel like I need one! I want to try painting, so I need water and space, and then if I go out suddenly I’m missing a pencil of a specific color (or I feel like I need it)… Then I want to check a reference image on the web. I always feel like my set up is not the good one, or that I miss something in order to work. I guess all this gives me some reasons not to draw. But maybe it’s also like a ceremonial: I need my space, my tools, my objects, to be good and inspired.
CA: Your work always has a very personal, very honest quality to it. Much of the time–especially in Journal–it feels more like poetry than like narrative. Is this something that you consciously pursue, or does it just come out that way?
JD: I would have loved to be a musician just to be able to write lyrics. Sometimes I write my comics as if they were lyrics. But I never think of doing “poetry”, and my comics always seem always very narrative to me: what I’m telling, the content, is always a bit more important to me than the images. I don’t feel like I’m part of a trend of beautiful but strange and abstract comics, with no immediate understanding of what it is about.
But comics have such a tradition of classical narration that of course some people can feel I’m a bit on the side, and call what I do poetry or experimentation.
CA: Do you think of your work as being experimental? I mean, do you try to evoke specific emotions in your readers, or is it more intuitive than that?
JD: It’s really intuitive. But what I try is to do something different, something which is specific to me and resembles other comics as little as possible. And I like to experiment with new media. I was really into colored pencils for a time, but I hope I won’t be drawing with them the rest of my career, so right now I’m really willing to learn more how to paint. I guess this is called experimenting? When I’m thinking of specific emotions that I’d like my readers to experience, I see one thing: I want them to feel that they are holding a real object. That they are opening my own sketchbook (in the case of Journal), like if they found someone’s journal, forgotten in a cafe for instance, and can’t help but reading it. With the new book, which is fiction, I worked the same way. I want people to feel like they are opening the journal of my character. That’s why I’m working a lot to leave apparent all the creation process, pieces of tape, etc.
I think I need this because of the digital world, where nothing is material anymore. Plus I don’t like the fact the comic form is a totally codified art, invented from nothing connected to reality. I try to find a way to give more physicality to my work.
CA: You’ve got a book coming out this May with Drawn & Quarterly, correct? What’s that one about?
JD: Everywhere Antennas is the diary of a girl who is sensitive to electromagnetic waves (wifi, cell phones…), it give her headaches and all sort of weird symptoms, and she has to completely rethink her life. A lot of people claim to have this handicap, but only Sweden recognizes it. I didn’t want to do a documentary about this handicap, but it was very inspiring to take it as a start of my story. The book is also about the feeling that you have to adapt to modern technologies, and not the contrary as we are all told. And it is also about the fear of the invisible, the untold, when you feel something is wrong but no one else can validate what you feel.
CA: Do you personally feel out of touch with modern technology?
JD: I would love so much to live without this internet everywhere and the cell phone tyranny. The worst is Facebook where we see and know constantly things we don’t want to know. And I waste so much time on it… I imagine all the books I could have done if Facebook didn’t exist… But I’d like other people to get rid of it also, of course. I mean, I can’t live (right now) without that technology, but I dream of another evolution for human contacts and everyday life.
CA: You said in your exit interview with James Sturm back in 2012 that you’d like to do more bilingual comics, despite the fact that they’re more difficult. Have you been working more in English or French recently?
JD: Ah, I forget about that! I still feel like it would make sense in Montreal to mix more French and English in the book industry in general, but I didn’t put any energy into that.
CA: What do you think bilingual comics would look like?
JD: I’ll have to do them to know.
Delporte’s Everywhere Antennas comes out in May. Visit the Drawn and Quarterly website for a free .pdf preview.
One of The Center for Cartoon Studies’ most notable graduates, Beth Hetland (’11) is a character, to say the least. Hetland’s infectious enthusiasm and near-boundless energy make her a nigh-unstoppable educational and creative force. In addition to her professor duties at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she produces somewhere in excess of one hundred pages of comics per year, performs onstage with writing partner Kyle O’Connell as Brain Frame Lit, and somehow still found time to chat with your humble reporter a couple of weeks ago.
Carl Antonowicz: You’ve just recently released the collected edition of Fugue, the single editions of which were the majority of your thesis here at CCS.
Beth Hetland: Yes!!!! Victory!!!!
CA: What’s different about the collected edition?
BH: Well, I think the biggest difference between the collected version and the single issues is that there are no more screen printed covers. As much as I love screenprinting, the books were, thankfully, selling faster than I could print sometimes. To be able to block off that amount of time became harder and harder as my attention shifted to more projects.
