Introduction to Katherine Roy, 101

Katherine Roy is a California girl who has found herself driven to the East Coast, whether she is working on a ship, giving fully-costumed tours in Boston, attending school and working on comics. Graduating from The Center for Cartoon Studies in 2010, Roy moved out to New York with her husband and fellow CCS alum, writer Tim Stout, earlier this year.

What have you been up to since you graduated from CCS and moved?

Katherine Roy: I am teaching a new class at the Art Institute of Boston (AIB) called “Form, Content & Context,” which is basically a cross between 2D Design and Visual Thinking for undergraduate freshman in the Foundation Studies department. Each week or so we’ve done a project exploring a new element of design, including shape, line, texture, and value, soon moving on to color. My 10 students have completely different levels of artistic and concept development experience, so it’s been a challenge for me to learn how to frame the parameters for each assignment in a way that gives them a focal point, while also encouraging play. I feel like my job is really to teach how to SEE, and in return I get to revisit the way I see and make and explore through art. It’s my first time teaching at this level, after lots of experience with kids and adults, but so far it’s been incredibly rewarding.

Also, a book I illustrated called The Penny got nominated as one of the five finalists for the 2011 category of Outstanding Children’s Literature for the New Hampshire Writer’s Project. It will be announced on November 4th.

Our fingers are crossed! Do your students have any favorite artists and have they introduced you to any new ones?

KR: For the most part my students know very few artists— they’ve had very limited exposure to art history, but a few of them are familiar with the work of contemporary illustrators and animation companies. It’s so much fun to show a poster by Toulouse Lautrec, or a Piranesi drawing, or a Chris Ware page, and have it be a completely new experience for them. It gives me a fresh look at everything, which is such a gift!

Which assignment turned out to be your favorite?

KR: So far the texture assignment has been, I think, most successful, which is funny because it was the one I felt most uncertain about. I started off by stealing an idea from one of my drawing teachers, Jeff Fisher, who sometimes has his students wrap a commercial-sized trash can with a long piece of paper, and then the students move AROUND the model, drawing AROUND the trash can, keeping it oriented to the model while circling the room. The result is a distorted but very dynamic drawing that forces you to think about connections in space, and editing while you draw.

To translate this into a design assignment, I started by setting up a large still life in the center of the room, and had the students do two drawings on the trash cans, using paint and charcoal, as they circled the still life. From there they had to choose the one that was working the best, and then collage textures back into it (rubbings, drawn textures, etc) and incorporate value to create a completed piece. I was very pleased with some of the final pieces— you never know how students will respond to something so unconventional, but the unfamiliarity forces students to try thinking in a new way, which is exactly what (I think) Foundation Studies should be about.

Student work from the revolving trash can assignment

How is New York City treating you and do you get to hang out with other cartoonists?

KR: My commute between New York and Boston twice a week has been tiring, as I had anticipated, but between the frequent and cheap buses, and my ever-generous friends in Boston, it’s been much better than expected. I feel like after 7 weeks I’m just now settling into a routine of balancing my time in my studio and my time working on my class, so the next step it reconnecting with artists I know in NYC. One thing that has really kick-started me is taking a figure drawing class for fun— my “gym time”– and that, combined with revisiting the basics of design, is bringing up a lot of new possibilities for my cartooning work. I’m very excited to dig into a couple of new projects, and get out my next volume of Caterpillar Tales. I feel like I’m swimming in new possibilities!

A recent drawing Roy made in her figure drawing class

What are you working on in your own time (like you have any)? Plan on going to any cons soon?

KR: Right now I am doing some research for two new book projects, and I do plan on going to the TCAF in the spring. Last weekend I exhibited at the RISD Alumni & Student sale, selling greeting cards, comics, and prints. It was very exciting to have local shoppers warmly recognize one of my giclee prints!

“View of Industria” is an illustration from a 19th century French novel that I did as the centerpiece of an exhibition called “Building Expectations: Past and Present Visions of the Architectural Future” at Brown University this fall. It served as a way to bridge the gorgeous collection of 19th and 20th century images of the future to contemporary visions of the future by fine artists in New England, and was also used as the catalogue cover and poster for the exhibition. It was terrific to see my work printed so large (4 feet x 6 feet), and then to later have customers interested in purchasing it at the RISD sale.

I feel like this year I’m learning more and more about the content of my work and who my audience is, and I’m thinking about a couple of ideas for rebranding Caterpillar Publishing as a stronger and more focused self-publishing company. I might even get a Twitter account soon. The end of the world must be near…

If you’re in Providence, Building Expectations will be up until November 6th in the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University. The Providence Journal gave us a great shout-out!

How has CCS shaped you and your current position?

KR: I would not be where I’m at without CCS. The connections made through the school— from my fellow classmates to the faculty and visiting artists— have made almost everything that I’m doing now possible. As just one example, CCS had invited Jules Feiffer to be a Visiting Artist in April of 2009. I was SO excited to meet him— I’ve been a fan of his work since I was 8 years old! After his talk I nervously introduced myself and showed him my sketchbook, and as a result he later remembered me when it came to looking for an assistant for the summer during his Montgomery Fellowship at Dartmouth College (five miles away). What was supposed to be a part-time job quickly turned into 40+ hours a week of work, and during that time I learned an enormous amount about his work and his process, about teaching and about universities, and got to know a number of the Dartmouth faculty and meet many of Feiffer’s colleagues, such as New Yorker cartoonists Ed Koren and Ed Sorel.

That summer I also met Arlene Grossman, chair of the AIB Foundation Studies department, at a lecture that Feiffer was giving at Dartmouth, which eventually resulted in my current teaching position. I also became friends with the director of the Montgomery Foundation, Richard Stamelman, who hired me after the summer as the graphic designer for the Foundation, a position I still hold. The list of connections goes on and on—if you have an idea of where you want to take your work in comics and in publishing, CCS makes it possible to compress a decade of connections and networking into just a couple of years by opening so many doors. Yay CCS!

Thank you, Katherine, for your time and good luck to your AIB students!

-Jen Vaughn

Librarian, Center for Cartoon Studies

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