What was the center for cartoon studies like? What were the main things you learned there? Why wasnt it enjoyable?
Whooo boy! Ok! Let’s get into it.
First let’s talk about why it was bad: White River Junction is a shitty small town in VT in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do (especially if you don’t have a car, which I didn’t). Next, CCS can, at most, have a student body of 50 students. My first year, there were 40 of us and the second year there were 30. So when you are spending all your time with so few people (bc I wasn’t really hanging out with locals) there’s a ton of drama (and if you haven’t figured out this by my work yet, I’m dramatic as FUCK) and shit talking and all that stuff. I could literally see myself become more and more toxic, more bitter, and was powerless to stop it. And it’s nuts too because I was really popular and well liked in the beginning. I just ended up throwing away of friendships because I couldn’t deal ( plus I tend to do that unfortunately, I am trying to figure how to stop doing that). The sun set at 4 everyday in winter and it was freezing so I had no energy (this is super obnoxious of me but I fell asleep in class practically every week). I didn’t know that seasonal depressive disorder was actually a thing until I moved there. Finally, I broke my drawing hand the second year, so I spent 10 weeks barely able to draw (I only was able to pencil 11 pages I that time- actually, Fractured - the comic I reblogged about the high schooler w suicidal ideation, was completely drawn with a broken hand. Somehow my style became more realistic when I broke my hand, I don’t know) and I threw my back out and broke my computer and went down on my meds in the same week, so that few weeks was the closest I have ever come to being hospitalized for mental illness stuff (it didn’t happen though, thank god).
CCS was also the first time I really internalized sexism that I had experienced. I know I’m late to the game on that, not really feeling like I personally experienced sexism until I was 28, but I’m just oblivious to that shit. But yes, the faculty was sexist, and I also had a bunch of dude friends ( who I would later kick to the curb, which sounds ok but they were good guys so no, it really wasn’t) that were oblivious to the fact that they had insane male privilege and were fucking man children while women going through similar shit re: mental illness were fucked over big time in the program.
I literally was talking to someone last night about how even though I’m not in a great place right now for a variety of reasons, I so much better than I was in White River Junction, it’s nuts. BUT NOT EVERYONE FEELS THIS WAY- like @betseyswardlick had a fabulous time, so it varies for people. I just know most of my class was miserable by the second year.
So what did I learn from CCS about making comics? Man just about everything. I learned I like working on a three tier grid, I learned all the tech shit I have to do, I learned that thumb nailing was a thing, I learned what spot blacks were, I learned how to use a nib, how to use a light box, how to pace a comic, how to use social media to form a web presence, how to do a bunch of shit important for the business side of cartooning, how to table at a convention, how to network, and more. Not all of that was the faculty either- social media shit I learned from @tilliewalden , pacing shit I learned partially from class but also a ton from @kotalines . And being part of a community meant I got really good feedback on all my stuff. BIG ADVICE TIP GUYS- if you are making art or comics, find people to give you feedback, it really improves your stuff. Even though it’s hard to hear sometimes, like really really hard.
CCS also gave me a community with alum in classes before me. Some of my closer friends here (in Providence) went to CCS back in the day, and having that network in a new city helps a lot.
Finally, CCS was good because it made me way more radical, as a person. I had never met a trans person (that I knew of) and the class above me had two, I never heard of asexuality of gender queerness before coming to CCS (and I fought that shit hard when I was introduced to those ideas. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t fully understand gender stuff still but I’m very much “you do you and I’ll respect it” now. And I might fucking BE asexual so that’s a whole thing too). I never was friends with immigrants and international students really before coming to CCS (with the exception of that weird semester in college where I only hung out with Chinese exchange students which was fun but strange). And they were all POC so it gave me a new perspective on things. One of them, @salakjitcomix helped me write Safe because she is also Thai and was able to give me insight into Kamon’s character.
BE WARNED THOUGH! My class was an outlier- CCS on the whole IS super white (including me) and super dude heavy. And it really hasn’t addressed that shit well. Last year a really smart POC student pointed a ton of shit out to the school but if they end up actually addressing it is a whole other matter. The faculty is like, classic white liberal where they think they’re progressive but when it comes to race they are clueless (at least in my opinion). But to be fair, I’m white and can be super clueless too.
A lot of cartoonists resent the shit out CCS ers (Simon Hanselmon even called us the CCS mafia) because we are essentially paying for all these perks with tuition, which is true. I’ve never tried to downplay my financial privilege, and yeah, we’re taking a huge short cut by going to CCS. But the work coming out by students is getting better and better, so while we may be paying our way through some shit, we’ve got the chops to back it up.
@salakjitcomix , @stephaniezuppo and @tilliewalden are of three of my best friends in the world and I never would have met them if not for CCS. A lot of really genuinely awesome people have come out of that school.
All in all, going to CCS was not a fun experience, but it was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. If I ever make it in comics ( to be fair, I have no fucking idea what this means) it will be because of the school.
Part I of photos from the incredible Whatever She Wants: A Drag Musicale! Co-written and co-starring SASHA STEINBERG, cartoonist extraordinaire! who you can follow on tumblr for more more more!
Lip-syncing! Gender-bending! Murder! A gay ole time! Blending classic drag performances, theater, and film noir, Whatever She Wants is sure to please. Whatever She Wants tells the story of Veronica—an aging singer whose star is on the downward bell curve of success—and Jayne—a young upstart with nowhere to go but up, and no morals to get in the way. For one night only, witness the Main Street Museum transform into the Foxtrot Lounge, and the men and women of White River transform into the glorious drag queens and kings of a bygone era.
May 11th, 9pm. 5—20 dollars. A benefit for Tranzmission, prison book project. BYOB - Dance party to follow.
One of my last weekly ‘journal comics’ from CCS 2012! This time I spun some of my own experiences walking around WRJ into quick story about one of my characters, Jessica, as an awkward teen. You miiight recognize her from her sleepy appearance later in life in All Rumors Are True (part one, and part two)!
Yesterday, August 8th, I visited the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. Before my tour of campus, I sat out in the town square and drew the old timey elegance of the Hotel Coolidge. It’s also where some of the students live, in dorms.
I had added a few thoughts in pencil, “do I have a future here?” I’m thinking of going there for grad school, after I graduate in Spring ‘15.
Urban decay in the town of White River Junction, Vermont, where I stopped on the way back from a road trip last weekend.
(1) Parking lot behind the hotel. In the distance you can just see a steeple with a weathervane.
(2) the Gates Hotel Annex sign looks to have existed since WRJ was a much busier town.
(3) Knitbombing-style advertising outside White River Yarn.
Not pictured: tiny old man with neatly slicked hair and about ten teeth, who was seated on a bench outside the yarn store looking like the plot hook from a Lovecraft story.
He said, “Can I tell you a story?” and I thought, “Oh no, here we go,” but it was just a cute story about how the yarn art on the lamp had been knitted and installed by a teenaged boy employee of the yarn store, and that he had turned the whole thing upside down when my interlocutor told him it would look better the other way up.