CA: Is it still hand-bound?
BH: They are still hand-bound, believe it or not! My school got an electric perfect binder and I run them through that puppy. Even though collating, cutting, scoring, and gluing takes time, it’s SIGNIFICANTLY less time than actually screenprinting 2 colors per cover for three books. Plus the interior pages are cream, like my original thesis, not the single issues, and there’s color chapter breaks, and a new cover and a fancy pants ISBN and barcode for stores. But those are more surface changes, the art and story are generally the same with only a few minor nudges.
CA: Now that it’s done, are you planning on pitching Fugue somewhere for publication?
BH: Yes, sir! That was one of the big reasons to collect it. Not many publishers are interested in 3 separate books, they would much rather have everything in once place. I’ve been doing some research both on literary agents and publishers and getting my ducks in a row. My goal is to bring collected Fugue to my shows this year and then retire it maybe? Or perhaps catch the eye of a publisher and pitch something new, different and fresh since Fugue has been out for about 3 years now. I would be happy with either of those options.
CA: In an ideal world, where would you like Fugue to find a home?
BH: I suppose they go hand-in-hand, but I think that my silly and big dream would be Scholastic or First Second. Just because I admire and love the books that come out of those publishers and so incredibly wish I could work with those people and be listed in their catalogs.
Demographically, it feels like folks interested in memoir and/or coming of age stories would be most interested in it. Plus I get a lot of moms who like it. Truly, I would be happy just knowing it was nestled happily on the shelves of people I’ve never met.
CA: Now what about the comic you’re cowriting with Kyle O’Connell, Half-Asleep?
BH: YEAHHHHH this comic is so much fun. Plus I love collaborating, it’s kind of nice to just “show up” and do the parts I like to do.
CA: I was going to say, it seems like your projects with Kyle have a very different thematic focus than your solo work.
BH: Oh yeah. They really do. And what’s funny is that these are still things I’m very interested in, but I view collaboration, or at least the idea of collaboration, as a way to practice and refuel my batteries while still making creative progress.
CA: Kind of freeing, would you say?
BH: Fully freeing. He loves to write and I love to draw and we started collaborating because I was burned out on Fugue and I said “Hey, I wanna do NaGrNoWriMo, but I don’t wanna write. I’ll draw anything you write up to 200 comics pages… you in?” I needed to just completely forget about myself and just play with some fictional characters that were going on an adventure. That was our first big collaboration, Cycles. And once that project was done, I had some major breakthroughs with the ending for Fugue which was entirely necessary. Once Fugue Part 3 was done, he and I launched into Half Asleep.
CA: I remember you were having some difficulties with Fugue 3 after you graduated.
BH: Yeah, it was rough. I was really disappointed in having to turn in a placeholder for my thesis, but that story just wasn’t ready. I wrote and re-wrote part three completely, start to finish, over 10 times. I have all 10 versions still but holy god are they wretched.
CA: Do you think it was just time that allowed you to finish it to your liking, or was the work on Cycles more integral to your pro(gr/c)ess?
BH: Oo I like that word! pro(gr/c)ess!! I think it was both. I got some great criticism on part 1 and 2 and I needed that to sink it and practice improving my weaknesses, so that’s where Cycles was helpful in the process. But I think it just let that part of my brain relax and go through the meditative process of drawing and problem solving rather than charging my way through it, which was a very different approach coming from me. Since I went right from undergrad to grad, charging through was my only tactic for a large portion of my creative growth. Now that I HAD more time, I was finally able to use it. I still get critiques about being “too fast” and not “taking time” by some of my friends but that doesn’t bother me. I have my reasons for being shark-like in creation.
BH: Root Hog or Die, and so on.
CA: Speaking of time, after you graduated from CCS, you went on to teach comics at your alma mater, right?
BH: You betcha! I have yet to live a day not on the Academic Calendar…
CA: How did that come about?
BH: Well, I think it happened around January of our last year at CCS. My favorite teacher from SAIC (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago) emailed me. She and I are good friends and were at the time too, but she said “Hey, I’m applying to a new teaching job at University of Oregon, and if I get it, I want to be able to give SAIC a name. Would you feel comfortable if I put your name in the running?” and I said, “Sure, that’ll never happen but go right ahead!”
And over the last stressful months of working full-time, finishing my thesis, I was also building and finalizing my CV for her to give to her Department Chair. The same weekend as our physical commencement, I got a call asking if I had time to interview in the next week. Turned out Surabhi, my teacher buddy, got the job and recommended me with high regards as being a fresh new graduate. I interviewed, submitted a few sample lessons, and the next thing I knew I was packing up my stuff and sobbing at a goodbye party. It happened incredibly fast, and even though I knew this was what I wanted, I still felt like I wasn’t prepared.
CA: But your classes have been a hit the students, haven’t they?
BH: Yeah. To be perfectly frank with you, it was touch and go for a little bit this past year. When I started, I had a feeling that Surabhi’s classes were full and they were looking at me as if I was a temporary solution and I would just get fired the next year. Lucky for me, my students gave me exceptionally positive course evaluations. But over the next year, my course load was reduced from 4 a year to 2 a year. That second year, my job was posted and I had to reapply.
BUT I got rehired (hooray), and now I’m teaching 4 classes this semester, 2 of which I pitched on my own and they were accepted with open arms.
CA: Is having to reapply for a position you’re already in a standard practice in academia?
BH: It’s tricky to say, because as a part-time instructor, you are only hired based on class proposals. So it’s the Chair’s decision. However, since it was only my second year, I didn’t know a lot about the politics of what it means to work in academia.
CA: Did it take you by surprise?
BH: Immensely. And then it was really hard to have to tell my friends who were applying for the job, asking me about writing them a rec for it. Under any other circumstances I would have LOVED to support them, but as it was my current job… well you can see how much that sucked.
My theory is that since I was hired originally last minute, they wanted to make sure that they were choosing a faculty member that added a lot to the school and departmental curriculum as well as finding the best candidate for the students. Which I wholeheartedly agree with. But wasn’t fun.
That being said though, without that terror, I wouldn’t have had the balls to pitch new classes.
And It taught me some valuable lessons about branching out, and being experimental in my way of teaching and thinking about comics at a Fine Art school.
CA: How so?
BH: Well I was only teaching Comics in Writing for a while, as Painting and Drawing had their own classes. I also taught a class in Fibers that was about narratives. This was a class Surabhi created.
CA: …Fibers? Like textile art?
BH: Yep! But as other parts of my income I travel and review portfolios, I saw a lot of comic interest in first year students, so I pitched a class to the first year program, called Contemporary Practices, and it was accepted.
And another department at my school is Arts Administration and Policy, so I pitched a class that is similar to the professional practices class at CCS but this one is geared toward freelancers, illustrators and cartoonists. Having my courses in different departments made me feel more grounded because there was more exposure to what I was doing, as well as a variety for the students and gave me an opportunity to articulate why I think comics can be taught in these different areas of the school rather than only in Writing or Painting and Drawing.
Does that make sense?
CA: Yeah! So comics, as the marriage of the written and drawn images, deserves a berth in both of those disciplines.
BH: Yeah, and I think expanding what comics are to talk about Narratives helps them find a home in places people may not initially think of.
CA: In my experience, though, most of the fine artists I’ve brushed up against tend to look down on comics as a form. “it’s not obscure enough! anybody can read this!” Whereas most literary types I’ve talked to about comics are more open to the idea of the medium. have you run into much of that at SAIC?
BH: And that’s some of the stigma I think I’m helping to remove. Cause whether fine artists like it or not, more and more people are interested in narrative, and if the schools that value abstraction over story don’t even offer classes in the latter they’re missing out on a huge demographic of potential incoming students. There are hurdles like any other place. But I think more and more people are accepting the idea and willing to experiment, especially at a place like SAIC. Lots of my students now are coming in saying they read Scott McCloud in 8th grade and they think it feels outdated– WHICH BLOWS MY MIND–and, even more strange, is that we’re reaching a point where that book was written before they were born.
So they’ve grown up in a world where comics and comics theory and language is bridging “common knowledge.” It’s a fascinating point to be in, to be able to discuss with my seniors comics theory and appreciation as a literary form, and to discuss with my freshmen comics common knowledge and Understanding Comics being used in their high school AP English classes.
CA: So they tend to be able to talk more in-depth about formal concerns?
BH: Sometimes yes, but they’re also still juggling how to be adults too. I mean that in the nicest way possible, but they can get really hung up on one point they disagree with and it can derail any other in-depth comments that may have begun previously. But I have to say their conversations go in a very different direction than I anticipate.
CA: I imagine it’s fascinating to watch these kinds of conversations from the other side of the podium.
BH: Oh yeah! One of my favorite parts is having a class read a comic and then discussing it the next week. They come up with some astounding conclusions and I love listening and guiding them to conclusions. Or letting them fly off the handle bars about how gorgeous it is!
CA: What have some of your assigned readings been?
BH: Well this semester I’ve got: Understanding Comics (Scottie M), The New Ghost (Robert Hunter), The Ticking (Renee French), Book of Leviathan (Peter Blegvad), The End of the Fucking World (Charles Forsman CCS ’08), The Lagoon (Lilli Carre), Meanwhile (Jason Shiga)…I have a bunch more but I’m blanking on some…They read a lot for me.
CA: Good, they bloody well ought to.
BH: Yeah my thoughts too.
CA: You’ve got a fair amount of interest in bookarts and self-published comics–particularly ones that feature interesting formal experiments, as I seem to recall. How do you approach those ideas with your classes?
BH: Each class has a little bit of a different goal, so sometimes this fits and sometimes it doesn’t. BUT I’ll give you a few examples:
My freshman class is called Extracting Narratives, and I’m not allowed to dictate the mediums they work in for their projects, so all their assignments need to be created with the freedom of being able to make anything but it must include narrative. For their final project, I molded a project that Surabhi gave to one of my classes once where we had to make a “One of a Kind Gallery piece” and a corresponding “Multiple or Book.” The point is to see how both related to and are inspired by source material or an original narrative and explore the way in which an audience or reader will experience each piece.
So we do a lot of book binding demos, and visit the Artist Books collection and I’m giving a lecture about Oulipo and Artist Books as a way to help frame their inspiration for this project.
In another one of my classes, they make 3 8-page comics over the semester. And the class is titled “Complex Narratives: Engineering Comics” this one is in the Writing Department, so they are encouraged to consider not only the complexity of structure within their work, but the complexity of structure outside of their work.
In a class I teach in the fall, I give a “one pager” assignment where students need to make one of the three one page comic formats and create a story that works within that format. They can do the “8-page folder,” Expanding comics (ala CCS faculty Jon Chad) or the Choose your own Adventure (ala Jason Shiga) and some great things come out of that project too.
Plus I can’t help but talk about what I love, and that happens to be Artist books, creative formats and narratives that work with how they’re housed.
CA: Is there a book arts program at SAIC?
BH: No, but there are various Artist Books classes in different departments, Viscom (graphic design) has a letter press, Print Media has artist books and offset, Writing has a book lab and an artist books course as well as some art history courses focused on book arts.
CA: You’d done a lot of teaching even before graduating CCS. Was it your plan to teach comics on a collegiate level all along?
BH: I’m pretty sure it was. When I made the decision to invest both time and money into an MFA I spent a lot of Pros and Cons lists thinking about what an MFA, or MFA program, could offer me that just comics creating or workshop experience couldn’t. And at the end of the day, I love teaching. I love having students. I love the “performance.” I love critiquing. I love the ever growing and expansive community of learning and academia. When I decided I was going, my base goal was to teach college age students.
I’ve done some young kid workshops, and some middle grade ones too, and I even gave a guest lecture at a high school last fall, but i still think college age is my jam.
CA: What’s different about college-age students (aside from the rampant hangovers)?
BH: They’re just a bit more serious. I can push them harder. I also think I view them more as peers in the comics world rather than apprentices. I don’t feel worried about moving too fast in lectures, discussing more matured content comics, and they don’t have to call me “Ms. Hetland.”
CA: ”That’s Ms. Beth to you, bro”
BH: Actually I go by Professor Beth.
CA: So what’s coming up in the future, Professor Beth?
BH: Good question, Ace Reporter! I’m not even sure how to list it. There’s still a lot! Next year I’m teaching still at SAIC, I have 4 classes for the year of 14-15, I’m planning to debut some new parts of Half Asleep at the conventions I’m attending this year (TCAF, VanCAF, CAKE and SPX), I’ve got some solo project ideas on the back burner, I’ll be hanging out in Vermont for a little bit this summer, I’m getting an intern, and umm… I don’t know, long term is still up in the air. I’m hoping I can continue to ride the wave of teaching, new projects and staying happily busy.
That sounds really hokey but I’m honestly just trying to make it to the end of the semester. I’m ready for this winter to be done and I’m ready to spend some time working on my projects.
CA: Once more into the days of short sleeves and inky fingers.
BH: Yes, and bicycle rides.